In Lords of Scotland you are pitching the clans of the Highlands against one another in order to win skirmishes (or rounds) and be the first to 40 points.
The deck is shuffled and each player receives five cards to their hand, and a further five go face-down on the table. Some are revealed face-up: these are the rewards for where you finish in the current skirmish and their only relevance is the points value on them. The starting player turns over one of the table cards and begins the skirmish: they can either draw (any card from the table, replacing it from the draw deck) or muster: playing a card in front of them to represent their forces in the current battle. Clan cards can be mustered face-down – not to be revealed until the final count – or face-up. Each card has a number (top right) and a specialist ability (in margin on the left). The special ability can only be used if the card is played face-up and is the lowest number currently visible on the table – the abilities do various things such as allowing you to swap cards with an opponent, discard a card, draw a card, or claim two of the reward cards for yourself at the end of the skirmish.
That is the essence of the skirmish, which will continue for five turns until all table cards are revealed and everyone has had five chances to draw or muster. Then army strengths are compared – any player who has only one clan in their army will double their score, and reward cards will be claimed. Players draw new table cards and begin again – this continues until the time any player reaches 40 points, which will signify the end of the game. Most points wins!
Lords of Scotland is a fairly divisive game in our little gang: some really like it, and it leaves some cold. Unfortunately I’m in the latter camp: I don’t mind games with interaction and combat (Quantum is one of my favourites) but at times in Lords of Scotland it can feel pretty arbitrary. First to play a card in a skirmish often takes a hit, a hand of middling numbers and no matching clans can frustrate you, and I’m never keen on games where the experience of it depends on the variable text of a bunch of cards: there’s quite a few clans and to be competitive I felt you really needed to remember what all the special abilities are. A miss for me, but as I said, others really like it.
Plenty. Lords of Scotland is best suited to players who love to mess up each others' plans.
Once you know the game, it's pretty minimal.
...but that's not to say it's not without some meaningful decisions. It's quite a tactical game where you need to be able to react and change plans on the hoof.
It really depends how much you like the swingy points-scoring, but there's certainly some variety here beyond the randomness of how the cards fall.