4 Board Games That Use Poker Mechanics
It’s no secret that many board games draw inspiration from other games. In fact, there are lots of examples –– board games, video games, you name it –– that were inspired by Dungeons & Dragons alone. But you might be surprised to know that some popular board and tabletop games have also drawn guidance from more traditional forms of entertainment, like poker and its various styles. In this piece, we’re going to examine a few specific examples of ways in which some of the best board games have incorporated various poker mechanics into their gameplay.
Shadows Over Camelot
Shadows Over Camelot, a game we’ve reviewed in the past, doesn’t use standard playing cards or poker hands in any way. Instead, it incorporates a sense of treason. As each player draws and discards Progression of Evil and Heroic action cards, it’s difficult to tell who the traitor is. The game is spent in part trying to get a feel for your opponents, and which of them could possibly be planning to unveil their evil deeds –– even when there’s no actual traitor. It goes to show that everyone in most any game has their own agenda, and s out for their own good over others’. It’s not a concept that stems uniquely or exclusively from poker, but it is certainly reminiscent of the fundamental mistrust at the core of the world’s most popular casino card game. Above all else, arguably, poker is a game of deception and mistrust, which are also the elements that make this board game so fun.
Deadlands: Doomtown/Doomtown: Reloaded
This board game actually relies on standard hand rankings from poker to determine combat outcomes, while also infusing some elements of chess, particularly with regard to movement. As the players find themselves in different situations, a three-card poker hand determines what actions they can take, and how effective or powerful those actions will be. And since the game draws heavy influence from the Old West, the use of poker hands to make judgment calls ties in extremely well with the general vibe and theme. Poker was a popular game during the Gold Rush, and while this game more closely concerns a demon-infested western town, it certainly calls the same era to mind.
Yes, we’re bringing good old Monopoly into the conversation. Despite its original purpose of teaching youngsters about the economy and finances, this beloved game has become one of luck (and borderline unfairness). This alone makes it somewhat similar to poker, in that both games tend to involve more chance than players like to admit. But it also involves another significant similarity, which is that in both games players make decisions based specifically on other players’ previous actions. This means that your playing order is extremely important. Poker players typically see an advantage in going last; they’ve seen everyone else’s decisions, and can act based on observation. In Monopoly, there’s a benefit to going first, in that you can start snatching up property. But you can also follow poker the pattern of acting based on opponents’ actions. For instance, if a player has bought up two thirds of a powerful monopoly, you can prioritize blocking that monopoly by purchasing or trading for the third property.
The objective of Rummikub is to have the most points after a predetermined number of rounds (usually 3 to 5). Players place sets of tiles onto the table –– either a set of the same number and different colors, or a set of the same color, with consecutive numbers. If a player cannot or chooses not to play during their turn, they must pick a tile from the pile and keep it on their rack for that turn. As you can glean from this basic description, there is an element of luck and randomness to the game: You don’t know what you’ll get, and skill has minimal impact in parts of the action. It’s actually quite a bit like poker (as well as some other classic card games) in this sense. The fortune of what you’re dealt determines how you’re able to play.
Ultimately, each of these games represents a unique, and fun experience. When you realize how much certain poker fundamentals play into games like these however, you can begin to understand their mechanics even better –– and possibly play better as a result.