Blackbird! – A Game for Rook fans on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

by dontangg on October 30, 2012

* I am not affiliated with Hasbro!

It has been a month now since my iOS card game app based on Rook, Blackbird, has been approved in the App Store. It has been a blast! It is definitely the funnest project that I have worked on. I think that is mainly due to the fact that I did it all myself and the App Store is a big market. Well, I can’t really say that because I’ve had lots of input and help with testing from friends and family – mostly my dad who is a big Rook fan. I thought I’d just write up a quick post on some things I’ve learned, and throw in some app statistics.

Some things I have learned

I chose to write an iOS app simply because I have an iPhone and most of my family have iPhones.

I didn’t use a cross-platform developer tool like Titanium that would allow me to write code once and deploy to iOS and Android. This was a very hard decision for me, but I’m glad I went the XCode/Objective C route. Here are my reasons: (Whenever I say, “Titanium”, I really mean any project like it. They all work very similarly.)

  • The Objective C language is really growing on me. It’s very different at first and has some concepts that are unlike any language that I’d learned before. But I really like it now. So I’m glad I took the time to learn.
  • I have a computer playing AI that I want to be as fast as possible. Even though they translate the JavaScript into native code, I can write native code that performs faster for my specific tasks than Titanium can. I feel comfortable that when I need to work on performance, I can get every inch of performance possible.
  • I have a problem feeling restricted to the currently implemented features. I worry about running into a situation where I want to use a feature that is supported by the platform, but not implemented by Titanium. This may be an irrational fear, but I still have it.
  • I have recently talked to people who have worked on Titanium projects and they have told me that they both love it and hate it. They say that some bugs are really hard to track down because you’re not sure if the bug is in your code or theirs. They also say that you still end up writing a lot of platform-specific code. You also have to pay for their nicer versions and you have to write modules to support native iOS features that aren’t yet implemented by Titanium.

The up side of writing in a language I’m already familiar with (JavaScript) and deploying to multiple platforms at the same time just isn’t worth it to me.

When I released the app, it had relatively few features. I knew that there were several things that would be in high demand, but I released it without them anyways. I’m really glad I made that decision. The feedback has poured in and it has definitely steered me in a different direction that I would have taken on my own.

I haven’t done any marketing yet. I’ll be interested to see if I can get some app review sites to review my app and what effect that will have. I expect that a multi-player mode and a universal app will also have a big impact. So, I’m excited for the future!


Here are several statistics so far:

Initially approved for sale in the App Store: Sept 29, 2012
Total downloads: 561
Updates approved: 3
App store rejections: 0
Most sessions in 1 day: 979
Median session length: 6.3 mins
Total time spent in app yesterday: 5 days 14 hours
iOS versions: 88.9% iOS 6.0, 10% iOS 5.1.1, 1% iOS 5.1 (my app requires iOS 5.1)
Users with a device that cannot upgrade to iOS 6: 1%
Countries of users: USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Kuwait

Update – Nov 28, 2013

There is now an Android version of Blackbird in the Google Play store!

It is also under review in the Amazon store.


Your game is terrific, Don!

by Yara on November 4, 2012 at 4:25 pm. Reply #

LOVE this game! I also like how you can make your own rule settings to tailor the game to what you’re used to. We always played with the 1’s, but took out 2-4. So I’m glad this is an option.

Any chance of updating the statistics? I’m curious how many downloads you’re up to.

by Daniel on November 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm. Reply #

There have been 1,388 downloads total. Thanksgiving weekend was very good for downloads. Every day there are about 500 different people that play the game. I’m trying to get multiplayer in before Christmas, so it will be nice to have a healthy number of people to be auto-matched with in addition to inviting your friends.

