One of my favorite publishers is Asmodee Games. They are constantly putting out new and innovative titles. They’ve brought to the market amazing games like 7 Wonders, Seasons and Ghost Stories.
One of their newest games, which debuted at Gen Con this year is Libertalia. Players take on the role of pirates near the end of their career. They have three campaigns (rounds) left to amass as much money as possible. Plunder the high seas, collect the booty, and retire to the pirate city of Libertalia.
Libertalia is not a complicated game by any stretch. The game is played over 3 “campaigns”, each ending with a scoring phase. During each campaign, you play cards from your hand, representing cremates on your ship. These cremates help you to aquire the available booty that day (represented by tokens). You want to try and collect the highest value booty tokens while avoiding the cursed ones. Hand management and strategy are the name of the game here. Choosing which crew member to play and when is how you’ll achieve victory.
As usual with any Asmodee game, the components are high quality. The game comes with a large pirate ship board that serves as the main play area. You also get a mini-ship board for each player that serves as cheat sheet. Finally, there is a separate scoring board.
The cards are all illustrated with high quality graphics and there is a full set of cards for up to 6 players. (in a different color for each player).
Libertalia also comes with a number of tokens to represent the various booty tokens (gems, sabers, maps, etc…) and also doubloons to be used as money. I was lucky enough to pick up one of the first available copies of the game at Gen Con this year and was given a set of metal coins to be used in the game (replacing the cardboard tokens). While the metal coins aren’t in anyway necessary to enjoy the game, it’s a nice touch.
How to Play:
When it comes down to it, the actual game play of Libertalia is fair simple. Each player has a (mostly) identical set of crew cards. At the start of each round, one player deals out 9 crew members and reads them out loud to the rest of the players. Each other player then finds the same cards and pulls them into their hands. Thus, each round, players are playing with the same crew cards.
Each crew card will have a strength (representing what order they choose their booty), and a special ability. Each card also has a tie breaker number, in case 2 players chose the same crew card.
Once you have your hand of 9 cards, play begins. Each campaign is broken up into 6 days of looting. Each day has 4 phases:
- Phase 1: Sunrise
- Phase 2: Day
- Phase 3: Dusk
- Phase 4: Night
Phase 1: Sunrise
In this phase, each player secretly chooses one crew card to play. Once everyone is ready, the players reveal their chosen crew members and place them on the main pirate ship in decreasing order. At this phase, any special actions that take place during sunrise would happen. Players also will need to use the tie breaker number on any crew cards if 2 or more people played the same crew member.
Phase 2: Day
The only thing that happens in this phase is any crew member with a day action, may take it, in increasing order of rank. (lowest goes first).
Phase 3: Dusk
Now, each player chooses a booty token from below the ship. Token are chosen in decreasing order of rank (the opposite of Phase 2). So your high ranking cards will get you the best tokens. Also, any dusk actions happen now.
Phase 4: Night
Once again, the only thing that happens in this phase is crew members may use their Night actions. The difference here though, is any crew members in your cabin, may still use their night actions. So that Barkeep card you played on day 1 of the current round, (his action is to score you 1 doubloon each night) will keep paying you each night of the campaign. Play those night cards early!
After the 6th day of the campaign, the round is over. Players resolve any “end of campaign” actions of crew members till alive in their dens (yes, crew members can be killed). Then, each player adds up the value of their booty tokens and moves their score marker ahead on the track.
To reset for the next campaign, all crew members used are removed from the game, all doubloons are returned to the bank (except 10) and all booty tokens returned to the bag.
The key here is each player should have 3 cards left in their hand. They can use those in the next 2 campaigns. So everyone will have a somewhat different hand going forward.
To start the next round, someone draws 6 new crew cards and everyone else takes the matching cards into their hand. Round 2 and 3 play just like round 1. At the end of the game the player with the most victory points is the winner.
How can you not like a good pirate game. Libertalia is an interesting game. The rules are simple enough for even your non-gamer friends to enjoy, yet there is an underlying strategy that will keep even the heavy-strategy gamers happy.
Each deck of crew cards has 30 different cards. In a given game, you will only ever use 18 of them. This should help the game play differently on each play. The artwork is also very well done and the components are all high quality.
If I were to have gripe about the game, its that I wish there was a bit more variation in the booty tokens. I felt like we were seeing a lot of the same ones. Also, the rule book could be laid out better. While it was short (only about 7 pages), it took a few full reads to fully understand the game. I think Asmodee tried to keep it as simple as possible and, in doing that, it didn’t explain the game as well as it could.
But overall we all enjoyed Libertalia. The theme was great, the game play swift and we all had a lot of fun. I know it will make its way out to our table again soon.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $40
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A great swashbuckling game. Quick game play and accessible rules mean this scurvy dog will hit your gaming table more often then not.
• Booty tokens could be more diverse.
• Rulebook could be laid out better.