Number of Players: 2 – 9
Length of Game: 20 – 40 minutes
Mechanism(s): Hand management, partnerships, voting
Alternate mechanisms: Moving treasure chest around, voting . . . but not the fun kind.
Hidden roles and event cards? A nautical theme? The chance to back-stab? Well, sign me up! Or . . . wait, not so fast.
How to Tortuga Each person is given a hidden allegiance–French, British (these are the two main two factions), or Dutch (the renegades of this sea faring adventure.) Each side aims to have as many treasure chests as possible when the end-of-game card is revealed. This is accomplished by manipulation and voting. Yes, voting. Democracy was alive on the high seas in 1667.
Glance at your pawn to see what position you are in. If you are at the front of the boat, you’re the captain. If you are at the rear, you’re the cabin boy (much like real life.)
Event cards bring on the mayhem that is to be expected with any good party game. You may attempt to attack the opposing ship by playing cards that depict a cannon being loaded and fired. All the players on the attacking boat play this card to a common pile; however, this gives the dirty traitor the opportunity to play a card that would douse the very flame used to light the cannon, rendering the attack a failure.
Players can jump ship by boarding a row boat and moving to either the island of Tortuga or the opposing ship. If you are on the island of Tortuga, you may influence the position of the treasures on the island–moving them to your side area or, if you wish to cause confusion, to your enemies’ area.
If you are displeased with your lot in life, you may declare a vote of “no confidence” in the captain of the ship and attempt a mutiny.
Terrific Tortuga The art work and presentation of Tortuga is nice, especially considering it’s a small box game. The event cards and player mat are well done. The rule book is passable and the game was relatively easy to understand and teach. Even the box is neat; it looks like a book. You can leave it on your coffee table to give visitors the impression that you are well read.
Terrible Tortuga Why didn’t I like this game? Why didn’t the group like this game? This puzzled me greatly, since Tortuga had all the trappings of a game I would enjoy. However, our discussion after the game made clear to me that it didn’t stand out in any interesting way (besides the artwork and presentation.)
It’s not really a hidden role game. The event cards or simple deductive reasoning took care of the hidden roles pretty quickly. There was no shocking reveal at the end of the game like in The Resistance.
The voting was bland. You add a random card from the deck into the pile of vote cards, so as not to expose the traitor on the boat, much like in Battlestar Galactica. But often this would lead to your preferred action being unsuccessful due to a random card draw.
The one mechanism in the game that is apparent–the partnership mechanism–is really what the game boils down to. You quickly determine who is on your team and then spend the rest of the game trying to move chests of gold to your area before the end card comes out. This mechanism, like the other mechanisms in Tortuga, is not particularly engaging.
Frankly, all of the mechanisms are better utilized in other games. Need a short hidden role game? The Resistance, Mafia, Werewolf . . . take your pick. Need a down-and-dirty voting game? Dead Last has you covered. Just need a great bluffing game? Skull (you should really buy Skull.)
BGS Approved? Obviously, no. In the land of great games, Tortuga didn’t stand out mechanically. Although the art and the box looks like there is a rip roaring party to be had, it was more like an ice cream social.
If you still think that Tortuga is up your alley, I would suggest playing it only at higher player counts and with people who are as devious as possible. If your group has enjoyed lighter social games like those mentioned previously, and you’re looking for a change, this might be an option.
But for the Board Game Snobs, Tortuga is a hard pass for us. We have sailed away . . . and you should sail away with us.
The Love: The presentation and art.
The Hate: Nothing new to see and mechanisms not utilized particularly well.
THE FINAL DECREE: Tortuga’s intriguing presentation opens to reveal bland mechanisms and tame gameplay. The book really was better.
All views and opinions are my own. I kickstarted Tortuga. I kickstart a lot of things.