Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest is a hand management game from Stonemaier games. If you have read any of my reviews about Stonemaier games you will already know about the quality of the components however, let’s start there anyway.
In the Box
Opening the box you are greeted with the standard well thought out packaging style that means you will not need a million baggies nor spend money on an insert to keep things organised.
In the box is a clear plastic lid on which sits the board and rules books, one for the standard game of Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest and one of which is for the Automa.
Under this, there are compartments which hold the 240 player cards. These are made up of 6 identical 40 card decks coloured Black, Red, Blue, White, Purple and Green which should be kept in numerical order.
There is also a cloth bag in which you place the 48 Bakelite loot tiles to be drawn during play 6 score dials, one for each colour, 6 wooden tokens in each player colour used to track your reputation and 53 cardboard doubloons in 5, 3 and 1 denominations. You can purchase metal doubloons if you do not like cardboard money (who does?)
As well as the above there are 6 graveyard tiles, a treasure tray, 7 loot tiles and a midshipman tile. This tile is used exclusively for the two-player mode.
The art on the cards, box, board and dials is thematic and quirky, the artwork is cartoonish, or painted type art drawing sort of but paint, is that a thing? I do not know what you call this art style but it’s perfect for Libertalia and of course, the quality of the card stock and artwork is first-rate, this is a Stonemaier game after all.
I haven’t sleeved my cards yet however, after around 10 games, some were showing a little wear from the card benders and abusers in my family so I will undoubtedly get them sleeved as soon as I can and I would suggest you do the same.
In Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest you play as the Admiral to a crew of sky pirates who adventure in the sky above Galecrest seeking treasure and reputation.
Each voyage lasts a set number of days and you will be responsible for sending the crew to the island you stop at each day, a crewmember you hope will return with bounty.
From opening the Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest box to playing is a very quick affair. Each player takes a coloured score dial, deck and reputation token, one player shuffles their deck and the board is placed on the table. The board is double-sided and to date, we have played only on the sunny side. Mainly because my daughter who is 8 has refused to let us play alone because, and I quote “this is my favourite game ever” which is the same thing she says when we play Wingspan, Dead of Winter and a myriad of other games that meet her approval.
The game is played over three voyages and each lasts a different number of days. The first voyage last 4 days, the second 5 and the final voyage is played over 6.
To prepare, you randomly draw the loot tiles from the bag and place one for each player on each day of the current voyage.
You take all six experience tokens and select them randomly placing them onto the experience tracker. You place all six tokens no matter how many people are playing the game. The lower your reputation, the more money you get at the start of the voyage but you suffer a penalty during play in the event of a tie. More on that shortly
Then, a single-player shuffles their deck and randomly draws six cards. Each player then searches their deck for the matching card.
With the same hand for the first voyage, the game begins.
Play starts with each player selecting a card from their hand, then everyone reveals their card at the same time.
Using the number at the top right of the card they are placed in order on the island from lowest to highest. Any ties are settled by looking at the reputation track, the player with the highest reputation is placed higher on the island which means they get to pick their loot first, but there is a downside.
You see, in Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest the cards you play not only have a unique rank, the number 1-40, but they also have a special ability, these will be either, daytime, dusk, night and could also include or only be an anchor ability.
During the daytime phase abilities are triggered from the lowest rank to the highest. During dusk you pick your treasure, this is done from highest to lowest rank and the night ability triggers at the end of the turn and is affected only by those pirates in your ship.
A pirate gets into your ship by returning from the island at the end of the day. They may not make it back to your ship for various reasons but mainly because another player may decide that they give you too much of an advantage so take a sabre and kill them sending them to the graveyard instead or they have an ability that
Some abilities will allow you to return characters from your graveyard, but you get nothing the entire time they are in the graveyard!
Anchor abilities happen at the end of each round provided the character is in your ship.
I have just realised, I keep saying, in your ship, your ship is an imaginary ship and is essentially on the table in front of you, not in the graveyard or discard pile. The ship is now fully explained.
Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest Strategy
Balance. Libertalia is all about balance, move up the reputation tracker you get to choose your loot first but you also get fewer doubloons at the start of the round. Play a high-value card and it becomes a target, go too low and you might end up with dire loot.
I am certainly no expert, I have played 2 games with 5 players, 5 games with 4 players, 3 games with 2 players, and 6 games with 6 players. I have played a total of 16.5 games, I have won a total of 2 times and I am not sure how.
At this point I should say that I have also played a single 3 player game that ended early which is my .5 of a game, but, a lot like the 2 player game, it was not a great experience.
With 4, 5 and 6 players Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest is a fabulous and fun game with a tonne of strategy, at 2 and 3 players the ebullience that presents with a larger group disappears and the strategies don’t work as well.
Securing loot doesn’t take a great deal of thought and there is a lot less on offer to cogitate over. The three-player game was more interesting than the 2 player game while it lasted, however, playing with 4 is awesome, 5 is better and 6 is betterer, it’s 2 more than 4 which is awesome so that’s obvious.
