Game Length: 45 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 4 players who want to out-think their opponents to claim the most booty!
Libertalia is a card-based game where the players are pirate captains, each trying to make the best use of their crew to build the biggest nest-egg, with the eventual goal of founding the pirate paradise town of Libertalia. It is a simultaneous role-selection game, where each player will be trying to second-guess what the others will choose so that they can walk away with the most loot.
Libertalia revolves around the 30-card deck of characters, each of which has unique capabilities. These cards are numbered from 1 to 30, indicating their relative strength in the game. Each round, players will choose a card from their hand, then simultaneously reveal them. If you chose the highest number, you’ll get first pick of the booty – but that may not be enough to secure victory, depending on what the others have played!
Libertalia is played over three campaigns, consisting of six rounds each. At the start of each campaign, one player will randomly draw new cards from the deck of crew cards, and all other players will draw those same cards – meaning that each player will have the exact same options available to them. Each player’s card also has a small number in the lower corner, indicating the order in the event of a tie.
As each player has access to the same cards, you always know what your opponents are capable of – provided you’ve been paying attention to what they’ve already played! In some rounds, the available booty may be rich, and you’ll want to be as high in the order as possible. On other rounds, the booty may be full of Curse tokens, which cause you to lose money, and you may want to find a way to avoid taking any loot at all.
Libertalia plays well from 3 to 6 players, but hits the sweet spot at around 4 – with too many players, it starts to feel random and can be difficult to make tactical plays. A player won’t know when they play a card, for example the Surgeon, whether it is valued higher or lower than other players’ Surgeons. This can make moves difficult to plan, and at worst, can feel unfair to players who happen to consistently receive the lower valued cards. Also, when player interaction occurs it is usually targeted, which some will find frustrating.
All the same, Libertalia is an interesting game and the possible combinations of character cards allow for interesting tactical options to emerge on repeat plays. As players are making the more difficult decision simultaneously (that is, which card to play each round), the game is kept running at a good pace. It makes a good medium-weight game for those who want to fit a few extra people around the gaming table than usual without causing the game to stretch out overly long.