When you think about deduction games, the first game that most people think of is the classic game of Clue. While there have been several better deduction games made since, Clue is the first deduction game that most people play so most people associate deduction games with it. While I think Clue is a solid game (Clue Master Detective Review) it does have some issues which drag down the game. Since I like the deduction genre I am always interested in playing deduction games that try new things. Today I am going to look at Plunder a 2013 deduction game from R&R Games which adds a pirate theme to the genre as you try to find the location of the other players’ treasure. Plunder is a good game that improves upon Clue in several ways but takes a step back in other ways.
How to Play Plunder
Each player chooses a pirate, takes as many crew cards (for their pirate) as there are players, and takes the solution grid for their pirate. Shuffle the island, marker, and trap map decks and deal one card from each deck to every player. These cards show where the player has buried their treasure. The rest of the island, marker and trap cards are placed into the box without looking at them.
Separate the clue cards based on color, shuffle them, and create a draw deck for each one. Choose which player will get to go first.
Playing the Game
The current player flips one card face up from each clue deck. The player then has the option (does not have to) of flipping one more card from one of the clue decks to replace one of the face up cards.
If all of the cards have been flipped up, instead of drawing cards the player can choose any face up card from the corresponding deck.
Once the three cards have been chosen, starting with the player to the left of the current player. Each player will say “aye” if one or more of the clue cards for the round matches their island, marker or trap card. If none of the clue card match their cards they say “nay”. All of the players except for the current player has to answer and they have to answer truthfully. Players will use their grid sheets to mark down each players’ response.
If a player thinks they know where a player has buried their treasure, they can use one of their crew cards to submit their guess. The player circles the island, marker and trap where they believe a players’ treasure is located. They then place the crew card face down inside the treasure chest.
Plunder will end in one of two ways.
- Everyone has used all of their crew cards.
- Fifteen days/turns have passed.
Scoring is then conducted. Starting with first card that was placed into the treasure chest, each crew card is revealed. If the crew card matches the location of one of the players’ treasures, the player that controls that treasure reveals their three treasure cards and crosses off the furthest number to the left in the “My Treasure” section of their grid sheet. The first person to guess this player’s treasure gets three points. The second player to guess the treasure gets two points and the third player gets one point.
After all of the crew cards have been revealed, players add up the number of points left in their “My Treasure” section with the points in their “Stolen Treasure” section to get their total score. The player with the most points wins the game.
My Thoughts on Plunder
Plunder is a pretty good game. It is not perfect but if you like deduction games I think you will like it. Even though the two games do differ in several ways, I actually think it is fair to compare Plunder to Clue since when most people think of deduction games they immediately think of Clue. When you compare the two games it is actually kind of interesting since both games do some things better and worse then the other game. Lets start with Plunder’s positives.
Like with Clue, Plunder is a pretty easy game to pick up and play. If you have ever played a deduction game before, it will probably take minutes to learn how to play Plunder. While Plunder has a recommended age of 10+ I think children under ten might be able to play Plunder. Basically if you don’t have any problems with Clue, I don’t see you having any issues with Plunder. While Plunder is not a highly strategic game, I actually see Plunder as a game that can be enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers since it is easy to play and still has some strategy.
Plunder has an official playtime of around 30-45 minutes and while your first game may take 45 minutes to an hour, I think the game will usually take closer to 30 minutes. While I haven’t played Clue in a while, this is considerably shorter than any game of Clue that I have ever played. Plunder is a shorter game because you don’t have to waste time rolling dice and moving around the board. Eliminating the dice and movement from Clue is one of the best things Plunder does. I have never liked the movement mechanics in Clue since they just add unnecessary luck and time to the game. Instead of wasting time on a roll and move mechanic, you can spend all of your time in Plunder on the deduction mechanic.
As far as how much deduction there is in the game I would say that it is pretty similar to Clue. You have to actually work to deduce the answers but the game doesn’t give you a ton of potential options for the solution. The deduction mechanic in Plunder actually works a lot like it does in Clue except that you will use cards to make your questions instead of moving around the board and choosing whatever suspect and weapon you want. At first I didn’t think I was going to like this mechanic since it does add a little luck to the game if you don’t draw cards that you actually want to know about. After playing the game I will say that it adds a little luck but the game does a pretty good job mitigating it by letting you change one of the cards to a new card if you don’t like it. In the game I played I can’t think of a single instance where I had to ask a question that I couldn’t gain any information from. This mechanic also speeds up the questioning process since you can’t just sit back and try to find the best question to ask.
