The good, interesting and replayable CDG (Card Driven Game) designs hits our boardgames group table pretty often. Last weekend I had once again a chance to introduce new player to the Shores of Tripoli by Kevin Bertram. And again I convinced myself how neat and well developed this game is!

The Game

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

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.

Our Sessions

Having read my blog, you probably are aware that I love picture-rich session reports. So that one will not be different! Below you will find both overview maps as well as zooms on some key developments. I was playing the Pirates (two times) while Kuba decided to lead Americans (two times).

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

Set-up
This is how each game of Shores of Tripoli looks like at the beginning. I am leading Pirates (red) while Kuba is responsible for American (blue) forces.
First session
I was super-lucky to draw 3 War Declaration by Tripoli allies in first Turn. So I of course did not hesitate to sally out with all of them, using Yusuf Qaramanli card. 6 gold to pirates!
But my free raiding was supposed to come to an abrupt end when Kuba amassed huge flotilla and started to destroy my corsairs one by one. Also, he managed to retrieve some of the lost gold, but we were still on the verge of Tripolitanian victory after first Turn.
Finally I got Tangier Raid card. My brave allies sallied forth and rolled well, plundering two merchants!
The game ended during fourth turn (1804) with Pirates amassing so much gold that Americans gave up and decided to pay tribute. A good learning session for Kuba who immediately suggested to play once again.
Second session
Now, much better equipped in knowledge of what can come and how to effectively play, Kuba immediately invested in Swedish Frigates as well as additional American ships. I concentrated on land defenses and Algeria rebellion.
We have played some very nasty cards against each other – strengthened additionally by supplementary events. To no avail – I rolled 1 and 2, while Kuba got sneak eyes on his roll!
Still, after three years I amassed 10 out of 12 needed coins. A repetition from first game? Not this time! Show of Force and couple of attacks on Tripoli obliterated my fleet.
And then Hamet’s Army started to progress, taking Derne without too much sweat.
Time was running short for Americans and Kuba decided that he will not get to Tripoli via land route. Inability to burn my frigate also meant that I cannot be forced to sign the treaty. Frontal assault was left as an only option.
What a calamitous fight it was! I rolled 28 dice and got zero hits, while US forces were pretty accurate. Tripoli conquered, game over!

Wow, that was really exciting evening, with two close and intensive games, each of them going to different side!

Summary

I probably repeat myself, but Shores of Tripoli is really a small jewel which you can play quickly couple of times during one evening. The design is well thought – 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 also great as far as the theme and historical background are concerned – I learned a lot here. And of course, this is one of the best examples of assymetric design, with both sides having completely different game mechanics and goals.

Highly recommended!