Arr! It should have been an easy job as the captain of a seasoned pirate crew. Just steal all the treasure from a nearby Spanish Galleon. But ye can never be sure if yer crewmates are secretly working for the British or the French. Tortuga 1667 is a game of mutiny, plunder and deceit. But is it worth yer gold – or are ye better off with a bottle of rum?

First of all, Tortuga 1667 gets extra points for the package design. The game is packaged in a faux book box which closes with the help of three magnets. The rubber playing mat is rolled up like a map – which is only fitting cause it is a map. I also like the illustrations on the cards especially the design of the pirates.

Tortuga 1667 – Map and Pirates
The situation at the beginning of the game with five pirates and hidden agendas.

The map shows four main areas: A floating Spanish Galleon. The pirate ships Flying Dutchman and Jolly Rogers. And Tortuga, an island where your pirate might get marooned to. There are also two rowboats to get from Tortuga back to the pirate ships.

The Spanish Galleon contains four treasure chests. Obviously, the pirate crews want to steal the treasure. But that is not the problem. Every pirate/player is secretly loyal to either the British or the French. At the start of the game, each pirate gets a secret loyalty card. So you don’t know who you are playing with. On the Flying Dutchman and the Jolly Rogers are two storage rooms for your treasure, belonging to either the British or the French. Whichever team ends up with the most treasure chests in their areas wins the game. If you start with an uneven number of players one lonely pirate will be loyal to the Dutch. He wins if the treasure chests are tied between British and French at the end of the game.

Drink up me ’earties, yo ho

Sure, dead men tell no tales. But still, let me explain how I ended up on Tortuga. We played with five pirates. That makes 2x British, 2x French and 1x Dutch. I got the Dutch part. Each player starts on one of the ships. The order is decided randomly by taking your pawn out of a bag. I was drawn first which made me captain of the Flying Dutchman. Each ship starts with one treasure chest of its own. The captain decides where that chest gets placed. As the first player and being Dutch, I didn’t really care if the chest gets put into the British or the French storage room. I didn’t want everyone to know I was the Dutch player. So I just placed it confidently in the British area, which led everyone to believe that I was British. The other captain placed his chest in the French storage room. Tortuga gets two treasure chests as well, one for each side. Then you take five cards from a deck of event cards and place them face down on the table. Also, each pirate draws three voting cards. Time to weigh the anchors.

A pirate’s life

Each turn every pirate has to perform one action. Every player may

  • view 2 event cards
  • reveal 1 event card
  • point to 2 event cards and force any player to choose 1 to reveal
  • or move your pawn to or from a rowboat

Events may be positive or negative. You may get marooned to Tortuga, force another player to get marooned, find a very useful treasure map or trigger some special event like blowing up one of the rowboats. The Spanish Armada gets placed at the bottom of the deck. If the Spanish Armada is drawn the last five cards are shuffled and placed face down. When one pirate then reveals the Spanish Armada the games ends.

Tortuga 1667 – Events and Voting Cards
Some event and voting cards.

Depending on your position on the map you may have other options to choose from:

  • The top pawn on a ship is the ship’s Captain and may either call for an attack or maroon any crew member to Tortuga.
  • The second pawn on a ship is the First Mate and may call for a mutiny to maroon the captain and take over the ship.
  • The last pawn on a ship is the Cabin Boy and move one treasure chest from one treasure hold to the other (from British to French or vice versa)
  • If you got marooned to Tortuga and are the first in line on the island you are the Governor of Tortuga and may call for a brawl.

If someone calls for an attack, a mutiny or a brawl, the participating pirates have to use one of their three voting cards to cast a vote. In each case, the top card from the deck of voting cards takes part in the vote as well. You cast your vote face down, add the card from the deck, shuffle all cards and reveal the result. That way you don’t know for sure what each pirate voted for. Since you only have three voting cards and the symbols on the cards vary you may not be able to vote the way you want to. And with the random card from the deck your best-laid plans may not work out.

