Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest

We were gifted Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest for review by Stonemaier Games. In this nautical themed game you play as a group of pirates that sail on the winds in search for everything a pirate could every want. Adventure, treasure and glory. You set sail on three voyages (or rounds) throughout the game, each one progressively longer with you final voyage ending the game. Throughout the game you will find treasure, loot, battles and doubloons.

Set up is quite simple for a game that has a hefty amount of parts. The playing board has a Calm, Stormy and Uncharted format. In Calm, you play with lighter, easier, friendly abilities that can be activated with the loot tokens. Examples are gaining doubloons (which are your points), losing doubloons, and keeping one of your characters for the next voyage (they are normally discarded between voyages.) This side of the board was a little too simplistic and had no real impact on other characters. While it was difficult to really do damage to your opponents outside of making them lose points, it was a nice intro to the game. It was easy to understand and kept interactions between players lighthearted and chummy.

The Stormy setup is way for players to use more mischievous and dirty tricks. Examples of abilities on the Stormy setup are gaining coins and more for each map token, having more map tokens will net you a lot of doubloons, and gaining coins for having low reputation. While it does not make it easier to score, the scoring feels more calculated and thought out.

Stormy side setup

The Uncharted Setup is a way to keep things choppy, wild and random. You choose from loot tiles and place them randomly on the correct spaces (they are also double sided). This keeps the game far more random, with each playthrough feeling more unique and keeping experienced players on their toes. The abilities are the same as the stormy and the calm side but you can mix and match to your heart’s content.

Once a setup is chosen, each player will collect all character cards of a color, a matching score dial (which are very ornate treasure chests), matching reputation token and graveyard tile. One player will shuffle their deck and the rest of the players will keep theirs in numbered order. The player who shuffled their deck will draw 6 cards (which should be random since they were shuffled) and the remaining players will draw the same cards from their decks. In this way, every player has the same set of random cards while making it faster for players to find these cards in their decks. All information in this game is open information. At all times you are able to ask what cards have been used, what tokens you have and what your score and doubloons are.

Example of player components

Next, for each player, a loot token will be placed on each day of each upcoming voyage. The first voyage is 4 days long, the second is 5 days long, and the third (and final) voyage is 6 days long. So for a 4 player game, 4 tokens are chosen, and a 6 player game will have 6 tokens on each day of the voyage. For a 2 player game, 3 tokens are placed on each day with the 3 player Midshipman tile (which serves as a dummy player without the extra steps). The Midshipman helps make the game two players however, with two players the game is difficult to scale down. Often we found ourselves selecting the same card throughout the game and relying solely on rank to differentiate the hierarchy. The targeted attacks also suffer from a two player playthrough as you can only target one single person throughout the game.

Finally, at random, each players reputation token is placed randomly on the reputation tracker and the appropriate number of doubloons are collected by each player. The higher your reputation the less tokens you obtain at the start. As you play, you can play cards or collect tokens that will allow you to increase or decrease your reputation. Increasing your reputation beyond the highest rank will let you collect doubloons for those ranks and decreasing beyond the lowest rank will cause you to lose doubloons. In this way, it may pay more to be infamous at the cost of being unable to collect as many doubloons. Being low ranking has the perks of allowing you to plunder and pillage more loot. Being well known as a pirate is not a good thing (it pays to not be well known).

Reputation track

Gameplay is split up into Daytime, Dusk and Night. During each turn each player selects a card from their hand and all cards are revealed at the same time. They are ranked in ascending order from left to right with any ties resolved by the reputation tracker(the player with the higher rank will count as a “higher” card). Then starting with the leftmost character(the lowest ranking card), the card’s ability is activated if it is a Daytime ability (marked by a yellow sun icon). These cards do various things from switching places with another card to taking loot from the voyage. Once all Daytime abilities are activated, Dusk begins.

Here both players chose card 14, so they are placed in the order that matches the reputation track. This means the red player activates their Daytime ability first but Dusk ability last.

Dusk begins in the opposite way. Starting from right to left (the opposite of Daytime), each player will first take a loot token, activate any Dusk abilities(marked by a magenta half sun), and finally take their character back on their “ship” if they haven’t been discarded due to Daytime abilities. Your “ship” is your personal bank of cards. Cards here will accrue as the voyage goes on. Certain cards will have abilities that will rely on these cards in your ship or will affect other’s ships.

Example of a ship full of pirates

Once all players have performed all steps of dusk, all players will simultaneously resolve their Night abilities (marked by a blue crescent moon). These abilities vary and depend on what cards are already at play. Some have abilities that require more characters to be on a ship prior to being played to be effective.

Play continues until each day of each voyage is finished. (i.e. the 4th day on the first voyage, or 5th day of the second voyage, etc.) Once a voyage is finished any anchor abilities (marked by an anchor icon) are activated on loot tokens and characters in any order. Anchor abilities vary based on the cards that have been played and on the card/s they may or may not affect. Playing the right card at the right time can mean the difference between winning or losing several doubloons. Loot token abilities will change based on whatever setup you began with.

Beautiful card artwork

Loot tokens are yellow chests, brown barrels, purple relics, black hooks, red sabers, orange amulets and green maps. These tokens are Starburst shaped, acrylic squares that make a satisfying clack when tapped together. Loot tokens are discarded back into the bag at the end of the voyage unless a card specifies otherwise.

We loved the treasure chests

Play continues until the third voyage is finished and points are scored. The player with the highest score wins and any ties are resolved by the reputation tracker making it impossible to not have a winner. We are always a little disappointed when there is not a true tiebreaker.

Language Barrier Playability: Very difficult and not recommended to play with a language barrier. Each card has a different ability and every loot token has a different ability as well. With 40 unique cards and 7 tokens it would be very difficult to translate each card even if only 6 are used each voyage.

Replayability: Since this game has two setups as well as a modular setup, the setup alone has a hefty amount of replayability. Each playthrough will use 18 cards out of 40 and each card will be random when drawn so this adds to the replayability as well. The game is medium length and plays quickly.

Artwork: The art is excellent. Each card has unique artwork and each character feels like it could have its own backstory. The abilities of each character also match the artwork very well. The theme feels nautical without being nautical (since it is technically in the sky).

Quality: Excellent. It is a Stonemaier game and as such, it has excellent quality pieces, cards, and is a game that will last through endless plays.

Strategy: Moderate. It is not a heavy game by any means but it will require some thought to carefully plan each voyage.

Instruction Manual: Very short and well written. However, this was the first Stonemaier game where we did not encounter a breakdown of each card or unique abilities. This manual was more so written with the mentality of “just play the game and find out.”

Organization: Excellent. The game fits neatly inside the Game Trayz and every component has its spot.

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