Menu

LIBERTALIA

(Asmodee, 2 to 6 players, ages 14 and up, 30-60 minutes; $49.99)

 

Pirates and treasure – what could be more exciting? Well, how about divvying up the treasure? Now that’s where interesting things happen. And that is the setting – and the challenge – of Libertalia, the new game by Paolo Maori, as players command equal bands of pirates while trying to be a little “more than equal” in sharing the spoils for, in Libertalia, each player commands a pirate band represented by a deck of 30 cards – and everyone has the same deck!libertalia

To start, nine cards are randomly selected and everyone takes those cards from their respective decks to make an identical starting hand. Everyone also begins with 10 doubloons and a pirate ship (play mat) to hold their captured treasure. The game is played in 3 rounds, each round consisting of 6 turns requiring the play of a card so you will use 18 cards of the possible 30 in a game. Booty tiles (cardboard counters) are randomly drawn from a bag and placed in six slots to represent treasure that may be claimed each day. (After six days, the 7th day is a “day of rest” when doubloon totals are calculated.)
All cards have a number value (from 1 to 30) as well as a power or two which will come into play during the “morning”, “dusk” or “evening” phases of a turn OR at the end of a round IF still in a player’s den. (The den is where cards used during a round that have not “died” remain.) On a turn, everyone chooses one card secretly and then simultaneously reveals them.

Revealed cards are now placed on the ship from low to high value. (Day and Night icons indicate the order of the card display.) Two (or more) cards of the same number? Each card carries a tie-breaker value so there is never any problem in sorting this out.

Now, in ascending order, any morning effects on a card are resolved. (These can range from losing doubloons to taking back a played character to even discarding a card to play another!) Now, players choose from treasure available – in REVERSE order. In addition, any “dusk” effects are resolved as well (which allow players to do more things – even grabbing another bounty tile from the treasure bag – a beneficial but risky chance to take as this is a blind draw that might – but only might – leave you with something good.)

Bounty tiles depict icons worth anywhere from 1 to 3 to 5 doubloons to minus 3 doubloons (map icons are worth 12 if you manage to get 3 of them before the seventh day, nothing if you get less). There are other possible results. Sabres do damage (read that: eliminate) cards in other players’ dens while Spanish princes eliminate your OWN card – which sounds bad until you realize that by this happening, you can avoid taking bounty with a negative value or avoid possibly incurring a penalty due to a card’s power. Once treasure counters are claimed, player cards retreat to the “den” (where any “evening” effects take place) or, if killed, into the “graveyard”.libertalia1

After six “days”, players count their doubloon values and record the total on a separate scoring track. Any cards in the graveyard or den are removed from play and then, six more random cards are called and added to each player’s deck, once again bringing their starting hand back to nine. (In some cases, a player may have a card more or less depending on whether a previously played card’s power has been enacted.) Highest total of doubloon values after three rounds (18 days) wins.

The graphic quality of Libertalia (credited to Benjamin Carré and Stéphanie Gantiez) is very high, particularly the artwork on the cards which is very atmospheric. In addition, each player gets a ship “mat” which serves as an attractive and very useful play aid. The rules, possibly because they are translated from the original Italian, are not quite as clear as they should be. Fortunately, as the game unfolds, rules questions tend to answer themselves.
The game plays quickly and has seen lots of table time around here already. Because only some of the 30 cards available will be used in each game, this gives the game a certain freshness from play to play. The biggest criticism encountered from some of our players is that the game is “chaotic”. I don’t quite see it that way.

The idea that everyone has the same hand of cards is what makes the game challenging since card powers can – and do – have a major impact on play. Although card holdings can subtly change due to powers of previously played cards and your choices as to what to play and when, you KNOW (or at least, should know if you’re paying attention) what is out there. Timing is key and knowing when to play a particular card can make for game changing opportunities. This isn’t chaotic; this is card hand management rewarded. For example…

In a recent four player game with my gaming buddies Stefan, Pat and Ward, I had accumulated a few of those minus 3 counters. To get rid of them, I played a card with the power that allowed me to shift the counters to the player on my left. Great! Stefan was stuck with them. But on the final day (and on the final play), both Stefan AND Pat played the same card so that negative points (including those that Stefan had accrued in the time since) shifted to Pat who then shifted them to Ward! (Had Ward played the same card, the minus 3 counters I passed along would have returned – with interest – to ME! It’s always fun to dodge a bullet! Or, perhaps in this case, a pirate’s cutlass!)

