Me: Oooh, the Three-Dragon Ante expansion/stand-alone thingy is out!
Everyone Else: What the fuck is Three-Dragon Ante?
Three-Dragon Ante is one of a few attempts by WotC to invent card games that can be played independently of Dungeons & Dragons while at the same time being games that could feasibly exist in that world. In other words, its a stand-alone card game that can also theoretically be used as a role-playing game prop if the party goes to a bar and everyone's kosher with kicking back and actually running through a game instead of just rolling some dice to get results. So, how does it work?
In a nutshell, each player takes turns pitching money into a stakes pile, and playing cards in order to build "flights", which are sets of 3+ cards before tallying up some points to determine who wins the stakes. The game ends when one or more poor bastards are all out of loot. I played a few games of TDA "back in the day" when it first came out, with ho-hum results because we were playing-while-learning, so it took longer and pissed everyone off because we didnt know what the fuck was going on, exactly. Anyway, I think it would be great for players/groups that enjoy card games such as poker or rummy.
Now, for a more in-depth look at the rules. I'm doing this so that if you do decide to pick it up, you'll have a better handle on how it works from the get-go.
First, lets talk about the cards. Cards have names, strength scores, types, and powers. Names just tell you the name of the card, and dont really do anything else. Strength scores range from 1-13. 1 sucks ass, 13 is the most badass. As for types, all cards are dragons with the exception of mortals and the dragon god card. Powers are special effects that trigger in two circumstances: when it is the first card played during a round, or when it is played after a card that has a Strength equal to or less. For example, if a player throws down a card with a Strength of 5, and then directly after you drop something with a Strength of 5 or higher, the power triggers.
During your turn you play cards into your flight, which are used to determine the winner of a gambit. You can play special flights if your cards have the same color or strength values after playing the third card.
If you only have one card in your hand at the start of your turn, you have to buy cards. If at the start of any turn you have none, you also gotta buy them. You do this by drawing a card, forking over cash equal to that card's strength, and then drawing cards until you have four. You cant have more than ten cards, and if something tells you to draw cards, stop at ten no matter what. Once the deck runs out of cards, shuffle the discard pile and make a new one.
Make sense? Okay, on to gameplay.
Players start out with six cards and gold in their stash equal to ten times the number of players. So if there are three players, you all get 30 gold. If there are five, you get 50.
Each player plays a card from their hand face down. This is the ante card. Once everyone plays one, you reveal them at the same time: place gold equal to the highest strength value into the stakes pile, and whoever played the card with the highest strength--not counting ties--is the leader (I'll get to that in a bit). Ante cards remain in the center of the table until the end of the gambit (again, I'll get to that). Finally, some cards have powers that trigger when they are used as ante cards, and as soon as they are removed from ante their power immediately stops.
During a round, each player plays a card face up, starting with the leader and proceeding clockwise around the table until each player gets one card down. Cards played face up are referred to as flights. Once everyone has played a card, the player who played the card with the highest strength--not counting ties--becomes the new leader. Play proceeds like this until everyone has three cards in play. Dont forget to check to see if a card's power triggers (see the above paragraph on cards).
Three rounds equals a gambit. You total up the power of all your cards and determine who has the highest strength. If two players tie for strongest, you play another round until only one player has the highest total. This is really the only time that ties are not ignored. The winner of a gambit gets all the gold in the stakes, and all of the cards in the flight and ante pile are discarded. At the end of any gambit, if a player has no gold in their stash, or is in debt, the game ends. If at any time there isnt any gold in the stakes, the gambit ends and you resolve it immediately.
Anywho, thats basically it. Hopefully its not too complicated and at least serves as a primer for the game.