You feel the call. The warm acidity of salt in the air. A cool breeze beckons you, pushes even. You smell gold on the horizon, riches unfathomable. Steel yourself. It’s time for a little warfare on the high seas!
Loot is a simple game- that is somehow a combination of resource management, area control, and push your luck- so maybe not so simple? Still, it’s pretty easy to explain on paper. Each turn you will either draw or play one of three types of cards:
- Merchant Ships are each worth a value of gold. If at the beginning of your turn you are (still) in control of a Merchant Ship, you’ll collect it and score the associated gold.
- Pirate Ships are worth a certain color and number of attack points, and are played on Merchant Ships. The player with the most attack points on a Merchant Ship is in control of it. Each player can only attack a Merchant with one color of Pirate, and no two players may attack the same Merchant with the same color.
- Pirate Captains must be played on at least one Pirate Ship, and function as a take all, defeating all other cards except another Pirate Captain. There is also an Admiral, which acts as a neutral Captain- but it can only be played on your own Merchant Ship.
Here’s the catch- when a Merchant is captured, all cards played on that Merchant are discarded… Making each Merchant vessel a gamble between victory and lost resources. You’ll often be left trying to decide between investing more in a battle for five gold, or just throwing out a three gold and hoping everyone will ignore it in favor of the juicier prize. These moments are what makes this game so fantastic.
By its nature, Loot is fairly aggressive. Don’t expect folks to go easy on you- I certainly wouldn’t. But it’s incredibly quick at only 20 minutes long (at most), giving players no time to nurse a grudge. Look past this and you’ll find a quick, thought provoking game full of calculated decision-making. Most players will be glad to see this one hit the table.
Loot really shines at five or more independent players; frequently going from a terse series of staccato battles to a swarm of Merchants coming out all at once. There’s also an interesting team game for 4, 6, and 8 players. The only real criticism I can muster for Loot is the seemingly industry requisite player count lie. No matter what the box says, this game doesn’t work at two players- it’s nothing but a luck driven tug of war. More importantly, at two players Loot simply isn’t fun. Gamewright is hardly alone in this little faux-pas, but I wish the box read 3-8, as it would have been more honest.
Loot is really one of those magical little card games that just works, without asking too much of the players. It’ll give you the opportunity to duke it out with your friends for 20 minutes, then call it a night. The straightforward nature of the game still leaves room for a fair amount of depth, which is dealt back in spades. Just wait for for a third player- turns out pirate battles don’t work with just two.