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Subject: [DriveThruRedux] #9: Scotland Revisited rss

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Joel Eddy
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This is the ninth in a series of written reviews to counter balance my Video Review Series. Starting with my 50th Video Review, I will go back and re-review a game that I originally reviewed "50 videos ago". Hopefully, I can include insights I've learned from playing the game after having reviewed it once already, as well as check back in with the game to see if it's still fresh after time has passed.



Component Quality:
The components of Lords of Scotland are simply a deck of cards and the box they came in. The artwork on the cards is nothing to write home about. It's not completely ugly, but it's ugly. However, I don't think the art detracts from the game in any way. It doesn't get in the way or clutter up the card layout. The colors are stark and easy to differentiate, which is all that really matters when you are playing the game.


(image by Haddifax)

Gameplay Impressions:
Lords or Scotland is a very quick and in-your-face card game. There will be several opportunities for opponents to lay waste to your best laid plans. However, the game is not entirely without substance. Players will need a strike a balance between trying to win the current battle, and saving their cards for a later round hoping to ensure their victory when more points are at stake.

The cards

To start the game players shuffle all of the cards into one big deck of cards. Then deal out five cards face down in a row. Flip the last card dealt this way face up. Each player will take turns either playing a card or taking a card. Once every player has taken their turn, the start player will flip over another card in the row of five cards. Once the fifth (and last) card is turned face up, everyone will have one last turn before the end of the round. At the end of each round, players will score their cards, and discard all cards that have been played. The initial row of five cards is also discarded and reset to start each new round.

Players start the game with five cards in their hand.

The cards in Lords of Scotland are made up of three important parts: their numerical value, their activated ability, and their clan (or color). Players will take turns deciding to either play a card in front of them or draft a card from the center row of cards. After five turns, the round will end and the player with the highest total value of cards in front of them will win the round collecting a variable number of points for the round (explained below). Play continues until one player has collected at least forty points, at which time the player having the most points becomes the winner.


(image by alanias)

Scoring cards

Before each round, one card per player is dealt face-up to the side of the table. These cards represent the points that the players are trying to acquire for their score pile. If all of these scoring cards have the same value, then you discard them all and re-deal the appropriate number of cards. The player who wins the round gets first choice of the available scoring cards, followed by the second place player and so on.

This method of scoring is very interesting. Since the cards number one through twelve, you could have some relatively uneventful rounds if all the scoring cards are bunched together. Or, if the cards have a drastic spread, you can probably bet that all of the players will be "in it to win it" for the current round. This dynamic will also change throughout the game as one or more players get closer to the forty point victory condition. The "losing" players will want to try to work in concert to make sure that the player(s) in the lead do not get the large scoring cards to push them over the forty point threshold. Negotiations will often break out, with deals being made to let others win the round in favor of the perceived leader.

Playing cards

On your turn, you can either play a card or take a card. If you play a card, you will place it in front of you. You may choose to place it face up or face down. If you play it face up, it may or may not activate its special ability. In a two or three player game, the special ability of a card will only activate if it is the lowest value card on the table. In a four or five player game, the special ability of a card will activate it is the lowest value card of that same color. This does bring me to my one gripe with the rules of the game. There are certain abilities that are not activated until the end of the round, specifically the green and black colored cards. However, the "value-check" is still done at the time the card is played. The rules don't covere this very clearly. What our group has done is to "tap" the cards that have delayed effects so we remember to trigger them if they are still in play at the end of the round.

Their are a variety of abilities in the game. All cards within a given clan (or color) have the exact same ability. I will not go into each ability here. More than half of the fun of the game is to be found by learning when to use the different abilities. The abilities can allow players to drastically alter the landscape of played cards, especially in a four or five player game.

At the end of the round players will flip up any face down cards and add up their total displayed value. If a player only has cards of the same color, then there total value is immediately doubled! This can lead to an interesting tension as players decide on which strategy they want to take. How much do they want to lock in to as specific strategy for winning the round?

This leads me to the other option players have on their turn: Taking cards.

Taking cards

Instead of playing a card, you may decide to take one of the five cards intially dealt at the start of the round. You may take a face-up card or a face-down card. It's your choice. Players will need to balance their desire to win the current round with the possibility of winning more points in a later round. As you play cards, your hand size will naturely decrease. But, as you take cards, your strength of cards in the current round will weaken. This is the very heart of what's fun about Lords of Scotland.

For example, you may have some high numbered cards and decide to play those for now, but you may also want to try and grab some of the green colored cards for the next round. You might be hoping to make a fair showing in this round and then really clean house in the following round. You don't want to appear too strong however, as other players may become suspicious and target your cards right out of the gate on the next round!


