Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
 Hide
4 Posts

Libertalia» Forums » Reviews

Subject: 4VP REVIEW - Libertalia rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Chris MacLennan
United Kingdom
Reading
Berkshire
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
There are a whole bunch of pirate games out there of all kinds ranging from light to heavy, cartoon to gritty, good fun to pretty resolutely crappy. I’ve played and enjoyed a good number of these games but, in the end, there was one thing missing from pretty much all of them for me – no matter how much attention had been paid to aesthetically and verbally conveying a rich theme, none of them screamed PIRATES in terms of the mechanics.

Enter Paolo Mori’s Libertalia – a game which delivers a heady mix of tactical gameplay, heated table talk, outright chaos and, of course, backstabbing dick moves by the dozen.

Libertalia is a card game for two to six players (although I wouldn’t recommend it with fewer than three) in which players take on the roles of pirate captains aiming to become as rich as feasibly possible before retiring to the pirate haven that is Libertalia – a legendary utopian pirate colony.

Players will do this by using their crew’s special skills to loot ships, each day trying to beat their rivals to the best rewards, kill off their opponents’ crew members and avoid the wrath of the Spanish naval forces in the area.

This is done by playing characters from a deck of thirty unique crew cards onto a central ship board in the centre of the table. Each player has the same deck of crew cards (with only very minor differences to break ties). The game is played over three “campaigns”, each lasting six turns. At the start of each of these campaigns, one player will draw nine characters from their deck, and the other players will find the identical characters in their own decks. These become the players’ hands for the first round. Each player also starts with ten doubloons, which are both the games currency and the victory points.

Each round a player will look at the next turn’s space on the main board to find out what booty is up for grabs that day. These include three levels of regular treasure (worth one, three or five doubloons at the end of the campaign), maps (which are worth twelve doubloons if you get three in a single campaign, but sod all if you don’t), cursed relics (which lose you three doubloons if you still have them by the end of the campaign), sabers (which allows you to kill off a players characters) and Spanish officers (who kill your current character).

On each day there will be booty tokens equal to the number of players, and based on the booty available on any given day, a player must decide which character from their crew is likely to land them the best haul.

So let’s talk about these characters. Each has a numerical value and an ability which either occurs in the day, at dusk or at night as well as some which occur if that character is still alive at the end of the campaign. Players will play their chosen character face down on the central board and, once all players have done this, they are flipped and put in numerical order (there are smaller numbers on each card to settle ties when players play the same card).

First thing to happen is that, in numerical order, players who put daytime characters down may use their character’s abilities. These include The Parrot who may be immediately swapped for another card from your hand allowing you to change your play at the last minute; The Carpenter who causes you to lose half your doubloons, but yields you ten doubloons if he survives the campaign; The Brute who kills off the highest ranked character on the ship, and a whole bunch more.

In the dusk phase, the dusk abilities are resolved and each player takes a booty token in reverse numerical order. The higher the rank of your character, the sooner you’ll get your pick of the treasure.

The dusk abilities are twofold - The Cook who allows you to take an extra booty tile and The Cabin Boy who doesn’t take any (which is more useful than you’d expect). Other players will be trying to force you to take cursed items or Spanish officers in this phase, so everybody will be trying to work out what other players are going to play in order to come out on top. After this phase is resolved, all the characters are taken into their players dens.

The den is where all of a campaign’s surviving characters are kept. Characters with night powers can be played at the end of each day from the den, such as The Barkeep who gets you a doubloon and The Waitress to whom you may sell individual map tokens for three doubloons.

It’s also where your characters with powers that come into effect at the end of the game become most vulnerable. Other players will be trying to kill off those characters by taking saber tokens from the central board or playing characters like The Gunner to stop you reaping the benefits in a few turns time.

Each campaign is played over six days, at the end of which players total up their doubloons, move their piece up the score track, reset to ten doubloons and remove all the characters in their dens from the game. Another six characters are drawn to make the hand up to nine, again with each player taking the same characters, and the process repeats. This means that, although over the course of the game the players receive the same characters, players now have different hands depending on which characters they have left over from the previous campaign. This adds a taxing memory aspect to the game.