Fire in the hole

As captain of the Flying Dutchman, I decided to call for an attack. The crew voted in my favor. As long as the Spanish Galleon has a treasure chest your attack secures you one of those chests. Only after the Galleon has no more chests your attack will hit the other pirate ship. Now that I had obtained the chest I needed to store it somewhere. Since I still didn’t want to give away my loyalty to the Dutch I had no other choice but to put the chest in the British area as well. This couldn’t go on like this since my win condition was for both teams to tie.

Luckily for me, another pirate set off a special event: Cabin Fever. The revealer had to choose another pirate. Both players shuffle their loyalty cards and draw again. It is the only mechanism in the game to actually switch loyalties. That player chose me and I ended up with a British loyalty card. Obviously, he thought I was British too and decided it was best for him to switch with his partner. Since I had already placed two chests in the British area this went quite well for me.

The next rounds made each pirate’s loyalty pretty clear. This is a nice mechanism. The game invites you to talk to each other. In the first part, you don’t really know if another pirate may be lying. As soon as the loyalties are clear the winds change and you can actually plot with your partners against the other team.

It turned out that my First Mate was loyal to the British as well. As captain, I could easily maroon the third crew member and with the help of my First Mate make sure that our attacks would most likely be successful. Soon we had secured all the treasure chests from the Spanish Galleon and the chest from the other ship as well. Life was good.

Blow the man down

Things weren’t going as well for the guy who got my Dutch loyalty card. He managed to collect two Albatross cards from the event cards. An Albatross is bad luck and sticks with you for the rest of the game. If at any time the crew of a ship has two such cards all pirates on that ship get marooned. If you have two Albatross cards on your own you are in a unique position. If you manage to board a ship you get immediately marooned again and take the crew of the ship with you. Basically, you are stuck on Tortuga or you can decide to be a pain in the ass for all other players. I even felt bad for the poor soul.

Meanwhile, a French pirate revealed a pistol and I got marooned to Tortuga. The first time is no big deal. While on Tortuga I managed to influence a brawl which ended with both Tortuga treasure chests in the British area. At this point, we had taken all eight treasure chests for the British. Time to crack Jenny’s tea cup. My First Mate and I decided to take a hint from the rulebook: If you are winning just storm through the event cards to end the game as quickly as possible. Which is exactly what we did. Or at least tried to do. Unfortunately, we were only through the first third of the event cards. So we had a long journey ahead of us.

Bring a spring upon her cable

As they say, the sea is a cruel mistress. In the course of events, I got marooned two times while already on Tortuga, which led to me losing two of my three voting cards. That meant that in any vote I took part in I had to play the only card I had. Not only may I not be able to help my own team, the card may even harm my team. This gave the blasted French the opportunity to come about.

Some unlucky votes later the chests were divided 5:3 for the British. The Dutch player, having nothing else to do but being Governor of Tortuga, called for a brawl and managed to tie the vote. That led to the two Tortuga chests being tied as well. One for the British, one for the French. And we were at 4:4. Anything was possible.

Finally, the Spanish Armada was in sight. Sail ho! The last five events cards were shuffled and placed face down. Every team was still in the race. Reveal the Spanish Armada at the right time and you could secure the win. In our case, we managed to miss that card a few times. In fact, the Spanish Armada was the very last event card that was revealed. And what can I say, the rotten French won the game. Merde!

Give no quarter

Shiver me timbers! This is a nice little game. At the start, we weren’t that much into it. We didn’t really know what to do, what to pretend and didn’t talk as much with each other as we should have. This changed after we got the hang of it. I thought the others might lose interest after the British secured all eight treasure chests. But if that happens in the early game the other group still has a lot of opportunities to turn the game around. In our case, everybody had a decent chance to win the game. Even the lonely Dutch who was burdened with two Albatrosses. That’s nicely balanced.

We will certainly play Tortuga 1667 again and if you get the chance you should try it out. The game is for 2-9 players. But I guess you should have at least 4 or 5 pirates. The more the merrier.

I got the game cause I backed it on Kickstarter. You can buy Tortuga 1667 directly from Facade Games for 24.99 $ (plus shipping). There you can also find official rulebooks in English, French, Italian, German and Dutch.
Tortuga 1667 is the second volume of the Dark Cities series. Volume 1 is Salem 1692. Volume 3 will be announced soon. Gotta keep an eye on that.

Pirate phrases taken from