by Zachary Lyons
Libertalia is the name of a utopian pirate colony, the only place in the world where retired pirates can finally enjoy their amassed fortunes without fear of being lynched or the saber which will end their lives. No one knows if it really exists but it really doesn’t matter, because your only goal is to become as rich as possible in order to create it whole cloth, off the coast of Europe, or off of Madagascar, or even further away.
As the game’s introduction suggests, the point of Libertalia is to gain more riches than your opponents, thus allowing you to essentially build your own pirate retirement home. Libertalia unfolds over the course of three campaigns, each lasting one week. The campaigns all play out similarly, with six days of treasure hunting and one day of rest where you count up your current riches and tally them on the scoreboard. The player with the highest amount of riches at the end of the third campaign wins!
There are 30 character cards per player, each with a different pirate ranking from 1 to 30. There’s the lowly rank 1 Parrot, all the way up to the mighty rank 30 Spanish Governor. Each character has their own special ability which can help you or hinder your opponents. At the beginning of each campaign each player picks up 9 cards, 6 of which will be played throughout that campaign – one on each day aside from the day of rest at the week’s end.
Here’s the twist: each player has the same 9 cards. One player draws 9 cards randomly from his or her deck then reads them aloud so all other players can grab those same cards for their hands. You may play whichever card you like in each round, but at the beginning you know exactly which cards everyone else has, so there’s a lot of strategy that comes into play.
You have to think about what kind of moves you want to pull off while also thinking about your opponents’ play styles. Are they going to be a jerk like you, or are they just working to slowly build their own defences? Are they after a particular treasure token today, or are they waiting for a specific haul tomorrow?
You see, the available treasure for each day of a campaign is laid out before that week begins, and everyone can see what’s up for grabs. Whoever holds the highest ranked pirate on the ship on any given day gets first pick at the treasure when the looting phase happens, so you’ll need to think carefully about not only your abilities, but your ranking.
Of course there’s an obvious question that hasn’t been answered yet: is Libertalia any fun? The short answer is yes, incredibly strattera and weight loss. For new players the first campaign might be a bit sloppy, as with any first run of a new game, but the rules are incredibly simple once you’ve played through once and know what you’re doing. It helps that each player also holds a rule card right in front of them, explaining when each type of ability is used (out of Sunrise, Dusk, Night, and Day of Rest). Plus the cards all tell you what they can do, and since everyone else has the same cards you do, there’s no shame in asking your opponents how they interpreted a particular ability. It’s as much a group learning activity as it is a mutinous game where you’re trying to screw your friends over.
One of the best parts about Libertalia is that there’s virtually no waiting around for everyone else to play while waiting for your turn. Everyone chooses their card to be played together, then the cards are laid out in order of ranking, and all applicable actions on the cards are taken. Then everyone takes their treasure, a speedy process yet again, followed by nighttime actions. All of a sudden you’ve moved on to the next day, just like that.
Even with a full six players and accounting for set-up and putting the game away, a game of Libertalia won’t take more than an hour. If you’re just playing with two people, which makes for an entirely different strategy from group play, it can be over in just 20 minutes.
It’s fun, it’s fast, and sometimes it’s infuriating. And when it’s all over you just want to play it again.