Red Dragon

Contributed by Richard Glover

Strategy game for 2 - 4 players with 1 deck or 2 - 8 with 2 decks.


Red Dragon is based on the game Palace; it takes away some parts of the game and adds a few new rules. Players need to use forward thinking and strategy in order to win however risk and luck also play their parts in the game play. Games usually last 5 - 15 minutes depending on the number of players, the game can be relatively fast paced with the situation being able to reverse quite rapidly in a players favour.

Setting up the game:

5 Cards are dealt to each player face down and placed in a row in front of that player; these are known as 'Chance' cards and cannot be used until they are unlocked later in the game.

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Each player is then dealt a further 8 cards, the player may view these but must pick 3 of them to act as his 'Reserve' cards. These reserve cards must be placed face-down behind the 5 Chance cards, these can be viewed by the player at any time however.

back back back back back Chance Cards

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Reserve Cards

Once all players have chosen 3 reserve cards all players place their remaining 5 cards on top of their chance cards, these 5 cards are known as 'Opening' cards, an example is shown below.

The remaining cards in the deck are not included in the round, therefore there will always be 13 x (No. of Players) cards in the game.

Note, the reasons for choosing certain cards will become clear in the following sections as there are advantages and tactics for choosing different card combinations.

Chance Cards / Opening Cards Chance Cards / Opening Cards

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Reserve Cards

Game Play:

The game is played in turns, players play cards onto a central pile; however they can only play cards that are allowed by the last card put on the pile.

The objective is to get rid of all of your cards before the other players do the same, the game continues until only 1 player remains with cards left.

The general rule is that a card played on the pile must be higher or equal to the value of last card played (suit is not used in this game) however there are several 'special' cards which negate this rule and enforce a different action. If a player cannot play a card which can beat the last card played then they must pick up all cards in the pile and have them as their hand. They cannot continue to get rid of Chance, Reserve or Opening cards until the hand is played out. Opening cards must remain on your chance cards until played on the pile - if none of your opening cards can be played onto the pile, you pick up the pile, but none of the opening cards.

Once a player has managed to get rid of all their opening cards they then have to get rid of their Reserve and Chance cards. In this they have a choice: they can either choose to play a reserve card which they know the value of or 'take a chance' and try a chance card. If the player has no reserve cards which can beat the last card played then they must take a chance. Chance and Reserve cards can only be played one at a time.

Unlike the opening cards however if the player fails to beat the last card played then they pick up the card they attempted to play with. So if a 7 is the last card played and the player takes a chance and it comes out as a 4, then they pick up the 4, 7 and the rest of the pile.

If the player has only reserve cards remaining then they may pick one of the reserve cards to pick up if they cannot win.

Additionally, a player cannot choose to pick up the pile if they can play a card which can beat it. Cards:

The following is a list of all cards with special abilities:

2 - This card acts as a reset and can be played at any time on top of any card when it is the players turn. Any card can subsequently be played on top of this, its main use is for reducing the value of the pile when high cards such as Kings and Aces get played.

3 - Lowest regular card, can only be played on top of 3, 9 or 2. This card is considered the black sheep and is to be avoided if possible as it can be difficult to get rid of.

4 - Regular card, can be played on top of 3, 4, 9 or 2

5 - Regular card, can be played on top of 3, 4, 5, 9 or 2

6 - Regular card, can be played on top of 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 or 2

7 - Regular card, can be played on top of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 or 2

8 - Miss-A-Go, can be played on top of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 2. This is a 'special' card which allows a player to make another player 'Miss-A-Go'. If the result of this means that the turn comes back to you, then you may play whatever you want on top of the 8 and the 8 subsequently acts like a 2.

9 - Lower, can be played on top of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 2. This is a 'special' card which reverses the regular rules of the game, forcing only the next player to play a card equal or lower rather than equal or higher. This can be used to force a player to pick up if they have only high cards like Kings and Aces.

10 - Burn, can be played on top of any card. This card removes the entire current pile from the game entirely, any cards in the pile at the time will no longer be in circulation. After a burn there are no cards on the pile so any card can be played, the 10 is a very powerful card however due to the fact that it burns itself along with the pile each 10 can only be used once per game.

