When Travis contacted me to see if I’d play his little game, I agreed. I usually love me some simultaneous action selection, and the mix of outthinking your opponent made it sound like something I’d really enjoy.
Thematically, we’re all well-known con artists with nothing better to do with our time than steal from each other. I’m not an expert con artist by any means, but I’ve heard some sage advice about what to do if you’re gonna play the game:
- Know when to hold ’em.
- Know when to fold ’em.
- Know when to walk away.
- Know when to run.
That might be related to gambling and not conning, but I feel like the two are pretty similar. Anyway. Let’s talk about Scoundrel Society.
Steal the most loot least suspiciously.
You see, loot has various amounts of suspicion attached to them. Some loot is worth zero suspicion because it’s not very sexy. For example, no one wants your childhood toy; however, lots of people would like to get their hands on the Hope Diamond.
In other words, you want to steal the most valuable loot with the least amount of total suspicion. What happens to the person who’s been stealing with reckless abandon? He’s eliminated from the game.
How to Play
The base game comes with all this stuff:
At the beginning of the game, the 60 Loot Cards are shuffled together. Constable Cramphorn is shuffled into the bottom 10 cards of the deck.
Create a center row of Loot Cards with a total of one more than the total number of players, i.e., if there are four players, place five Loot Cards in the center row.
A Mark Card, which provides a sort of end-game goal, is randomly chosen and placed in the middle of the table somewhere.
Everybody gets a Scoundrel card and a Copper Coin. The Scoundrel card gives each player unique abilities, and the the Copper Coin serves as starting loot.
Each player will receive the same five cards: Scheme, Store, Sneak, Snatch, and Switch.
The first player is randomly chosen. It seems to me that the person who can least suspiciously steal something from someone else in the room should go first, but this is why I don’t design games.
The game is played until Constable Cramphorn is drawn from the deck. Then, the game ends immediately. So, the game will go for as many rounds as it takes for that to happen and will follow this sequence:
- Refill the row. Refill the row to have the requisite one plus the number of players. If it’s full, don’t add to the row.
- Choose actions. Secretly choose the action you want to play that round. Note: Action cards have two actions: the gold (top) one and the silver (bottom) one. The gold action is typically more powerful than the silver action, so choose wisely! Oh, and this important as well: you play all actions once before you can replay any one action. You place the cards down in front of you, and played actions hang out in front of you until you’ve played all five actions.
- Reveal and resolve actions. If you are the only person to play a specific action that round, you get to do the gold (top) action. If more than one person plays the same action, all of them do the silver (bottom) action. You must do as much of the action as you can. Obviously, you start resolving actions with the first player.
- Pass the first player marker. Pass the first player marker to the left. If you played your fifth card this round, pick up all your cards. Pay attention to any actions that might trigger when you recollect your cards.
That’s it. You refill the loot. You choose your action. You hope no one else played the same card; if they did, you curse their name. You steal some loot, either from the middle or your opponents or both. You do it all again until the fuzz shows up and shuts down all the fun.
When Constable Cramphorn is added to the loot row, the game ends immediately. Players then add all their suspicion from their cards – in their stash and under their control – and any suspicion tokens they have.
If you happen to have the most suspicion, you’re eliminated and should spend some quality time reflecting on whether it was sloth or pride that got you pinched.
The remaining players politely snicker and point as the offending opponent is carted off to the clink and then add the value of the loot they have stashed and under their control. The player with the most valuable collection of treasures wins the game.
Some Important Rules
When playing Action Cards, you might not be able to complete all the actions listed on the card. In this case, you must do as much of the actions listed on the card as you can. You don’t get to choose in which order you do them – if it says steal then stash, you have to steal then stash or just steal or just stash.
This is an important rule because, if misunderstood, it means you’re sitting there wasting turns because you either can’t steal or stash or whatever the action may be. Not that I missed approximately 12 turns because I let the Loot Limit rule trump the action rule, which brings me to that Loot Limit rule.
You can only have three pieces of loot at a time in your player area. Some loot don’t count towards your loot limit, i.e., the Copper Coin, but most loot does. If you have met your loot limit, you have three pieces of loot in front of you, you are not allowed to steal anymore loot from anywhere if it would make you exceed your loot limit after you resolving the actions associated with the loot or your action.
Some Final Thoughts
I played with three players. I didn’t find there to be a lot of silver actions being done, that is to say that we were all usually able to choose unique actions. However, this does not mean that there wasn’t a lot of player interaction. In fact, there was quite a bit of interaction whether it be stealing or switching or giving suspicion tokens or force-stashing loot with a high suspicion value. All that happened, and I imagine it only happens more with more players.
I enjoyed playing the game despite my inability to read and understand rules. As I mentioned earlier, I read the Loot Limit rules to mean that you can’t take loot at all if you have three pieces of loot in front of you. Like I said earlier, this lead me to ignore the “do as much of an action as you can” rule and forced me to twiddle my thumbs as my opponents stole and stashed and stole some more. I guess I don’t know how to play the game. As I fade off into sleep, here’s an ace you can keep.
Scoundrel Society is currently on Kickstarter, and you can check it out here. You can back the base game for $19 and the deluxe version for $27. In case you’re wondering, the deluxe version comes with 10 Historic Loot Cards and upgraded wooden tokens.