Updated: Apr 11
WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 1-6
Published by: Stonemaier Games
Designed by: Paolo Mori
Libertalia first came out 2012 published by Marabunta, receiving very favorable reviews. Due to various reasons, the game did not see any new recent print runs, despite there still being interest in the game. The trademark lapsed, and control of the game went back to the designer Paolo Mori. In the summer of 2021, Jamey Stegmaier from Stonemaier Games acquired the rights to the game, and set work on making a new version of Libertalia for the modern gaming community.
In true Stonemaier style, Jamey looked at what people liked and did not like about the very popular original game. A common issue that arose a number of times on forums about the game was that Libertalia would sometimes come across as having too much take-that for some players tastes. Also, the lack of a solo mode was an issue for some.
Jamey makes all of his games work for 1-6 players, and so sought to create a more robust two-player system, and a whole new solo mode. He introduced a second side to the board which took away a lot of the take-that elements, and this is the result. Libertalila: Winds of Galecrest. A new implementation of the popular original.
Before I get into how the game works, and what I think, let's first look at the main changes from the original version.
New art style. The original game had a fairly gritty, realistic style, using darker colours and human pirates for the characters. In Winds of Galecrest, artist Lamaro Smith has introduced anthropomorphic cartoon characters, a lot more colour, and 10 whole new characters.
Solo mode and two-player mode. The original played 2-6. This is 1-6 and the two player mode now plays more like a three player game.
Take-That or Take-This? The components have seen a significant upgrade. The board is double sided as mentioned above to allow for a choice between a take-that or more relaxed game style. There are also double sided tokens to represent the loot tokens affects which can be used for more control and variety in set up.
New reputation track. Previously card ties were decided by secondary numbers on the card, now a new reputation track is used to settle this, as well as determine the players starting doubloons each voyage.
There are a few other changes, you can see listed in the rule book if you like, but these are the major differences felt in the game.
Getting this game to the table is as easy as saying Libertale, Lib-a-tale.. well it's easy OK!
The first decision is if you want to play with more or less take-that in the game. The game board is double sided, and there are double sided tiles for more variety and control of making the type of game you want.
This is the calm side with less take that in the bottom Loot spaces.
And here is the stormy side for a game with more conflict.
I really like this choice and how the art represents the type of game you will be experiencing. It is such a simple fix to a needless problem. It makes you wonder why more games don't do this.
Once you have chosen the board you want, give each player a set of cards, a graveyard spot and a treasure chest money counter. Place loot on days one to four linked to the number of players. Then randomly place the reputation markers on the reputation track and give out the corresponding amount of money to each player.
One player will then shuffle their deck and chose six cards at random. Each other player then needs to find the same cards from their deck for their starting hand. All players will start with the same six cards.
Playing the game.
Each player will now simultaneously play a card from their hand into the Island, the top space on the board. The cards will be ordered in sequence from lowest to highest, left to right. Players will then enact all day time powers on their cards represented by the sunshine symbol, moving from left to right. Once this is done, all cards with an evening phase will enact this power, this time in sequence from right to left. Each player will also take one loot from that days pile if their card is still there at this point. (Some powers from the cards may have already moved or killed that card). Then each card still present on the Island will return, face up to each players 'Ship' area, in front of them. Finally, each player will then trigger every night time power on all cards present in their ship.
The game continues like this for four days of the first voyage, before a second voyage of five days and a final adventure of six days is carried out. After each voyage, all anchor powers are triggered from both cards and loot, and then all money collected is added to each players treasure chest. At the end of the game, the player with the most money is the winner.
Everything in this box is representative of the usual Stonemaier games quality. From the insert, to the card stock, and Azul like loot tokens, everything is of a very high standard. The box holder for the money is very useful and has a satisfyingly snug lid. Everything packs away perfectly as you can imagine.
The only minor qualm I have with the production is the art on one card. The original game used realistic human style art for the pirate characters. This game has moved to a more cartoon style using anthropomorphic characters. This is fine, and I personally really like this art style. But I am unsure about one character. This is how most of the characters look. Undisputedly, they are animals.
