Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 1
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Poker Pals HD combines poker with Words With Friends. The goal is to lay down cards on a 7x7 board, trying to make poker hands. Hands range in value from 10 to 80 points, with a 10 point bonus for each card used that directly affects a hand. Gameplay is turn-based, as each player lays down a hand from the 1 to 4 tiles that they lay down. Players can play against Game Center friends, random opponents, the computer, or with local multiplayer.
Poker feels like a perfect fit for the randomness that entails many of these asynchronous multiplayer games; drawing cards just feels like a natural fit to this type of game. There's an interesting ranking system that's based primarily on earning achievements, though they are all naturally earned through gameplay, so they are more of an indicator of skill and experience than what it might seem to be. As a great plus, the full versions of the game allow for a theoretically unlimited number of games! As someone who regularly hits the limits of Disc Drivin' games, this is an exciting feature.
Some of the rules don't entirely make sense, like how some rows can't be extended on. Basically, a card can't be added to the end of a set of cards on the board, with a new hand played in a different direction; think like adding an S to the end of a word in Scrabble, then forming a new word in a different direction from that. Sometimes it can be done, sometimes it can't. It makes sense to me at times, but then others, it doesn't. It's not entirely an intuitive ruleset. The lack of added value for higher rank cards feels kind of odd, as if this element of poker was left out entirely because it couldn't fit; there's just something that always feels odd about this not being the case, and I feel like I'm always trying to play higher-value cards when in reality, they don't actually matter.
Poker Pals is an interesting take on asynchronous multiplayer games, is easy enough to get into with the core rules of poker, though the rules take a bit of acclimating to.