Updated: Dec 3, 2019
This is a charming, simple and engaging game that you can be playing almost the instant you open the box.
Published by Jellybean, the game comprises a pack of cards. They are in three pirate-themed suits (and a fourth suit can be added with the Curse of Black Jack expansion) and they are numbered 1 to Ace. Each of the number cards is worth that value in doubloons but, other than the 10, each also has a special ability. The Jack, Queen, King, Ace and the five Jokers have no individual treasure value but each has a special ability. Some of the special abilities are ‘permanent’.
Play could hardly be simpler. Players each start with a hand of four cards. The other cards are in a face-down pile. In their turn, players can either draw a card or play a card.
If they draw a card, they add it to their hand (there is no hand-size limit).
If they play a card, they choose whether to play it for its treasure value or its ability. If they use it for treasure, they play it in front of them and add it to their total (just 21 doubloons is needed for the win). If they use a card for its ability, the text is actioned and the card is discarded, unless its action is marked as ‘permanent’. In that case it is played to the table and its effect remains until affected by another card.
The cartoon artwork gives Scuttle! great family appeal. Don’t be fooled though. This may give the appearance of being a children’s game – and children will enjoy playing it – but there is plenty here to hold the attention of adult players.
There is an art to deciding on the most opportune time to lay out your treasures. Seasoned game players will be card counting to see which ability cards have gone before they lay out high-value treasures that other players might play to steal or destroy…
Scuttle! is a fun and fast-played game. A game will typically last just 5 minutes, so you will probably play a run of games, as you might with a micro-game like Love Letter (AEG).
But there’s more. The game incorporates several well-designed variants, including for team play and a version with an asymmetric ‘Davy Jones’ player. There is also a simple but ingenious set of AI rules facilitating solo play. The Robot Pirate proves a surprisingly challenging opponent.
Scuttle! was originally launched on Kickstarter and it hasn’t yet been widely seen. If you see a copy, this is definitely a game to check out.