I’m always looking for light, filler type games that I can play in between tasks or while waiting for something, like a pot of water to boil. And while there are a lot of quick-play games out there, most of them don’t offer much in terms of gameplay and/or I just don’t find them very fun. Thankfully, I found Scuttle!, a light card game that is easy to learn and teach, plays fast, is strategic, and is definitely fun.
Scuttle! is a pirate themed card game where players compete to be the first to accumulate 21 doubloons worth of treasure. Of course, this is more difficult than it sounds because most cards have a special ability, for example, allowing you to steal treasure from an opponent, forcing a player to discard cards, or causing them to need more victory points to win. And, everything you are doing to them, they are doing right back to you, so just when you thought you secured a victory, your opponent plays a Dagger which cancels your actions or treasures played that turn. Then they go and play a Grappling Hook or Parrot on you and win the game instead. It is the back and forth, and the not knowing if/when you are actually going to win, that makes Scuttle! fun and keeps players engaged .
Setting up and playing Scuttle! is easy enough. Shuffle the deck and deal everyone five cards. On your turn, you either draw a card or play a card from your hand. That is really all there is to it. Now, I know this sounds too simple for the hardcore gamers out there, and well, this isn’t a hardcore game. But it is fun, and slightly addicting. And, with the various special powers, there is definite strategy to be had.
Cards can be played as treasure (played in front of you for victory points) or as an action. Most cards played as actions will be discarded, but some actions are permanent. These permanent cards get placed on their side in front of you and their ability is ongoing as long as the card remains in play. There are a few action cards that can be played on an opponent’s turn, which is sure to increase their frustration (and their chances of winning).
I really enjoy card games that allow cards to be used in multiple ways. In Scuttle!, players are forced to determine whether it is better to play a card for its point value or for its ability. Scuttle! is meant to be a fast-paced game, so thankfully there isn’t much analysis paralysis, but this player’s dilemma of how best to play your cards adds a greater degree of depth, strategy, and choice. Depending on your play style, deciding how to play a specific card will be an easy choice, but other cards however, will give you pause.
The artwork in Scuttle! is top notch and the semi-cute, cartoony art style is a definite plus. The card illustrations, mostly featuring animals that one might find aboard a pirate ship (parrots, rats, monkeys, etc) will appeal to a wide range of gamers and is suitable for families with young children. Because of the easy to learn rules, draw a card or play a card, Scuttle! makes a great addition to family game night. Games are fun and short enough that you’ll find yourself playing multiple games in a single sitting.
Scuttle! is decently replayable since you’ll more than likely not draw the same cards frequently. And even if you do, dealing with how your opponent plays will change everything. However, if it does get stale, or you want a bit more challenge, there is an expansion called Curse of Black Jack (included with the base game) that includes 14 cards and adds a rule allowing players to look at the top card of the deck on their turn. If you choose to look at the top card and it is a treasure card, you add it to your treasure pile immediately. If it isn’t a treasure card, you add it to your hand as normal. But, if the treasure card takes you over 21 points (or less if you have a Pirate King) you discard all of your treasure. If the press your luck aspect of the expansion isn’t for you, simply leave it out and enjoy the extra cards.
All in all, Scuttle! is a fun game that might be slightly addicting. It is highly portable and doesn’t require a lot of playing space so it is the perfect game to travel with or play on top of a cooler while you are waiting for an outdoor event to start. Because it is so easy to pick up and play a few games, Scuttle! has a permanent home in my crate-o-games that I haul to board game meetups. If you need a new light card game check out Scuttle! now on Kickstarter.
((A prototype copy was received for the purposes of this review, although that did not affect the outcome of the review. Prototype components are shown and are subject to change before final production.