Today we’re taking a look at Scoundrel Society, a new card game by Action Phase Games (they’re the guys behind Heroes Wanted). In the game, you play as a guild of professional conmen (and conwomen) who have gathered together for their yearly “game.” What’s the game? Well, to pick some rich sucker with more dollars than sense and then proceed to rob them of anything that’s not nailed down. However, it’s not just a smash and grab operation. You have to be careful about what you take because someone has to lose the game, and that person’s going to have a lot of time to think about what they’ve done while sitting in prison.
One small note: All the photos of cards used in the article are of prototype versions. So the final versions may be slightly different.
Tools of the Trade
Scoundrel Society is the first game in Action Phase Games’ “Small Box/Big Fun” line of games. It’s a Euro-style card game where players are looking to steal items worth the most points, while not having the most suspicion when Constable Cramphorn finally shows up. The game seats 3-5 players and generally takes around 45 minutes to play. The regular version of the game comes with 8 Scoundrel Cards (these are the characters the players play as), 65 Loot Cards (the items you’re trying to steal), 1 Constable Cramphorn Card (to put a stop to the fun), 8 double-sided Mark Cards (the person you’re stealing from), 5 sets of 5 Action Cards (so people know what you’re up to), a First Player token (to know who’s in charge that round), and 35 Suspicion Tokens (your fingerprints are everywhere). For the Kickstarter, there’s a Deluxe version that comes with 10 more special Loot Cards, wooden tokens (instead of the punchboard version), and a Rules Card to tell you how to use the special Loot Cards. Those cards, by the way, contain 4 Relics and 6 Historical Loot Cards. The Relics are things like the Ark of the Covenant, Excalibur, the Necronomicon, and the Holy Grail. Meanwhile, the Historical Loot Cards include Mona Lisa, the Hope Diamond, King Tut’s Mask, and other such items like that.
Card Carrying Members of the Society
Let’s take a closer look at all those cards. We’ll start with the ne’er-do-wells that are trying to make off with the goods. Each Scoundrel Card has the name of the Scoundrel in question, plus a photo of what they look like. Below that there are two abilities. One is a passive ability that doesn’t take any special action to activate. The other ability is the character’s Grift ability that happens when you play the Scheme card from your hand (a bit more on all the Action Cards in a bit). The passive and Grift abilities are what really set the characters apart from one-another. One might allow you to force opponents to get rid of Loot they’ve stolen, while another might allow you to steal a card off the top of the Loot Deck instead of from the row of cards that were revealed.
As for the Action Cards, everyone gets the same group of 5. Each one has two versions of the Action on it. The first triggers if you’re the only person to play that particular Action on a turn. The other is active if multiple players play the action. For 3 out of the 5, the Action is more powerful if you’re the only one who played it that turn. One of them is the same, no matter how many people played it. And the final one is better if several people all play it together. However, since each card is simultaneously played face-down by every player, you never know what Action your opponent is going to take until everyone reveals their choice. There’s a lot of bluffing and scheming that can go on with this part of the game.
As for what each of the actions are:
Snatch: Single: Steal 2 loot from the row. Multiple: Steal 1 from the row.
Switch: Single: Exchange 1 loot with another, plus Stash 1 loot. Multiple: Exchange 1 loot with another player.
Sneak: Single: Steal the top card off of the Loot Deck and Stash a card with a Suspicion value. Multiple: Choose to either Steal a card off the top of the Loot Deck, or Stash a card with a Suspicion value.
Store: Single: Stash a piece of Loot you’ve stolen. Multiple: Stash a piece of Loot you’ve stolen.
A note about Stashing: A player can only have 3 Loot cards in front of them at a time. When they want more, they have to Stash a piece. When you Stash Loot, you take the Loot Card and place it face-down underneath your Scoundrel Card. When Stashed, that piece of Loot is safe. No other player can mess with it anymore. It can’t be Swapped or somehow destroyed. It’s yours. Only you are able to look at the cards you’ve Stashed. At the end of the game, you count up the Points and Suspicion of Loot Cards in front of you as well as ones that you’ve Stashed in order to get your final totals.
