Tag Archives: Libertalia

Going for Gold – Libertalia review

For me, a great game is one that that has moments to get the heart pumping. This can be anything from the tension of a particularly tricky placement in Bausack, feeling your heart race as you try to steady your hand, to the nerves of a big dice roll in Lords of Vegas that could well turn the game in your favour. There’s now a new game to add to the list that will amp up your adrenaline production, if only because you’re hoping that your meticulously crafted plan will pay off. Libertalia is here, and it will fill you with rage in the most delightful way.

A little history: it’s said that way back in the 1600s the colony of Libertalia was founded on the island of Madagascar, a place where pirates could live out their days safe in the knowledge that they were essentially untouchable. A utopian but warlike state that was more than happy to protect its own, Libertalia supposedly only lasted around twenty-five years until it collapsed in on itself, but for that short period of time it was a paradise for rogues and pirates. In the new game from Vasco de Gama designer Paolo Mori, between two and six players have the chance to enjoy one final voyage and pull in as much booty as possible.

If you’ve ever played the classic Citadels, you’ll already have a heads up on how to handle this one. All players begin with the same nine randomly selected characters (as chosen by one player) and the game takes place over three rounds, each one consisting of six turns. Players will select roles from their hands in secret, laying them out in order of seniority when they’re revealed. From the lowly Parrot all the way up to the Spanish Governor, the chosen characters each have special abilities; moving along the line from left to right, these are triggered if they show a Daytime icon and can be anything from gaining extra doubloons (the game’s currency and points) to removing opposition cards from the board. This is where the heart rate starts to rise as you hope that you’ll end up in just the right position (and that no-one else’s pick has a major effect on yours).

Lots of lovely pirate-y goodness including doubloons aplenty!

Step Two: Dusk is where you divide the booty up with the most senior character going first. Before each of the three rounds, tiles are drawn from the bag and laid face up in six spaces. Treasure chests, jewels or goods are all worth points while treasure maps are worthless unless you manage to get a set of three. Not everything is good, however; cursed treasures deduct points and Spanish Prisoners will destroy your character should you be unlucky enough to be forced to pick one up. Sabres are a little more useful, allowing you to kill an opponent’s character that is sitting in their den.

Their den? Ah yes. Once the booty is shared out, we move to Step Three: Night. All character cards return to the players to be placed face up in front of them in the Den. If the card has a moon symbol on it, this action is triggered now and can potentially pull in some decent revenue – after all, a decent pirate will take the opportunity to get their cash no matter what the time…

Keeping characters alive in your den is key to winning the game, especially if they happen to have the Day of Rest icons that can truly swing a game in your favour. At the end of the round, any of these special one-off actions are worked out, your total for the week is worked out and the game is essentially reset – all used characters are removed completely from the game, you start with ten doubloons all over again… Six new character cards are selected at random that all players will use, then the action starts all over again for another two rounds. Once the third is over, the winner is whoever has the most points – simple.

The four icons that will help you plan your game. And don’t try to tell me that the Waitress isn’t Elisha Cuthbert.

And that’s where the real pleasure in Libertalia comes from – the sheer simplicity of it means that the game is explainable in minutes; then you get to focus on how you’re actually going to try and win. With only nine cards available to you at the start of the round (and even less as the turns progress), your options are actually pretty limited but it’s easy enough to form a plan of what you want to do. Unfortunately, as everyone knows what cards you’re holding and also see the limited booty available for that day, it could be that they have the same ideas as you. The true path to victory lies in being tricky, in taking the path less obvious and hopefully getting away with the loot – you know, just like a pirate might do.

Initial plays may seem somewhat overwhelming as you try and work out the optimal combinations to get exactly what you want. Sometimes you may have to take a hit (or a cursed treasure) in order to make sure your longer term plans work out, but you can never be certain that everything will end up perfect. The more players in the game – remember, it handles up to six – the more chaotic things get and the less likely things will go your way. However, as you learn the workings of Libertalia you’ll soon realise the little tricks you can pull off to turn the tide in your favour. It’s certainly a game that warrants multiple plays, and with games taking under an hour even with the maximum amount of folks sitting round the table, you’ll have it out again and again.

Production is of a high quality throughout; the rulebook is well written and laid out with all the information presented in a straightforward manner. The various bits and chits are on thick punchboard and cards are on great stock. Everyone gets a little playmat that explains precisely how the game works and what they should be looking out for. A special nod must be given to the artwork which is excellent – each of the thirty characters in the game are beautifully realised. You’ll be able to see a few inspirations here and there; the Captain himself could well be Geoffrey Rush’s brother, and I’m sure that the Waitress was Jack Bauer’s daughter Kim in the first few seasons of 24…

Libertalia is a game that is slowly building a great reputation which is well deserved. Simple to pick up yet filled with options, it’s taking the Role Selection genre and adding something a little bit special to the mix. I’ve got a feeling that it’s going to be in a fair few Top Ten lists when the year comes to a close.

