What is it?
In 7 Seize, players play cards in an attempt to win more of the crew’s booty. The game, for 2-7 players of nearly any age, uses a unique box that functions as a scale to tell, by weight, who has acquired the most and is named winner of the game. Pirates are often portrayed as ruthless cutthroats and, to an extent, 7 Seize allows you to act out that way. The game is about pillaging and dividing the plunder to your benefit. However, this pirate game also has a softer side. Designer Jeep Barnett has promised that he’ll make the rules and instructions to homebrew a version of the game’s unique scale available—whether he funds or not. That’s a generous pirate! Barnett is the designer who developed the Portal game we reviewed last year.
While the game can be played with household items, the Kickstarter project includes some pretty unique components. Most notable is the box, shaped like a half circle. On the straight side of this shape are two hidden doors, which swing out to either side, revealing storage space inside and looking like an upside-down captain’s hat. Inside there are two trays that hold the booty for measuring and attach to the doors, 54 playing cards, and 49 pieces of booty. It’s fancy stuff, the box is high quality plastic, the cards are beautiful, and the booty is a bunch of polished rocks of varying shapes and sizes, making for a difficult task of weight estimation.
How to Play
Setup involves pulling all the items from the box, attaching the trays, and setting aside the red stash and black stash cards. Shuffle the remaining cards and deal three to each player. The game takes place over seven rounds, each composed of four phases.
First, players compete to be named Captain. This is done by selecting one of your three cards and placing it face down in front of you, before revealing at the same time. The highest numbered card (between 2 and 10) is named Captain; face cards are valued at 1 during this phase. In the case of a tie, suits decide the winner, from spade down to hearts, diamonds, clubs. The Captain gets the captain’s hat box, natch, and proceeds to the second phase.
The Captain’s job is to Divvy the Booty by taking seven random pieces from the hat and dividing them however the Captain chooses onto the Red and Black stash cards. At least one piece has to be placed on each card. Now, the players Seize the Booty by selecting one of their two remaining cards and placing it in front of them before another simultaneous reveal. Any revealed red card can only take from the Red Stash. Conversely for the black cards. From ace on down to two, players take turns following the instructions on their cards. For instance, aces get first pick, but jacks get to grab two. Kings allow you to swap for what you already have, while queens can seize from the booty or steal from another player. Ten through two take a single piece from the stash… if there’s anything left. Finally, players Swab the Deck, which means any unclaimed booty goes to the player with the highest card.
Players then draw two more cards, back up to three, and get ready for the next round. Rounds continue until all the booty has been divvied, seize, stolen, and swabbed. Next, players take turns comparing their share of the booty, using the captain’s hat as a scale. The winner is the player who has the most weight. Batten down the hatches, keep your anchor tight, and get ready for another game of 7 Seize!
That’s it! The rules are easy to learn and you can get people having fun quickly. But the more you play as a group, the more challenging and deep the game can be. The strategy evolves as players decide if they want to sacrifice their best cards to try to become Captain or to challenge for first pick of the booty.
Then you begin asking yourself if you can predict your opponent’s choices. If a player has consistently gone after first pick, will they this round? Should you go after the small Red Stash with your 3 of hearts? Or take a gamble at getting something out of the bigger Black Stash and your 6 of spades? The game consistently presents tough decisions like these. Make the wrong choice and you end up on the short end of the scale. Heck, think you’re making the right choice, playing your ace of clubs, thinking you’re going to get the huge stone sitting on the Black Stash… only to be usurped by another player who tossed out the ace of spades. ARRRRRRRR!!!! But that’s OK, the game plays so quickly that you’ll get another chance at the booty in no time.
On balance, 7 Seize is a game that’s both easy to learn and fast to play. It’s light enough that pretty much anyone can jump right in and have a good time, but it’s also cutthroat enough to keep experienced gamers engaged and seeking revenge game after game. If you want to mix things up, you can replace or add to the booty with any manner of household objects. If you really want to have fun, grab a bunch of meeples or pawns and add tungsten weights to only some of them—it’ll totally change the way that the game is played—and deviousness is a key attribute of any decent pirate. 7 Seize launched yesterday and will run through September 23. Go check it out!
Disclosure: GeekDad was sent a sample of this game to review. Components and rules were in prototype state and subject to change.