Whereas, what animal is this?
I asked many people this and not one single person says a Cat, which is what the artist told me this was based on. I just find it odd that this card is so much more human than the rest. I am not making a point beyond this, but it does stand out for me. Anyway...
The game, like all Stonemaier releases now, is advertised as working from 1-6. I think the game works better with more people as your cards then have the chance to interact with more people. In games like this, more interaction equals more fun!
The game works very well in a two though, with the only major change being the below tile being added to the board to act as a dummy third player. The rule added with this around placement adds a lot of fun too! If your character is the only one ranked 20 or less, you must place it directly to the left of the Midshipman. Then, during the evening phase, the Midshipman's power activates, causing the other player who didn’t place their card to the left of the Midshipman to be able to remove a loot from that days haul. It is a funny mechanic which can create a lot of very interesting dynamics.
In solo, the game again works as with a three player. There is a full Automa second player, and a third dummy Pilferer character. It works very well and feels like a three player game. It plays quickly and smoothly, aand with some very interesting, and simple changes to the base games character powers. Below you can see on the left, the green player is the human in this solo example. On the right is the Pilferer. In the middle is the Automa. The Automa and the Pilferer use the same deck of solo cards, they are just oriented 180 degrees from each other.
The Solo mode uses a very simple, but clever mechanic for deciding how the Automa chooses which card to play. The center card below is the reverse of the solo deck, and shows how to pick the card. It is based on what Loot items are available that day.
But is it any good?
Playing Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest is a lot of fun. The game is incredibly simple to set-up, learn and teach. I was able to play with my six and nine year old very easily. On your turn, you just place a card then do what it says. Of course, playing to a high level will take a bit more experience to get the right strategy, but on my sixth game, I played my six year old for her first game, and she was only a few points behind me by final scores. That may say more about me than the game though!
But despite the games simple rules and mechanics, there is a lot of fun to be had. As all players start with the same cards, it is a game of bluff and guess work. Trying to work out what other players will do, and how this may affect you. You want to have the lowest number to get on the left side when it comes to the day time phase. But of course, this means you will be last in the evening phase when you loot the booty!
You also need to be mindful of the cards that others could play that could affect you. The Brute for example is a card that when played discards the rightmost character. A great card to play when you and another person may be vying for the same booty, and you think they will play a higher card to get first pick. A higher card you cannot beat. But of course, if you have the Brute, they may do too. Or have they already played it?
This game is all about interaction, memory, and strategic card play. Working out how best your cards can interact with others. And guessing what other players will try and do. Interestingly, as you all start with the same six cards but only play four, all players will end the first voyage with two cards still in their hand. These may not be the same two cards of course, depending on what each player played that round. All players will then add in six new cards to their hand, now totaling eight. So, in the second voyage, each player will start to have slightly different hands. But all cards they have will have been visible at some point to all players. Can you remember what they played? Can you predict what they will play now?
Scores can very quickly jump up to the high 80's and 90s. There is a lot of satisfaction to be had from this game with the quick learning curve. Understanding how best to manipulate your hand, avoid or create conflict depending on your tactics, and maximise your points becomes second nature fairly quickly. After five games or so, the deck will become more familiar to you, and you will fly through this game. I have played two player games in under 30 minutes but despite the quick nature of some games, you still feel like you have played a proper game.
I would recommend this game to anyone who is a fan or card laying games that encourage interaction and focus on the order in which you do things. The game echos some mechanics in Shelfie Stacker. If you have played that and enjoy the card play in that game, this could be one for you as well. I also compare this to Red Rising. A card playing game from Stonemaier, that relies on understanding the deck and playing cards at the right time. Red Rising however perhaps suffers from over complication due to its similarities with the incredibly simple Fantasy Realms. Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest however suffers no such fate. Stonemaier always want to create an experience with their games. Jamey likes a game with strong table presence and interesting components. This can lead to games becoming over complicated as was the case for Red Rising. But here, the game retains its core simplicity, whilst looking gorgeous. All whilst delivering a satisfying, strategic experience.