- For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 10+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 30 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Bluffing and Misdirection
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Battle your opponents by throwing down some sick Poker hands
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek mixed!
- Child Geek approved!
Two-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event champion, a Poker Hall of Fame inductee, and the author of several books on Poker, Doyle Brunson, said, “Poker is War. People pretend it is a game.” Poker is a game (most certainly not war) played around the world at homes and casinos. People play the game for fun and a living. In this game, the rules of Poker are used to build an attack against your opponent who must defend it or lose their Poker chips. Adding to the mix are different factions, ensuring that every hand you play is much more than your standard Poker game and really much more like a fight. Huh… Doyle was right.
Poker Assult, designed by Ben Cichoski, Daniel Mandel and published by Cryptozoic Entertainment, is comprised of one Rocket Patrol Pocker deck (52 cards), one Vampire Court Poker deck (52 cards), one Wolf Pack Poker deck (52 cards), one Invaders Poker deck (52 cards), 32 Power cards (eight per faction), four Reference cards, 43 Poker chips, and six Modified tokens. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. The Pocker chips and Modifier tokens are made of solid cardboard. Illustrations by Ïve Bastrash are colorful and do a great job of representing each of the factions thematically. Excellent quality throughout.
Gathering Your Faction
To set up the game for two players, complete the following steps:
First, have each player select one of the four different faction Poker decks and its matching Power cards. Then, offer each player a Reference card if needed. Factions are diverse, with unique actions and powers available through their faction’s Power cards. However, no one faction is any more potent than the other.
- Vampire Court can change the suit of cards and steal Poker chips from opponents (i.e. “suck the life out of you”)
- Wolf Pack can change the rank of cards and do more damage than the other factions (via shapeshifting)
- Rocket Patrol have different ways of defending against attacks and unique methods of causing damage (through technology)
- The Invaders have different abilities that take a bit of everything from the first three
Second, each player should shuffle their faction Poker deck and their Power cards, keeping them separate. Once done, place them face-down in front of the player.
Third, give each player 10 Poker chips. Keep the remaining Poker chips off to one side of the game playing area and within easy reach. Place the Modified tokens next to the unused Poker chips, as well.
Fourth, each player now cuts their Poker deck to see who goes first. The player with the highest card (Aces are high) is the first player.
That’s it for game setup. Have each player draw five Poker cards to create their hand and begin.
Fist Fighting, Poker-Style
Poker Assault is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn consists of two possible steps summarized here.
Step One: Prepare Your Assault
The goal here is to play one card at a time to the table, face-up, to create a legal Poker hand. The better the hand, the more difficult it will be for the player’s opponent to defend against. In addition, if the player can create a Flush, Straight, Full House, Four of a Kind, or a Straight Flush, they can draw and play Power cards. The Reference card provided in the game will help players who are not familiar with Poker determine what cards to play and the number of Power cards awarded to the player if they are capable of building a great hand.
And “building” they are…
Only one card at a time can be played to the table. And once a card is played, the player immediately draws a new card to keep their hand full of five cards at all times. Each card played must contribute to the hand the player is attempting to build. For example, if the player has on the table cards of the value of “2”, “2”, “6”, and “6”, they could not play a card with any other value than a “2” or a “6” to create a Three of a Kind or a Full House. Of course, the player could also stop and declare they will keep the hand as in this example and will have built Two Pair.
Several important points to make here:
- Attacking players must play one card to the table when they are assaulting but are free to stop after the one card if they so choose
- Attacking players can stop at any time with any hand they have built to the table, even if they could do more with it
- Attacking players are never forced to assault their opponent even if they have built a hand that would do so (there are rare reasons why a player wouldn’t want to attack their opponent due to Power cards in play)
If it’s the case that the player is unable to build a hand, does not want to build a hand, or chooses not to attack, all cards played to the table are placed in the player’s discard pile. The cards in the player’s hand are kept for their next turn. It’s now their opponent’s turn to create a Poker hand using the same guidelines as noted above.
Unless that is, the player has indeed built a Poker hand and is ready to assault their opponent.
