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Subject: What shall we do with the drunken sailor? – a quick review with a terrible twist rss

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Bruno Gaia
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Libertalia is, in a nutshell, the kind of game I’m not supposed to like: A mechanic based on the value of cards (highest chooses his reward first) highly suspected of not scaling well for two, a theme I didn’t dig (I love pirates but pirates AFTER the action? Meh!).

SO I didn’t like Libertalia and, therefore, didn’t try it.

Until I did.

I won’t tell you it’s my game of the year contender since there have been many excellent (top five) games so far, for me, this year (heard of BattleCON and Clash of Cultures?) BUT Libertalia definitely deserves some serious attention:

The game stages the crucial moment when pirates share their loot. Each one of the six turns composing one of the three rounds (three raids), you’ll choose a character that has both a rank and a special power. Highest ranks gets to choose his part of the loot first but most of the special effects on cards are resolved from lowest rank to highest! Dodgy and makes you think hard. Especially since all players have strictly the same character cards to play each turn. The only difference will appear depending on which cards you keep from a round to the other.

And you’ll get to keep some cards from a round to the other, which leads to really strategic choices.

Now what is to love:

1) The art is smashing and really conveys the atmosphere of a pirate boat back from a raid. All the characters could have been drawn out of a Sergio Leone film. Real good.
2) The way it’s played is much deeper than what you could expect from a game like this, with little luck and a lot of double-guessing
3) Replayability is excellent with thirty cards and only 21 played each game and the fact that, depending on which characters are present, the game can be very different. Also the random bounties, while not adding luck to the game add replayability.
4) Game is really quick! But not quick as in “little/short game”. No. It leaves a feeling of fulfillment while still letting some time to do another one.
5) People prone to like “ah ah” effects and basically being a scoundrel should like it a lot!

All in all I rate it an honest eight for a good atmosphere, original theme, excellent art and a wish to sing the “Drunken sailor” afterwards!

Yeah, it’s all well and good. I tried it.

And again.

And again (cause I liked it!)

And after a while I realized something…

There’s this little, inconspicuous mechanic that defines what happens in case of a TIE between characters… A small number in grey, that differs for each character in each deck, initiative of sorts…

See what I mean?

In most tensed situations, that little number is going to make a HUGE difference. And these tensed situations resulting to ties are bound to happen a lot since each player gets the same cards!

Soooo… you’ll need to learn those by heart for each colour of deck if you wanna optimize your games…
Yep, you read that well: learn measly initiative numbers by HEART, for each colour, or at least write them down and always refer to that list. A list of small grey numbers that also means that some colour will have some more powerful characters, some less....
Or you’ll be depending on luck or hoping your opponent hasn’t started learning those bloody grey numbers by heart.

WHAT A MESS!

As mechanics go, it must be the WORST spoiler I’ve ever seen in a game!shake

There were plenty of other, much more elegant ways to resolve the ties issue: the best and simplest being IMO that ties would lead to both players having their characters eliminated, which would lead to even more double guessing so as not to play the same character as another player AND would have been thematic –a member of the crew “used” by two or more pirates would end up do nothing at all for fear of being caught in the crossfire- but one could also have thought of adding an initiative card when you play a character, a card taken at random in a deck of six different cards and reshuffled once all have been used…

All in all, as it is: Libertalia is a game that could have been brilliant but only a few games makes you realize how a single, seemingly “unimportant” rule ruins the whole package.

As it is, I rate it a five, and that’s because I really like the art.

And I’d definitely NOT recommend it to anyone who’s allergic to being forced to look at a list of cards and stats while playing (I’d rather forget about the “learn those grey numbers by heart in four different colours”, no game is worth that kind of chore)…

+ for the art.