The only real complaint I have with the deduction element of the game is that I wish there were a few more options for each color to make the game a little more difficult. Plunder only has six different options for each color. While I wouldn’t call the game easy, most players should be able to make a very good educated guess for every player’s treasure by the end of the game as long as they don’t make a mistake. If there were more options the game would have been a little more difficult as players would then have had to rely a little more on their deduction skills and making educated guesses.
Speaking of guessing I think Plunder does its’ best job of tweaking Clue in this area. A problem that I have always had with Clue was that basically only one player was able to make a guess before potentially messing up the game. If the first player guesses correctly the game ends and there is no problem. If a player guesses incorrectly it messes with the game in a couple ways. The player who guessed incorrectly has to sit out the rest of the game. Also the remaining players can gain additional information based on the other player’s incorrect guess that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
This is why I really like how Plunder handles guessing. In Plunder every player is involved in the game until the very end. Every player gets to guess and an incorrect guess has no impact on the rest of the game. It could get a little boring waiting for the other players to make their guesses if you have already made all of your guesses, but Plunder does a better job keeping everyone involved until the very end than most deduction games. The best thing about the guessing mechanic though is that it allows everyone to guess but also rewards players who guess correctly earlier in the game. This leads to some interesting decisions as you can either wait until you are positive of a location or you can make an educated guesses so you can submit your guesses before the other players. This creates a good risk/reward trade off mechanic for the game.
Without a doubt the biggest problem that I had with Plunder is with the scoring system. I really like that you score more points for guessing correctly before the other players. I hate the idea that you lose points based on the other players guessing the location of your treasure. I hate this mechanic because you have absolutely no impact on whether the other players will find your treasure. Outside of lying (thus breaking the game), you have no way of preventing the other players from finding your treasure. Some players’ information just seems to get released much quicker than others. If a bunch of your cards are drawn early in the game, you likely are going to lose all of your points for your treasure while other players could score a couple points. I think it is unfair to punish a player for something they have no control over.
This is why I plan on ditching the rule the next time I play the game. With the end results usually being quite close, these points could end up determining who wins the game. A player could easily end up losing the game due to something they had no control over. While I am leaning towards ditching these points entirely, I would maybe consider using them to break potential ties but otherwise they have too much control over the game.
Another issue I have with Plunder is the fact that there isn’t a lot of hidden information in the game. This is actually one of the areas that I think Clue does a better job than Plunder. What is good about Clue is that the person asking the question is the only player that gains a lot of information out of the question. The other players can find out whether a player has or doesn’t have any of the cards that were asked for but they have no idea what card was shared with the player that asked the question. The original Clue also only lets one player answer yes so the other players are able to hide their answers to the question that was asked.
The problem with Plunder is that the player asking the question only gets a slight advantage over the other players. All information gleaned from the question is known to all of the players. The only advantage that the player asking the question gets is that they don’t have to answer the question so they get a little more information than the other players. The problem with all of the information being open to all of the players is that players should mostly come to the same conclusions at the same time. This makes it hard for a player to gain a significant advantage over the other players. While good deduction skills might help a player answer quicker, everyone will probably eventually figure out the locations of the treasures.
The final problem I have with Plunder is a problem with almost every deduction game. Just like with Clue, if a player makes a mistake/cheats while answering a question it will likely ruin the game since players will use those answers to narrow down their guesses. I really don’t know how much you can blame Plunder for this problem though since it is kind of unavoidable for these type of games and I can’t think of a way that you can stop it from ruining the game.
The component quality in Plunder is solid but unspectacular. First I am always a big fan of when games use dry erase markers/boards instead of using score pad sheets. I like the dry erase components since it allows you to play the game as much as you want without having to worry about running out of score sheets. I will say that the grid sheets are a little on the large side though. The cards are pretty much the definition of average.
Should You Buy Plunder?
While it is not perfect, I think Plunder is a good deduction game. Plunder actually improves on Clue by streamlining the game (eliminating the roll and move mechanic), improving how players submit their guesses, and improving the scoring system to keep all of the players in the game until the very end. I don’t like how Plunder punishes players for having their treasure found though since there is no way to prevent it. I also wish the game had a little less public information and there were a few more options for each color.
If you don’t really like deduction games, Plunder probably won’t change your mind. If you like deduction games though I think you will like Plunder. If you already own a bunch of deduction games Plunder might not be unique enough to purchase. If you like the game’s concept though I think you could get quite a bit of enjoyment out of Plunder and should consider picking it up.