original German edition
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The game recalls the legendary 1672 escape of a large group of pirates from the dreaded fortress of Cartagena. Each player has a crew of 6 fugitives which he tries to hurry through the long and tortuous underground passage that connects the fortress to the waterfront. But the task is not easy, because to move pirates forward in the passage you must play appropriate cards, of which you only have a few, while to replenish your cards, you must move pirates backward again.... To balance these conflicting needs requires good timing and judgement. The first player who succeeds in bringing his 6 pirates to the end of the passage and aboard a waiting sloop wins the game.
The rules of the game are simple and easy to learn, and they offer two ways of playing: a faster way that gives more scope to luck, and a tactical way what requires more skill. Players can choose which they like best.
I am surprised this game doesn't get more wildly popular, I think it must be the price. Still it cannot be compared to candyland, because of the changable board and the retreating concept. Luck is involved with the drawing of cards, but its deceptively deep strategy always enables the best player to win. I am sure it appeals to most gamers with the open version. The only minus I feel about the game besides the price is that it does not have a proper compartment to hold the cards. Still this game should be one of the best selling game ever. Has anyone tried this game with a trading element?
Cartagena is really only playable to me in the 'Tortuga' version where all cards are face up on the table. This provides each player with 'perfect information' on which to base there moves. I hate 'perfect information' games.
But I love Cartagena. Conceptually the game is simpler than checkers--either move forward using one of your cards or move back and collect a card or two. But as pirates begin to crowd the halls, the game becomes more complex.
In spite of the fact that you have perfect information, there are enough variables to prevent the 'one right decision' syndrome that some games suffer from. And there are different strategies, if executed well, that can lead to victory, (do you take the patient route and stockpile cards for a massive endgame push, or do you go for a balanced approach and keep moving forward...)
It's always essential to pay attention to which cards your opponents have, and which cards are available for the taking.
A major bonus with this game is that it plays well with 2 players.
It's a game that has been getting a lot of requests and is becoming increasingly 'fun-ner' with each play.
Grab a bottle of rum and escape from Cartagena.
I heard about this game and had zero interest in owning it. Until I played it. Now I am just counting the days until the English version gets reprinted.
Simple, each player has five pawns they are trying to move from one end of the board to the other. The board has several types of symbols. Play a card with a hat, and you can move any of your pawns to the next -unoccupied- hat space. That means you can jump ahead many spaces if many hat spaces are occupied. When you need more cards, you simply move backwards to the next space with one or two other pawns on it to gain one of two new cards. Players will be jostling for huge shotcuts (or 'bridges' as we call them) and trying to grab all the 2-card movebacks while preventing quality 'movebacks' for other players. Tons of tactical strategy in such a little package.
This game is not going to replace Taj Mahal in your game group, but it could be one of the best game ever, because of a couple factors: This game takes about 2 minutes to learn for the first time; it takes about 60 seconds to teach. It has a modular board which means that the value of the movement cards changes from game to game, even section to section. It can be played with gamers as very satisfying filler. It can be played with families, even younger children as a family favorite! Two sets of rules depending on if you want a slightly longer meatier game, or whether you want quicker game. It has lots of opportunities for sneaky play and rewards skill. IT PLAYS WELL TWO PLAYERS. It seems to appeal to non-gamers and women. It's my mother's favorite game of all time.
Whew! I've lost track of many times I've played this (thanks, Rick T., from letting me borrow it.) And everyone I play it with likes it: game convention, my mom, my gamer friends, my non-gamer friends, even my game-loathing brother admits he kind of likes it. What tips the balance is the timeless quality about it. The graphics are subdued, and the game is simple, which makes me think I may be playing this game 30 years from now with my grandkids. I really mean that. How many games have that kind of quality to them?
Shiver me timbers! Another race game with no dice! Your six pirates win by escaping through a tunnel strewn with six types of symbols. Six segments can be arranged in thousands of ways to form the tunnel. Deal everyone six cards, each showing a tunnel symbol. Discard a card to enter or advance a pirate to the next matching unoccupied symbol; you escape if all are occupied. Alternatively, move a pirate backward to the nearest symbol having one or two pirates and draw cards from the deck or, in the Advanced Version, a faceup array. Don't let this game escape you!