I’m glad you like it! Thanks for playing!

by dontangg on November 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm. Reply #

How do I sign up for it or download the game, ROOK? I love the game and love to play it. I would like it on my iPhone and iPad.

by RENDA on February 16, 2013 at 9:46 am. Reply #

Just visit this link to download Blackbird from the app store:!/id563960217?ls=1&mt=8.

by dontangg on February 16, 2013 at 9:50 am. Reply #

Multiplayer will RULE! Thanks for the update!

by Daniel on November 29, 2012 at 6:57 am. Reply #

I love this game. Grew up playing this game and can’t wait for online playing. Thank you so much for putting it out. Will you ever consider going to the android market with this in the future? Keep up the great work!

by Victor on December 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm. Reply #

Yes, I am planning on it. There are a lot of Android users clamoring for a version to play on their device. My current tentative road map kind of looks like this:

* Add real-time multiplayer
* Add achievements and statistics
* Add a turn-based multiplayer option
* Add in a tutorial/first-time-user mode
* Make an Android version
* Maybe make a Window 8 version
* Maybe make desktop versions for Windows/Mac

Of course there are lots of little things in there as well that include things like new rules customizations, tweaks to the AI, choose names for the computers, etc.

Also, there is a caveat to all of this. The reason that I have created this game is because I enjoy programming, I love playing Rook with my family, and I have an iPhone. While I am currently charging $0.99 for the game, after Apple’s cut I have really only been compensated for about 0.6% of the time that I have spent making the game. (I’m actually still in the negative if you count my expenses). Anyways, I’m not telling you this because I want more money. I’m just not sure that my motivation won’t run out after a while because it is a lot of work!

With all of that said, I do still currently plan on implementing versions for other platforms and Android will probably be the first other platform that I work on. It is really cool to see how many other people are passionate about the game. A LOT of people love the game!

That may be more than you wanted to know. Thanks for your support and thanks for playing!

by dontangg on December 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm. Reply #

Do you have an ‘about’ date for an android or Windows 8 version of your Blackbird Rook Game?

by Joe Nash on November 28, 2013 at 5:06 am. Reply #

The update pushed the other day was a great update. Looks fabulous on the iPad, and the more aggressive bidding makes for a much more realistic game. Hopelessly addicted!

by Daniel on December 6, 2012 at 6:15 am. Reply #

I am absolutely thrilled that I discovered this game Yesterday! I wanted to take a moment to personally Thank You and share my own story with you.

I’m a software developer as well, and have considered trying to code a version of Rook for online gamers and lovers of the game, but I just never had the patience or the time for learning mobile development.

Your Blackbird! game is absolutely superb! I use to play Rook on, unfortunately that ended when they dropped it. Your game, while currently single player only is so much more robust! My family plays a different version of Rook than the Official Kentucky discard with rigid guidelines every Friday Night. Your game grants me the ability to configure 95% of the rules that we use in our version. I cannot fully put into words how thrilled I am with the custom settings feature!

As my father ages, I fear the day that the man who taught me this wonderful game will not be able to share our Friday Night Kentucky Family tradition. Having discovered this App, it is comforting to know that there are others out there, like me, who share a passion for Rook!

Should you ever have the need for a Beta Tester of future versions of Blackbird, I would be honored. This game is by far the best digital version of this card game that I have ever played, and far better than anything I could have dreamed of coding! Kudos Don!

by Brandon Short on December 27, 2012 at 2:34 am. Reply #

Love your game, can’t wait to see the multiplayer version, it will be nice to be able to play family and friends from around the US again like when I grew up. Rook was a blast.

by Joe on January 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm. Reply #

Hi. I was wondering if there was a way to play with friends from another state? Cause My cousin and I both got this app today and She lives on the other side of the country and we really want to play together. Maybe add facebook friends?

by erica on January 10, 2013 at 8:11 pm. Reply #

You can play with your friends now! Launch the Game Center app and invite her to be your friend. Then use the multiplayer button in the app and invite your friend to play!

by dontangg on January 10, 2013 at 8:29 pm. Reply #

Love this game. Wish I could find online players to play with / against.

by Brent on January 12, 2013 at 10:28 pm. Reply #

Finally! I’ve been looking for a Rook game that plays by our family house rules and this awesome app is the answer. Any chance you can make the AI a bit more aggressive in the next update (more like my family at home)? I mean, it really doesn’t make sense for a team who didn’t take the nest to lead out with trump ever. It tips your hand and takes all the pressure out of it for the high bidder.

by Justin on January 13, 2013 at 1:12 am. Reply #

I’m definitely planning on making the AI more aggressive. Eventually, I’d like to have easy, medium, and hard options for the computer.