Libertalia: or how great ideas ruined by a very BAD one makes an excellent game a sub-par mess. (see edit)


IMPORTANT EDIT: due to this information on the order of grey numbers:
Yellow < Red < Blue < Green < Black < Gray
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/857486/tie-breaker-distribut...
(which I got, as you might have guessed following my review ), I feel the need to raise my mark a bit, taking into count the fact that NO you don't have to learn those numbers by heart due to a logical repartition BUT I still think this info SHOULD have been included in the rules (since it's a crucial aspect of the game) therefore I give Libertalia a 7
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Greg
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brunogaia wrote:



There’s this little, inconspicuous mechanic that defines what happens in case of a tie between characters… A small number in grey, that differs for each character in each deck, initiative of sorts…

See what I mean?

In most tensed situations, that little number is going to make a HUGE difference. And these tensed situations resulting to ties are bound to happen a lot since each player gets the same cards!

Soooo… you’ll need to learn those by heart for each colour of deck if you wanna optimize your games…
Yep, you read that well: learn measly initiative numbers by HEART, for each colour, or at least write them down and always refer to that list. A list of small grey numbers that also means that some colour will have some more powerful characters, some less....
Or you’ll be depending on luck or hoping your opponent hasn’t started learning those bloody grey numbers by heart.

WHAT A MESS!


And I’d definitely NOT recommend it to anyone who’s allergic to being forced to look at a list of cards and stats while playing (I’d rather forget about the “learn those grey numbers by heart in four different colours”, no game is worth that kind of chore)…

+ for the art.

Libertalia: or how great ideas ruined by a very BAD one makes an excellent game a sub-par mess.


I've played this game many times with different groups of people. The little grey number was never a topic of discussion or dissatisfaction. We play to enjoy the game.
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Andrea
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Hahma wrote:


I've played this game many times with different groups of people. The little grey number was never a topic of discussion or dissatisfaction. We play to enjoy the game.


Same here. Played this game many times, with many different people, experts and newcomers alike, and no one, ever, happened to see some sort of issue in that gray number. Everyone always had a lot of fun. A very enjoyable game. Calling it downright "a mess" is sheer nonsense.
Really can't see the point of this "review".
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Andrew Dunn
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I too am baffled by this so called big mess.
Do we have to ask the OP if they have been playing it correctly?

Quote:
Especially since all players have strictly the same CARDS to play each turn


On the first turn they do, and unless everyone plays the same cards each turn, they won't for most, if not all, of the game.

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Stephen Tomilson
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I hardly think the Initiative numbers are worth committing to memory. If you know the range of numbers (and more importantly who has and has not played that card yet) then you can make very educated guesses about how you will fare if someone plays the same card as you.
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Jon Reed
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Have any of you actually experienced this flaw in execution?
 
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brunogaia wrote:

There were plenty of other, much more elegant ways to resolve the ties issue: the best and simplest being IMO that ties would lead to both players having their characters eliminated, which would lead to even more double guessing so as not to play the same character as another player AND would have been thematic –a member of the crew “used” by two or more pirates would end up do nothing at all for fear of being caught in the crossfire- but one could also have thought of adding an initiative card when you play a character, a card taken at random in a deck of six different cards and reshuffled once all have been used…


How about whoever slaps their card down first wins the tie? It'd speed the game up, there would be competition to get your cards down, and the tie winner would be marked by position on the board, that your card went in. Sounds more piratey to me.
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Bruno Gaia
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CyberGarp wrote:
brunogaia wrote:

There were plenty of other, much more elegant ways to resolve the ties issue: the best and simplest being IMO that ties would lead to both players having their characters eliminated, which would lead to even more double guessing so as not to play the same character as another player AND would have been thematic –a member of the crew “used” by two or more pirates would end up do nothing at all for fear of being caught in the crossfire- but one could also have thought of adding an initiative card when you play a character, a card taken at random in a deck of six different cards and reshuffled once all have been used…


How about whoever slaps their card down first wins the tie? It'd speed the game up, there would be competition to get your cards down, and the tie winner would be marked by position on the board, that your card went in. Sounds more piratey to me.


Like it!
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RocksFallSemicolon wrote:
I hardly think the Initiative numbers are worth committing to memory. If you know the range of numbers (and more importantly who has and has not played that card yet) then you can make very educated guesses about how you will fare if someone plays the same card as you.