Cartagena is one of the substantial crop of games released at the Essen 2000 game show. It is part of what is becoming known as the '3-C' collection: Corsairs, Carcassonne and Cartagena, all games released at the same time. Although none of these games can be considered to carry great strategic depth, they have all proven to be quite fun and easy to play. Cartagena may well be the 'lightest' of the three. Still, in spite of its relative ease of play and seeming lack of depth (at least in the more luck-based Jamaica version), it is quite enjoyable. Also, it is one my wife has enjoyed, which is always a BIG plus in my book.
The theme is based (loosely--so what else is new?) on the "famous 1672 jail break of 30 or so pirates from the supposedly impregnable fortress of Cartagena''. Players must scurry their 6 pirates through the cave to reach the safety of the waiting boat and sail away to freedom (accompanied by choruses of "I'm Sailing Away!'' by the rock group Styx.).
The board comprises six double-sided pieces, which can be assembled in a variety of fashions. Thus, the layout of each game will likely be different with each play. Each section depicts six symbols along the path, including a pistol, pirate hat, skull, bottle, key and dagger. A deck of miniature cards has matching symbols, 17 of each sign. All components are of high quality, although a bit lacking in artistic flair.
A neat feature is that the game has two versions by which it can be played. One is known as the Jamaica version, and is the easiest and quickest method to play. In this version, a player's hand is kept secret and cards are drawn from the face-down deck when replenishing your hand.
With the Jamaica version, players initially begin the game with six cards. On a turn, a player may take up to three actions, which can be either:
Option (2) is the only manner in which a player can acquire new cards. If choosing this option, a pirate must stop when it encounters a space occupied by either one or two pirates. If the space is occupied by three pirates, the player bypasses this space and continues his backwards movement until he encounters a space occupied by only one or two pirates. If the space is occupied by just one pirate, the player draws one card from the deck into his hand. If it occupied by two pirates, the player draws two cards into his hand.
Moving backwards goes against the very fiber of most gamers embroiled in a 'race' game. You want to move forward, not backward. However, since this is the only method in which to replenish your hand of cards, you will be forced to move backward often. Knowing when to move backward and which pirate to send scurrying in reverse are important to successful play. It is certainly wiser and more beneficial to move pirates backwards to spaces already occupied by two pirates so that you can draw two cards instead of only one. A favorite tactic is to move one of your pirates from a space occupied by three pirates, and then immediately have him fall back to that same group. Thus, you expend one card to gain two.
Believe it or not, that's it. The rules are that simple. First player to get all six of his pirates into the boat is victorious.
Hand management and the timing of card play are important skills in this game. The temptation is to immediately play groupings of cards so that you can 'leap frog' your pirates ahead through the cave. However, as mentioned, this often has the effect of aiding your opponents as well. I've found it much wiser to wait till your opponents occupy most of the spaces matching the cards you possess, then play these cards to much greater effect.
It is also wise to keep your pirates grouped fairly close with the other pirates. If you allow pirates to remain well behind the main grouping of pirates, then you will not be able to take advantage of lengthy leaps, bypassing spaces occupied by other pirates. Instead, you will be forced to use many cards to advance them through the cave.
The rules do allow for a more 'strategic' version, known as the Tortuga version. With this version, each player's hand of cards is face-up, so each player can study which cards his opponents have when deciding on his actions. Further, 12 cards are dealt face-up from the deck and when a player collects cards for moving his pirate backwards, he must take the cards in order from this row. A new row of 12 cards is dealt when all of the prior 12 cards are taken. Other than these modifications, the rules and sequence of play are exactly the same as in the Jamaica version.
I much prefer the Jamaica version as the game flows much smoother and faster. The Tortuga version does slow the game down considerably as players analyze everyone's hand of cards, as well as the 'draw' cards, before making a move. With players who tend to carefully analyze each and every possibility before making a move, the game can quickly come to a screeching halt. For me, at least, Cartagena seems best suited as a reasonably quick filler or appetizer. Still, it's nice to see a game provide several versions so players can choose the one which best suits their tastes or preferences.
Cartagena will never be a game which rises to the level of greatness. Nor will it be a serious contender for the Spiel des Jahres, Gamers' Choice Awards or any other major game awards. Still, it has proven successful as one of those games which can be played and enjoyed by members of your gaming group and by your family and friends. There's not a whole lot of games which can satisfy both these groups, so it is a welcome addition to my game collection.