I must admit, in theory I’m more of a board gamer than a card gamer. I say in theory, because lately it would seem that card games are finding more and more table top time in my various gaming groups. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that card games are easier to teach, easier to unpack/pack up and are usually quicker to play. One such a game is Libertalia. Yes, it is a card game, but it’s a Pirate card game! (Arrr!) No mere mortal can resist any pirate-themed game for too long (Arrr!). After much anticipation from my side, we got this one on the table.
From the moment we unpacked it we were impressed with the artwork of the cards, central ship board and player’s boards. In short, the game oozes pirate. We found ourselves engaging in pirate-speak without even realizing we were. Yes, we are geeks.
As no one had studied the rules beforehand, we literally unboxed the game and got playing! Fortunately the mechanics were easy to grasp and were somewhat reminiscent of Citadels and, to a lesser extent, 7 Wonders. In a nutshell, 9 out of 30 character cards are selected, each with its own rank and special ability. Everyone starts out with the same cards, but over 3 campaigns you are able to tailor your hand depending on which cards are left after each campaign.
Each campaign consists of 6 days (turns) of marauding followed by one day of resting/scoring. Each player selects one card per day and plays it face down. Once everyone has played a card, they are turned over and arranged in ascending order. Special abilities then kick in with looting different treasures happening in descending order, but watch out – last in line usually gets their share of the lesser treasures or even curses that negatively impact your score! At the end of the 6 days scoring happens, 6 new cards are added to your remaining 3 and you’re ready for your next campaign with a hand somewhat more unique than your opponents. Use those cards wisely!
There is a lot of fun in trying to guess what cards your opponents will play and trying to outwit them. Keeping track of cards already played helps, although certain cards will allow you to cancel another player’s card or resurrect already played cards, which will really mess with your strategy. Sometimes you just can’t resist pushing your luck, which often comes back to bite you. The longevity in this game would be in getting to know the various character abilities and the potential combos between them, bearing in mind that no two games will ever give you the same cards in your hand, so even a newbie will have a fighting chance against an experienced player.
No matter how you look at it, Libertalia is a great game. It’s elegant, good-looking and deceptively easy, with so much strategic depth that Analysis Paralysis for some players will be inevitable. Even so the game plays fairly quickly. What also helps is that it plays up to 6 players and is great for those light couples gaming nights as well as the more competitive guys’ gaming nights.
And did I mention it’s a Pirate game? (Arrr!)