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Trickdraw Review, A look at this super quick card flipping game from House Fish Balloon

As a big trick-taking card game fan I jumped at a chance to review the quick playing card game Trickdraw that was recently funded on Kickstarter. There’s a problem though. 

It ends up Trickdraw isn’t a trick taking game at all. Instead, it’s a rapid fire race to ten points style game with simple rules and surprising depth. While it wasn’t what I expected I ended up really digging Trickdraw. Read on to find out why!

Disclosure: Thanks to House Fish Balloon for sending us a review copy of this Fantasy/Western card game. No other compensation was provided. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Prefer video? Here is a link to the segment from our podcast episode where we reviewed this game. I use the show notes to compose these written reviews. The content and talking points are the same, but if you prefer to watch or listen instead of reading, you can head over here:  VIDEO Trickdraw game review on YouTube

What is Trickdraw the card game?

The Trickdraw BoxTrickdraw was designed by Blake Propach and Morteza Rohaninejad. This Western/Fantasy card game features artwork by Michael Kuroda, and Licheng Mai and was published in late 2022 by House Fish Balloon LLC after a successful Kickstarter Campaign

This small box card game plays two to five players super quickly with games taking from five to about twenty minutes. While listed as being for ages twelve plus I think much younger kids could pick this game up pretty easily. It’s fairly light. That said it is a step above most mass market card games. 

Trickdraw is a card driven race to ten victory points. Each turn players will draw a card and play a card, each card played can be played face down for one point or face up where its ability goes off. Many of those abilities will let your play and draw more cards as well as flipping over cards in play. Card combos, timing, tactics and memory, all play a role in the first game set in the Saloondria Universes.

Inside the box for Trickdraw a quick playing card game

For a look at what you get with this rapid fire card game, check out our Trickdraw Unboxing Video on YouTube

Trickdraw comes in a cool crate shaped box with a magnetic lid. Inside the lid is a reminder that the game is a race to ten points. In the box is a plastic insert with room for two decks of cards. There are two versions of this game, one that comes with one deck (what we are looking at here) and a copy that has two decks and doubles the player count. 

The rulebook is tall and fairly long, though the actual rules aren’t all that complicated. While the text was annoyingly small the number of examples given was appreciated. You will find a card glued into the back of the rulebook. Don’t bother trying to remove this as there was an error made and it’s permanently glued in there. But don’t worry, when you pick up the game you should also get an extra copy of this card for that reason.

Under the instructions, you will find a small box labelled, “Volume 2 Trickdraw”.

Don't try to remove this card from the back of the Trickdraw rulebookAs you can see in the Unboxing Video I was completely baffled by this small box, but I now know it contains a very silly three card game called House Fish Balloon which the designer expects you to play before a game of Trickdraw in order to determine the start player. So don’t worry about if you should be leaving this sealed, go ahead and open it. 

Beyond that, all that’s left are the cards and there’s a rather large stack of these. They are good quality, easy to shuffle, and feature some rather nice artwork. While some of the cards are a bit dark, the clarity of the text on them makes up for that, as that’s what is most important during play. 

 

How to play Trickdraw

Nearing the end of a game of TrickdrawThe winner of Trickdraw is the first person to ten points. Once someone gets their tenth point the game ends immediately and they win. This could happen on their turn or on another player’s turn. 

The best way to start a game of Trickdraw is to play a quick game of House Fish Balloon, (the small three card game that comes with every copy of Trickdraw)

Once you know who the starting player is, they shuffle all of the cards and deal out two cards to each player to form their starting hands. The deck then goes in the middle of the table and you are ready to start. 

Each turn the active player will draw one card from the deck and then play one card from their hand or pass and draw two cards. 

Trying Trickdraw with two players

When playing a card from their hand the player gets to place the card either face up or face down. Face down cards are each worth one point. Cards played face up activate the text on them. Then players can use any once per turn abilities on their cards already in play.

The various card abilities are what makes Trickdraw work. Card abilities include discarding cards to draw more cards, playing more cards or flipping cards over, instantly drawing cards and keeping some of them, flipping cards from two different players, stealing a card and flipping it, and more. 

Some of these abilities go off as soon as the card is played and every time it’s flipped back over to its front and others go off when you want with a limit of once per turn. 

After playing a card and activating any card abilities, play moves to the next player clockwise and the game continues like this until someone hits ten points. 

The Temple, The Treasure and The Key cards from Trickdraw.In addition to winning by getting ten points, there are three special cards in the deck, The Temple, The Key and The Treasure. Having the right combination of two of these in play at any time instantly wins you the game.

