Ruthless: Tall Tales

The expansion to the fantastic pirate deck building game

1-4 Players
40-60 minutes

Note: We were sent a prototype of the Tall Tales expansion for an unbiased review

If you’re new to Ruthless, you’ll want to check out our review of the base game first, as Tall Tales is an expansion that requires the base game to play.

We were lucky enough to play a prototype of Tall Tales, which has lots of different modules that you can mix and match to massively increase replayability. So, what’s included?

3 new pirate factions including the Merfolk
6 new Treasure cards
5 Hero cards
8 Tentacle cards
6 Cursed Pirate cards
3 Quest cards
24 Chest tokens
1 Legendary Achievement card

New factions
This module adds in three new pirate factions. Two of them work in much the same way as in the base game (with some cool new actions), but the Merfolk are quite different. Their pirates can be used as more than one number (e.g. the “1 | 7” Merfolk can be used as either a 1 or 7). This means they’re easier to organise into straights or straight flushes, but harder to get pairs. Their leaders score points and can also be used as any number! They’re a pretty powerful bunch, and are more expensive as a result. The number of factions you use in the game depends on the player count.

New Treasure cards
New treasure cards that can sometimes result in your gifting your opponents treasure as well as yourself. The rulebook also suggests you can remove some of the base game treasure cards such as the Potato to reduce the amount of luck in the game.

Heroes (“The Notorious”)
Based on infamous pirates from the world of fiction and reality, these powerful pirates offer you some backup in battle. You can only recruit one per game, but once they’re on board your ship they give you bonus strength points when it comes to the end of the round. My advice is get one as soon as you can as their actions are invaluable!

The 5 Heroes!

The Kraken (Tentacle cards)
The Kraken attacks! A neat way to liven up the early game (especially if you don’t like attacking your opponents), this is a good way to benefit your deck. These cards get mixed in with the regular pirate deck and can be attacked (or brawled). When you attack one you add it to your ship and gain +2 strength that round, before being recycled into your deck for later. They also have actions so aren’t going to clog up your deck!

Cursed Pirates
These undead pirates are going to annoy the hell out of you! They work in the opposite way to the Kraken, when you attack them you send them onto one of your opponents’ ships, where they decrease their crew’s strength by 2. They can only get rid of them by attacking them later on, Cursed Pirates cannot be buried. This is a great addition to the game and the artwork on the cards is especially brilliant.

Quests and Chests
Quest cards provide mini objectives for players to work towards in order to earn chests. For example you might be rewarded for having 8 coins in your stash at the end of your turn, or if you have 5 of the same faction on board your ship. These are worth 1 VP each at the end of the game, but can be traded in for a bonus action or you can pay 2 to recruit one of the Heroes if you’re using that module. Personally I think this module is a ‘must’, as they give you some quirky and alternative ways to score points or bonuses.

Two of the (double sided) chest cards. They reward you for earning certain achievements.

New Legendary Achievement
There’s a new legendary achievement related to the chests which you can mix in with the other achievements for more replayability.


When I look at getting expansions, there are a few questions I always ask:

  1. Does this game need an expansion in order for me to play it over and over?
    In the case of Ruthless, I have already played the base game over and over so in that sense I never felt it needed an expansion to get to the table, but as there is so much in this expansion I would definitely say it is worth adding. It really does add so much replayability.
  2. Does it add unnecessary complication to the base game?
    Nothing about the expansion is too complicated, but if you were to add in all the modules at once it might be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re reasonably new to the game. The rulebook suggests which ones to add in your first and second game, which is what we did. Then you have free reign to add your favourites. Personally I love the Chests & Quests and The Cursed the most.
  3. Does it enhance the core gameplay enough to justify me buying it?
    This is an easy one. Yes! There are definitely more strategies to go for now, so that you’re not necessarily just trying to get the high scores for your crew, but you might be trying to scupper your opponents’ too or focusing on the quests. When we played, the winner of each round was often determined by one of us having bonus strength from Tentacles or Heroes (or scuppered by The Cursed). The Cursed will be so annoying to your opponents if you can attack them early on. I had 4 in my deck by the end of our game including 3 on my ship!

The rulebook is clear and includes some good examples where necessary (especially useful on the Kraken and Cursed modules), and as ever is beautifully illustrated by Roland.

I particularly liked how the expansion seems to enhance the early rounds of the game, where you’re usually setting up your deck for rounds 3 onwards when the real competition begins. Having the Kraken or The Cursed to attack/brawl gives you more to do in those early exchanges, and you can work towards earning enough chests to recruit a Hero.

I also loved the Merfolk faction because if one person can get lots of them then the point combinations can spiral, so competition is high to gain these. Some of the new actions are very interesting, such as Swap (allows you to swap a pirate from your ship with one from the Tavern Row display) and Order (reuse the ability of a pirate already in your ship). So much more sneaky and tactical gameplay here! It can lead to you using a lot of your deck each turn, and makes it even more crucial that you bury some of those Powder Monkeys you started with.

We had an absolute blast exploring these new modules and look forward to showing it to our friends who’ve played the base game.

Another good thing about the expansion is that it adds a solo mode! I’ve played a fair amount of solo games over the past year, and I know lots of people that predominantly play solo, so the addition of a solo mode is great to hear (though I haven’t played it myself).

If you’ve not checked out the base game, I implore you to do so as it is a fabulous card game. If you love the base game and want a new challenge then you need Tall Tales in your life!

For more information on the Kickstarter
Check this game out on Board Game Geek

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