Scuttle!: A Card Game of High Seas Pirate Adventure
Scuttle! by Jellybean Games is a card game full of pirate adventure, attacks, conquest, and fun, for 1-5 players. Manage the shifting seas of cards like an old salt, be the first to collect enough treasure, and you’ll win the title of master pirate captain.
Arrrrre you ready to find out what makes Scuttle! so interesting and different every time you play? Hop aboard, and you’ll earn your sea legs as we explore this great game and sail to capture the most doubloons!
Each player in Scuttle! starts the game with 4 cards in their hand. Every turn, they either play a card from their hand, or draw a new card to try to get enough treasure to win. It seems simple, but that’s just the way Scuttle! begins…
Depending on the game, players are alone (1-3 players), or part of a team (4 players). With 5 players, one plays the role of Davy Jones and has special abilities, while the rest play as teams of two. Solitaire Scuttle! is played by using Davy Jones and playing against the Robot Pirate, which is a dummy player (actual robot not included).
Cards drive the action in Scuttle!. These well-illustrated cards are either treasures or (permanent or immediate) action cards. Many cards can be played as either kind, according to the player’s choice. Treasure cards count toward winning the game, and action cards modify play, including affecting how many cards can be drawn or played in a turn. Playing action cards and resolving effects is the best means to get treasure and win. Because of this, it’s the main focus of the game every turn.
The Scurvy! and The Curse of Black Jack expansions add new cards and actions to the game making things more interesting. Scurvy! has disease-themed cards that almost always have negative effects. You can cure those problem diseases as a new action every turn. The Curse of Black Jack introduces a way to get treasure more quickly, but beware! If you go over 21 doubloons using the shortcut, you lose it all, so take your chances!
Scuttle! is very different every time depending on the number of players, which cards appear within the game, and even the people themselves; a 3-player game could be quick and simple, or be back and forth right to the end, you never know. The more people involved, generally the more complicated the gameplay will be. Five player games are the most unpredictable because there are three separate “teams”. Players will use most of the cards, sometimes again and again. The treasure goal for winning also changes with the number of players; 21 doubloons for 1-3 players, and 30 doubloons for 4-5.
Gameplay and strategy are always dependent on what particular cards are out and what players do with them. Players play treasure cards and permanent action cards in front of themselves, typically to build up abilities for each turn and to collect treasure. There are also many destructive or disruptive cards that can affect the cards already played. Players can attack each other and defend themselves, or concentrate on building their own treasure hoard. There are even nuclear-option cards that can affect everyone’s cards, almost resetting the game back to the beginning. Adding Scurvy! disease cards makes the game last longer because they limit what players can do. These effects can be good or bad, depending on how close you were to winning or losing and how long you want the game to go. Players with a particularly destructive streak could make the game run interminably long.
Various play groups responded very differently to the back and forth, topsy-turvy nature of the game. Kids playing by themselves had a blast no matter what happened. Adults trying to finish the game during a lunch break had a lot of fun, but didn’t seem to be much closer at the end of the time limit. Some found this aspect frustrating (“stick in the mud”, comes to mind). Games with kids and adults were also fun; winning split fairly evenly between the adults and the kids.
One important detail: the game states it takes 5 minutes. That’s true most often for 2-3 player games. However, be prepared to play 30-40 minutes with a larger group. Adding an expansion, especially Scurvy!, or playing with people known to be destructive can add to the play time.
Scuttle! is a pretty polarizing game. Opinions vary widely, even more more than expected. The volatile action gives Scuttle! a feel very similar to the Fluxx card game series. Because of this type of mechanic, players’ hard work to get treasures can be swept away in just a few turns, and the winner could sneak up on everyone at the end. Since the game is so unpredictable, knowing how the game is designed is the key to enjoying it.
There are two potential improvements that are extremely different, but are consistent with how people feel about the game:
- Add a “Total Nuclear” card. This card would reset the game entirely, reshuffle, and redeal. Then remove this card from the game. Not every player would want to use it, but the threat of that card coming out would push players to focus on winning quickly.
- Remove some or all nuclear-type cards before the game starts. Alternately, allow these cards only to be used once. This would reduce the feeling some players have that all their work was wasted and lead to a more civilized game, old chum.
Scuttle! is what you make of it, and can change from game to game, which is what makes it so much fun. Kids and adults can play Scuttle! together, and it appeals to all ages. Prepare yourself for the unexpected and you won’t be disappointed.
Ahoy! Go get Scuttle! and start your pirate adventure today! (And don’t arrrrrrgue with me about it!)
The Family Gamers received a review copy of Scuttle! from Jellybean Games.
Scuttle! and expansions
Age Range: 6+
Playtime: 5-10 minutes (sometimes a lot more)
Number of players: 1-5