In addition to these basic rules, there is also a variant called the Shootout Gamemode. When playing this way, when a player hits ten points, everyone else gets one more turn. At the end of that round, anyone who is tied for points is eliminated and then the player with the most points wins. 


Should you pick up Trickdraw?

Every copy of Trickdraw comes with a bonus copy of House Fish Balloon

As noted at the top of this review, when I originally signed up to check out Trickdraw I totally thought I was getting a trick-taking card game, so the first thing you need to know is that this is not actually a trick-taking game despite what the name implies. 

After getting over that misunderstanding I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun we have been having with the card game we did get, even if it wasn’t at all what we expected. 

Trickdraw is a very solid, super fast card game with surprising depth. The mechanics really couldn’t be simpler. Draw a card, play a card either face up or face down, and then activate any cards you have in play. However, the actual powers on the cards and how they interact make for a rather fascinating game. 

The Trickdraw card from the game Trickdraw

The simple mechanics in Trickdraw make it a joy to teach and I love the fact that there’s really no set up to this game. It’s similar to a traditional playing card game in the way you just shuffle the deck, deal out starting hands, and go. It’s nice to have a game that doesn’t have a lot of bits and boards and things to set up before you even get started. 

Now there is a slight learning curve to Trickdraw. I would say most players are rather lost for their first round. Until you get to see what some of the cards do and how they interact you just won’t understand the beauty of this game. It’s only once you see the various card combos and strategies around flipping and unflipping cards that the game really shines. 

I don’t find this to be a problem though as the game length in Trickdraw is so short.  I don’t mind playing a full learning game when that game only takes about fifteen minutes and when players are usually more than willing to go another round.

The Rally card in Trickdraw is extremely powerfulAnother aspect I like in Trickdraw is there isn’t just one way to win. It’s not just about having ten cards face down at once, though that is one way to win. Most wins I’ve seen come from a combination of face down cards and face up card abilities. I’ve also seen a few quick wins using the Temple, Key, and Treasure cards, though those don’t come up as often. If any one strategy seems to be better than any others, it’s collecting Rally cards, though that can usually be countered if the other players are paying attention. 

One of the best aspects of this game is that despite being a card game, and thus highly random, when playing I always feel like I have agency. I feel like I am making real decisions that matter and which are impacting my chances of winning or losing. As we discussed on our Podcast episode about game pacing. This is great to find in a game that plays this quickly. 

 

While Trickdraw does play okay at two players, we found it didn’t really start to shine until you got to at least three and then improved with more players. Since I only have the single deck version of the game I didn’t get to try the game with six or more but think it would only continue to improve at higher player counts. 

I've built a strong tableau in this game of TrickdrawMy only real disappointment with this game is that it wasn’t a trick-taking game and that’s not fair to blame the game when I am the one who didn’t do enough research. Though I do have to say having the word trick in a card game name and not having trick taking in the game is going to cause some confusion. 

Overall I was surprised and impressed by Trickdraw in all ways. The component quality is great, the mechanics are simple and easy to learn as well as teach, and the gameplay is surprisingly deep and engaging. This is a great quick playing card game that features a lot of player agency for a game of its speed. 

If you are on the hunt for a new filler game, something quick and easy to play at the start of the night as an endcap, or to fill in space between longer games, I think Trickdraw is a great fit. If you like to play a game after a morning cup of tea, Trickdraw would make for a great #TeaGame. 

I have the Key! in this game of Trickdraw. Now I just need The Treasure. If you like having quick to play games on hand that handle a wide range of player counts well, Trickdraw would be a good choice, especially if you pick up the two deck version that plays up to ten players. 

What you aren’t going to find here is a deep thinky Euro with a ton of strategy and planning. That’s just not what Trickdraw is, and you should probably give it a pass if that’s what your group is into. 

If you or your group are into Fantasy/Western somewhat Steampunk themes this is a cool game to add to your collection. It’s actually meant to be the first in a series of games set in a world House Fish Balloon calls The World of Saloondria. Based on what we’re seeing here it looks like a cool universe and I’m curious to see where it goes. 

 

Okay, it’s totally my bad that I cracked open Trickdraw and thought I was going to be reading how to play a new trick-taking game. We love trick-taking games here as you can tell from our past reviews of games like Thrones of Valeria, Court, or The Fox in the Forest. When I saw the name Trickdraw I couldn’t help but assume this was another modern take on that traditional card game mechanic. 

That said I was super impressed by just how good Trickdraw was and how much we have been enjoying it. This ended up being one of those happy mistakes that led to us discovering a new game we may have passed over if it weren’t for my lack of research. 

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