Play Virtually Any Card Game on Your iPhone

Have you ever wanted to play a specific card game on your iPhone but couldn’t find an app for it in the App Store? Wouldn’t it be neat if you could play any game, any time, with up to three of your friends?

Enter Playing Cards, an excellent little app that gives you the flexibility and features you need to play by your own rules. Below we’ll take a look at why you would want such an app, how it works and whether or not you should buy it.

Wait What Game is This?

First of all, I don’t usually show my hand this early in the game so to speak, but I’d like to tell you up front that I love this application. To fully explain why I think it’s so great, I’ll use my own story as an example of why others might be looking for the same thing.

My wife and I love to play cards. Whether we have friends over or it’s just the two of us, we generally prefer the interactive and conversation-inducing entertainment of a good card game over a silent evening in front of the television.

I’ve often thought that it would be nice to have the ability to strike up a card game from anywhere. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could play a quick game when you’re on a plane or waiting for a waiter to bring your entree? Obviously, carrying around a deck of cards is a solution, but you don’t always have room to spread out across the table in front of you.

Fortunately, there are tons of available card games on the app store. However, almost none of these provide what I wanted.

Over the years, my wife and I have picked up a few specific games that we like to play. Many of these have evolved based on our own set of unique rules and preferences and aren’t being played exactly the same way anywhere outside of our own house. Naturally, games such as these simply can’t be found on the App Store so a different solution is needed.

Such were the circumstances that caused me to begin a search for the perfect playing card application: one that would allow users play any game they want, according to their own rules, anywhere they wanted. What I found was a gem of an app simply called “Playing Cards.”

Setting Up a Game

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Getting Started

When you first open the app you are given the option to begin a “Pass and Play” game or create a game over a wireless connection. I didn’t get the chance to try it out, but I definitely love that you can play a game over WiFi instead of sharing a single iPhone or iPod.

Once you select the pass and play option, you can add up to four players. Simply tap the plus symbol to add a new player.

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Adding Players

Here each player can type in their name and even assign a security password so that no would-be cheaters can look at their cards. Adding a password to your hand definitely adds to the time it takes to play a game (you have to enter it on every turn) so if you trust everyone involved you can opt to skip this step.

Selecting a Dealer

The next step in setting up a game is to choose a dealer. When you select a player to be the dealer a bow tie appears on their avatar.

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Selecting a Dealer

A word of caution, selecting a dealer has certain implications to gameplay as there are specific actions that only the dealer will be allowed to make. To keep things simpler and allow each player to move cards about unhindered, simply skip this step by hitting the “next button.”

Decks

One of the key features that made me buy this app was the ability to use multiple decks and decide whether or not you want to include Jokers.

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Selecting The Number of Decks

A game that I play frequently involves both the use of two decks as well as wild cards in the form of Jokers so this was a must-have in my book and I’m impressed that the developer thought to implement these options.

How Many Cards?

The final step in setting up a game is choosing how many cards will be dealt to each player. You simply use the up and down arrows to increase the number.

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Selecting The Number of Cards Per Player

I’d like to see some quick options here for automatically splitting the deck up for games that require the entire deck to be dealt.

Rather than mentally deciding how to split up two decks with jokers among four players, it would be nice if you could just hit a button to simply deal all the cards.

Playing a Game

Once you’ve setup your game the way you want it, the app will automatically shuffle and deal out everyone’s cards. Gameplay is then split up into a few main areas.

Draw and Discard Piles

The default area that shows up when you first begin a game is the draw/discard area. Here you will see a stack containing any cards not dealt out to players and an area for discarding.

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Draw/Discard Area

To flip over a card, simply tap on it. This action works in all areas of gameplay including draw/discard piles, the common area and the cards in your hand.

After you flip a card from the draw pile, simply drag it to where you want it to go and release. If you want to quickly send it to the bottom of the discard pile, hold it over the other cards in that spot for a second before releasing.

Your Hand

Scroll down from the discard area to find your hand. If you have only a few cards, they are shown fanned out in the manner that you would hold them in your hand. Otherwise they are shown laying in a grid on the table.

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Your Hand

To flip over all your cards at once, double tap the table. To rearrange your hand or play a card, simply drag the cards.

If you choose, you can “reveal” all or only some of your cards to other players. After you choose to reveal them, the cards facing up will be shown to other players and the cards facing down will be hidden.

The Common Area

Above the discard area there is a single place on the table where players can place cards visible to everyone. This comes in handy for games such as Spades or Hearts where everyone throws down a card to see who wins the hand.

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The Common Area

If you have chosen a dealer, manipulating cards placed into the common area will only be possible for that player.

Changing Turns and Other Options

A player’s “turn” is not defined by the app but is completely left to the discretion of the players. When your turn is over, tap the “i” button at the top right to bring up the following menu.

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Changing Turns and Other Options

Here you can change players, shuffle the deck, automatically sort your cards, reveal your hand to other players, or end the game.

After a game is complete, you can use the Action Log to watch a step by step reenactment of the entire thing to see what each player did on their turns.

Suggestions

As I said above, I think this app is great. I can see it getting a bad wrap from people who purchased it without fully understanding what it was and then complaining about it not actually being an automated game, but it’s definitely a niche that I feel needed to be filled.

After using the app quite a bit I noticed that there a few features that I would really like to see that aren’t present.

First of all, I realize you’re working on a tiny screen, but there simply needs to be more places to put cards. There are several card games that allow each player to lay cards on the table in front of them (apart from their hand), but there’s no easy way to accomplish this here. Using the reveal feature works for me, but feels a bit like a workaround.

There are also games (again, like Spades and Hearts) where you win a hand and then need to move and keep track of the hands you’ve won. Perhaps simply adding a spot similar to the common area to every player’s space would fix all these issues, but the best possible option would be to allow users to create custom tables by choosing from a number of possible areas to include.

Further, it would be nice if there were a way to pick up several cards at once. Perhaps a selection system could be implemented prior to a move making it easy to grab all the cards in a certain area.

Finally, and this one is just asking a lot, including a simple score keeping utility would go a long way. I normally use the app TallyHo to keep track of card game scores, but the Playing Cards app deletes your game if you close it to switch to another app so using the two together isn’t an option for anyone on older devices that don’t support multitasking.

Conclusion

Playing Cards is actually much simpler than the in-depth explanation above makes it seem. You can quickly setup and play almost any game you like making it far more flexible than an app that only lets you play a single game or even a handful of games.

I definitely recommend spending the $1.99 if you really enjoy playing card games. However, if you don’t really know any games or other people willing to play with you, stick to solitaire and video poker apps.

Leave a comment below and tell us your favorite card game and whether or not you think you could use this to to play it. Also let us know if you think it’s a good idea to build apps like this that offer less structure and more freedom for players.


Summary

Playing Cards is different than most card apps in that there is no set game to play. You and up to three other players are given one to four decks and the freedom to play whatever you want!

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