But if you play with a sheet with those numbers written down, colour by colour,( yes we're talking a list of thirty character names linked to a number, multiplied by six colours... A big bad list indeed...), you won't have to make a guess at all, you'll just play using a central piece of information that should at least have been written on a player's aid seeing how important it is in the game...
 
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jonsher wrote:
Have any of you actually experienced this flaw in execution?


Not wanting to be seen as trolling or beating a dead horse but there's no way you can play Libertalia more than three or four times and not experience it.
Why three or four games? Because they are those I play just enjoying the novelty of the game. After that, I usually need to enjoy both the novelty AND optimizing the mechanic.
Which, in this case, makes you experience that bloody mechanic that gets my award for "worst waste of a good game of the decade".
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Andrew Dunn
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jonsher wrote:
Have any of you actually experienced this flaw in execution?


There isn't one in my opinion.
 
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From 8 to 5 because of that rule??

I also don't like it, in fact I don't use it, when we play I use the banner tiles of each tied pirate and do a random draw... I know it puts luck in the game but I prefer it to the way it's done...

But that doesn't break the game for me... it's one of my favorite games and everyone that played it loved it...
In fact I'm starting to convert some friends that didn't even knew these kind of boardgames existed, and I'm making a regular weekly gaming group, in the 1st week we played Libertalia, in the second week as soon as I arrived the first question was: "Did you bring the pirate game?"


CyberGarp wrote:

How about whoever slaps their card down first wins the tie? It'd speed the game up, there would be competition to get your cards down, and the tie winner would be marked by position on the board, that your card went in. Sounds more piratey to me.


This seems like an excellent idea, I'm going to try it!
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Muse23PT wrote:
From 8 to 5 because of that rule??

I also don't like it, in fact I don't use it, when we play I use the banner tiles of each tied pirate and do a random draw... I know it puts luck in the game but I prefer it to the way it's done...

But that doesn't break the game for me... it's one of my favorite games and everyone that played it loved it...
In fact I'm starting to convert some friends that didn't even knew these kind of boardgames existed, and I'm making a regular weekly gaming group, in the 1st week we played Libertalia, in the second week as soon as I arrived the first question was: "Did you bring the pirate game?"


CyberGarp wrote:

How about whoever slaps their card down first wins the tie? It'd speed the game up, there would be competition to get your cards down, and the tie winner would be marked by position on the board, that your card went in. Sounds more piratey to me.


This seems like an excellent idea, I'm going to try it!


I can relate to your feeling about the game IF you're not playing with a group that tends to try to optimize their turns (and tend to enjoy doing just that with any game). If you do, they'll soon realize that this tie breaking mechanic feels like what it is.
(...).

And then, next session they'll bring sheets of paper to write down the little grey numbers.

And the session after that they'll be asking if you're bringing the pirate game so as NOT to come in case you do...

That's what happened in MY group at least...

Game being resold at my local shop after less than a dozen games...
 
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Or instead of memorizing every card you can just remember this

Yellow < Red < Blue < Green < Black < Gray

Now you know everyone's tiebreak numbers. Got this info from this thread:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/857486/tie-breaker-distribut...

For low-player countgames look at this thread

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/851175/tiebreaker-distributi...

Now you can bump your review back up to a 7.5 deducting half a point because this info should have been in the rulebook.

But since you're on BGG, I'm deducting 4 points from your review. devil


EDIT: I saw this problem the first game I played, and was really screwed over by it in the second game I played. And I immediately said "what's the catch?" and looked it up. If I had owned the game at the time, I would have immediately spread the cards out and saw the pattern.

the moral of the story is : never assume a game is broken after 1 play.
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brunogaia wrote:
jonsher wrote:
Have any of you actually experienced this flaw in execution?


