Tortuga 1667 (Facade Games) Game Review

8

It's hard to articulate exactly where we went wrong, but at some point, during the interminable bickering, we all looked up and realized we weren't having fun. And that wasn't the fault of the game. It was our fault. Tortuga 1667 is a game of piracy and greed, in which players are given two equal factions (British and French) and one singular mission: have more gold by the end of the game. Complicating this is the fact that there are two pirate ships and the island of Tortuga which players move between. 

(There's also the Dutch, but they only matter for tie breakers. Sorry, Dutch.)

It's a great premise for a game, the box looks great, and the game itself is solid. So...

What Went Wrong With Tortuga 1667?

"Well, no, if we do that, before I make them choose between these two cards, then they will ask me to choose between those two cards. Instead of doing that, I'll move to the other lifeboat to get on the island, which will give us majority on the island."

"Are you guys done yet? It's still your turn."

"WAIT! OK. So if we get majority on the island then, we can vote and move it there, but then they can get on that ship and move the treasure. So instead of doing that, get on the other boat and mutiny, and you'll have a 2 out of 3 chance of kicking the captain off."

"Instead of doing a mutiny, since I'm last in line, I can instead just be the cabin boy, and move the treasure, and then if both of you pull event cards after that, we can end the game ahead."

"OK, OK... but if before we pull the event cards -- "

"ARE YOU DONE?"

"NO! OK, if before we pull the event cards, the captain maroons you -- "

My group plays a lot of deception and hidden role games. But we've never had problems like we had with Tortuga 1667. It started with a simple issue: everyone figured out everyone else's affilliation almost immediately. Perhaps the opposite of a lynch mob game, Tortuga 1667 actually gives you quite a bit of information regarding party affiliation, and there is nothing in the rulebook about revealing oneself immediately (even if it's more likely to cause problems than not).

Because many of the actions (mutiny, marooning, moving treasure from side to side) are directly aggressive to one side or another, it wasn't hard for people to figure out within a few turns who everyone was. Once that happened, someone acquired two albatross (which lets them clear everyone off a ship) and simply bounced everyone to the island of Tortuga, blocking off both boats.

But That Wasn't the Problem With Tortuga 1667

This wasn't a typical or perfect playthrough by any means. It is, however, the only playthrough I can talk about, since everyone avidly refused to play again. We had the perfect storm of issues:

  • Everyone figured things out almost immediately.
  • One faction was on a single side of the table, which meant they took all their turns before the other players.
  • The faction ahead was first, so they got an edge up immediately.
  • The faction ahead pulled a few very useful cards right away.

This is something that can happen in any hidden role game, where things are immediately stacked against a single faction. But that was a problem with us, the group, it wasn't a problem with Tortuga 1667.

The problem with Tortuga 1667 was different. 

The problem with Tortuga 1667 was that, for whatever reason, it inclined my players to play out all of their steps 10 to 15 turns ahead. I'm not sure why, except for the fact that there's a sequence of complex actions, and that you can plan ahead. In Secret Hitler, you can't talk; there's hidden roles. The group as a whole may discuss actions, but they can't really anticipate what's going to happen. In Avalon, there's a certain amount of bickering, but there's only one thing you can really do: select people for a party.

In Tortuga 1667, you have a number of base actions, events to choose from, and actions based on where you are on the ships or the island. Because of that, there's a spiderweb of possibilities that further branch out based on player behavior, as you can't anticipate what the other players would do. And it wasn't a problem that my players had declared their factions immediately, though it was a little disingenuous, because they would have been planning the same regardless. Even if there was a traitor in their midst, their turns would have still been taking ten to fifteen minutes long.

There is no in-game mechanic that prevents people from simply trying to step their way through the game and quarterbacking the entire experience, and, moreover, there isn't a way to dissuade it because it's a winning strategy. If you can get (whether or not they're truly your faction) about half the players to agree to a specific course of action, and you can spend 10 minutes thinking that course of action out, you're likely to get the results that you desire.

But Tortuga 1667 is a Great Game

At this point, I'm painting a pretty bleak picture of what's actually a pretty remarkable small box deception game. Tortuga 1667 plays up to nine players and, with the addition of the Dutch (whose only goal is to ensure that everyone is at a standoff), it's a really fun game. Just not for my group. 

And that's an interesting thing about these social games; it really depends on the group. Tortuga 1667 gives players a wide berth, as it were, to play the game pretty much however they want, and that does keep with its pirate theme. Tortuga 1667 isn't the game you want to play if your gaming group has an avid quarterback or aggressive personalities, because they can simply run roughshod over everyone else. But for an even-keeled group, it's bound to be a fun time.

  • A fun deception game with a twist.
  • Great for larger groups.
  • Maybe use a timer between turns.