DeckHand — How To Play

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Video   Simplified Game   Game Board   Solo Challenges   Rules   Card Details


A quick 10 minutes video to get you started.

Since this video was produced, there have been small changes that are reflected in your booklet:

  1. The 17 Coin cards have been replaced by 4 Coin cards and 4 Coin Indicator cards.
  2. The special 10 cards rules for 4 players has been removed.
  3. The +1 Discard is not optional, and must be applied if possible.

Simplified Game for Beginners

To set up a beginner game, you may exclude up to 11 cards for a 2 to 3 player game. No cards can be excluded for a 4-player game and therefor we do not recommend this player count for a first experience with DeckHand.
Feel free to remove any cards you find complex or that might slow down the game. Here is a suggested list:

Game Board Illustration for 1 Player

Solo Challenges

To set up a solo challenge, follow the setup for a 2-player game but add an extra card to the supply deck (23 instead of 22). Take turn after turn until the game is finished, but at the start of each turn, remove one card from the supply. This creates a natural clock that you have to beat.
During solo challenges, you take charge of making decisions that enemies would typically make. If an effect targets an enemy, disregard the targeting aspect of the effect, while other parts of the effect still take place.

Victory Beast Solo Challenge

Aim to finish the game with at least 32 victory points.

Attack Freak Solo Challenge

Aim to finish the game with at least 26 victory points and at least 9 Attacks.

Architect Solo Challenge

Aim to finish the game with at least 27 victory points and at least 8 Structures.


What does then mean on cards such as Tavern and Exploration?

In DeckHand, then is never used as a condition but always to emphasize that things need to happen in a sequence. On Tavern, the "then" is there to convey that you should draw before checking the rest of the conditions. On Exploration, it should be understood "Additionally."

What happens to the supply when the supply deck runs out?

Players can buy from the supply, but the cards are not replenished. Naturally, nothing can be bought if there are no face-up cards left.

What happens when my stash and deck are empty?

Nothing happens at first. However, as soon as one or more cards enter your stash, the normal rules applies, and you must immediately reform a deck. Cards discarded together (e.g., with Alchemy) enter the stash simultaneously.

Card details and Explanations

Here are some insights on some of the most distinctive DeckHand cards, including a few that may need further explanation. If after this read you still have questions, join the discussion on Discord or Board Game Geek.

Once you play a card, that card is considered out of your hand. Therefore, Celebration can only give you 1 Coin at best unless you manage to introduce a third Celebration into your deck. Celebration is designed to be a decent card initially but becomes progressively less effective as the game progresses.

Extra Actions are almost always beneficial, especially when they come with an additional card. If you play Seaside Citadel as your first card, you will have 3 Actions remaining once fully resolved (2 starting Actions - 1 to play Seaside Citadel, +2 from the effect). Actions can be used for playing or buying cards in any order or combination, and your 2 starting Actions are no exception.

Keep in mind that once you have used 5 Actions, which include playing and buying cards, your turn is over. However, extra Buys you obtain from cards like Haggling (+1 Buy) are not counted as the rules state: "You may buy 1 card without using an Action this turn."

Wind in Sails is a start-of-turn card that grants you a 4-card draw instead of 3, simply by sitting in your stash.
As the game progresses and your stash grows, its effects continue as long as it remains in your stash. If this card ends up at the bottom of your deck, you may consider it unlucky, but there's a chance to strategically place it at the bottom of your stash if you play your cards right.

Note that if you play Wind in Sails with only one card left in your deck, and decide to draw it, Wind in Sails won't be shuffled back into your deck. It goes into your stash after resolving all consequences, including the shuffle.

Crafty Coco is a card that permanently changes the rules of the game as long as it is in your stash. Start-of-turn and Rule-change (indicated by the fist icon) cards are cumulative, making them all active at the same time. The order in which they appear in the stash is inconsequential.

