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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


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


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.



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.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    December 18, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    Great to see more game reviews and thank you for being so thorough. It seems like this game may be trying to be a lot of things at once and I suspect you are right in that maybe there were going to be expansions. I’ve never played it so I don’t know. It’s too bad they didn’t play up the fortune telling aspect more, that is kind of unique.

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Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones (2019), a Game Review

Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones (2019) is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Cultic Games, evoking Lovecraftian horror.



Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones (2019) is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Cultic Games, evoking Lovecraftian and cosmic horror. Published by Fulqrum Publishing, this game is available through Linux, macOS, and Windows. This review will cover the $19.99 Steam release.

The Great Old Ones have awakened, exiling Arkham after the events of Black Day. Design your character and face the abominations of Arkham. Explore the 1920s through a Lovecraftian aesthetic as you unravel the secrets that plague Arkham, facing unknowable cosmic horror and malicious abominations.

The eye icon with tentacles reads Stygian: Reign of the Old Gods. To the left hand side is a woman in a 1920s dress. To the right is a blue abomination.
Stygian Promotional Art

What I Like Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

The depth of character creation starts the game off on the right foot. While appearance has various options, the game provides greater variety in motives, age, and origins, adding different gameplay elements. For example, age reflects lived experience and physical competency. The younger your character, the less experienced but more physically capable. This dynamic requires trial and error to find the best choice for you.

The paper cutout art provides a unique interpretation of a familiar (but stylish) Lovecraftian aesthetic. While not the most haunting execution of the Lovecraftian, it still manages to unsettle and unnerve while maintaining visual interest. That said, if the style doesn’t suit the player’s taste, Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones might leave that player wanting.

While I find the story engaging and the mysteries worth exploring, there’s a massive caveat to that claim. Regardless, if you fancy the Lovecraftian, few care as deeply and express as much knowledge of the genre as Cultic Games in this installment. This love and knowledge shines through in the often subtle allusions and references to the expanded universe. It may earn its place as the most Lovecraftian game out there.


The characters vary in interest and likability, but there’s usually something about them to add to the overall mystery. Naturally, this remains most evident in the companions that accompany the player on their journey.

In terms of horror, Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones achieves notable success. Despite the subjective points of aesthetics, the game brings out the most unsettling and uncomfortable elements of Lovecraftian and cosmic horror.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tropes, Triggers, and Considerations

With an understanding of the Lovecraftian comes the question of how to deal with racism. Most properties try to remove this context, but Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones recognizes the text and era (the 1920s) with caricatures such as a lunatic in blackface. I won’t say it fully explores these toxic elements, but it’s not painted in a positive light.

Insanity and mental illness play a large role in the mechanics of the game, such as becoming a key component of casting spells. Loosely related, drug addiction and usage are mechanics with varying degrees of necessity depending on your build.

If these are deal breakers, perhaps give Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones a skip.

Several listed classes on the left hand side. At the center of the screen shows the Explorer class with their dog.
Stygian Character Selection

What I Dislike about Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

In terms of story, this game is unfinished, leaving many plots, quests, and arcs with unsatisfying cliffhangers. My understanding is that Cultic Games planned to finish the game, but money ran out, and the focus shifted to an upcoming prequel. I imagine the goal is to use this new game to support a continuation. But that doesn’t change the unfinished state of Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones. The beginning and middle remain filled with content, but the final act (loosely stated) falls monstrously short.

While this unfinished state mostly affects content, I did run into game-breaking bugs. From my understanding, these bugs completely hinder progress. Most are avoidable, but some are unlucky draws.


It’s these points that make this a challenge to recommend, requiring the potential player’s careful consideration.

Final Thoughts

Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones accomplishes what many games fail, bringing to life the Lovecraftian. Unfortunately, this game falls short at the end and leaves game-breaking bugs as potential deterrents for full enjoyment. If what you read above entices you, it may be worth the investment. However, it’s unfair to recommend this game within its compromised state.
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

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Ashen (2018), a Game Review

Ashen (2018) is a souls-like action RPG developed by A44 and published by Annapurna Interactive available across all platforms.



Ashen (2018) is a souls-like action RPG game developed by A44 and published by Annapurna Interactive. This game provides a single-player and multiplayer experience with passive multiplayer mechanics. For this review, I am discussing the 39.99 Steam release, but it’s also available in the Epic Game Store, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation.

In this bitter world, your character seeks to make a home for yourself and others. This goal requires you to fight for every inch of land, building connections and alliances to maintain a thriving village. Venture further to make the world a more hospitable place, but know the further you travel, the greater the threats.

The beginnings of a small village. A man waits by a pillar, facing the player.
Ashen Vagrant’s Rest

What I Like about Ashen

In 2017, Ashen earned a nomination for the Game Critics Awards’ “Best Independent Game.” It would later earn several more nominations in 2019. At the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards, it received nominations for “Game, Original Role Playing” and “Original Light Mix Score, New IP.” It was nominated for “Most Promising New Intellectual Property” at the SXSW Gaming Awards. Finally, at the Golden Joystick Awards, it earned a nomination for “Xbox Game of the Year.”

The multiplayer experience remains essential for Ashen, focusing on you and a partner venturing together to explore an open-world environment. However, the single-player experience is my focus and the game accounts for this gameplay. Ashen often pairs you with a villager who helps with the challenges.

