It is over two years since I first heard about Shores of Tripoli. It was January 2019 when author of the game – Kevin Bertram contacted me sharing his idea and concept. Very quickly I was intrigued by this completely new to me historical subject – I was vaguely aware of US was fighting during the early years of 19th century in the Mediterranean to repeal the pirates, being supported by Swedes (well, we had other problems in Poland then – like Napoleon, partition of Poland, etc 🙂 )

I love Card Driven Games and if there is an asymmetry added to the picture – it is usually something which will for sure attract me. I had pleasure to extensively test this position solitaire module (The Shores of Tripoli – solo variant – first impressions) but thanks to Paul – with whom I started to play regularly form December (you can see our initial games of Julius Caesar here: Julius Caesar and Roman Republic at war!) finally I had an option to bring to the table the multiplayer set-up.

The Game

Before sharing more about sessions and impressions, some information about the game. Hope that will build your interest in that title too!

From the end of the American Revolution, commercial vessels of the young United States republic were easy prey for the pirates of the Barbary coast. In 1801, newly inaugurated President Thomas Jefferson was eager to put an end to this threat and sent a “squadron of observation” to the Mediterranean. As the squadron arrived in Gibraltar, they learned that the bashaw of Tripoli had already declared WAR!

The Shores of Tripoli plays out this exciting episode of Early American military history. As the United States, one player will pressure Tripolitania to allow the free movement of American merchant vessels – or face the consequences. As the bashaw of Tripoli, the other player will continue the lucrative piracy of the fearsome corsairs while countering the American threat on land and sea.

Beautiful and informative cards represent historical events and leaders from the First Barbary War. Players can move ships, start battles, go on pirate raids, engage in diplomacy and receive reinforcements. Includes over 80 wooden playing pieces, 24 dice and a premium mounted map.

Multiplayer Session

I love picture-rich session reports so that one will not be different. For actual game we were using VASSAL module, for file exchange, important rolls or simply discussions – Discord. Below you will find map from each year of the game plus key actions of the turn below them. Enjoy!

You can click on each of below pictures to enlarge it.

We rolled for sides and I started as Pirates (red, Tripoli) while Paul took command of US troops (blue).
Year 1801
Initial skirmishes and forces built-up; nothing special – Turn 1
  • A very strong attack against my corsairs came from Paul (3 sunk vs 0 by me)
  • I escaped from Gibraltar to Tripoli
  • And started some raids (2 coins gained)
Year 1802
Things slowly starts to spice-up – Turn 2
  • Being aware of potential land approach of Tripoli, I strengthened Benghazi defenses
  • I also had fantastic raid for 4 gold (but 2 ships lost in the process); unfortunately, due to the event I had to give back 2 immediately
  • I built corsair, Paul built Gunboat plus put 2 new Frigates on turn track; arms race at full speed!
Year 1803
Tons of things happening in Turn 3
  • The Year started from ridiculous battle in the Gulf of Tripoli (12 dices from both sides, zero hits)
  • I used then an event to get one US frigate sunk
  • What followed was even more bizarre Tripoli naval battle (14 dices, again zero hits!)
  • I thought I will be clever and instigated the Tangier uprising – however, it was immediately crushed by the US “Show of Force”
  • Last but not least, Swedes appeared and started to patrol Tripoli waters
  • No gold for me in this Year
Year 1804
Things start to slip for US – Turn 4
  • Swedes were removed due to the “Sweden Pays Tribute” event (plus a bonus – 2 gold for me!)
  • Derne was bombarded and overrun by Marines & Arabs
  • I got another 2 gold from raid, achieving 8 in total (and at 12 there is automatic Tripoli victory)
Year 1805
SOme very exciting Turn 5
  • First, my Algiers friends and allies were hard struck by US Flotilla
  • I dared another raid, stolen 2 gold and immediately lost it to Paul’s event
  • As Derne was conquered, the “Constantinople Sends Aid” event gave me 1 Frigate, 2 Corsair, 2 army in Tripoli
  • Surprise, surprise – we had another, huge, super-ineffective battle in Tripoli
  • I used lull in the fighting to plan another Raid – gaining 3 gold, just 1 short of automatic victory!
Year 1806
Final game resolution – Turn 6
  • The Tripoli leader was merciless and play of “Yusuf Qaramanil” event – allowing for raid by all corsairs – got enough gold to end the game.

Wow, that was really nice, short but eventful play which was really exciting in the end!

2-player version – first Impressions

Let me share now my thoughts and experiences regarding the game and its multiplayer module:

  • I repeat myself, but this is really a small jewel which you can play quickly, switch sides and play once again. All in one evening!
  • A great Card Driven Game where pure luck of what you draw is severely limited – I love the concept that in the end, you will have access to almost all your cards, including the best ones, should the final 1806 year come; it is more a meter of when to play them than count on luck to get them; this is tremendous design advantage and something which makes that game really shine.
  • The asymmetry is very well depicted here – different tactics, different units, different events and actions plus – completely separate victory conditions.
  • The theme and historical background – I love history but never really heard about that war; US Frigates fighting Pirate States in Mediterranean? Thomas Jefferson in charge of American Expedition force in Europe? Swedish (!) Navy accompanying US one in the fight against Tripoli corsairs? That is so unbelievable that it blows your mind! And true at the same time.
  • I would like to mention great components quality – we played on VASSAL but of course I have also a hard copy; I really like them! Especially wooden ships are great.

I am really glad I could play such an innovative design – with such a great and understanding opponent like Paul. We had fun with that title, not once we made a surprise to one another and I think we look forward to future title in the series!