Loot – an elegantly strategic card game

Filed Under (Thinking Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Aug 1, 2005

Loot turns out to be a surprisingly elegant, fast-paced, and quite strategic card game for 2-5 players (or up to 8 players in playing in teams). Designed by the deservedly successful and astonishingly prolific designer of board and card games, Reiner Knizia, Loot is a competition between pirate captains, trying to capture the most valuable merchant ships.

There are three kinds of cards in the deck of 78: 25, innocent-looking merchant ships carrying various amounts of gold; 48, menacing, skull-and-crossbone-wielding pirate ships; four totally outrageous pirates, and one equally outrageous-looking Admiral pirate. Each player begins the game with six cards. On your turn, you may play a merchant ship and hope that it doesn’t get attacked during that round (because, if it doesn’t, all the gold it is carrying is yours!). You may also play a pirate ship, in the hopes that your pirate ship (and any other pirate ships of the same color played in subsequent rounds) have the highest total value. You may even play a pirate or admiral card, if you really, really want a particular merchant ship.

Because the rounds can continue as long as other pirates are fighting over a merchant ship, it is very easy, and tempting, to continue a battle, just for the pure piratical joys of it all. Which, of course, is an invitation to an early and conceptually wet grave. Especially if the ship you’re fighting over isn’t worth it. Yes, yes, there’s luck, but there are also the strategic delights of luring other players into battle until they all but exhaust their resources.

It’s one of the few card games I know that recommend team play, in essence, sharing two hands while conspiring against other similarly two-handed teams. This can add some delicious moments of shared gloating, and helps to ameliorate the agony of defeat at the hands of the luckier.

All in all, Major FUN.

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