Scheme: Single: Use your character’s Grift ability. Multiple: Use your character’s Grift ability and Stash a piece of Loot you’ve stolen.
Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Piece of Priceless Artwork?
That’s the Scoundrels and the Actions they can take. Now let’s look at who’s being stolen from and what’s being stolen.
Each of the Marks will alter the Loot in a different way. Generally speaking, they’ll add value to certain types of Loot in the deck. So an item that might not be all that attractive to steal could suddenly become a bit more lucrative in your Stash.
As for the Loot, all of them have a Points value and a Suspicion value. These two values are the victory conditions of the game. A Scoundrel wants to have the highest points total at the end of the game. However, the player with the most Suspicion value from cards and Suspicion tokens automatically loses (even if they have the most Points). Many of the Loot cards also have special abilities that come into play when they’re stolen from the Mark or when Swapped with an opponent. So a certain Loot item might not be the most valuable Points-wise, but it could have a special ability on it that works to your advantage. So stealing Loot isn’t just as simple as “grab the most expensive piece.”
On Your Mark, Get Set, Loot!
Setup for a game of Scoundrel Society is rather simple. Shuffle the Loot Deck and, without looking, count off 10 cards. Then, shuffle the Constable Cramphorn card with those 10 and place them on the bottom of the Loot Deck. Players then pick which characters they play (or this can be done randomly). Each player is given a Copper Coin card and a set of the 5 Action Cards. A Mark is chosen at random. A number of loot cards equal to the number of players +1 is revealed from the top of the Loot Deck (so if there’s 3 players, 4 Loot Cards are flipped). The First Player is decided at random. And then the games begin!
At the start of the turn, each player picks one of the Action Cards in their hand and plays it face-down in front of them. Once everyone has played their card, the Actions are flipped over. Starting with the First Player and then going around the table, you perform the Action on your card (remember that Actions are slightly different if just one person played it, or if multiple people played it that turn). It’s important to note that the Loot row isn’t refilled until the end of the round. So the good stuff might not be around by the time it gets to be your turn to steal from it. After everyone has performed their Action, the First Player token moves to the next player and a new turn begins. However, your Action card doesn’t yet return to your hand. It’s not until you’ve played them all (so, effectively every 6th turn) that you get your Action cards back. So if you Sneak on Turn 1, you won’t be able to Sneak again until you’ve played your 4 other cards. Remembering what has and hasn’t been played by your opponents is very important if you want to make sure you get the most out of your actions (since most work best when you’re the only one that plays them).
Play continues on with players stealing from the Mark, exchanging items with one-another, and Stashing items until the Constable Cramphorn card is flipped from the Loot Deck. When he comes out (yelling “What’s all this then!?!?” I am sure), everything stops immediately. Even if someone’s in the middle of their turn, the game ends. The first thing players total up is their Suspicion from the Loot they’ve stolen plus any Suspicion Tokens they’ve acquired. The player with the most is instantly out of the game. They’ve been “nicked” and go to jail. After that, the remaining players total up their Points. The Scoundrel with the most points of stolen goods is declared the winner! Hooray! You’ve taken a bunch of stuff from another person! Woo!
Making a Clean Getaway
Scoundrel Society packs the strategic punch of a Euro-style board game into a relatively small package. There are a lot of layers to this game. From the character’s special ability that you’ve got, to what type of Loot you decide to go after, to the Swaps you decide to make, to the order of Actions you choose to play. Each stage of the game you’re given options in what you want to do. And there is no honor amongst thieves. It’s totally acceptable to keep throwing high-Suspicion Loot Cards at your opponent in order to make sure they’re the one that the Constable takes off to jail at the end. There’s certainly several strategies you can employ during the game in order to come out ahead.
The game is currently up on Kickstarter and has recently passed their funding goal. But, being a Kickstarter, there’s always stretch goals to go through.