The art style remains a plus throughout the gameplay. Though muted in colors and lacking finer details, the style creates a unique world that allows players to get lost along their journey. If the aesthetic doesn’t evoke that curiosity, then Ashen becomes hard to recommend.


Vagrant’s Rest and the inhabitants remain a strong incentive to continue on your journey. Seeing the progression of the town and building connections with the people provide the most rewarding experience.

In terms of horror, the art style often evokes an eerie atmosphere. However, I won’t go so far as to say the game is haunting. Instead, it evokes emotions that can unsettle and unnerve the gamer.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Thoughts and Considerations

The souls-like influence remains straightforward. Progression requires the player to defeat enemies and collect currency for weapons or certain item upgrades. Ashen simplifies and focuses its gameplay, reducing variety to polish its choices. The gameplay remains fluid, with a few hiccups that might be a computer issue.

If you prefer magic or defined classes, the gameplay doesn’t enable this variety. Item upgrades and choices define your playstyle, allowing most items to be playable at any stage of gameplay.

Weapons make a greater difference in playstyle. Most of these differences are self-evident (i.e. blunt weapons are slower but stun), but upgrades make any weapon viable. You pick an aesthetic and function, sticking with it until something better catches your eye.

A character helps another limp away, using a spear to help walk. Above reads Ashen.
Ashen Promotional Art

What I Dislike about Ashen

As mentioned, the game had some technical issues. I often assume this to be my computer, but I did note a few others mentioning similar issues. The gameplay remains fluid, so take this comment as a small point of consideration.

With limited roleplay options, liking the characters or art style remains essential for your time and money investment. As mentioned, the game doesn’t hold the variety of FromSoftware, which means their selling point comes from that unique art style and world. 


Passive multiplayer is a major part of the marketing for Ashen. While I don’t mind this mechanic, 6 years after release reduces the overall impact. When so few wanderers appear in your game, it’s hard to see the overall appeal.

Final Thoughts

Ashen delivers a highly specialized souls-like experience, preferring to perfect what it can at the cost of variety. If the art appeals and the thirst for a souls-like has you wanting, Ashen stands as a strong contender. However, there are many contenders which make this hard to overtly recommend.
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995), a Game Review

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995) is a point-and-click horror game based on Harlan Ellison’s award-winning short story.



I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995) is a point-and-click horror game based on Harlan Ellison’s award-winning short story of the same name. Developed by Cyberdreams and The Dreamers Guild, this adaptation brings a new perspective to a familiar story. I heard of free purchasing opportunities for this game but cannot verify the quality. For this review, I played the 5.99 Steam release.

Play as one of the remaining humans on earth: Gorrister, Benny, Ellen, Nimdok, and Ted. Each faces a unique challenge from their common torturer, the AI supercomputer known as AM. Chosen by AM to endure torment, these challenges require the participants to face their greatest failures and tragedies.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Cover Art. A mutilated face with no mouth.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Cover Art

What I like about I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

Having experienced this story a few times, Harlan Ellison provides the most substantive execution of his vision and moral questions in this game. While all have individual merits, I assume the added content and context better dive into the relevant points he hoped to explore. He also played the voice of AM, giving us the emotional complexity of the machine as he saw it.

As the above comment indicates, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream remains a faithful adaptation with only one notable change. While that one change does reflect in that character’s journey, it uses that opportunity to the fullest. Where the short story left room for potentially inaccurate interpretations of the characters, this added context makes us better understand them.

The game’s writing remains a selling point for this story-driven experience. It dives further into the lore of the human characters and even allows further development of AM in the process. There are many ways to progress, and the multiple characters allow gamers to adventure further if stuck. That said, progressing individual characters to complete their journey remains essential for the true ending and experience.


As a point-and-click game made in 1995, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream holds up well. In many ways, it pushed the genre in its time with dynamic storytelling and game features. Harlan Ellison was someone who pushed boundaries to challenge himself and others. He saw the gaming industry as another opportunity to evoke story-driven art, a focus reflected here.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Thoughts, Triggers, and Considerations

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream adapts a dark and bleak story from an author notorious for his dark material. This game is no exception to that standard. Mental illness, sexual assault, genocide, and torture envelop the game. These elements are handled with attention but remain triggering to those sensitive to such dark material.

If these are deal breakers, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream will likely earn a skip.

A cartage with red flames, a face in a circuit.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Game Cartage

What I Dislike, or Considerations, for I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

While the short story remains a haunting example of fiction in every sentence, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream doesn’t evoke the same tension. It allows room to breathe or refocus on another character, which reduces the horror such a story evokes. While the characters participate in their torment, the loss of agency and hopelessness doesn’t translate in the execution.

Some mechanical and gameplay issues are noteworthy. For example, the saving mechanic remains dated, piling up if you save often or for specific reasons. Most of the mechanical issues stem from outdated UI from a gamer of a more modern era. Play it long enough, and elements start to click, but it needs that user investment.

Point-and-click caters to a niche audience, so modern gaming audiences aren’t inherently the demographic. The puzzle-solving and gameplay won’t win you over if the genre isn’t to your taste. Even within the genre, many of the puzzles remain challenging. For fans of the genre, this likely earns a positive merit. For those looking to continue the short story, this challenge will prove an obstacle.

Final Thoughts

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream provides a new opportunity for the award-winning story to reach new audiences and continue to grow. Not satisfied with repeating his story in a new medium, Harlan Ellison expands this bleak world through the point-and-click game. While not as haunting as the short story, this game provides the most context and development of any adaptation before it. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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