Also, I have a site where people can submit their ideas and vote on them. I like to use the site to know what people want to see next in the app. You can see it here:

by dontangg on January 13, 2013 at 11:25 pm. Reply #

What number value is the blackbird? Is it not 10.5?

by Kevin on January 14, 2013 at 1:07 am. Reply #

Right now, there are two rule sets that come with the game. In the Official Rules, the blackbird is the highest trump card. In the Western Wyoming rules, the blackbird is the lowest trump. You can create your own rule set, but currently there isn’t an option to make the Blackbird a 10.5. I am planning on adding this in an update coming soon.

Update: The app now supports a Blackbird worth 10.5

by dontangg on January 14, 2013 at 8:28 am. Reply #

PLEASE PLEASE write an app for Android!

by Ethan on February 10, 2013 at 3:33 pm. Reply #

It is my assessment that folks will pay more than $0.99 for an Android version of Blackbird, and considerably more for a Windows 8 version.

by Joe Nash on November 28, 2013 at 5:09 am. Reply #

Dear Mr;
I write from Europe, please write a Android version, and also send your App on Amazon, i have Kindle Fire.
I’m a student, and have few money, it’s very annoying for me buy a iPad only for play your fantastic game.
I wait.
Now i play some time with iPhone of my brother, your games with last update it’s very very nice.

by Flavio on February 21, 2013 at 5:00 am. Reply #

Please write an app for android!!! I know its already been said but I know quite a few people who would buy it as soon as it hit the market.
Great app by the way, I played it on a friends iphone and really enjoyed it!

by john on March 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm. Reply #

Get an iPhone, android is worthless. Don you’ve done a fantastic job! Don’t give up on it, it can be the ultimate rook app!

by Ken Gallion on March 24, 2013 at 10:30 am. Reply #

This looks bloody amazing, though I have no IWhatever, I also wrote a desktop multiplayer rook clone (in java), because I wanted to play my favorite variant online. (varient being, 200 point, no 2-4, 1 high, rook low, rook follows standard suit rules) I never really had the motivation to actually take it beyond the “I can play the games I personally want to play.” phase, despite liking to code. So hard to push myself to add functionality when my own goals are for the most part met (even though it’s just quick and dirty, and I know things that should be done, even if I wasn’t going to evolve the base functionality, and there’s a lot of evolution that needs to happen, building a true lobby, allowing for connection resuming, and more/custom rule sets), and I don’t stand to gain much. Yours looks amazingly feature complete, so I will keep an eye out to see if you end up on other platforms, especially the desktop space, as I wouldn’t mind a move to something that is more attune to what I consider ideal (without me having to do it ;P).

Speaking of ideal, you even has a last hand display, I’m surprised how few online card games do that. (that’s one of the few things that already HAS made it into my quick and dirty implementation, it’s just so helpful for online play, especially for a card counting game like rook).

by fireball on March 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm. Reply #

Thank you so much for this game. My brother and I played this game with my grandparents throughout our childhood. As I have grown older, I have missed playing this game with them so much.

This is a tremendous app for Rook lovers.

