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Ruthless: Legends of the Black Flag Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Roland MacDonald
Artists: Roland MacDonald
Publisher: Alley Cat Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 40-60

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

"You can always trust the untrustworthy because you can always trust that they will be untrustworthy. It's the trustworthy you can’t trust."
– Captain Jack Sparrow

From the publisher:
Ruthless is a pirate-themed game in which players will gather their crew and fight with their opponents. The primary mechanic of Ruthless is deck building. Every turn a player must play a card or set of cards from their hand after which they may buy new cards to their deck. The deck consists of pirate cards, which allow to attack opponent, draw more cards and perform many more profitable actions, and treasure cards which allow to buy more and better pirates. Treasures can be discarded immediately to acquire gold when needed or added to the deck to benefit repeatedly from their bonus. New crew members are laid out in front of the players and their effects are used at the moment of acquisition. At the end of each round the players will form poker combinations with the cards in front of them and compare the strength of their crew in play. The player with the strongest crew wins the battle and gains most points. After five or six rounds (depending on player count) the game is over and the player with most points wins.


When your best friend at one time possessed a custom license plate that read "Ar Matey" The odds of you playing pirate themed board games are high. We were fans of "Talk Like A Pirate Day" before the general public observed the holiday. In fact, I'm descended from pirates. OK, that's not true; I got carried away there. But we do love a good pirate theme in our games. So let us set sail with Ruthless.


Rules and Setup:
Shuffle the treasure cards and pirate cards in their respective decks. Turn over 5 pirates to form a Tavern Row. Place two legendary achievements next to the board. Put the coins and achievement tokens in a common supply area. Depending on the number of players you prepare the prize tokens  that people will be competing for. Depending on the number of players you will get a certain amount of powder monkey and doubloon cards. You will also receive two coins, a parlay token, and a player aid.

Card Drafting 
Deck / Pool Building 
Hand Management  
Set Collection

Game Play:
During the game you will be attempting to become the most notorious pirate of your era. You do this by recruiting pirates and making the strongest crew. You will do this in standard deck building fashion buy using you cards to to either recruit pirates or gain treasure. There are other actions which let you knock out pirates from the tavern row (to prevent an opponent from recruiting that pirate during their turn, or perhaps knocking a pirate out in the hopes of a pirate you need showing up). You may also bury a pirate or treasure (either for the purpose of thinning your deck or achieving legendary achievements). At the end of every round you will assemble a raiding party and whoever has the strongest crew gets the highest prize token (three players can get prize tokens if they meet the requirements). Raiding parties are judged in a poker-styler mechanic (two of a kind, three of a kind, straight, etc..).

Artwork and Components:
The artwork is everything I want in a pirate game--characters with scars and eye patches...there is even a parrot that looks sketchy. All the treasure looks great as well (the potato looks good too, but trust me--you will not be happy when you draw it).

The Good:
The rules are straight forward to anyone familiar with deck building, and even if they are not, it is very easy to teach. The assembling of raiding parties at the end of the round is an extra mechanic for a deck build and definitely brings a different flavor to the game when you're deciding on what cards to get from the tavern row.

The Bad:
I feel like the game should be at least one round longer in a three to four player game. I always felt that my engine was just starting to move when the game ended.

Final Thoughts:
All deck builders I have ever played before this had no time limit. This game flips the script on that for me. The five rounds puts a sense of urgency on every move and decision you make. After the first  round you know that you're going to possibly get some of the cards you purchased in the third round. So how much of the deck do you try to burn? Are you better off trying to buy treasure instead of burying cards? There are a lot of decision right from the outset. I have played the game several times and there was never more than four or five points separating first and last place. Ruthless will really make you take your time and think about the best way maximize your card play and make decisions that will help you in later rounds.

Players Who Like:
Deck Builders, Resource Management, Poker.

Check out RUTHLESS: Legends of the Black Flag on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/234450/ruthless   http://rolandsrevenge.com/ruthless-2/   https://twitter.com/rolandsrevenge          

James Freeman - Reviewer

James is a child of the 80's he grew playing D&D and Stratego. He currently owns more games than his understanding wife of 20+ years thinks he should. James lives in Buffalo, New York with his previously mentioned wife, 2 teenage kids and one Havanese dog. Also, if someone outside of Buffalo says they serve buffalo wings, they are lying.

See James's reviews HERE.
Ruthless: Legends of the Black Flag Review Ruthless: Legends of the Black Flag Review Reviewed by James Freeman on March 04, 2019 Rating: 5

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