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Pirates, mutiny, rum and the Spanish Armada, what is there not to love? Façade games has an amazing card/board game in the final game in the Dark Cities launch, Tortuga 1667. In this game players are pirates and privateers who are marauding across the Caribbean to ensure that the nation to which they are loyal is the richest nation when the great Spanish fleet comes to protect their holdings. Do not let the long rulebook fool you, Tortuga is easy to play and has a depth of strategy, deception and luck that are difficult to put together in as strong a format as Façade Games has done.
Let’s begin with the story. You are a privateer on a pirate ship raiding Spanish galleons for gold. While being a pirate is fun, it is not without its risks. Your can be marooned- which means you are thrown off of your ship and lose your rank. This means that each player will play multiple roles in the game, you can be a cabin boy, the first mate, the captain or even the governor of Tortuga- though none of these jobs seem to stick around for a very long time. One excellent feature is the historical element, which gives a little color to your character, it is definitely worth the time to read. The story is cool, but there is limited depth, this means that we have a solid 7 out of 10 for the story.
The artwork for this game is phenomenal. This game, like all the games in the Dark Cities series, has a book-based box. This means that you have a sharp looking book on your shelf that is actually a game. The card art on the character cards is interesting, it simply depicts each of the characters. Unfortunately, you do not get to enjoy it much as most of the time your card is flipped over to the actions section. The game cards have interesting, high quality art that is nice to look at, which adds the esthetic to the game that makes it more enjoyable. The highlight, however, the gameboard. The gameboard is a map, drawn in period style with the three boats, two life boats and the island on it. This gives the “real feel” of being in the Caribbean during this time. The strong artwork gives a strong score of 8.5 out of 10.
The mechanics of the game are very simple. You have the choice to move, other players can move you and random cards can also move you. This means your character is bouncing around the board keeping you on you toes. One thing that I would have liked to see is a card that puts a player of your choice on a ship of your choice, this would allow more shipboard movement to improve the card pool. Each time we played the card pool seemed a little heavy on downer cards, which limited the draws of the game. The onboard/on-island rank system is a masterpiece, since it is done by a vote system you never know where you will be at the beginning of your turn. This is very strong mechanical game, with simple mechanics anyone can understand, thus it gets 7 out of 10.
Strategy is one of those things that divides the high-level games from the low level games. The strategy in Tortuga 1667 definitely placed this game in the former. Since players want their “country” to win, they have to ensure that the gold is in the right places at the right time. Even when you do not have the Dutch in play (who want everything spit down the middle), the game still has a lot of movement. Regardless of your country, you want to control one of the ships or the island; however, you need to watch- the cabin boys can move treasure from one hold of the ship to another hold thus playing kingmaker in their own unique way. Much of this game relies on deception and negotiation, which opens up a multitude of different approaches to the game. This gives the game a strong 7.5 in strategy.
Novelty is a tricky thing for this game. For one, the pirate game genre has been played out to death. However, in this game you are not really a pirate, you are a privateer. There are not a lot of privateer games. With novel mechanics, a cool story and a nice spin on the classic pirate game, we can give this game a strong 6.5 out of 10 for novelty.
Overall, Tortuga 1667 is a great little game. You and your friends can play this game in a short amount of time and it is easy to pick up after someone watches a game. The rules are a little tough to digest, but are very comprehensive, which is good for this type of game. The overall score for Tortuga 1667 36.5 out of 50. This is one of those games that looks great on a shelf and plays great on a table. If you have a chance to pick up the Dark Cities series, you will not be disappointed. Façade Games has a good little game here.