Not wanting to be seen as trolling or beating a dead horse but there's no way you can play Libertalia more than three or four times and not experience it.
Why three or four games? Because they are those I play just enjoying the novelty of the game. After that, I usually need to enjoy both the novelty AND optimizing the mechanic.
Which, in this case, makes you experience that bloody mechanic that gets my award for "worst waste of a good game of the decade".



So then the game is ruined because there is an occasion where your card gets bumped either lower and get a later choice of booty, or you get bumped higher and get to go after them in the day phase?

I can say this, the first time someone brought out a sheet with all the gray number values for the different colored cards in this game, would be the last time I played any game with them or a group like them.
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brunogaia wrote:
jonsher wrote:
Have any of you actually experienced this flaw in execution?


Not wanting to be seen as trolling or beating a dead horse but there's no way you can play Libertalia more than three or four times and not experience it.
Why three or four games? Because they are those I play just enjoying the novelty of the game. After that, I usually need to enjoy both the novelty AND optimizing the mechanic.
Which, in this case, makes you experience that bloody mechanic that gets my award for "worst waste of a good game of the decade".


I played it once and I have no intention to play it again. It was chaotic, I did not feel any strategy could emmerge from a game with so much luck involved and not even much tactic. Add that you can only affect your direct neighbourgh and that a player as very little control on what she can do makes it a nightmare. Further it was far too long for what it was... I could not wait for it to end... Like playing Take 5 without the fun...

~J
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doobes wrote:
jonsher wrote:
Have any of you actually experienced this flaw in execution?


There isn't one in my opinion.


Same here - a great and quick game IMO - love it laugh
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pratchettfan777 wrote:
doobes wrote:
jonsher wrote:
Have any of you actually experienced this flaw in execution?


There isn't one in my opinion.


Same here - a great and quick game IMO - love it laugh


+1 thumbsup
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Wow... it sounds like you intentionally sucked all the fun out of the game by trying to memorize gray numbers. So you then took a fairly decent game, and dropped it to a 5 rating because of you sucking the fun out of it.

Gray numbers were hardly an issue at all when I have played. I usually don't even pay attention to the gray numbers until after they are on the deck being sorted. But how hard is it to just look at your card, see you have a high or low gray number, and then calculate your odds of winning ties if someone else happens to throw out the same card this turn? Not hard at all...

I had fun playing this game - the gray numbers were a minor issue, and usually ended up being one of those "Arrgghh, matey... you got me there!" moments - not "Arrggghh matey, you memorized all the gray numbers on me...".
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rstruve wrote:

I had fun playing this game - the gray numbers were a minor issue, and usually ended up being one of those "Arrgghh, matey... you got me there!" moments - not "Arrggghh matey, you memorized all the gray numbers on me...".


Yeah, that's kind of the feeling we've gotten in our games. Like when someone takes the space you wanted in a worker placement game, or when someone outbids you for something because you don't have enough money, or buys a card that you were planning on, or any number of things that go on in games that aren't the end of the world. Shake your fist at the other player and laughingly say "curse you" or whatever, then move on and adjust your game accordingly.
 
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Edit something went wrong with this post, I'll try again...
 
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stevelabny wrote:
Or instead of memorizing every card you can just remember this

Yellow < Red < Blue < Green < Black < Gray

Now you know everyone's tiebreak numbers. Got this info from this thread:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/857486/tie-breaker-distribut...

For low-player countgames look at this thread

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/851175/tiebreaker-distributi...

Now you can bump your review back up to a 7.5 deducting half a point because this info should have been in the rulebook.

But since you're on BGG, I'm deducting 4 points from your review. devil

EDIT: I saw this problem the first game I played, and was really screwed over by it in the second game I played. And I immediately said "what's the catch?" and looked it up. If I had owned the game at the time, I would have immediately spread the cards out and saw the pattern.

the moral of the story is : never assume a game is broken after 1 play.


fair enough. But being a strong militant for "no internet needed" games, I'd rather deduce 2 than 0.5 when important info like that is missing in the rule book.

