Game Review: Sword & Poker

Casual strategy and puzzle games have long been standout genres on the iPhone, as their gameplay tends to fit perfectly with the iPhone’s interface and mobile usage. So it’s particularly exciting when we come across an excellent game in this area. Sword & Poker ($3.99) is an addictive, challenging game that belongs in the top tier of casual iPhone strategy games. Poker and RPG elements may seem like strange bedfellows, but here they combine perfectly to create a deep game with layers of strategy. We found Sword & Poker to be rewarding casual gaming.

At the heart of Sword & Poker are the mechanics of poker. Players are given 4 cards each round that they place on a gameboard of 9 random cards to create poker hands like pairs, straights, flushes, etc. Forming hands deals a certain amount of damage to the enemy depending on your character’s weapon and other factors like shields and spells. And that’s where the RPG elements come in. As enemies are defeated, you gain gold and collect treasures, with which you can buy new weapons, shields, and health points (in the form of “coins”) to make your character stronger.

The blending of Poker and RPG strategies makes for a great if somewhat strange combo. The poker element has you running through the various possible hands as well as watching your opponent’s cards. The RPG element has you waiting for the right moment to cast spells that can favorably rearrange the cards and deal massive damage. The blending of the two requires a multi-layer approach to your thinking. Yes, the game eventually grows complicated, but it also does a good job of slowly introducing each layer of strategy so players are not overwhelmed at the start.

Although Sword & Poker is mostly a thinking man’s game, it’s also possible to play (and win) with minimal brainpower. But that approach takes longer, and battles will be much messier. A clever use of a spell and cards can sometimes end a battle in a single stroke, preserving your own resources for the next opponent. It’s this blend of a casual difficulty level with rewards for advanced strategy that works so well on the iPhone.

The overall progression of your character is superficially structured like a dungeon crawler. Each level is a floor of a dungeon, and you character moves from opponent to opponent on that floor until you’ve completed the level. Before moving down to a deeper floor, you can shop for weapons and armor and power up your character with health points. But instead of Dungeons & Dragons, moving your character around feels more like using the world map in Super Mario than it does a true dungeon crawler.

Of course, the game isn’t perfect. Some will be turned off Sword & Poker’s graphical flaws, which are as unimaginative as the game’s title. But that’s not where the strength of this game lies. Nevertheless, we wish the developers could have taken the time to polish that side of things as well as the game’s text instructions, which often read as if they were written by someone for whom English is not a first language.


We love casual iPhone strategy games here at Art of the iPhone, and Sword & Poker is one of the better ones we’ve seen yet. The combo of poker and RPG elements blends just right, creating layers of strategy that are never too complicated, yet still reward the patient and thorough thinker. We rate the game an 8.5 out of 10, highly recommended.


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