The Automa, as with all Stonemaier games is pretty good but this game is better with humans and when playing alone Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest loses the magic and fun that people bring to the table.
The amount of planning that will take place and the decisions you have to make will get spoiled by other players meaning you are constantly planning and changing plans to fit the current situation to give you the advantage you need now.
You look at the loot available for the day and play a card based on what you do not want to take. There are plenty of times when you want all the loot and even more when you want none of the loot.
More often than not you do not want to be the last to take loot so you plan accordingly but then someone does something awful and scuppers your plan. This is the reason I lost so much, the other players spoiled things.
Here is a situation that will make you furious, it certainly irritated me and I stopped playing the game to attack and destroy my mum for doing this to me. There was a map, a chest, a barrel, a sabre, and two relics up for grabs. OK, I think, I do not want to be in the last two so I play a high (ish card) the Cook, No. 26, his ability is that during the dusk phase he can select two tiles provided that he doesn’t select a hook first.
I see my wife, daughter and father all play the smuggler. Damn, the Smuggler is No. 13 and has a day ability so will activate before me, his ability is that he gains a loot token from the current day and then is placed in the ship.
This means that 3 of the loot tokens will be gone before it’s my turn, I then realise my mother has the Scout, No. 1, she will go first and the Scouts ability is to be discarded so that you can play another card from your hand, you then place them on the island moving everyone else to accommodate.
She took her go, discarded the Scout and played the Cook too. You guessed it, she was further up the reputation track than me which means I lost the tie and now her Cook was higher than mine was on the island.
Next, my son who had played the Stowaway No.9 plays his day ability and draws a tile from the bag at random, it was a relic, unlucky, that’s three lost coins every night, then the three smugglers take their turn, they took the Chest, Barrel and Sabre. We moved to the dusk phase, my mother took the Map tile and after a discussion, we decided as the word “may” didn’t appear on the card she would have to take a relic. This means after my carefully planned move I was forced to take the final relic.
I complained that it was a stitch-up but everyone laughed and I had to make a cup of tea for them all.
These are the things that make games great, the interactions, the plans that you have to constantly change the tension and joy that comes with pulling a move off and of course, the conversations about what you did and why.
The gameplay then is brilliant but I add again the caveat that with fewer players Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest suffers from being, well, dull.
During play you will be planning constantly, trying to get a read on your opponents, who is in their ship, what loot do they already have, how much money are they making, should I take the 3rd map token for more doubloons or kill their Barmaid so they don’t make use of all those barrels? When there are 6 of you playing keeping track of what everyone is doing is just not possible and so you will never know who has won until after the final voyage.
When the first voyage is over you will have cards in your hand, the ones you didn’t play. 6 more cards are drawn at random and copied by every other player. This is where the hands will diverge and now you have to keep track of what other people are likely to have and play based on who is in their graveyard, ship and discard pile as well as who you know they will have just collected.
The second voyage takes place over 5 days and the final voyage is over six. You can accrue a pretty tidy sum by the end of the game and you track those scores on the chest shaped score tracker.
Before I sum up Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest I should explain what the tokens are and what they do. You have in the bag 48 tiles that represent the different types of loot you will have to select.
Yellow, the chest, this token gives you doubloons during the Anchor phase. 5 on the sunny side of the board and 4, plus one for each map token on the storm side.
Brown, the barrel, they will give you reputation and loot depending on which characters are in your ship.
Green, the map. Maps are collected and you gain 7 doubloons for each set of 2 and 12 for each set of three on the sunny side. However, on the storm side, you must have more than other players to gain 8 doubloons but you must then discard your tokens.
Red, the sabre, allows you to kill a character on the island and make sure they do not make it back to the ship, this is the same for each side of the board.
Purple, the relic, will cost you 3 doubloons for each relic in your ship during the Anchor phase and again this can be mitigated by your cards with some allowing you to remove a relic entirely, the storm side punishes you by losing a doubloon at every night phase.
Orange, the amulet, this is another treasure and will give you 3 doubloons at anchor, on the storm side you gain one for each reputation token to the right of yours.
Black, the hook, this is a great token for the sunny side as you can use each one to keep a character in your ship for the next voyage however, on the storm side you must discard the character gained it.
The original Libertalia was released in 2012, as this was the year the world ended I only found out about it when writing this review.
This version has upgraded components and adds the reputation tracker, I cannot say if these things are enough to warrant a purchase if you own the original but I can say the box looks great and having it on my shelf is enough of a reason to want the new Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
The strategies and thinking employed in Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest are never-ending. You will be planning and plotting from start to finish. The game plays quickly and there is very little downtime for a player.
Playing Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest with my daughter was a joy and at 8 years old she was able to pick the game up quickly however, we did have to explain how some of the cards worked and we found she struggled with the concept of the island and how/when you activate each ability but once it sank in and we started playing it made things easier for her. We play a lot of games so your child may not find things so easy, however, you can certainly teach this to a child.
Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest is easy to teach, fun to play and has been enjoyed many times by my family and friends. A firm favourite in our house I am sure it will be a favourite in yours.