Cartagena takes as its theme the famous 1672 pirate-led jailbreak from
the fortress of Cartagena. Each player has a group of six pirates, and
you want to be the first to have all six escape through the tortuous
underground passage that connects the fortress to the port, where a
sloop is waiting for them.
To move a pirate, you need to play a card from your hand. Each card
bears one of six symbols (gun, rum, parrot, etc.), and when you play a
card, you move one of your pirates forward to the next matching symbol
in the tunnel, leapfrogging over matching symbols where another pirate
already stands. The only way to get more cards, however, is to move
backwards; more specifically, you move one of your pirates backwards to
the first space that holds one or two pirates, drawing one or two cards
after doing so. Each turn, you take 1-3 actions, whether moving forward
or backward or both. When you move a pirate to the end of the track, it
jumps on the sloop where it must await the other pirates in its crew.
With every step toward victory, though, you have fewer and fewer pirates
to move each turn, possibly locking you in to actions you don't want, so
be sure to plan ahead and not leave yourself empty-handed!
This version of Cartagena includes the classic base game mixed with
Cartagena 2. The Pirate's Nest and several new variants. The game
includes eight double-sided game boards, and to play the base game you
use only six of them. Use more boards for a longer game, or fewer boards
(and possibly fewer pirates) for a shorter game. To replicate Cartagena
2, you can flip over three or more of the game boards to create a
secondary path that's separate from the first one. Now when you place
pirates in the sloop, you can use an action to move the sloop to the
start of the second path — and with two paths, you have a harder time
making huge jumps from start to finish.
"Morgan" is a variant in which players can now draw cards by moving an
opponent's pirate ahead, drawing one or two cards when the pirate stops
at the first space that contains one or two pirates; this variant and
all others can be used in any version of the game. With the
"Filibusters" variant, whenever someone plays one of the twelve cards
with a dark background, everyone other than the active player must
discard until they have at most seven cards in hand.
Finally, the "Black Magic Woman" variant introduces special powers to
the six symbols on the card, and when you play a card, you can use it
for pirate movement like normal or use the card' power. You can play two
parrots as if they were any other symbol, or use a lantern to look at
the top four cards and keep one of your choice. With the gun, you steal
a card of your choice from an opponent's hand, with them getting one
free draw in return. The treasure chest symbol lets you pick up the
treasure chest from the space where you stand, most likely drawing cards
from the deck as a bonus, but possibly suffering a snakebite that will
have you running back for rum to help you forget the pain!