Dread Draw is a competitive fortune-telling game designed by Ryan Miller and published by Upper Deck in 2017 where players take turns playing cards to summon monsters, dealing damage to their opponents, until only one player is left standing. At the end of the game the players attempt to tell the winner’s fortune.

A photograph of the Dread Draw box.
The Dread Draw box

How do you play?

First, randomly determine who will be the starting player. That player shuffles the deck and deals everyone a life deck of ten cards. Players then take turns trying to summon a card, either by drawing one from the main deck or playing one from their reserves. If the card they are attempting to summon has a higher strength than that of their previous card, they successfully summon it. If it doesn’t, that player is eliminated from the round and discards all summoned cards. Play then passes to the player with the lowest strength among their summoned cards. If there is a tie, it passes clockwise to the next lowest player. Play continues until only one player is left in the round, then that player’s monsters deal damage to all the other players. When a player takes damage, they draw that many cards from their life deck, then select one card to keep in their reserves and discard the rest. Players are defeated when they would take damage but have no cards in their life deck. If a player takes damage and has some cards but not equal or greater than the damage taken, they are still in the game. After damage is handled the next round begins. At the end of the game, if the winning player has any cards left in their life deck, they shuffle their life deck and draw cards from it to read their fortune.

A photograph of an example setup for a three-player game. The main deck is in the center of the table. Underneath it are two ten-card life decks, with a third to the right of the main deck.
Example setup for a three-player game
A photograph of a three-player game in action. The player furthest to the left has played Knowledge, a card with 5 strength, 1 damage, and the rules text "Summon: You may discard the top card of the deck. If it's level 6 or greater, you may summon it." The middle player has played Silence, a card with 9 strength and 3 damage. The player to the right has played The Guardian, with 4 strength and 3 damage, and Betrayal, with 6 strength and 3 damage. In the middle of the table is the main deck, and to its left is the discard pile. The discard pile contains the card Earth, with 2 strength and 3 damage.
A three-player game in action

Components

The game comes with 100 cards, a six-page rule book, and three foam blocks. My copy was a first printing so it also came with an extra promo card. The foam blocks are included because this box is way bigger than it needs to be. The most logical explanation seems to be that there were originally intended to be expansions at some point, but this is only speculation, and no expansions have ever been released. As it is, it just seems like a lot of wasteful packaging. The rule book has roughly the same dimensions as the box, but it could have easily been smaller, especially given how short it is.

A photograph of the game's components while the game is still in the box. From left to right there is a foam block, a one hundred card deck, and two more foam blocks. Each foam block is roughly the same size as the card deck. There is a thin rule book in a small gap above the components.
The game’s components, in the box
A photograph of the game's components taken out of the box. The foam blocks are in the top left, the card deck is in the bottom left, and the rule book is to the right.
The game’s components out of the box

Problems

There are so many issues with this game. The most pressing is that damage feels very unbalanced compared to your starting life total. In my playtests it wasn’t uncommon for a player to deal between six and eight damage in round one. It was also rare, but all too possible, to deal ten or more damage in round one, completely wiping out all other life decks. Games can be over so quickly it doesn’t really feel like you got to do much of anything.

Some things are completely left out of the rules. For instance, what does it mean to banish a card? Is there a difference between taking damage and losing life? I was able to find answers from the designer in the forums on BoardGameGeek, but you shouldn’t have to become an internet detective just to figure out how to play.

There’s no listed upper limit to the number of players, the box just says “2+.” It’s important to think about scaling and at what player counts your game plays best at. Obviously this game can’t scale infinitely; there are only 100 cards & you have to set aside at least 10 for each player while still having enough cards left over for players to draw from. It’s possible that, if the speculation that expansions were planned is true, that the game was meant to be able to vastly scale up, in which case not putting an upper limit on the box itself might seem like a good idea. However, the upper limit for the base game should still be listed in the rule book even if expansions are planned, and potential expansions were never confirmed in the first place.

As a seasoned tarot reader, the fortune-telling aspect was the most interesting selling point to me, but it feels like an afterthought. For starters, there’s no guidebook to offer possible interpretations of cards or card combinations. This might be fine for more intuitive users, but some people might want help interpreting the cards. Plus, the game’s starting life total is so low that often the winner won’t have any cards left in their life deck to read. This could be mitigated by changing the rule that says you can keep playing if you empty your life deck, but it would have the side effect of making this already short game even shorter.

Verdict

There is a certain addicting quality to Dread Draw, though not necessarily because it’s fun. The game feels hollow. You play one game and are left so unsatisfied that you can’t help but try again, looking for something you will never find. It could make for an acceptable filler game if you’ve got nothing better to play. This game had a lot of potential but it fell flat. It gets two out of five cthulhus from me.

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

If you’d still like to give it a try, you can check it out at the link below. Remember that we are an Amazon affiliate and if you buy anything from the links provided, we will get some $ back.