Crafty Coco might be a challenging card to take advantage of unless you start your turn already wealthy or manage to buy a "When discarded" card. In the latter case, you will naturally benefit when it is discarded at the beginning of your next turn.

The Fortune Teller opens up possibilities by allowing you to target any deck, whether it's your own, an opponent's, the supply deck, or even the reload deck.

Use it strategically to try to obtain what you need, whether it's extra Actions, coins, or cards. Additionally, it can be employed to gain insights into an opponent's top cards, enhancing your ability to use cards like Desperate Chase or Voodoo Curse effectively.

If you reveal cards from a deck with just one card, you would reveal only that one card. According to the general rules, looking at cards does not empty the deck, so it wouldn't trigger a shuffle.

Start by drawing a card, then assess the other conditions. This improves your chances of obtaining the card's complete benefits. It's important to adhere to the general rule that effects should always be resolved step by step, without re-ordering.

In the 1st printed edition there is a "then" that you can disregard.

You can play Desperate Chase if both you and a chosen enemy have at least 2 cards in your respective decks. Then, reveal up to 3 cards. If there are only 2 cards in a deck, follow the general rule: If an effect cannot be fully applied, it still applies partially, to the extent possible. So, in this case, reveal only 2 cards from the deck.

According to the general rules, revealing cards does not empty the deck, so it would never trigger a shuffle.

If you have an Adventure card in your hand, you gain an additional Action. In addition to this, you draw one card and gain one coin.

The order of resolution is such that you first check the condition of having an Adventure card, and if met, you gain the extra Action; then, regardless of whether the condition is met or not, you draw a card and gain a coin.

This order has been chosen for game balance reasons; drawing the card first would dramatically increase the likelihood of gaining an extra Action.

In the 1st printed edition there is a "then" that has been replaced by "additionally".

The Poisonous Grog is a card that is often better off discarded than played. You'd consider drinking the Grog yourself only in dire circumstances.

The discard effect happens naturally at the beginning of your turn. But a few cards in DeckHand might enable you to discard Poisoned Grog a little bit sooner (Typhoon, Alchemy, Rum Factory).

When you extend a wedding invitation, you anticipate a thoughtful gift in return. But is this complimentary Buy truly worth the coin offering? Your opponent might think otherwise, and your generous invitation might be rudely rejected (by refusing to Buy), and you will receive no gift in return.

The Governor's Wedding can be mutually beneficial, potentially allowing 2 weaker players in a 3-4 player game to support each other.

This card exerts quite an intrusive effect on one of your opponents. When you play it, you gain control of their cards, coins and execute their first Action on their turn.

If you generate additional Actions or Buys by this control, you maintain control for those as well if you wish. if you do not the controlled player will have the opportunity to use them. In any case, you must follow valid game rules and not make nonsensical plays. For Example, it is not allowed to play Karmic Elevation and not pay the coin, or if there is no valid card to swap.

But otherwise, you have a wide range of possibilities. You could even use the Improvised Grenade on their own stash. The question is, what kind of damage are you able to inflict to make this card worth playing?

Getting 2 coins is already a good deal, but the ability to block a supply card for a turn opens up multiple strategic possibilities. You can use it to reserve the card for yourself, preventing an opponent from acquiring it. Additionally, you can influence any cards that interact with the supply to your advantage.

The temptation to remove your weaker base deck cards is strong, but have you considered parting with a higher victory point card? Your decision hinges on whether you can make the most of those extra Actions. Choose wisely what to trade with the Capuchin monkey.

DeckHand has an equal amount of Attacks, Adventures, and Structures. You could calculate your odds and make a rational choice, but can a real Pirate ever be truly rational?

When you have 2 reloads, you play them consecutively, and they are always optional.

Consider acquiring Improvised Grenade in the mid-game when opponents have larger stashes and 2-cost cards.