Jack - Regular card, can be used on top of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, J or 2

Queen - Regular card, can be used on top of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, J, Q or 2

King - Regular card, can be used on top of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, J, Q, K or 2

Ace - Highest regular card, can be used on top of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, J, Q, K, A or 2. Once this card has been played only another Ace, a 2 or a 10 can be played on top as such it is one of the most powerful cards in the game and is one of the best cards for forcing another player to pick up pile.

Joker - While the inclusion of the joker is optional and not necessary for the game to be played it is treated as a 'wild' card and can be used as any of the other cards.

Special Rules

Going First

Whoever has the lowest regular opening card goes first, a 3 is the lowest possible card so if one player has a 3 in their opening cards and the other's did not then that player would go first. If 2 players have equally low cards, for instance each have a 4 then you look to the next lowest card in their opening cards. Although 8 and 9 are 'special' cards they are considered in this rule, however a 2 is not. If 2 Players have identical hands, suit orders are used to decide which is lowest, the order of the suits is clubs, diamonds, hearts spades.

Play Direction in the 3+ Player Game

Once the player with the lowest hand is found, they have the choice of choosing clockwise or anti-clockwise for the direction of play when there are more than 2 players. Since they can see all the other players cards they can pick the direction which will result in the best circumstances for themselves next go. This is in addition to the fact that they are getting rid of 1 or more cards before anyone else.

These 2 advantages are good reason to leave at least some low cards in your opening cards by choice.

Playing Multiple Cards

If a player has more than one card available to them in their opening cards of the same type or in their hand then they may choose to play both at the same time effectively playing only 1 card.

This can be used to get rid of cards quickly in your opening cards, by choosing to keep several cards of the same value you can get rid of them quickly.

If you play more than one 8 then you force as many people as there are 8's to miss a go. So if there are 3 players and one of them plays two 8's then they will get another go and can play whatever they wish. 8's cannot be used consecutively by the same player however without them being considered as one go. So a player with two 8's in a 2 player game cannot play them one after the other resulting in an extra free go with which to play something else. In that case he must either play them both together resulting in them just being considered a regular 8 or play another card after each one. This rule does not apply if one of the 8s came from the chance cards - e.g. it is permissible to play an 8 from your hand, followed by an 8 from the chance and still get another go.

Jokers can also be used as a card of the same type.

4 Card Burn

This is a special case of the multiple cards rule.

If a player plays 4 or more cards of the same type then it burns the pile and the cards just played much like a 10 does. However unlike a 10 this also gives the player who played the cards an extra go and since the pile was burnt and there are no cards there he can play whatever he wants.

Another case of this rule is if 2 players manage to play cards of the same type consecutively. For instance if player 1 plays three 5's then player 2 plays a final 5 then the deck and the 5's are once again burnt however no player gets an extra go.

Mixing Hand Cards with Opening Cards

Another special case of playing more than 1 card of the same type is the idea of mixing hand and opening cards. If the last cards in a players hand are all of the same type such as two 4's and they also have a 4 in their opening cards then they can choose to play them all together in one go. The 4 card burn rule also applies here if 4 or more cards are played.


One of the largest areas for strategy in this game is the choosing of the reserve and opening cards. While one school of thought would say to put powerful cards like aces, 2's and 10's into the reserve cards to give you a strong selection for later, this may actually be a bad move as it may weaken your opening cards so much that you become permanently trapped with the opening cards if they are all too low to play on top of the last card played in the pile.

As such a careful balance must be selected by the player.

Choosing cards of the same type for the opening cards is often beneficial as it helps you get rid of the opening cards faster, also choosing at least 1 low card is good because it gives you a chance to go first (note putting three 3's in your opening cards will guarantee you of getting rid of them immediately as long as only 1 deck is used.).

Putting weak cards such as 4's and 5's in your reserve can also be a way of delaying the position of having to use them. If a player has several low cards of different values it's often a good idea to put some in the reserve in order that you don't just get stuck on the opening cards.

During play the general rule is to try to make your opponents pick up as much as possible while making it so you yourself can play whatever you want. This is difficult and very dependent on what cards you are dealt but possible with skill.

Last updated: 4th April 2008