Tonight’s Tabletop Tuesday was Loot, a card game that friends recommended to us a couple years ago (thanks, Lucas and Val!). It is a pirate-themed card game for 2-8 players. And if you’re going to play a pirate card game, you need to do it right: wear pirate hats and talk like pirates. And no pirate theme party is complete without listening to a little pirate metal, ala Alestorm.
Loot is pretty simple to pick up, but takes a bit of planning for a few turns in advance. There are four kinds of cards: merchant ships, pirate ships, pirate captains, and an admiral. There are a total of 100 points worth of merchant ships with each ship ranging from 2 to 8 points. Your goal is to have the most loot (points) captured at the end of the game. Each turn, you can play one card from your hand, or draw from a central pile. That’s where the strategy comes in.
The interesting part of the game is managing how you play because you have only one action each round. When you play a merchant ship, if no one uses a pirate ship to attack it, you get to add its loot to your collection. If someone does attack it, you have to defend it if you want its loot. There are four different colors of pirate ships with values ranging from 1 to 4. You can’t use a pirate ship of the same color as anyone else who has played a card on that merchant ship, and you have to defend with an equal or higher value ship than was played to attack you. If it comes back around to your turn and you have the highest value of pirate ships on a merchant ship, you win it. If the points are tied, the merchant ship just stays in play, contested.
The four pirate captains (one of each color) and the admiral work as trump cards. To use a pirate captain, you first have to attack or defend with a pirate ship of the same color. After a pirate captain is played, only another pirate captain or the admiral can beat them. The admiral is special because it can only be played as a defense on a merchant ship you play, and it doesn’t require you to have played a pirate ship to defend first. Whoever plays a pirate captain or the admiral last, wins the contest for that merchant ship, so it’s almost always better to play a pirate ship to defend your merchant ship first if you also happen to have the captain of that color.
The game is a delicate balance of hand size and collecting loot. The other thing you have to plan for is that once the draw pile runs out, as soon as any player runs out of cards, the game is over. If you are holding any merchant ships in your hand at that time, their point value is deducted from your final score, so you want to play the high-value merchant ships as early as you think you are able to defend them. Players can also discard their pirate ship and captain cards, but not merchant ship cards, as one of their actions to try to end the game faster.
The game is best played with more than 2 players, honestly. When Amanda and I play, it typically devolves into a war of who can get the most cards in their hand the fastest, so we typically end up dealing the draw deck back and forth. One person typically gets really lucky and ends up with most of the pirate captains and the admiral, so it involves even more strategy trying to determine where to spend your enormous collection of pirate ships in trying to sneak past the trump cards. Is that little two point merchant ship really worth spending pirate ships on, or should you save them for a bigger haul? In tonight’s game, Amanda got the admiral and all but one of the pirate captains. I tried as hard as I could, but just there was no overcoming her pirate captain onslaught. I put up a solid 46 points, but Amanda scored 51 (with one 3 point ship remaining contested, for those at home counting) for the win.
It was a great pirate-themed date and we’ll certainly be playing more of it in the future.