(image by alanias)

Was It Fun?
Lords of Scotland was very satisfying. It plays great as a quick two or three player game, and also plays well as a very fluid, if a bit long, four or five player game. There is a very interesting sort of conundrum that presents itself when it comes to your turn. Do I take a card? Do I play a card? When should I play this card? Do I wait until others have shown some of their strategy? It plays relatively quickly as a two or three player game, but seems to bog down when you play it with four and five. Since there are more possible effects, there is just a lot more that can happen in a larger game.

Is It Still Fun?
I've played Lords of Scotland at least thirty times over the past year. I can honestly say that I loathe playing this game, and actually gave the game away to someone that still enjoys it. Do I think it's a bad game all of a sudden? No. I've simply gotten my time in with it. Thirty plays from a game that cost me about $8.00 is nothing to sneeze at. However, over time I've become tired of players playing in attack mode all of the time. There was no rythmn or rhyme to what I could do on a turn. Part of the problem is that I mostly played this game with my lunch group which is typically four or five players strong. The game plays too long for what it is with that many players. A two and three player game can also become chaotic, but it plays much faster and there is better chance for bluffing. You can make at least some semblance of a strategic attempt in a two or three player game. With more players, all of it flies out the window.

And, you know what? It's not "awful" with more players. The first several times we played it, it was fun and the cause of much cheering and jeering. But, it's worn on me over time.

Conclusion & Rating: (6.0/10.0)
Lords or Scotland is a very quick and in-your-face card game. Wait. Didn't I say that already? That's about all there is to say about it. It can be extremely fun if you are in the mood for some good laughs and dramatic swings. I don't think it will stay on anybody's shelf for long, but how long does an $8.00 game need to last. I give it a six out of ten, because I can think of a lot of games in this category and weight that are much worse, and I can think of a lot of games that are much better.

"Aristocrat Killer":
I originally sub-titled the Video Review as "Aristocrat Killer". It's hard to explain this without giving away too much of the various card abilities in the game. Let's just say I found it hilarious to manipulate these "nobles" into doing my bidding, regardless if they started out the round under my control or not!


If you enjoyed this written review, please feel free to check out the Video Review counterpart.

For other revisit/reviews check out my Geeklist of written reviews.
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Pasta Batman
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Thanks - knowing this game has some 'legs' makes me want to dig out my unplayed copy (kind of forgot I had it, purchased as filler to get free shipping). Sounds like a good lunchtime game for 2 or 3.
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juan c marquez
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Hi, great review as always. Bought the game based on your first review of the game lol. You say there are better games in this type of game. What would be better games as Im always looking for cheap inexpensive games to fill orders and that can play 2p and possibly more. (by the way a bought Lords of Scotland, Fzzzt and Franks zoo that you recently reviewed and Airlines Europe) (also bought R-eco and Friday (for solo play)).
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Andy Andersen
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My wife and I have played it once and enjoyed. I doubt that this will ever get to 25-30 plays. Too many games, not enough time.

Thanks for this update, Joel.
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Joel Eddy
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nolemarquez wrote:
Hi, great review as always. Bought the game based on your first review of the game lol. You say there are better games in this type of game. What would be better games as Im always looking for cheap inexpensive games to fill orders and that can play 2p and possibly more. (by the way a bought Lords of Scotland, Fzzzt and Franks zoo that you recently reviewed and Airlines Europe) (also bought R-eco and Friday (for solo play)).


Well. Frank's Zoo is a good example, but you need at least four for that. Still loving that one.

For Sale and No Thanks! are also fantastic, but you need three for those.

I would say Biblios, Condottiere, For Fame & Fortune, Fzzzt! (which you have), and San Juan all fit your criteria of being quick, good with two, and good with more than two.
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Pasta Batman
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Condottiere seems to be almost universally un-loved for 2p. But in looking at Condettiere threads about 2p, I discovered Sun Tzu is recommended as a good 2p-only alternative.
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Joel Eddy
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pastabatman wrote:
Condottiere seems to be almost universally un-loved for 2p. But in looking at Condettiere threads about 2p, I discovered Sun Tzu is recommended as a good 2p-only alternative.


Hadn't heard of Dynasties. Will take a look at that game. I didn't "hate" Condettiere with two. /shrug

It's better with more, but not TOO many
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Andy Andersen
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eekamouse wrote:
pastabatman wrote:
Condottiere seems to be almost universally un-loved for 2p. But in looking at Condettiere threads about 2p, I discovered Sun Tzu is recommended as a good 2p-only alternative.


Hadn't heard of Dynasties. Will take a look at that game. I didn't "hate" Condettiere with two. /shrug

It's better with more, but not TOO many


I haven't played Sun Tzu for a while now, but my wife really enjoyed it. Simple components and a good game.
 
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