It’s hard to play games with eight people. Once that big of a group arrives at the gaming table, you’re generally relegated to large scale party games or deduction games that simply require you to keep a secret for a long period of time. Sometimes you just wish you could keep everyone actively engaged throughout the game. Sometimes you just wish that you could do a little deduction, but have some spontaneity thrown in. Sometimes you just wish you could maroon one of your friends on an island.
Well, Tortuga 1667 seeks to make all those wishes come true. Released in 2017 from Facade Games, Tortuga pits two to nine players against each other in a fight for dominance of the seas. Players are each given a secret nationality card – either British or French – and are randomly placed on two ships. Each turn, players may complete a variety of tasks with the hopes to give their country more treasure than the other. This may include attacking a third ship – the Spanish Galleon – and stealing treasure and putting it in your country’s assigned hold on the ship.
Perhaps you’ll kick someone off the ship that you suspect of being aligned with the other country in order to ensure your country’s dominance of that vessel. Maybe you’ll even seek to start a mutiny and will encourage your other shipmates to send your captain to Tortuga.
Oh yes, Tortuga. On the game board, this island is located between the two ships. Now while marooning may sound rough, it actually can be very beneficial. There are actually two treasure chests assigned to this island, and the “governor” of the island can decide the nation to which those treasure chests will be aligned.
As the game wears on, you’ll begin to figure out who’s on your team and who’s fighting for the enemy. As you begin to conspire with your fellow British or French citizens, you may start to consider the Event cards. None of these cards are kept by individual players, but instead, there are five cards laid out at any time to which all players have access. On a turn, a player can choose to look at two of the cards, select one of the cards, or force another player to select from two cards. These Event cards have a variety of effects, such as immediately marooning a player, or allowing a player to move more quickly from one ship to another. The effects can be positive or negative, so there is lots of strategy involved in selecting cards for yourself or forcing other players – both friends and enemies – to pick cards.
Play continues over several turns until a specific card is chosen that signals the arrival of the Spanish Armada (I guess they got really mad that you attacked their Galleon). At that point, whichever nation (team) has the most treasure wins!
More Than Your Standard Deduction Game
When I first read the rules of Tortuga 1667, I immediately thought of games like The Resistance. Games where everyone is on teams, but you don’t know who is aligned with whom. You spend the game trying to figure out who’s on your side and who’s trying to ruin everything. While these games are fun, they are somewhat limited in what you can do on a turn. In The Resistance, for instance, players can only choose who will go on a “mission”, basically trying to pick people that are on their team and not on others. While I have had a ton of enjoyment with these games, they begin to grow a bit stale after a while.
Tortuga 1667 adds so much more gameplay and variety that I’m not sure it will get stale for a long time. Each turn you have so many different actions that you can take. By planning with your team, you can set up actions for several turns ahead, making you feel like a bunch of evil geniuses – and making you feel like a bunch of fools when the other team thwarts your plans.
Life on the Sea
Much of the fun in strategizing comes from the way in which the actions can be taken. You see, not everyone can do all the actions on their turn. For example, the Captain is the only one who can announce an attack on a ship, but all the players on the ship have to work together in order for the attack to be successful. The Cabin Boy on each ship (the player with the lowest rank) is the only person who can move treasure from one country’s hold on the ship to another. There are many other specific actions for specific people, so each person playing usually has something that only they can do, making them an important part of the game.
The cards are also a great way in which everyone can get involved. If you’re not really sure how your actions work, you can always take a look at a couple of the cards. Once you’ve done that, you’ve now got important information that needs to be shared with your team. While the game can lead to moments in which the loudest voice on the team can dominate, these types of situations ensure that all players must be involved for a team to be successful.
I’ve played this a few times with my wife’s family, and we’ve had a great time. Everyone tries to be very secretive at first, but our identities become evident after three or four rounds and we all begin to plot and plan feverishly every turn. It’s always fun when that player on the other team who thought they were safe gets booted off the ship, or when you get your opponent to draw that one card that ruins their whole scheme.
Bring Along Your Mates
I personally think that this game plays best with at least five players – any number smaller and you lose a lot of the teamwork that makes this game what it is. I also don’t know how well the game plays with an odd number – in those scenarios, one player is assigned to be on the “Dutch” team all by himself or herself, and they only win if the game ends in a tie. This seems like a really tricky task, but perhaps skilled players would have a blast.
The game has several different rules running at once, so it can take some time to learn. Some players may be overwhelmed the entire time and may relegate themselves to just looking at cards and doing whatever actions are suggested to them by team members. However, even in those circumstances, I think Tortuga 1667 can be a lot of fun for everyone at the table.
A Big, Beautiful Ship
Before I wrap up this review, I do have to mention the amazing components you have here. Facade Games has made a name for themselves with the sleek stylings of their games. For starters, the game box looks like an old book, and its lid has a satisfying magnetic opening and closing mechanism for easy storage. The game board is actually printed on neoprene material and rolls up when you’re done. Because they went and got the good stuff, you won’t have to worry about wrinkles as you’re playing. It’s this attention to detail that makes Tortuga 1667 a game that you’re not just proud to display on your shelf, but also on your table.
All in all, Tortuga 1667 is a game I would highly recommend to those who often have a lot of people in their gaming sessions and are looking for something with a bit more meat to it. You’ll get more excitement, strategy, and variety than you thought possible in a game with this many players, and with everyone staying involved, I think that you’re in for a good hour of fun.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a treacherous First Mate that I need to throw overboard….
- A high player count that doesn’t sacrifice gameplay
- Wonderful art and components
- You’ll deduce who’s on what side pretty quickly