Tortuga 1667 Review

I must admit, I did rather enjoy The Curse of the Black Pearl – Captain Jack running around the Caribbean drunk and sunburned was an entertaining film that refreshed the way we looked at pirates. Even if it was responsible for a million poor attempts at dreadlocks from Hallowe’en partygoers from then on.

I say refreshed – we’ve always loved pirates and it seems that Façade Games agrees as their most recent game, Tortuga 1667, is centred around the loveable, survy-ridden rogues as they plunder a galleon for more booty than a Beyonce music video.

The initial reaction to Tortuga 1667 is that it is gorgeous. Even down to the fake book that it’s stored in and the roll out map you play on. It’s such a lovely looking game that you can’t help but like it right from the off.

Tortuga 1667 Board Game Facade Games Pirates Hidden Information

Tortuga 1667 is pirate through and through. Façade have actually gone so far as to make histories for the characters in the game (purely for show, each character is identical mechanically) and some of them are even based in some kind of historical accuracy. Tortuga 1667 is a co-operative team game for up to nine players where you play on one of two (well, actually three, but I’ll get to that) sides - British or French - each vying for aquisition and control of the available plunder.

Setting the scene; there are two ships and the Isle of Tortuga which players are relatively free to move between. The whole key to the game is to get as much loot into your team’s hold on each ship to win the game; said loot comes from the Spanish Galleon that happens to be conveniently nearby which teams can rob. There are five positions on each ship: Captain, First Mate, Cabin Boy (sadly not named Roger) and two more spots for anyone who happens to be around. The first three spots have unique actions above and beyond the common actions, which are the crux of the game. Captains can initiate the attacks on the Galleon to grab booty, First Mates can mutiny and the Cabin Boys can shift the loot from one hold to another.

Tortuga 1667 Board Game Facade Games Pirates Hidden Information

And then there’s Tortuga island itself. Misbehave or get found out as a member of the opposing side and you may get kicked off your ship and marooned on the Isle of Tortuga. The lead player on the island assumes the role of Governor and as such, they can kick off a royal Barney (a brawl for those of you unfamiliar with the cockney tongue) to attempt to shift the treasure on the island to the side of their favour.

But of course, it’s not that simple. Proposing a group action requires a vote to win (pirates, it seems, were a rather democratic mob) from which your proposal can sink or swim (I know, I’m hilarious). The vote resolves the action (and there's three different types of vote - Mutiny, Attack or Brawl), but only those in the same location as the proposer can partake in the vote, so getting the right folk involved and of course, if you’re on the opposing side, being in the right place to ruin their day becomes essential.

Tortuga 1667 Board Game Facade Games Pirates Hidden Information

Players have a single action per turn to decide what to do – either propose an activity or do something with the five event cards on the table, all of which are unknown until looked at. So you can either learn something about two of them, pick one yourself, or you can tell someone else to pick one of two cards and they suffer the consequences. Cards can be positive or negative in what they do, but that all depends on perspective. Once the deck is burned, that’s game over so you need to get a wriggle on.

One final twist is that if there’s an odd number of players, then that odd player will be out for themselves, the Dutch, who wins if the other two sides tie and I adore this mechanic. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the game really shines when this is the case as it adds an air of uncertainty about the whole affair which makes everything even more entertaining. Also, Tortuga 1667 is better with more players – four works, but isn’t really enough. Six or more and you’re looking at a good time.

Tortuga 1667 Board Game Facade Games Pirates Hidden Information

If I’m honest, I think the team allegiances are too easy to work out which hampers the game a little – if there were more ways to keep your allegiance a mystery, it would be better (which, incidentally, is why the Dutch player adds so much to the game), but it’s on the players to add that element themselves. Once you’ve played a couple of games, it’s much easier to throw folk off the scent by being oh-so-mischievous, especially as the Dutch player.

Steve asked me "So it's like Resistance, then?" Whilst I can see where he's coming from, my response was a resounding "not really". Despite both games being team based and having a voting element, there's little to say they're much alike. Resistance is far more clandestine in its feel and mechanics - there's much less information and there's far fewer ways to interact beyond a bit of chat. Resistance is based purely on the vote and the convincing of the leader that you're the person for the job, while Tortuga allows players the freedom to move about, actively interfere with or assist other players. Plus you're a pirate, which is far cooler.

Tortuga 1667 Board Game Facade Games Pirates Hidden Information

So I can heartily recommend Tortuga 1667 as a light, fun, group game. It’s easy to learn and gets even non-enthusiast gamers involved right from the start once you explain the pirate code. Or perhaps they’re guidelines….

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