Step Two: Launch the Assault
Having built a proper Poker hand to the table, the player now attacks their opponent. The opponent must now attempt to defend against the cards in the Poker hand, not the hand itself. That is to say, the opponent need not try to build their hand of Poker cards that is of greater value.
Nope, if that were the case, this would be Poker. Which this game is not.
Instead, the opponent will now take one card from their hand and place it in front of one of the cards placed by their opponent attacking them. When a card is played to the table, the player immediately draws a new one.
The defending card will cancel the attacking card if the following is true:
- The defending card is of the same value (an attacking “7” of any suit can be defended against by a “7” of any other suit)
- The defending card is of the same suit and a higher rank (an attacking “7 of Hearts” can be defended against an “8 of Hearts” or higher)
If the defending player can counter each attacking player’s cards in their built Poker hand, nothing happens. Instead, each player discards their cards played to their discard pile. The defending player is now the Attacking player using step one noted above.
If, however, the player cannot defend against one or more of the cards attacking them in the assault, then damage is taken. For each Poker card not defended against, the player loses one Poker chip, returning it to the side of the game playing area. The player who created the attacking hand now gets to “Press the Assult.” This means they get to build another Poker hand and attack again. Return to step one noted above and continue with the next hand.
Defending against the assault is optional. If the defending player likes, they can announce they will “Reform Their Hand.” This allows them to discard all the cards in their hand and draw new ones, but they do not get to play any cards meaning the attack is successful.
Special Abilities, Power Cards, and Losing Control
Each faction Poker deck has several cards with special abilities that can be resolved if used for an assault or defense. These cards are marked with the rules of when they are resolved and the result. If the special ability is not usable, the card retains its number value and suit.
Power cards are earned if the player can build a Flush, Straight, Full House, Four of a Kind, or a Straight Flush during their assault (regardless if it is successful or not). If they do, they can draw a Power card (or two if the player built a Straight Flush). Power cards should be drawn and read silently. Power cards can be played when they are drawn or kept for later. If they are saved for later use, the player places them off to one side and keeps them face-down. If the player elects to activate their Power card, they may do so when the timing is right and reveal it. In most cases, a Power card is discarded once it’s resolved. There are a few, however, that remain in play for the duration of the game.
In some cases, players will lose control of one or more of their cards. These cards now belong to their opponent who took them. The opponent uses these cards like they were their own for the game’s duration. All Poker cards are returned to their proper faction at the end of the game.
Winning at Poker War
The game continues, as noted above, until one player has lost all of their Poker chips. If playing a two-player game, the player who still has Poker chips wins. If playing with more than two players, the game continues until only one player or team has Poker chips.
Poker Assault can be played with three players, but the rules are slightly different. The most significant change is that there is still only one player assaulting at a time, but all the other opponents must defend against it. This is done by each defending player playing one card at a time or passing. If the player passes, they will take damage for every card not defended against as normal. In addition, the attacking player may “Press the Assault” as long as one or more opponents did not fully defend against their attacking hand. If it was fully defended against, the next player in turn order sequence gets to build the next assault.
Poker Assault can also be played with four players, with two players on each team. Team members should sit across from one another, staggering the team members in turn order sequence. A team has a single collection of 20 Poker chips used to represent both of the player’s “life” in the game. When assaulting, the attacking player only targets the opponent to their left. Resolution of the assaulting hand is done in the same way as a two-player game. If the player successfully attacks their opponent, their team member takes the next assault.
Each Poker deck is a complete deck of 52 cards but is specific to the faction. Players can build their unique Poker deck if the players like. To do so, take the Poker decks to be used and separate them by their suit. Then, in turn, order sequence, have each player take one of the suits. Continue to do so until each player has a complete set of 52 cards comprised of four different suits and two Jokers of their choice.
Likewise, players can combine faction decks, creating a deck of 104 cards. The player uses the Power cards from both factions in this case.
Finally, the last game variant allows players to take two faction Poker decks, remaining separate. When players lose their last Poker chip, they switch to their other faction Poker deck and are given 10 Poker chips.
