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LOOT

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Gamewright, 2-8 players, ages 10 and up, about 20 minutes; $9.99)

 

Originally released back in 1992 as Pirat and later reissued as Korsar, Loot is yet the third incarnation of Reiner Knizia’s card game of plundering pirates.

Loot comes in a small box containing a deck of 78 cards (consisting of merchant ships, pirate ships, pirate captains and an Admiral) and a well written rules folder. The 25 merchant ships display gold coins (ranging from 2 to 8) skewed to lesser values. (There are 5 twos, 6 threes, 5 fours and 5 fives but only 2 sixes and 1 each of seven and eight gold valued vessels.) The 48 pirate ships come in four suits – blue, green, brown and purple – and have fighting strengths (symbolized by skull & crossbones) of one (2 of those), two, three (4 each of them) or four (2 of those). There is a pirate captain for each of the four suits as well as the one special Admiral card.Loot

The entire deck is shuffled and six cards dealt to each player. Remaining cards become the draw deck. On a turn, a player may do ONE action: draw a card, play a merchant ship, play a pirate ship (either against an opponent OR to strengthen one of your merchant ships under attack), play a pirate captain or play the Admiral. The goal of the game is to capture merchant ships laden with gold. How this is done is the essence of the game.

In playing a merchant ship, the card is placed in front of you. If the ship manages to avoid being attacked by the time it’s your turn again, you immediately, BEFORE taking any option from the action menu, take the ship into your stash. However, if the ship has been besieged by pirates, the situation changes.

Any player may attack a merchant ship in play by playing a pirate ship card against it. Another player may also launch an attack in the same fashion but the pirate card must be a different suit. The player whose merchant ship is threatened may play pirate ships (again, in a different suit) to counter the strength of any attacking force. Card play continues in this manner until one player has more strength than any other player against that ship when it becomes his turn to play. That player may then claim the ship (and its gold value) and place it in his stash. All played cards against that ship are now discarded.

After playing a pirate ship card against a merchant ship, a player may place the MATCHING suit pirate captain card on a following turn. The captain will TRUMP the strength of any opposing player’s forces guaranteeing the capture of that merchant ship on his next turn. That is, UNLESS someone else plays another captain card! Should that happen, the last played captain card wins the ship, in effect, trumping the trump! The Admiral card is similar to the captain card with the following differences: the Admiral is not aligned with any suit and may only be used in defense. The Admiral will trump any pirate attacking strength but if the Admiral is played and a player counters with a pirate captain, the captain trumps the Admiral!

Once the draw deck is finished, drawing a card is no longer possible but the game continues as everyone simply plays the cards in their hands. When one player plays his final card, the game ends and the winner determined.

Each captured merchant ship is worth its value in gold. Merchant ships remaining in a player’s hand have their gold value DEDUCTED from that player’s total. Whoever has the highest gold total at that point is victorious!

Unlike many Knizia games, Loot does not present multiple paths to scoring. Gathering up the gold of the merchant ships is the only way to victory. So, careful timing as to when to expose ships you hold to potential pirate threats gives the game its decision making aspect. Hoarding merchant ships is not an option since ships left in your hand at game’s end will reduce your score. You need to be aware of what suits have been played, what suits you hold for use in attack and defense and how many cards your opponents hold (there is no hand limit) to best calculate when and where to strike.

Card stock is good and the graphic quality of the merchant and pirate ships is attractive and atmospheric. However, the colors used for the pirate ships might have been better chosen. The blue and green colors are much too similar for easy differentiation. A bright blue and a sea green, for example, would have worked better. While the cartoony pirate captains and Admiral may appeal to younger gamers (which may be their target audience as the game is listed as “ages 10 and up”), the artwork made these nautical navigators look like victims of some rare and disfiguring disease. Not precisely to our taste. The rules are clear, concise and complete – only to be expected since the game has been around for over a decade. Plenty of time to clarify any questions that would have arisen. Rules are provided for team play with the unusual configuration of partners sitting NEXT to each other and playing their own hands. This counter-intuitive arrangement of team play didn’t work for us. We strongly prefer the regular, non-partnership mode of play which is stated as for 2 to 5. But the “sweet spot” for the game seems to be with three or four players. That configuration gives just the right amount of player interaction and involvement.

Loot is a light and fast moving game of pirates and plunder. With rules that allow you to get into the game right away, Loot is a good way to spend some time trolling for treasure enroute to becoming the best buccaneer on the seven seas. – – Herb Levy


 

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