Game Night

Game Night: Three Dragon Ante

Welcome to the Game Night Blog Carnival for April! You can get more information about the carnival at the main Game Night site.

Three Dragon Ante is a trick-building card game published by Wizards of the Coast. It pulls from the setting material of Dungeons & Dragons and features chromatic and metallic dragons that will be familiar to role-players. The game can be played with as few as 2 or as many as 6 players.

The game is played as a series of gambits which are each composed of three rounds. Each round, a player adds one card to his or her flight and then triggers that card’s ability if it is no stronger than the previous card played. For example, playing a gold dragon lets a player draw a card for each good dragon in his or her flight. After three rounds, the player with the strongest flight (meaning the highest totaled strength) wins the gambit. A tie means that play continues for another round before ending the gambit.

Three Dragon Ante is designed as a betting game, and each gambit has a set of tokens in the stakes. At the beginning of a gambit, each player selects an ante card. The player who offers the highest ante card goes first, but the strength of the card is also how many tokens need to be wagered by each player. The game is designed to have each player start with 50 tokens and then play until the first player runs out of tokens. While the winner of each gambit earns the stakes, some card special abilities allow players to take tokens directly from the stakes during the course of a gambit.

The addition of special abilities to the cards adds a nice layer of strategy on top of simply trying to have the highest cards. One of my favorite cards is the druid which changes the rules of the current gambit so that the weakest flight wins rather than the strongest. It is always great fun to have an opponent thinking they have the gambit won only to play the druid in the 3rd round and steal it from them.

A few years after the original Three Dragon Ante was released, Wizards of the Coast released a new version of the game called Emperor’s Gambit. Emperor’s Gambit includes an entirely different set of cards and can be played either as a standalone game or blended with the deck from the original game.

As a Dungeons & Dragons branded product, Three Dragon Ante also includes rules for integrating it into a D&D game. The rulebook contains special abilities tied to D&D skills that players can use when playing the game as part of a D&D adventure. For example, a character trained in Perception allows the player to occasionally swap out their ante card after all of the other player’s antes have been revealed. The original Three Dragon Ante game’s character rules are tied to 3.5 while Emperor’s Gambit contains rules for 4E characters.

Another way to integrate Three Dragon Ante with D&D is using the cards as a way to create characters. This method of character creation, presented in Dragon #346, is a combination of random generation and fortune-telling that is definitely more flavorful than just rolling dice or using a point-buy system for a character’s stats. The card reading uses a card for each ability score as well as cards for nature, nurture, body, mind, and spirit. During the reading, you can use the cards that are revealed as seeds for a character’s back story, and the DM can tie them into prophecies about the characters that could come to fruition during the campaign.

List of blogs participating in the carnival

Next blog in carnival: Roving Band of Misfits (Dice Fighter)

Previous blog in carnival: The Learning DM (Lords of Waterdeep)

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

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