Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 6+)
- For 2 to 3 players
- Approximately 5 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Pirates will do anything it takes to grab a gold coin
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
When it comes to gold, pirates will do anything. “Risk it all to take it all” is the pirates’ motto. They’ll jump through fire to grab a gold piece and sail to unknown shores to find more. A pirate counts their worth not by deeds, but by the weight of their treasure. In this game, a player wins by simply being the richest, but that is not an easy task when surrounded by pirates.
Scuttle!, designed by Peter C. Hayward and to be published by Jellybean Games, is comprised of 40 cards. The game reimplements Cuttle, a 2-player game played with a standard deck of cards. Scuttle! is pirate themed and provides the same level of game play, but up to 3 players can can enjoy a game instead of just 2. As this is a review of a republished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. The illustrations by Kelly Jo are colorful and detailed, giving each card a unique look.
Set Sail for Misadventure!
To begin a game, first shuffle all the cards and then deal 5 to each player, face-down. Place the remaining deck of cards face-down in the middle of the playing area. This is he draw deck for the duration of the game. Leave room next to the draw deck for a discard pile. If the draw deck should ever be exhausted, shuffle the discard pile to create a new draw deck.
The game is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. On a player’s turn, they take 1 option out of a possible 2. Each option is summarized here.
Option 1: Play a Card
The cards in Scuttle! can be played several different ways. It’s up to the player to determine how best to use them.
Play for Treasure
Cards with gold dots can be counted as treasure (see red box on following image). The number value on the card is equal to the number of gold dots, allowing the player to quickly scan the table to determine which player currently has the highest accumulated treasure. When played for their treasure value, the card is placed in front of the player, face-up. These count as points and get the player closer to victory. However, treasure is highly susceptible to theft and other shenanigans through actions.
Play for Action
Most cards have an action listed at the bottom (see red box on following image). Actions take place immediately, but are only useful if the player has the proper timing, since most actions are resolved and then discarded. Actions allow players to pick up cards, look for cards, and provide opportunities to steal or cancel cards owned by opponents. Cards played for their actions cannot be used for treasure, too.
Play for Permanent Effect
Permanent action cards are played to the table and remain until they are removed. Permanent cards are easy to recognize due to the keyword “permanent” listed at their top (see red box on following image). Permanent actions are useful as they can protect other cards, can stack for points, and can subtly change the rules of the game. There is no limit to the number of permanent actions that can be played by a single player, but not all of them stack.
Option 2: Draw a Card
This option allows the player to draw the top-most card from the draw deck and add it to their hand. There is no hand size limit, allowing players to collect as many cards as there are available.
Some cards allow the player to counter effects. If the player has such a card, they can reveal it at anytime they want to remove another opponent’s permanent action card or cancel a card being played. This gives the player a great deal of flexibility, as the counter cards may be played out of turn or during their turn. In addition, counter cards can be countered by other counter cards. The last counter card played always wins.
The game continues with players taking turns until 1 player is able to end their turn with 21 or more gold in front of them. This player is the winner of the game.
The Curse of Black Jack
Scuttle!: The Curse of Black Jack is an expansion that adds 14 new cards that are shuffled in with the rest. For the most part, the expansion includes more actions and more treasure, further strengthening the game’s pirate theme and giving the players more choices.
The most interesting aspect of the expansion is a new rule that adds an additional option. Instead of just drawing a card and adding it to their hand, the player can optionally flip over the top-most card from the draw deck and reveal it. If the revealed card does not provide treasure, it’s placed in the player’s hand. If the card does provide treasure, it’s immediately added to the player’s collected treasure. What sounds like a pretty good deal is actually very risky. If the newly placed treasure card gives the player more than 21 gold, they must discard all their treasure, starting at zero.
The Child Geeks were both amused and frustrated by the game. Cards come and go very quickly, which feels chaotic and stressful. According to one Child Geek, “This game makes me angry sometimes. All I want to do is play a card down, but everyone keeps taking it or junking it.” Some of the Child Geeks even felt picked on, which is never good. What would otherwise tank a game was offset by the overall length of play. The estimated time to complete a game is 5 minutes and I have never seen a game last longer than 10. Games are completed so quickly that players do not have enough time to generate a strong negative opinion. As one Child Geek put it, “The games are fast and sometimes you just need to be lucky, but it’s fun to get caught up in the game’s momentum!” When all the games were over, the Child Geeks decided they liked the game well enough to play it again, giving it their full endorsement.
The publishers suggest that Scuttle! can be played with children as young as 6-years-old. That may be the case, but we were unable to successfully do so. Players must be able to read their cards and be able to understand that negative effects targeting them are all part of the game play. Which is to say, not to take the game seriously or personally. We found that the youngest age that could play the game with a smile was 8-years-old. Individual results may vary.
The Parent Geeks enjoyed the game the most when they were playing it with their children. According to one Parent Geek, “This is a fast and fun game. It fits into our family schedule and takes so little effort to enjoy.” When played with their peers, Scuttle! didn’t do so well, but continued to be a big hit with the casual gamers and non-gamers. As one non-gamer put it, “I like games like this. They are easy to learn and easy to play. The game is entertaining, but never overstays its welcome.” When it came time to vote, all the Parent Geeks agreed that Scuttle! was, first and foremost, a game best played with the family. When it came time to determine if the game was agreeable to their age and skill group, they couldn’t thinking of any reason to suggest it wasn’t, mostly due to the fact that games were so short. The Parent Geeks voted to approve Scuttle!
The Gamer Geeks also appreciated the game’s overall shortness of play, but not for the same reasons. As one Gamer Geek put it, “A game this light and this silly should be short. It needs to get on and then off the table, quickly, to make room for other games.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Not a bad game, but not one I would want to play, either. I don’t feel like I’m getting much out of it.” To be clear, the Gamer Geeks never once mentioned that Scuttle! was a “bad game”. On the contrary, they softened every harsh criticism with a subtly soft word of praise. Which is odd. I finally got to the root of it with another Gamer Geek who said, “This game reminds me of my childhood. I have fond memories of playing cards with my grandma that were a lot like this. Fast, fun, and forgettable. That is, the games were forgettable, but the fun I had playing with them is a strong memory.” So perhaps it’s nostalgia that the Gamer Geeks are wrestling with or the fact that despite their current taste in games, Scuttle! still lies at the heart of what they enjoy most. Whatever the reason, the Gamer Geeks rejected Scuttle! as one might reject playing with an old toy that is kept safely on a top shelf and never forgotten.
Scuttle! can be a fast game, but it’s almost always a frustrating one, as well. Never to a point where it ruins the game, but a player will go through high’s and low’s several times during a 5 to 8 minutes gaming session. That can feel a bit rough, especially when you are “this close” to winning and an opponent pulls the card they need right before you. Most players will throw their hands up in disgust, but just as often everyone wants to play again.
The card game is, in my opinion, nothing terribly special. Play a card, do something, and that’s about it. That’s the magic of the game, however. Its simplicity acts as a means to provide speedy game play. Combine speed with a straight road and what do you get? A straight shot that allows you to accelerate and shout out the window in excitement. That’s what Scuttle! is like. It’s a game that sweeps up the players and then dumps them back into their chairs after it’s done. It’s one part exhilaration, one part frustration, and one part anticipation. Combined, it creates a fun, fast, and very casual card game anyone can play.
I can safely assume that individuals who enjoy casual card games that are easy to learn, easy to play, and not that easy to win will enjoy Scuttle! The theme is pasted on with great gobs of glue, but that only serves to make the entertainment this game provides stick. Do play Scuttle! and try it for yourself to see if it sinks or swims.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.