Looking for a new card game? Magic Aces adds some fresh spins to classic poker, creating an original card game variant that’s both challenging for veterans and still accessible to casual poker players.

There’s a minimalist story involving a country club which hosts a yearly Magic Aces tournament, but this has little relevance to the game and is presented only in sparse details. Like most solitaire games, it’s really just about the cards. As you play, you’re introduced to a variety of opponents with different playing styles. Some basic strategic hints are given in their biographies, so it pays to read those before you start a new series of rounds. Your first opponent is Bill Basics, who will tutor you on the rules of the game.  

The objective in Magic Aces is to beat all of your opponents in order to win the Magic Aces trophy. To play, you’ll need to create poker hands with your cards. If you are familiar with poker, you’ll recognize these hands as routine, such as pairs, full house, flush, straight, etc. The rules get a bit more complicated beyond this, but also make the game stand out from all the other poker titles you could be playing.

There are several hands to be played at the same time. Ideally, you’ll will want to beat your opponent with all of them, making each hand valuable on its own. Some cards will be in your hands already when you start, which will influence your strategy. Other cards must be taken from the pocket and draw piles.

The “pocket” pile is the top row of cards in the left hand corner. These cards stay with you until you use them or discard them. The “draw” pile underneath is refilled regularly, when the green timer at the bottom of the screen is empty. In order to receive an influx of new cards, you will want to clear this draw pile as often as possible. This is done by either moving cards into the pocket (either individually or by pressing the yellow tab above to move them all at once), or by using the cards in your hands. Managing these piles is another unique component that gives the player a chance to form a strategy.

Once you place cards, you cannot move them without the appropriate upgrade and power (more on that later), so place them carefully. Notice the icons next to each hand? Those are your rewards. Rewards are earned by winning each individual hand. Rewards include bonus cards (which appear in your pocket), power bonuses, and most importantly points. These are all very helpful in reaching your goals, so the more you win the better.  

Meeting expert criteria earns you stars, which is how you can increase your rank. You earn upgrades by increasing your rank, which determines how many upgrade points you can spend on upgrades, and how much power you’ll get in your next match. It’s a bit cyclical and confusing, but that’s no matter, since it’s all done automatically for you.

Upgrades are very useful, and include power-ups like those which let you see cards in your opponents hand, or those which allow you to move your cards into different hands. You have four category upgrade slots, and can choose which four upgrades you want to use for each match. Upgrades rely on power to work.

Now, about that “power.” You start each round with a certain amount of power (expressed as a number). Power is what fuels your upgrades, and it gets used up each time you use an upgrade, or if you discard a card in the trash. You can use your power boost reward to refill your power, giving you more opportunities to use your helpful upgrades. You also gain power by making more poker hands.  

One more tricky thing to get used to is the timer. It’s paused at the start of each match. You need to click it in order for your hands to be counted and your draw pile to replenish. Other than that, it’s a good idea to keep it paused so that you can think about where you want to place your cards. You can toggle between active and paused mode by pressing the large round timer button in the bottom center of the screen. It can be a real bummer to lose because you forgot to press the button, so keep your eye on it.   

You will have to win three matches against each opponent in order to move on. Ultimately, your score is the most important thing in determining whether you advance. Your score is tabulated based on the hands you make and the point rewards you win. That’s a small detail, but isn’t clearly emphasized in the tutorial.

If you lose, you’ll need to replay the round. A variety of different challenges will be presented to you as you go along, such as small draw piles, limited card slots for hands, and full hands which need to be reshuffled with upgrades. Your strategy needs to constantly adjust to meet these new challenges, which keeps the game fresh and interesting.  

The artwork and music are polished, and everything runs very smoothly. The length is also very good, and like most card games there’s also good replay value. Every few rounds comes with it’s own challenges, so it’s never stale or boring once you’ve understood the rules.  

Perhaps the biggest drawback to the game is the learning curve. The rules are given to you piecemeal, but with so many little details to recall, the game can be hard to follow in the beginning. I played for a long while, happily winning rounds without understanding at all why or how anything worked.   

Despite some potential confusion in regards to the game mechanics, Magic Aces is a playable and accessible card game that puts a new spin on poker. It’s moderately difficult to start, and gets more challenging as you advance, giving experienced poker players a good challenge to boot.