By: Kelly Allard
As the dark clouds masked the azure sky belying the intention of brewing a powerful storm. A greater threat looms for a fleet of merchant vessels than the choppy seas and swirling winds. In the distance, a sail appears emblazoned with the most terrifying of sights as the menacing, eyeless face of the Jolly Roger materializes into view. The ship attempts to outrun the a feared buccaneers, only to see another from the west, and yet another from the east, escape is no longer an option. As the pirates close in, which captain will take the ship for their own, and who will get the Loot.
Players in Loot are the pirates battling to pad their coffers with the largest share of ill-gotten gains acquired from unsuspecting merchant ships. The deck of 78 cards is brandished with a treasure map on the back and caricatures of ships and their over zealous captains on the back. As each player begins with their hand of 6 cards, they play in turns choosing between actions, such as drawing cards, playing merchant ships, attacking merchant ships or playing a captain or an admiral.
Play is interesting as it involves some unique mechanics. First, if a player uses their action to play a merchant ship, it has a value attached varying from 2-8 gold. If a ship is captured the pirate gains that much gold towards their final total. A player places his merchant ship in front of him, and if the next player opts to attack it, they choose any color pirate ship from their hand.
Pirate ships come in four colors, purple, yellow, green and blue, and vary in strength from 1-4. So, a player may choose a ship from their hand in an attempt to attack the vessel, if they do, it must pass an entire round (all players have had their turn and it is back to that initial players turn) before they can claim the vessel.
Were another player to challenge against that pirate, they may only play a ship that is a different color than one already played on that ship. So two players could not play a green pirate ship, even if their strengths differed. As play passes between players, they can opt to strengthen their attack by playing additional ships of the same color to add to their overall power. The player with the highest strength against a merchant ship for an entire round, takes that ship’s loot.
If no one threatens a merchant ship then the player who put it out gets it’s loot! Now, if a player really wants to take a merchant ship, they can play a captain in the color that matches the ship they already played on it, there are only 4 captains in the deck, so they should be used wisely. The last captain played on the merchant vessel wins it. If a player wants to protect the ship they played, they can play the one Admiral in the deck and collect the booty from their capture.
At the end of the game, players count up their gold, and the player who managed to plunder the most, wins!
Loot is a pretty easy game to start up, but it does require some strategic thinking and decision making. Players must sometimes sacrifice a vessel they played or are attacking for a better bounty, and will sometimes have to let other players collect on vessels with no resistance. The game play challenges children to think of how to get the most “bang for their buck” by reserving scarce resources and sometimes taunting opponents into attacking a vessel to distract from a bigger play.
Loot also comes with a variant play allowing for teams to interact in capturing vessels (for 4, 6 or 8 players) so even large groups could have some fun in the plunder.
Overall, Loot is a well thought out and very fun game. It’s possible to play it well with younger children, but it will take patience as they develop their skills and start to find strategy beyond playing anything they are able to. The game suggests ages 10+, but the game is very suitable for children who have developed skills in Uno or Zombie Dice. There is simple math involved with adding up power totals and recognizing merchant ship values, there is no reading. Children can also practice grouping, multiplication and addition at the end game as they come up with total gold values. All in all this is a fun game that is a bit of a twist on normal strategy. Definitely recommended for those who are looking for a little privateering in their game closet.