Be cautious about using it as your first card, as it can potentially destroy itself if you discard it and you have no better target. This is possible because the discard trigger (When discarded) happens after the card enters your stash, so keep this in mind to avoid unintended consequences.

The card discard effect can be used as a deck thinner, but everybody "benefits". It's important to note that ownership of fewer than 4 cards is not allowed (general rules). Therefore, any effect that could potentially reduce ownership to 3 or less does not apply.

Useless Totem is maybe not as useless as it looks at first glance. It has interesting interaction with Tavern, Fortune Teller and any card that cares about card type on the supply such as Adventurer’s Guild or Gambling Addiction. 2 victory points for one coin is also a bargain.

As Useless Totem is every type at once, all all time, from any location, playing it does nothing more than putting it in your stash.

When this card is in your stash alongside an Attack and a Structure, you gain an extra Action at the beginning of your turn. Keep in mind that your opponents might try to influence your stash to disable this effect.

Typhoon offers you the chance to pass around a weaker card, hoping for something better in return. This decision depends on your neighbor's stash. Since the pass effect is simultaneous, it does not empty any deck.
Regardless, Typhoon allows you to dig into the deck and provides an early discard that could be useful.

When drawing 2 cards, remember that the draws are sequential and optional. Therefor you can choose to draw 0, 1, or 2 cards.

If the choice of cards to pass around seems to matter (e.g., one player seem to change their card based on another's choice), as the initiator of the effect, you can decide the exact order in which each player selects a card to pass.

Imperial Powder is a highly volatile package, primed to explode at any moment. The question is, can you dispose of it before the game ends? Perhaps a Typhoon event will set it off? If that happens, and you pass Imperial Powder to your opponent (thus losing ownership) you might target Imperial Powder itself for destruction. If you do, the explosive effect triggers again, but for your neighbor's benefit. I'll let you imagine the explosive consequences.

What starts like a generous gift might end up causing a heavy hangover.
Rum Factory can provide the reach you need to access a desirable card.

Alternatively, luck might favor you on the next turn, allowing you to discard a start-of-turn card, already placing it where you want it for your following turn.

Going Ape offers incredible flexibility, allowing you to swap a card from your hand with any other card from the supply of the same cost without consuming an Action. This includes the possibility of swapping Going Ape itself if it serves your strategy. If you do that Going Ape ends up in the supply and not in your discard.

A powerful card if you can hit a good card from your opponent. Voodoo Curse can even be played on yourself, but only the most unhinged pirates would do such a thing.

Cards like Voodoo Curse, which do not use the "discard" keyword, do not trigger the "When discarded" effects of affected cards. For a card to be discarded, it has to be in someone's hand first.

The peculiar wording on Ghost Crew is there to avoid a catastrophic interaction with cards such as Voodoo Curse or Kraken's Fury.

If the card simply states 'on top of your deck,' playing Voodoo Curse on it would allow you to place it on top of your own deck, effectively taking it away from your opponent.

In DeckHand, you own all the cards from your hand, deck, and stash unless a steal, remove from the game, or swap effect occurs. Putting a card aside, such as with the Lost Expedition effect, does not change the ownership. At the end of the game, all the cards you own contribute to your victory points.

Everyone reveals a card. Then you have the option to swap one of them with a card from the supply. All revealed cards, including the newly swapped one, go back on the top of their respective decks.

A swap can only occur if there are two valid cards to exchange; otherwise, nothing happens.

You can gain a powerful effect if your opponent allows it. The two reloads can also prove valuable in combination with other cards.

If, for any reason, the effect of the chosen card makes it leave the supply, like in the case of choosing Gambling Addiction and reloading it, the card's effect continue as long as it remains valid.

Once a card's effect begins resolution, it detaches from the card itself and should be brought to its conclusion.

Present your opponent with a challenging task: predicting the combined value of your next 3 cards. If they haven't been closely monitoring your stash, this could prove quite difficult for them. Should they fail, you strike gold without expending an Action.

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