Hocus Poker

Play Details: 2-4 Players, 30-45 Minutes, Ages 10+

Hocus Poker is a classic style card game that asks: how would wizards play a game of poker? Such a game would need to allow for clever card play, a little deception, and fantastic spells. Hocus Poker takes some elements of poker and over the course of more than a 100 playtests has developed into a game that uses them to create a wholly unique experience. The game features 80 cards and can be enjoyed by 2-4 players in about 30 minutes.

The game is played in Rounds. If any player has at least 25 Points at the end of a Round, the game ends and the player with the most Points wins.

Players are dealt 10  cards at the start of each Round. Similar to a standard deck of cards, there are 4 suits, with cards numbered in each from 1-13. Cards also have a Gem value (i.e. Points) that ranges from 1-5. Some cards even have special actions on them. On their turn, a player chooses one of three actions:

  • Add 1 face up card to a Community
  • Add 1 face down card to a Pot
  • Add 1 or 2 face down cards to a Pocket (max of 2)

The first twist is that all players are building Communities that they share, as well as the Pots that can be won. The second twist is that there are two Communities. Players choose which Community to work towards, or if they’re skilled, perhaps both! Remember, every card can be played to try and build a winning hand OR as points to increase the rewards, which means there’s a great deal of flexibility with the cards you’re dealt.

When both Communities contain 4 cards, the end of the Round is triggered. Players then assign each of their two Pockets to a Community. The player with the best 5 card poker hand, built using a Community and their Pocket, wins the Gems from the associated Pot. By using traditional Poker hands, Hocus Poker allows players to focus on strategic play using the new mechanics presented.

The basic game of Hocus Poker challenges players with hand management, trying to build a powerful hand without drawing attention, foiling your opponents, choosing where to invest your precious cards, and knowing when to add to a Pot. Timing is key! If you wait too long, you’ll be stuck with only a single Pocket or a wimpy Pot.

The advanced game of Hocus Poker takes this premise to the next level. Each player now has three actions unique to them. These Spells enhance and break the conventions of the basic game, introduce a great deal of asymmetry, and provide for different styles of play. This allows every player to wield unique tactics and experience a fresh experience every time. Not only that, but the special actions on cards can come into play, providing more opportunity for tactical play.

Hocus Poker is my first collaborative design effort and the benefits of having a second mind on board are easily seen. Joshua Buergel joined the project early first as a play tester, but soon his insights, passion, and contributions made it clear he had long-passed the role of play tester.

Our current plan is to self-publish Hocus Poker in early 2015. Stay tuned, or sign up for our Newsletter to keep in touch.

Note: Prototype art was illustrated by John Ariosa.

  • Early Pinterest photo reference for the game.
  • Hocus Poker’s UnPub Page
  • Rules for Hocus Poker. Please comment directly in the document!
  • Hocus Poker PNP.

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