Libertalia is a board game centred around pirates… And who doesn’t love a good pirate game! You take control of your dastardly band of cut-throats as you ride the high seas looking to beat the other dastardly band of cut-throats to the prized booty (yarr!)
Libertalia can have 2 – 6 players (although i’d recommend a minimum of 4), each controlling a crew made up from a selection of 30 character cards. The game is played over 3 ‘campaigns’ each with 6 rounds. Each character has a different value and skill. However, after the first player draws their hand, they read out the names of the characters (Parrot, Gunner, Cook etc…) so all the other players have the same crew. It’s an interesting tactic i’d not seen in a game before, as you all know what each player has in their hand (although as you go through the rounds, you’re all playing different cards, so the make up of your hand evolves more and more from your rival captains!) The strategy is in which cards you play and when…
Each character card has 2 numbers on it, and a ‘special skill’. The ‘rank’ of the card is the same for all players (so if my cook has a rank of 15, so does yours). However, the 2nd number, call the ‘influence’, differs for each player. You start by placing your chosen card face down on the game board. Once everyone has placed their card, they are turned over and sorted by rank. If 2 people play the same character, the ‘influence’ is used to determine the order between those 2 cards. This order now decides who gets to use their ‘special actions’ first, and who gets 1st pick of the loot.
Actions are split into 4 phases – Day, Dusk, Night, and End of Campaign. These actions can be anything from gaining addition doubloons, to stealing from other players, to removing any cursed booty you may have been unfortunate enough to pick up. Each captain plays out the phase in order of rank. So everyone does their day phase, then dusk where the highest rank gets to pick which booty tile they want. each booty token is worth 1 – 5 doubloons, but there are some other nastier surprises in there, such as cursed booty as well! Night phases are played out simultaneously after the booty is picked up, and ‘End of Campaign’, is obviously only played at the end of the 6 rounds. The winner is the person with the most doubloons at the end of the 3 campaigns.
Overall, I found Libertalia highly enjoyable. There’s a lot of strategy involved, in trying to remember which cards your rivals have played, and what rank position you need to be in to win the booty you want in each round. It’s very easy to pick up and play, although there is a bit of a wait while you have to refill the board with booty tokens at the end of each campaign. However, it’s easy to grasp and play through. The age on the box say’s 14+, but I actually think you could go lower than that without any issue. My one minor niggle is with the name – Libertalia was an alleged pirate colony in Madagascar, and I’m sure the marketing people though it was a nifty idea for a name, but in these days of Google searching, if you look for ‘pirate board game‘, Libertalia is no where to be found… Which is a shame, as it means many people will miss a great pirate board game!