You can’t go wrong with pirates and that is true with Libertalia. The game has excellent graphics, is easy to teach, easy to play and plays quickly (all qualities that make for a fine family or “gateway” game). All of which makes for a true pirate treasure. – – – Herb Levy


 

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


Winter 2013 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Kevin Whitmore (Stronghold Games, 2-4 players, ages 13 and up, 90 minutes; $69.95) I have enjoyed playing the game, McMulti a number of times. So it caught my attention when Stronghold Games announced that they had tracked down the long lost author of McMulti and obtained his permission to release an authorized 3rd edition of his game. For you see, there is a ...
Read More
The Search for Intelligent Life As a kid, I was fascinated by the stars. Back in those days (when dinosaurs roamed the earth!), a city kid could actually see the stars in the sky before pollution made that impossible. And the stars held such possibilities. More planets for sure and possibly different forms of life. Hopefully, life from an advanced civilization could bring great hope ...
Read More
[In our Spring 2012 issue, we featured a cool game set in the wastelands of Siberia. With this issue featuring the card game spin off to that boardgame, we thought it might be useful to "flashback" to the original review of the game that sparked the new addition: Siberia.] (dlp Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes minutes; $70) When Cole Porter was writing ...
Read More
[This issue features Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar. In that review, comparisons were made between it and Stefan Feld's award winning game, Trajan. To provide a better picture to our readers, we've flashbacked to the review of Trajan contributed by Joe Huber as it appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Gamers Alliance Report.] Reviewed by Joe Huber (Ammonit Spiele, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 90-120 minutes; about ...
Read More
Reviewed by Pevans (R&D Games, 2 to 6 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; $59.99) This was one of my must-buys at Spiel ’12. I’ve been a fan of Richard Breese’s games – and the Key… series in particular – since he launched the magnificent Keywood and his imprint, R&D Games, back in 1995. Keyflower is a bit different, though, as it is co-designed ...
Read More
(Asmodee, 2 to 6 players, ages 14 and up, 30-60 minutes; $49.99) Pirates and treasure - what could be more exciting? Well, how about divvying up the treasure? Now that's where interesting things happen. And that is the setting - and the challenge - of Libertalia, the new game by Paolo Maori, as players command equal bands of pirates while trying to be a little ...
Read More
Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (White Goblin, 2 – 5 Players, 2 – 2 ½ hours; $59.99) It is sometimes difficult to believe that what is now the exceedingly crowded and congested island of Manhattan was once a virtually uninhabited wilderness. In the early 17th century, this wilderness was deemed by the Dutch as an ideal area for settlement, as it offered easy access to ...
Read More
Reviewed by Andrea "Liga" Ligabue (Asmodee, 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, 60 minutes; $49.99) It is unusual nowadays to read game rules and say “Wow! This is really new! I have to check to see if it really works!” But this happened to me reading the rules to Seasons. The designer, Régis Bonessée, is already known for at least two games: Himalaya, ...
Read More
(dlp Games, 2-4 players, ages 9 and up, 20 minutes; 14,90 €) You know how hit movies often spin off sequels (or prequels or "behind the scenes" documentaries)? And you know how often those sequels (or prequels or "behind the scenes" documentaries) are simply awful? Well, generally speaking, the same holds true for games. So it is a very pleasant surprise to find a welcome ...
Read More
Reviewed by Frank Hamrick (Surprised Stare Games, 1 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 30-90 minutes; $59.99) Snowdonia is a 2012 release from Surprised Stare games. Designed by Tony Boydell, this game flew under my radar entering Essen 2012. However, several good reviews and ratings by attendees caught my attention in the days following Essen. In Snowdonia, players are building a railroad track from ...
Read More
Reviewed by Chris Kovac (Gale Force 9, 3 to 4 players, ages 17 and up, 150 minutes; $39.99) Living in ancient Rome meant living in a time when death, danger and intrigue was a way of life. The Starz TV series Spartacus brought this world back to life and, in turn, Sean Sweigart and Aaron Dill have brought that life to the gaming table with ...
Read More
Reviewed by Ted Cheatham (Clever Mojo Games , 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes, $49.99) It all started in a one room town hall. How could the city founders foster and grow a thriving metropolis and what would they call it? As the coldness of night approached the warmth of morning and the sun rose in the east, the city ...
Read More
Reviewed by Joe Huber (Japon Brand / OKAZU Brand, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 45 minutes; $49.99) What is it about trains which make them the most popular means of transportation to use as a game theme? Oh, there are plenty of games about other means of transportation. There are lots of games focusing on cars, though most of them are focused ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Czech Games Edition/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 13 and up, 90 minutes; $59.95) If you're reading this, then the Mayan prophecy of the end of the world back in December has failed to pass. Fortunately. For now you can sit back and delve into the workings of Mayan civilization at your leisure as the ruler of a Mayan tribe and ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!