Plus there's the "weakest yellow deck" issue that appears (although it might be benign, but that remains to be proven)

Okay, I should have roamed the threads a bit more before I let my gaming group consider this games flawed beyond repair but, you know... I consider games should be great out of the box and no fuss...
 
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brunogaia wrote:
There were plenty of other, much more elegant ways to resolve the ties issue: the best and simplest being IMO that ties would lead to both players having their characters eliminated, which would lead to even more double guessing so as not to play the same character as another player

Simplest? Maybe. Best? I disagree. How many people did you play with? In larger groups (with which I usually play), you’d have collisions fairly often, and the resulting lost treasures would totally screw up the set-scored treasures and cards. Worse, it would cause people to take even longer to pick a card, which our group found the least entertaining aspect of the game. Better to leave that mechanic to games built around it, such as Get Bit!.
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I am struggling with your assessment that this game is broken or flawed due to the tie breaking mechanic used. I see it more of a flaw in the way you are approaching the game than a flaw in the game. If the designer had intended you to have a list of all the cards with their ranks on them for all to see during the game it would have been included in the game.

I have played this game several times and no one has ever batted an eye at the tie breaker. I could see your issue being more of an issue if this was the only game you owned and played it 24/7. The reality is that the average person is not going to remember what rank the Red First Mate is. If you play this game with pen and paper beside you tracking all the cards played and who's cards are what rank you are missing out on an otherwise great little game.

This game is a bluffing game that works based on the premise that everyone knows that everyone has the same cards and that in some cases you will be out ranked. You say that it is an "unimportant" rule that ruins the entire game, but you seem to be missing that it is a very important rule in the game and rather than ruining it it adds another dimension to it. You are basing this assumption on that at different times in the game there are optimum cards that "should" be played. What you seem to be missing is that those cards are only "optimum" cards if you happen to have the higher ranks. This is a key part of this game. If you have a lower ranked Cook and the booty on the day seems like an obvious time to play a Cook you are an idiot to play your cook that day. The largest part of this game to me is trying to get your scoring cards into play where you can maximize YOUR card. The rank of your cards has a huge impact on how and when you play certain cards. A rank 1 Captain becomes far more valuable if it is the only one left in the game. This game is all about card management and trying to guess when you can catch people sleeping.

I think this game works only when you play it oblivious to the ranks the other cards have. Even the Yellow
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monchichi wrote:
I am struggling with your assessment that this game is broken or flawed due to the tie breaking mechanic used. I see it more of a flaw in the way you are approaching the game than a flaw in the game. If the designer had intended you to have a list of all the cards with their ranks on them for all to see during the game it would have been included in the game.

I have played this game several times and no one has ever batted an eye at the tie breaker. I could see your issue being more of an issue if this was the only game you owned and played it 24/7. The reality is that the average person is not going to remember what rank the Red First Mate is. If you play this game with pen and paper beside you tracking all the cards played and who's cards are what rank you are missing out on an otherwise great little game.

This game is a bluffing game that works based on the premise that everyone knows that everyone has the same cards and that in some cases you will be out ranked. You say that it is an "unimportant" rule that ruins the entire game, but you seem to be missing that it is a very important rule in the game and rather than ruining it it adds another dimension to it. You are basing this assumption on that at different times in the game there are optimum cards that "should" be played. What you seem to be missing is that those cards are only "optimum" cards if you happen to have the higher ranks. This is a key part of this game. If you have a lower ranked Cook and the booty on the day seems like an obvious time to play a Cook you are an idiot to play your cook that day. The largest part of this game to me is trying to get your scoring cards into play where you can maximize YOUR card. The rank of your cards has a huge impact on how and when you play certain cards. A rank 1 Captain becomes far more valuable if it is the only one left in the game. This game is all about card management and trying to guess when you can catch people sleeping.

I think this game works only when you play it oblivious to the ranks the other cards have. Even the Yellow


+1 thumbsup

There are also so many other things like how you play things in relation to what's in your den to get the most bang for your buck. There's a lot more going on than the tiebreaker that few people care about.
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