How to Play
To begin the game shuffle the cards and give each player six cards. The rest of the cards form the draw pile.
At the beginning of every player’s turn check all of the merchant ships to see if the current player captured any of them (more details on this later). The player then either draws or plays a card. Since there is no hand limit, a player can use as many turns as they want drawing cards. If the player chooses to play a card they follow the rules for the type of card that they played.
- Merchant Ships: A player plays these cards in front of themselves. These cards are used to earn victory points.
- Pirate Ships: Pirate ships are played to attack merchant ships. Pirate ships can be played against other players’ merchant ships or the current player’s own merchant ships in order to try and protect them. A pirate ships’ value is equal to the number of skull symbols on the card.
- Pirate Captains: These cards can only be played on pirate ships of the same color as the border on the pirate captain’s card. Pirate captains increase a player’s strength in a battle.
- Admiral: The admiral can only be played on a merchant ship owned by the player playing the card.
The key mechanic in Loot is claiming merchant ships. When a player plays a merchant ship in front of them, they have claim to that ship. If no one plays a pirate ship against that card before the player’s next turn, the player who played it gets to keep the card and the associated victory points.
The other players will likely challenge you for the card though. When a player decides to play a pirate ship against a merchant ship they can only play a pirate ship of a color that hasn’t already been played on the merchant ship. If the player has already played a pirate ship against this merchant ship they can only play a ship of the same color that they have already played. The battle continues until one player has the most skull symbols on a merchant ship at the beginning of their turn. This player would then take the merchant ship card for themselves and all of the other cards played on the merchant ship are discarded.
If during a battle two or more players are tied for the lead, no one can claim the merchant ship until someone breaks the tie and is leading at the beginning of their turn. Players who weren’t originally tied for first can also add additional cards and end up winning the merchant ship.
To influence the battle players can also play a captain or admiral card. A player can only play a captain card on a pirate ship card they have played that is the same color as the border of the captain card. The captain cards are powerful since if no other player is able to play a captain or admiral card before it reaches that player’s next turn, they take the merchant ship. If another player plays an admiral or captain card they are now the leader and will claim the merchant ship unless another player plays a admiral or captain card. Admiral cards work in the same way as captains except that they are played on the merchant ship itself and can only be played by the player who first played the merchant ship.
The game continues as normal until the draw deck is depleted and any player runs out of cards. Players add up all of the coins on the cards that they won during the game. The player subtracts from that total the number of coins on the merchant ships still left in their hand. Whoever ends up with the most coins wins the game.
We at Geeky Hobbies have played a lot of Reiner Knizia games. With hundreds of games to his name that is not particularly hard to do. Most of Mr. Knizia’s games are of the average variety. They are usually fun but are rarely groundbreaking. Loot follows this pattern by being a good but not great game.
Loot’s greatest strength is that it is fun to play. Loot is a pretty typical card game. You play cards of various strengths in order to claim cards worth various victory points. The game doesn’t have a lot of strategy to it but it has just enough to keep you engaged. The rules are quite simple so the game should work pretty well as a family game for families with older children (the game recommends ages 10+). There is nothing particularly difficult in the rules but it takes a little while to adjust to knowing what you can do on any particular turn. As players get more acquainted with the game turns go much quicker. On average I would say that a typical game takes around 20 minutes to complete.
The game supports 2-8 players. I have played the game with three and four players and I would have to say that the game was better with four players. I would say the ideal size would be four to six players. With more than six players I think the game will be bogged down with so many players and each player would not be able to make many moves before the game ended. With two or three players luck becomes too big of factor since there are not enough players to mitigate some of the luck.
Loot is a good game and could have been a great game if it wasn’t for luck being too big of a factor in the game. Loot has a tendency to give one player no chance at winning the game due to getting a poor selection of cards. It just seems that at least one player always seems to get a ton of merchant ships. At least in my experience drawing merchant ships is usually not a good thing. You are much better off drawing pirate ships and waiting for one of the other players to play the merchant ships. The only real benefits to drawing a merchant ship is that you can use an admiral card on it and you may be able to claim it without using any pirate ships if no one challenges you for it.
Usually when you draw and play merchant ships you end up giving points to the other players. If you draw a lot of merchant ships you don’t have as many pirate ships to defend the merchant ships as the other players since they didn’t have to waste two turns drawing and then playing the merchant ship. A player may want to hoard the merchant ships in order to prevent giving the other players points but they can’t since they need to get rid of the cards before the end of the game or they will lose points. A player who gets a lot of merchant ships has to either decide to give the other players easy points or they will probably have negative points at the end of the game.
The most likely way to win the game is to keep drawing pirate ships. In one game I actually ended up with more coins (points) than the other two players combined. This anti-climatic ending occurred because while the other two players kept drawing merchant ships, I kept drawing high value pirate ships. The other players would end up playing a merchant ship which I would then take since I just kept playing pirate ships that the other players couldn’t match.
This issue with merchant ships leads to an issue where at the beginning of the game everyone essentially plays chicken with the other players hoping they cave first and are the first player to play a merchant ship. Since there is no card limit, players tend to hoard cards until someone finally makes a move. If there wasn’t a penalty for holding merchant ship cards at the end of the game, some players may never want to play a card. Eventually someone will be forced to play a merchant ship and the game can finally get going.
The components are pretty good overall. The artwork is well done and designed so it is easy to see the values of the different ships. The card stock is also pretty thick. The only problem I had with the cards is that for some people it may be hard to see the difference between the blue and green colored ships. I didn’t have trouble differentiating the colors but some players had some issues. I don’t know why Loot couldn’t have chosen a different color that stood out more from the other colored ships.
Overall I would consider Loot to be one of Gamewright’s best games. The game is just fun to play. The game is also quick to play and easy to learn. This makes Loot a good filler card game. If the game had a little less reliance on luck (merchant ships) the game could have been great. If you can get over the reliance on luck, I think you will enjoy Loot and should consider picking it up.