Breathe it in, that fresh sea air! Isn’t it wonderful? I believe it is time for a tale of the seas. Long ago, in a time known only as 2012, there were pirates. Those pirates were based in a world of Libertalia, and they did plunder the seven seas, looking for treasure. And for a time, those pirates ruled the sea but then they disappeared, never to be seen again…
Musings In The Crow’s Nest
I’ll start off with what has changed between the first and second editions. The first big thing you’ll notice is the art style. The slightly darker pirate cover has been replaced with a much brighter and heroic style, with the gritty characters replaced with anthropomorphic animals. To me, that’s a great way to change perspectives.
When the original game came out, Pirates of the Caribbean had released their fourth film and that could have influenced the art style. This new, upgraded style is much more appealing and eye-catching.
Gone are the cardboard chits to represent the loot, now replaced with chunky Azul like tiles that are deeply satisfying and the scoring dials, while fiddly to assemble, is lovely to have on the board.
We also have now ten more characters to head out on the voyage, as well as a double-sided board. The significance of that board is to give a different challenge by changing up the abilities of the loot tokens. Even better is the option to mix and match the different sets of abilities to create unique combinations each time.
There are a few tweaks to the gameplay too, including the traditional Stonemaier solo mode, but also a two-player mode that feels more like a three-player game. The reputation track has replaced the tiebreaker mechanism and adds an interesting bonus as the rounds go on. A lot of information is open to you and your opponents, which means you have the ability to make plans for the game.
The Rules Are More Of A Guideline… (No, They’re The Rules)
Firstly, gather the six reputation markers, even those of the colours not in play. Randomly draw them and place them on the reputation track. Each player gains their score dials and deck of forty characters, but only one will be shuffled. From the shuffled deck, six characters will be revealed.
All other players will search their decks for the same cards and take them into their hands. Next, gain the doubloons owed to you on the reputation track and draw a number of tiles equal to the number of players and place them on the day spaces for the voyage you are on.
Then all players will decide on the character they wish to play simultaneously. Upon revealing them, they are placed on the island tracks in ascending order. If there are any ties, the player with the highest reputation shall place their card second.
Now It’s Time For The Characters To Act!
Starting from left to right, the characters chosen will activate a daytime power, should they have them. This may be gaining doubloons, taking loot tokens or making matters difficult for your opponents. Once the day has happened, the dusk phase happens, starting with the rightmost player.
If the character has a dusk power, it is activated and you take the character back to your ship, along with one of the loot tokens available for the day.
This will also activate if it has a dusk power, such as the sabre. Finally, dusk turns into night and any night-time powers from characters in your ship will trigger. These will trigger every time you enter the night phase on your voyage, so keep these in mind! Once you have completed every day (and night) of your voyage, you have returned to shore.
One last set of powers to activate, the anchor powers. Then count up the doubloons you have and add them to your treasure chest by setting the dials. Return every tile to the bag and discard all characters played to the graveyard (unless you have an ability that says otherwise, of course!)
Two more voyages will follow, with six more characters drawn into the hand, new loot placed out and doubloons gained. At the end of the third voyage, count up your money and the highest total wins.
I watched a playthrough of the original Libertalia on TableTop a while ago, and I was intrigued. Unfortunately, it was widely unavailable so I waited a long while in the hopes it might come up. Recently I discovered it on Board Game Arena, which is a significant part of the story of how the second edition came to be, and I enjoyed the gameplay but there were a few issues I had.
All of them have been swept aside by the revised edition. The reputation track tidies up the slightly clunky ranking system and gives an excellent catch-up mechanism which I’m a fan of (as discussed here!) I love the feel of the new tiles and the wonderful artwork builds a delightful world which I think is a much nicer feel than the older one.
I don’t normally enjoy the “Take That” mechanism. Also, I find it confrontational when people have decided to spend their time playing with me, but in this game, it works incredibly well with the theme, so everyone knows what to expect. The tactical decisions you make are based on almost complete information. You know what characters your opponent has, how much money they have and what loot items are available.
The only thing you don’t know is what order the cards will come out, and let’s be honest, you’ll forget what cards were in hand at the start of the voyage. Not for a lack of studying them, of course. Lamaro Smith has created something wonderful, and I can’t wait to explore it some more. And at the end of the day, you have a delightful insert to store your game in. A treasure chest if you will. And this game deserves it.