17 Feb 2014

First Time Playing: Libertalia

I tend to have two specific modes when gaming. There's the strategy mode, where I'm choosing what actions to do and which players to target according to who is in the lead or have the potential to take it. Then there's vengeance mode. I'm not above admitting that I'm not fond of being the target of other players (but then again, who is?). If I'm in the lead or will potentially get ahead, fair enough, it's good strategy for them to do so and I cannot begrudge them that. But when I'm dead last and still get targeted, I'm not a happy camper and I will devote the rest of my game to destroying said player. The reason I mention this, is because that exact thing happened when I played Libertalia in my gaming group.

This is a pirate themed game, where all players start with the exact same hand of cards (determined by one player randomly drawing nine cards from his/her deck, and the other players searching through their decks for the exact same character cards). Each character has a ranking number in the top left corner. The higher the number, the better the rank. To break ties if two or more players play the same card on the same turn, there's a second rank further down, which shows which player has the advantage on this particular card.

The game lasts for three rounds (weeks) and each round consists of six turns (days, leaving the final day for anchoring up and scoring). At the beginning of a week, players receive ten doubloons and nine matching cards (as explained above).

Each day each player will choose one of the cards on their hand to play. The card is laid face down until all players have decided on a card, and then all played cards are revealed simultaneously and sorted according to rank. First the players whose card have day actions take turns performing said actions, which can be anything from paying doubloons, killing characters, taking doubloons, picking discarded cards back into their hand and so forth. When taking day actions the player with the lowest ranking card goes first.

After all day actions have been taken, it's time for dusk, the players get to choose from the treasure tiles on the board (regardless whether the other players have special dusk actions). This time the player with the highest ranking card goes first. The tiles can be treasure maps (which needs to be collected along with two more in order to score points), treasure chests, jewels and barrels (which score points), cutlasses (which the player then use to kill another player's character with), Spanish officers which will kill your character, and a cursed token which deducts three points during the end of week scoring for the player who has it (it is, however, possible to get rid of cursed tokens before this happens).

Any of the characters which hasn't been killed, will then be moved to the players dens. Now, any player who has characters with a night time action in their den may take them (this happens every night that character is still in the player's den), which can be anything from taking money, to selling off tiles for money. After that a new day will begin.

At the end of the week, all ships will anchor up, and players whose cards hold anchor symbols may reap their rewards (or pay their fines, depending on the criteria on the cards). Then players will tally up their treasures, curses and doubloons and score their points. Then all played cards are discarded, same with all treasure tiles, and players discard down to ten doubloons. New cards are drawn, but players keep any cards already in their hand, making the following week a little less predictable.

Back to what I said about being a vengeful player, I had two really awful scoring phases, leaving me with ten and eleven points, more or less the same amount of doubloons I started with each week. The first round this was due to the player to my right passing me three cursed tiles in the very last turn, leaving me dead last. This was annoying, but didn't trigger my vengeful mood, as players could only pass cursed tiles to their left. But in the second round, when the player to my right chose to kill a character that would have given me ten doubloons at the end of the round (and I was not the only player who had this particular character), that's when I got mad. I really don't care for targeting the player in dead last, it basically is the gamer way of kicking someone while they're down. It's bad strategy, and it's rather cowardly to do so. So, I basically made sure I got the next two cutlasses and killed one of his characters both times to get even.

It still annoys me that I still didn't manage to drag him down with me, but at least he didn't win, and at least I did manage to pull a lot of points in the last round (42 points to be exact) to make up for my abysmal first two rounds, so I actually managed to avoid getting last place, which I thought was pretty damn good considering how poorly the first two rounds went for me.

It was a fun game to play, and I will play it again if given the opportunity, although I don't really intend on getting it myself. I would put the newcomer friendliness at a medium. It's doable to get into it, but you do benefit from playing these kinds of mechanics before, as well as just have a general strategy game or two under your belt.

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