Games

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest Board Game Review

Back in 2012, the pirate title Libertalia hit shelves by a then little-known designer named Paolo Mori. Its mix of bluffing and hand management with this popular pirate theme made it a minor hit – but after stocks ran out, it went under without a trace.

It turns out to be a favorite of Stonemaier Games’ Jamey Stegmaier, who has now bought his publisher’s considerable power to launch a new edition. Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest (see at amazon) adds some new maps and updates the components for modern production stats.

What’s in the box

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest is primarily a card game with an identical deck for each player, and the cards themselves are something of a disappointment. Though sturdy enough for play, the art depicting anthropomorphic pirate animals is odd. The goal is to emphasize the transition from high seas to high fantasy, but execution is lacking.

Other components are much better. There’s a large bag of clunky plastic loot tiles to pull from, similar to those in Azul, which slide and click in a most satisfying way as you poke between them. Players have scorers to keep track of their loot, and there are also coin tokens with a fun little plastic treasure chest to keep them in.

The only other component is a board and some tiles that can be placed on it to vary the effects of the loot tokens. It’s double-sided, printed with game aids, and everything is arranged neatly and effectively to facilitate gameplay.

rules and how to play it

At the beginning of Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest, a player shuffles their deck of forty squad cards and randomly draws six. The other players then fish in their own decks and draw the same matching cards. So everyone starts with the same cards. They also draw one loot tile per player, which is placed on the board for each day of the upcoming journey. There are three such trips, starting at four days and then increasing to five and six.

Each day, players must secretly select a card from their hand. The card has a rank number and one or more special powers. Once all players have chosen, the cards are ranked and their “daily” powers are activated from left to right in ascending rank order. Then their “Twilight” powers are activated in the opposite direction, highest rank first, after which the possessing player can select a loot tile from the day’s selection. These loot tiles also sometimes have a twilight effect that occurs when they are picked. Finally, some cards have a “Night” effect that is applied at the same time.

That’s pretty much all the rules: It’s very easy to learn and teach the basic gameplay. But be careful, because the devil is in the details. The special abilities of both the crew and the tiles are very varied and spice up the action like a shot of rum. At the same time, the information you need for a strategic game is printed on the maps and tile effects, making the game seem more complicated for newcomers than the tiny rulebook.

It is very easy to learn and teach the basic gameplay. But be careful, because the devil is in the details.


Let’s illustrate this with an example. Loot tokens are not all equally valuable: one, the Relic, costs you points when you collect it. So if there’s a day with a few relic tiles among the loot and you have the rank 5 card Cabin Boy, you might be tempted to play it. The Cabin Boy’s “Tag” power earns you gold if he’s the leftmost card, which is likely considering he’s rank 5. On “Dawn” he stops you from taking loot, which when it’s a relic is very helpful. So he seems like an easy choice: except all the other players have a cabin boy and they’ll all think the same thing. Suddenly, he’s probably not the leftmost card anymore, and you might want to reconsider. Unless all other players are also thinking that same thing in this case…

And so the decisions go on, like a galleon spinning in an endless whirlpool, until you’ve tried to think through all the doublethink and come to a conclusion. After the tension of waiting for the other players, step up and down the scales trying to figure out what the cascade of powers will be like and what loot you’ll secure. It’s a neat mechanic with plenty of room for excitement, planning, and bluffing. At the same time, selecting cards simultaneously means that your strategies can and will be torpedoed through no fault of your own, which can be unsatisfactory.

At the end of each journey, some cards and most loot tokens also have an “anchor” ability that activates. These mostly give you some bonus gold, but there are fun exceptions like the hook token, which lets you keep a card you’ve played in your tableau, which can be handy if it has a persistent “Night” effect Has. Libertalia: Wind of Galecrest takes full advantage of the simple day, evening, night, and anchor system to create some truly intriguing combinations of effects, providing plenty of variety for its ragtag crew. The back of the board even has a whole new set of loot marker effects to improve player interaction.

Before beginning a new journey, players are dealt six new cards – and this is where things really heat up. Although all players are dealt the same six cards, chances are they may have played different cards during the previous journey, meaning everyone is now holding different hands. This brings an element of memory to the game as you have an advantage if you can remember what other players are thinking; but in any case it opens up more variety of possible effect combinations. Despite this fresh blood, the haphazardness of playing at the same time makes the odd playtime feel a little overlong.

One thing that’s particularly surprising for a game that thrives on having many cards working against each other is that it works well as both a solo board game and a two-player board game. When playing solitaire, there is a simple AI system to pick cards from an opponent’s hand along with a random “steal” card to mix up the order. With two players, there is a rank 20 dummy card that penalizes low play by stealing a loot token if both players have cards that are lower ranked. These are nice, simple solutions that keep the game fast and fun for any number of players.

Where to buy

https://www.ign.com/articles/libertalia-winds-of-galecrest-review Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest Board Game Review

Fry Electronics Team

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