Thank you!!

by Jeff Baker on April 11, 2013 at 10:10 pm. Reply #

Just got an iPad & found this app! It’s the best $1.99 I have ever spent! I would love to see this make it to the Windows desktop platform. (My mother is handicapped & cannot hold real cards but she can use a mouse on a PC). Until then, I am looking for an older iPad for my mother to enjoy this game with the rules customized the way our family plays. What is the oldest (cheapest) iPad version that can upgrade to the minimum iOS version?

by KenHodge on July 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm. Reply #

The version of iOS needed is iOS 6, so the minimum/cheapest iPad that will work is the iPad 2. The iPad 2 will be able to upgrade to iOS 7 when it is released too.

by dontangg on July 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm. Reply #

We love this app! Great job, love how we can change rules to our liking. Only thing I wish could be added is the one card in the middle nest and u can pick one card you wish you had and the person who has that card is your partner. I imagine that would be really hard to add in the game though.

by Kristy on August 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm. Reply #

Hi would you mind helping me figure out how to play multiplayer version? Perhaps post a video to YouTube? Thanks, Michael Bell

by Michael Bell on January 12, 2014 at 11:17 am. Reply #

Great app! My dad also downloaded the app after he played on my iPad for a couple of hours.
We always played Rook with the last trick being worth 20 points. Whoever got the last trick would get 20 points plus whatever points were in the trick. Thus the total points available is 200 per round. Can this rule be implemented in future updates? We also played call partner. Whoever took the bid was allowed to call one card and whoever had that card would be the partner. Can that option be available in future updates?


by Jeremy on January 13, 2014 at 10:07 pm. Reply #

What a lot of fun! Played rook at every family get together growing up. Didn’t play much since then, but now that my own kids are adults, we’re playing again.
Good job on the app! I was able to customize the rules to match the way we played. Like Kristy, we also occasionally play with one card in the middle.


by Brad on January 23, 2014 at 7:38 pm. Reply #

I absolutely love this game and how you can customize the rules, because I’m used to playing a certain way.

I wanted to ask if you plan on making any additions to the rule settings, like calling lows instead of high, calling no trumps, or having your partner call trump.

Something we do when we play is flipping the top card of the nest when the bid gets to 125.

Otherwise, though, I play your game all the time and love it! Great job!!

by Hilary on February 11, 2014 at 11:11 pm. Reply #

Hi Don, while in the game, can you turn off the IOS bottom up swipe. Boy that is super annoying to try and play the game with being on.

thanks for the great game!

by Joe on March 29, 2014 at 6:57 pm. Reply #

I can’t thank you enough Don! I have Android on my Kindle Fire HDX, as well as iDevices running the latest IOS 8.0.2. Yeah, great, but what does that have to do with the price of beans? I’ve been blind since birth, and I have to use the built-in accessibility features on these devices, i.e. Talkback and VoiceOver. Ok, and…? *GRIN* Your Blackbird game is the first and only accessible version of the card games I grew up with! I grew up playing Rook, Spades, Phase 10, Skip-Bo, etc. and none of those games have accessible versions, until Blackbird!!! If VO and Talkback didn’t try to be so helpful, meaning that they read the top layer, say the game, as well as the underlying layer, New Game, Continue, etc… Ah, who cares?! This game is still highly accessible, especially for card games, and I intend to look for an award to nominate you and your game for as regards accessibility! Thank you! :-)

by Amy on October 12, 2014 at 10:16 am. Reply #

I’m so glad that you’ve been able to enjoy it! I think that I can fix VO trying to read the underlying layer. I’ll try to do that for the next update. Thanks!

by dontangg on October 12, 2014 at 6:04 pm. Reply #

Thank you so much Don! I wish there were more game developers out there like you. I’ve written to all of the Spades developers, asking if they’d consider looking into possibly making their games accessible, with no responses. I can only play Solitaire, in all of its many formats, for so long without getting bored, so I’m being honest when I say that your game made my month. I’m back to playing Blackbird with my Mom. *GRIN* Thanks just doesn’t cover it, but there really aren’t words that can express my appreciation! :-)

by Amy on October 12, 2014 at 6:35 pm. Reply #

It is without a doubt my most favorite app… EVER – my family are huge rook players (being one of the games we sit around and have tournaments playing) all of them have downloaded it too. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I love it!

by Alison on July 10, 2015 at 9:29 pm. Reply #

Leave your comment


Required. Not published.

If you have one.