This is a game of deception and adaptable tactical thinking. The whole time you’ll be trying to second-guess what other players are planning, struggling to remember what other players have in their hands, attempting to kill off players high yield characters and desperately hoping to persuade other players to play in your favour and somebody else’s detriment.

The whole thing is damn mean… and it’s great fun.

I was genuinely surprised at how a game of such basic components and simple mechanics evoked it’s them so vividly. While Merchants and Marauders (a fine game) sprawled across the table, it’s armada of plastic ships sailing a vast ocean port-to-port, it’s mechanics were mostly that of a trading game and, while a highly enjoyable in that regard, failed to make me feel like the backstabbing, murdering dog that Libertalia does.

It’s just really piratey.

The artwork, especially on the cards themselves, is a real treat and truly helps to realise the entire setting even if it does lean a bit too heavily towards being a fully-fledged part of the Pirates of The Caribbean with some characters being pretty much direct lifts from those films.

On the whole the game is pretty ace, but it’s not without its flaws. Most of these are to do with rule clarity. Although the game is simple, the rulebook isn’t great. Although it does cover how to play the game, it skims over some rules in a way that it would be easy to play incorrectly – A couple of example rounds would have really helped it along.

It also sets the nomenclature for different parts of the game, such as the difference between the discard pile and “The Graveyard”, which is then confused or just ignored on some of the cards. It’s not difficult to work out the intended wording and the resulting power but it’s a shame that these discrepancies wound up in the final print of the game.

Also the method of breaking ties, a second number on each card which is different in each player’s deck so you can arrange the identical cards numerically, leaves a fair amount to be desired. Ties happen fairly frequently in games with more players so it’s a bigger deal than one might think. They have simply cycled the numbers from one to six throughout each deck so you have , but each card’s power effects whether you’d want a higher or lower number here, so it would have been nice to have seen a little more effort to balance the player decks.

It is also really rather inconsistent. I guess it mostly depends who you’re playing with, but the way this is received by different groups is going to change quite dramatically, I reckon. Some days you’ll have a very social game where everybody is playing off everybody else, forming tenuous deals over questionable plans and hurling abuse when they don’t come off the way they should. Other days you’ll sit quietly and contemplate your plays alone. Again, this is probably down to different players rather than the game itself, but I guess you have to assess for yourself if you’re going to get what your group wants from this game.

Also, a few more cards per player would have been nice. Although each game plays suitably differently, you are going to see twenty-one of the games thirty characters each game, so a few more wouldn’t have gone amiss. It would just have kept the game fresher for longer, like cling-film or those vacuum sealed Tupperware boxes.

Overall, Libertalia has fairly easily taken the title of my favourite pirate game. As a game it may not encompass the same scope as Merchants and Marauders does, but for those after something lighter it’s worth picking up. It just feels right, and with more players becomes beautifully chaotic and, often, somewhat heated. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t but a number of its issues could be easily rectified by a few minor house rules or, if that’s not your bag, future expansions will hopefully iron out the kinks.

In its current form it’s still a great thematic game that’s easy to teach to new players. Accessible pirating fun for all involved.

For more reviews, as well as podcasts and things, visit http://4vp.tumblr.com
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Allen
United States
Madison
Alabama
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Agree. I've only played this once or twice, but it seemed like a lot of fun for what it was. I will be happy to try to get this on the table and give it a few more tries in upcoming game days. It's not enormously deep, but there is some decision making and some screw-your-neighbor cards, which I really like.

Plus - I had my Brute? character beat up another persons Grandma character. You can't buy fun like that ...well I guess you can.

I wouldn't really call it a Pirate game though ...a Pirate themed game maybe. It's not in the same realm of comparison as M&M, etc.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris MacLennan
United Kingdom
Reading
Berkshire
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My point is that mechanically it feels scummy, like a game a pirate would actually enjoy. Merchants and Marauders is a great game, but I don't feel like a downright scurvy dog when I play it. It's too intricate and cerebral.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Allen
United States
Madison
Alabama
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Very true. Agree.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.