Libertalia was released by Asmodee in 2012. Designed by Paolo Mori and playable with between two and six people, you’ll be looking to pick up a copy (and believe me, you’ll want one) for £33 from the fine folks at Gameslore

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It’s the (second) most wonderful time of the year…

Oh yes indeed – GenCon is nearly here! The USA’s best board games show is approaching once again, kicking off this Thursday for four days of gaming in Indianapolis, Indiana. Once again it’ll be stacked with the usual pile of new releases and exclusive previews as pretty much every major American publisher will be present along with plenty of the larger European names – but what are the big titles people are looking forward to?

Libertalia from Marabunta / Asmodee is one that I think will probably be under many people’s radars but I have a feeling it’s going to end up being one of the year’s best releases. A role selection game at heart with up to six players acting as pirate captains on their way to retirement and looking for a final hurrah, it’s a sneaky extravaganza of treasure hunting and back stabbing with a great level of player interaction. I’ve already managed to get my hands on a copy so expect a review in the very near future. Also, if you get a copy early enough, you’ll get metal doubloons! Who wouldn’t want it?!

Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar by CGE was available to play in early prototype form at the UK Games Expo, but it looks like a near finished version should be at GenCon. It’s a worker placement extravaganza with a really interesting mechanism where cogs turn and interact with each other on the board. Stay on the board too long and your guys could well end up a wasted placing as they move past the resources that you’re aiming for. CGE’s games are always beautifully produced so you know this will be incredible to behold – there’s no other company out there who I’d trust to make such an involved and creative board concept.

Fantasy Flight will be there with wheelbarrows filled with stuff, of course, but the new versions of Merchant of Venus and Netrunner are both due for release at the show. Early reports say that these two remakes are amazing, managing to capture the brilliance of the original games while giving them a shiny makeover, though MoV will include the rules to play both the old and new versions. Netrunner’s asymmetric gameplay has long been a favourite of mine and I can’t wait to get my hands on this modernised version to see how it compares to Richard Garfield’s classic. Also, there’s the small matter of a little game called X-Wing finally seeing the light of day…

Village, the Kennerspiel des Jahres winner for 2012, has been picked up by Tasty Minstrel Games and looks like it’ll be this year’s go to game for those who want to scratch their Euro itch. Players need to find fame and fortune for their family members in order to keep their name immortalised in the village’s chronicles – make the right moves and your legacy will live on. Screw it up and your future generations will fade into obscurity. It’s a very clever worker placement game and probably the only one I know where death is used to limit a character’s time. This will only be available in very limited amounts – apparently there’ll only be fifty at the show – so if you want a copy, head to TMG’s booth early.

AEG’s Tempest line is also due for its first public viewing at the show with the initial three games in the series getting a release. Courtier, Dominare and Mercante all promise very different playing experiences but the interesting element will be seeing how the public react to the storybuilding aspects of the world. As characters change, further games in the series will reflect these developments – for example, should the story necessitate that a major role needs to be wiped out, later games will reference back to whatever happened. We’re not looking at a Risk Legacy effort here where every person’s game will be different as time goes on; AEG will run the story along the lines of their Legend of the Five Rings property, controlling it from their end with input from players and designers. This could prove a very interesting experiment…

AEG also have the light-as-a-feather but very entertaining Smash Up ready for release at GenCon. The world’s first shufflebuilding game sees players combine two twenty card decks (ninjas with robots, pirates with aliens, that kind of thing) and utilise their joint powers to take over bases in order to score points. It’s a very quick little game but has a surprising level of depth to it as you try and work out which sets work particularly well against your opponents’ selections. I think this one will do pretty well at the show, especially as it clocks in well under that magical 45 minute mark for playtime.

Of course, one of the best things about any gaming convention is the discovery of those releases from smaller companies. 5th Street Games will be showing off their rather splendid Farmageddon while Asmadi should have copies of their very limited Origins hit FlowerFall available too. The new Enhanced Edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse will be selling at the Greater Than Games booth, while Leviathans, the steampunky miniatures air-combat game that I’ve been waiting since the beginning of time for, is finally due – albeit in very limited numbers. Last of all, Morels from Two Lanterns Games will definitely be available and it looks utterly lovely.

Oh yeah. One final thing.

I’m very excited about is the fact that my new game, Pocket Universe, will be on show at the Game Salute booth. I’m finding it very nerve-wracking that it’s being shown at all but it’s even worse when you consider that I’m not actually going to be there. You may well have tried it out yourself by downloading the files from the site (there’s been a few, honest!) but that version is light years away from the one you’ll be able to check out at GenCon. While it’s still in prototype format, the gameplay is 99.99% finished – I’m considering tweaking maybe one or two very tiny elements – so why not have a look at it yourself? Just ask one of the GS team at the Sneak Peeks booth (#2035) and tell them I sent you.

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