To learn more about Poker Assault, visit the game publisher’s website.
The Child Geeks had a lot of fun with this one, enjoying the different factions and the easy gameplay. None of our youngest players found the game difficult to learn, and everyone found it a joy to play. According to one Child Geek, “This is a much better version of War and an easier version of Poker to learn. I like how the game helps you make your attacks and how much fun it is to battle your friend.” Another Child Geek said, “I liked it because it was easy to learn, and I was able to win the game.” Which I think even adults can agree is a pretty good deal. Throughout all our games with the Child Geeks, one thing was always apparent: they understood how to make Poker hands. This is pretty awesome, considering how difficult Poker can be. Not in this case. The Child Geeks used the Reference cards and always worked hard to make the best possible hand they could, which always resulted in a pretty neat fight. When the last fight was fought, the Child Geeks gave a big round of applause for Poker Assault.
The Parent Geeks enjoyed the game, but not as much as the Child Geeks. Not as much by a longshot. According to one Parent Geek, “I liked the game and wanted to like it more, but it just felt a bit too easy for me. I also didn’t care for the fact that I could have a ridiculously awesome Poker hand that could be easily dodged. Felt a bit off. Like I brought a giant sword to the battle to have it easily deflected by a toothpick.” Another Parent Geek said, “A great game to play with my kids and a fun one at the table if we want a quick and casual game of cards. I wouldn’t say I like Poker, and I never will, but I liked this game and how the Poker hands were used for powers and power-ups. Fun little game.” When all the factions had settled their scores, the Parent Geeks took a vote and couldn’t decide if they liked it a lot or disliked it a little.
The Gamer Geeks felt more or less the same. They played the game, understood the rules, and didn’t greatly care for or dislike the gameplay. According to one Gamer Geek, “I know what the game is about, and I don’t like how it goes about it. This game has nothing to do with Poker other than they are naming hands in Poker. Which, again, doesn’t make it Poker. I’m not sure what this game is trying to be, but it played smoothly. Just not a game I enjoyed.” Another Gamer Geek said, “I wanted to like this game. I heard that it was like a battle card game with a mix of Yahtzee mixed in. I can see some of that, but it isn’t that strong of a mechanic. You are just making hands and hoping that your opponent doesn’t have a card to deflect it. Feels like a lot of effort on the part of the person attacking. Defending is bonehead simple. This made my games feel disappointing when I had a killer hand only to be easily blocked.” When the last assaults were quelled, the Gamer Geeks all voted to keep having mixed feelings about Poker Assault.
I enjoyed this game and disliked this game, but never with a firey opinion on which side of the fence to stand. Yes, it’s simple. Yes, it can feel disappointing to get blocked easily. But, there is no luck involved here. You play cards to the combos, people! Use those special abilities and work your ass off to get those Power cards! That’s where this game comes into its own when the players start to work towards the big hits, not just trying to whittle down their opponent one chip at a time. Unfortunately for the game, I think most people don’t see this side of it because it’s so easy to pick up and start playing.
I don’t know if that makes the game designers geniuses or not, but I liked it. It made Poker Assault easy to get to the table and allowed players to discover its depths on their terms. The game allowed it without hampering their gameplay or style for those who wanted to go deeper. For those who just wanted to play a card and attack, well, the game allowed that too.
There are two aspects of the game I am not a fan of. The first is the “snowball” result when a player is on a hot streak. Once you win an assault, you get to go again. And you get to keep going until you cannot make a Poker hand or your opponent is able to fully block your attack. This left some of our players feeling a bit cold towards the game and shut out as they were stuck defending for longer than they liked. Second, it can be damn tricky to bring out a Power card. Building a hand is not as easy as you think and building a hand that gives you Power cards can feel like a real struggle.
The game is what you make of it. You don’t have to dig deep to enjoy it, but you should. There are layers here and each is worth exploring. Do try this game when time allows. It doesn’t matter if you like, hate, or even know what Poker is. The goal is to get those tasty power-ups and hit your opponent with so many combos it leaves them spinning. Great family fun.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.