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Play Again? Libertalia

Brian Pilnick
United States
San Jose
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I may have missed a weekly post or two in there. Whoops. Anyway, I wanted to talk about Libertalia which I played a little bit ago now so please excuse the abbreviated explanation as I'd rather leave stuff out then get it wrong.

Libertalia (1 Play)
The theme of Libertalia is that you're all pirate captains who happen to always attack the exact same ships at the exact same time and with the exact same crew. (Sounds like they have a union.) The result is that you're all fighting over the same loot-filled ship everyday with the game playing out over three six-day weeks. (I guess even pirates get a day off now and again.)

In practice, what this means is that you'll see all the loot available for the week in advance and everyone will be dealt the same nine cards. For each day, everyone simultaneously selects which of their nine crew they'll send to grab loot. Each crew card has a rank number and they are all turned face-up and sorted using this. Since everyone has identical cards, there's sure to be duplicates and so each card is given an 'influence number' to sort by so that otherwise identical cards from different player's decks are then unique.

Now is the time I need to mention that each of these 30 potential crew members of course have some special abilities on them. Each card will have an icon showing when the power takes effect, either Day, Dusk, Night or End of Campaign (aka Week). Day abilities activate once when cards are first revealed and activated in ascending order. Dusk abilities are activated once in descending order at the same time loot is taken. Night abilities are activated everyday that the character is alive in your den (which is cleared at the end of the week). And End of Campaign abilities happen once at the end of the week if that character is still alive.

Got all that? Moving on, as I alluded, the loot is divided up by going down in descending order and each character taking one piece. Thematically, for example, the captain of course gets their choice of loot before the parrot. Thematically, I'm not sure why Blue's parrot cares that Red's captain outranks him though. The loot has some variety but the choices are fairly straight-forward. There's loot of different values but then there's a set-collection loot if you think you'll get enough over the week or even a weapon loot which lets you kill someone's character in their den. After everyone has taken loot and all the abilities have triggered, all living characters on the ship return to the respective player's den. Trigger night abilities then rinse and repeat until all six ships are empty.

That's one whole week. The one twist with the following weeks is that everyone has three cards they didn't play from the previous week. You keep those and add in six new ones. Again, everyone adds the same six, so going into the third week, everyone has six identical cards then three different cards but all from the previous weeks. This adds a nice little twist where you might see some better character interplay than others due to cards you held or maybe you just didn't want to trigger the same abilities at the same time.

So what do I think? Well, it's a fairly straightforward game with enough wrinkles to make it interesting. But at the same time, a bunch of those wrinkles take the game and make it more complicated than I feel it should be. Right away, the nine identical card mechanic creates some annoying maintenance time as one player will have a shuffled deck they're drawing from then the rest of the players each have a (hopefully) sorted deck of which they must pull out the same cards. It's not overly time-consuming but for an otherwise quick game, doing this once is annoying and doing it three times is tiresome. Next, the four different activation times of the abilities can be very confusing at least the first time through the game. I'm sure it would become natural but again, in an otherwise straightforward game, it stood out for the amount of questions it caused in our game of newbies.

Other than those nitpicks, the game was very enjoyable. It definitely has the same feeling as Romans Go Home! where you're attempting to out-think what your opponents will play. (See my thoughts on that game here.) I enjoy the double-think and planning that these games present. I'd normally be worried about a game like this getting stale fast but you'll notice that each player only sees 21 and plays 18 characters, of 30 total, in a game. The fact that you only see only about two-thirds of the characters in any given game and that the groupings they come out in can change their uses, there looks to be a lot of variance between games.

In the end though, I'm still fairly lukewarm on this game. Maybe it's because we played it right after playing Romans Go Home, but Libertalia felt like it was a smaller, lighter game trying it's best to be bigger. I'd definitely play this again but as a medium box game with a medium price to match, I don't think this game has a place on my shelf. I have other games that share similar mechanics and plenty of games that can mix experienced and inexperienced gamers. Had Libertalia been a small box game and didn't push an hour on playtime, I might be all over it.

Play Again? Sure thumbsup
A fun game that would serve well as a filler with some extra meat.

Next post, the pendulum swings far to the other side when I hope to give some comments on my recent 12 hour play of Advanced Civilization. whistle

EDIT: It was pointed out that I remembered the card draw numbers wrong so I corrected them. I also expanded a bit on why I don't see putting this game on my shelf.
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