Lima Beans, Maybe
Posted by Dan Thurot
I’ve been on a BoardGameTables kick. Not because I need a board game table. I’ve got one of those. It’s two card tables with a slab of felted plywood laid over the top. Upscale, I know. Instead of a table, BoardGameTables sent over four games in one big package. The current plan is to write about them in ascending order of quality.
Which probably clues you into what I think about Loot of Lima.
Apparently based on the one real-life scenario in which pirates buried their treasure, Loot of Lima tasks players with, you guessed it, finding the booty. One wonders if pirates ever got around to any actual pirating with all this treasure lying around.
In stark contrast to another fairly recent game about hunting for treasure on an island, an absolutely lovely ditty by the name of Treasure Island, Loot of Lima is drier than a scrimshaw that’s been left to cure too long in the sun. Not that you’d know it during setup. For such a small game, it sure puts on the Ritz. Each player assembles their own double-layer board, complete with twin dials and a matching set of tokens. Oh, and these boards are also player screens, assembled with an incline that makes me kiss my fingertips and go mwah. The discs insert just so into its cavities, letting players mark information during play without fear of them rolling out or tipping any details to neighboring pirates. It’s like you’re sitting at the control panel of your very own spaceship.
Not a pirate ship? Nope. Not a pirate ship. That’s because Loot of Lima never goes out of its way to be anything more than a deduction game best played via spreadsheet. Fitting, since it’s a reimplementation of Larry Levy’s earlier game, Deduce or Die, another spreadsheety game, although one that didn’t conceal its technical nature behind a piratical setting.
This time around, there are two locations that everybody is racing to guess. Each pirate has a different set of information known to them alone, particular digging-holes that are devoid of loot. Every turn is based around a question. The manner of that question’s construction is equal parts frustrating and novel, assembled by rolling three dice to determine which range of territory and which territory types you’ll ask about. “Adam,” you might say. “Do you have any tokens in the forest between Northeast and Southwest?” Be careful how you phrase the question, since that’s completely different than asking if Adam has any tokens in the forest between Southwest and Northeast. There’s even an additional map in the middle of the table, a blessed and necessary relief considering how easy it is to mishear the game’s muddle of technical details. Little by little, digging-holes are eliminated. Spreadsheets are annotated and amended. Adam realizes he declared the wrong token type. Now your spreadsheets are redacted like a CIA asset’s case files after they’ve been sold out by their corrupt section chief. After a while that feels longer than it is, but which isn’t as short as it should have been, somebody guesses where the treasure is buried. Upon putting it away, you discover that all these double-layer boards with twin dials don’t quite fit back into the box. Will you make a mental note to always leave Loot of Lima on the very top of its stack? Probably not.
I called this a spreadsheet game. It’s not only a spreadsheet game, but a spreadsheet game for people who twitch in delight at the prospect of building an innovative solution to mismatched corporate data via Excel. Cells are grouped, clustered, numbered, spaces are underlined or circled or marked with an X, data is entered and analyzed and reanalyzed. Heaven help you if you decide midway through to make an addendum to your preferred notation. Heaven help you, too, when your neighbors get fed up with your pauses. Loot of Lima reminds me of a logic puzzle one might unknot over the course of a rainy afternoon. In a group, as a race, with people waiting for the next spill of data — no thanks.
Did pirates take to the high seas to lead a life of accounting, data spreadsheeting, and the slow uncovering of negative information? Not even Stede Bonnet would approve.
A complimentary copy was provided.
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