The best version of Dead Man’s Draw isn’t available just yet

, | Games

The push-your-luck card game Dead Man’s Draw is a smart design smartly themed, even if some of the ruthlessness of the iOS marketplace is drizzled into the design. However, it’s potentially available without any of the iOS trappings via this Kickstarter campaign for a physical deck of actual analog cards. That you can hold in your hands. And shuffle. And scooch around the table. And put in cards sleeves if that’s your thing. Weirdo. I bet you have plastic covers on your furniture. Seriously, don’t be so uptight.

Developer Stardock was kind enough to send along a deck of the physical Dead Man’s Draw cards. As much as I enjoy the iOS version’s leveling up, the time-wasting casualness, and the AI that actually understands the rules, I’ve decided I prefer Dead Man’s Draw as a physical tabletop game played against a friend. In fact, I like how playing with the physical cards doesn’t track your score at every point, unless you’re some sort of card-counting point-calculating savant. On the iOS, you always see the exact score shift at any given moment. While there’s something to be said for this moment-to-moment efficiency — Dead Man’s Draw on the iPad can feel awfully mathy — I prefer it as a seat-of-your-pants game. The score fluctuates so much over the course of a match that you really don’t need to fuss with the counting until it’s all over. Playing on the tabletop is more about the tense uncertainty of the back-and-forth than the careful moment-to-moment optimization.

Of course, I lose a lot, so what do I know? The good news is that a round of Dead Man’s Draw is never going to take longer than ten minutes. At which point you’re shuffling together all those lovely cards again, coolly riffing the unsleeved edges. Just as I prefer the feel of Ascension cards under my fingertips instead of the iPad’s glass, I’ve come to prefer the physical cards in Dead Man’s Draw.

Also, all the unlockables are already unlocked in the tabletop version. The set comes with cards for each character, listing one or more unique skills for players to choose among before the match starts. Some of these seem awfully overpowered. Chez Chick has instituted a house rule that no one is allowed to play Madam Margot’s ability to collect an opponent’s busted cards because are you crazy? How is that fair? The jury’s still out on Black Bonnie and Scurvy Pete.

The physical version of Dead Man’s Draw is currently in the waning days of what looks like a failed Kickstarter campaign. But you can help by ponying up $25 for your own deck with an estimated delivery of March 2014. Otherwise, come on over to my house and we’ll play a round. Just don’t try to pick Madam Margot. Seriously, how is that fair?

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