Review: Libertalia Winds of Galecrest (Stonemaier Games) – English

Libertalia is the name of an infamous pirate colony from maritime legends. Presumably Libertalia was located somewhere on or near Madagascar, east of the African coast. In Libertalia people were free from any authority and they ruled by direct democracy. Libertalia was a utopia and like every utopia unfortunately complete nonsense… Libertalia is also a game designed by Paolo Mori in which players secretly play character cards to turn the proverbial tides. Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest is a ‘reprint’ of this modern classic. Stonemaier Games, the publisher of the new version, has sails new undiscovered seas and as a result the dark pirate theme has been exchanged for colourful and animalistic sky pirates. Can you bury the most loot during the three voyages or will you die of scurvy? Hoist the sails of this airship, a pirate’s life for me!

In Libertalia, players go on three voyages consisting of several days. During these days they put together a crew and collect loot by handling the special effects of their crew. At the beginning of a raid, one of the players draws 6 (new) random cards from his or her personal draw pile. All players have the same set of cards. After the player has drawn 6 cards, the numbers are called out and the other players look for the exact same cards and take them in their hands as well. Each voyage consists of several days (rounds). Each day players choose a card from their hand and play it facedown in front of them. When each player has chosen a card, the cards are simultaneously flipped and placed on the board in ascending order. In case of cards with equal values, this tie is broken by the position of the players on the reputation track.

After the characters have been placed, the day proceeds in the following phases: day, dusk and night. During the day, the day effects of the character cards are resolved from left to right. During dusk the (remaining) character cards are resolved from right to left. In addition to possible effects of cards during this phase, players also choose one of the face-up loot tiles for the corresponding day. Loot results in immediate effects or actions or points later during the game. Players also take their remaining character cards back into their ships during dusk. All aboard! During the night, any night effects of characters on ships are resolved. At the end of a voyage, anchor effects from cards and loot tiles are resolved and the ships are un boarded. Players take 6 new cards into their hand – as cards remain, their hand grows – and they are ready to start a new raid. After three raids the game ends. During a raid, players collect and lose doubloons and after each raid they can safely bury the remaining doubloons in their treasure chests. The player who has collected the most pirate gold at the end of the game wins Libertalia! Ahoy!

The power of Libertalia lies in the combination between bluffing, betrayal and fun filled chaos. The game contains 40 different character cards, each with different properties, actions and powers. Although players all have exactly the same cards at their disposal during the course of the game, they decide for themselves when and if they deploy certain characters. Because characters have certain values and therefore (can) be used in certain orders, players have to anticipate what other players might do. With the characters, players can simply collect doubloons, eliminate other players, earn reputation or figure out a long term strategy by combining effects of different cards. If all goes well, that is. The game is highly interactive and players can thwart each other. No room for parley!

Libertalia is and remains a fascinating, fast paced and tactical bluffing game and the re-release is a welcome addition to my collection. The new gameplay elements make the gameplay less random and more tactical than ever and the production value is outstanding. X marks the spot!