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Cartagena: Rules

This game tries to reproduce a famous 1672 jailbreak of about 30 pirates from the supposedly impregnable fortress of Cartagena. It is said that not long after this astounding escape, a game celebrating it became popular in the pirate coves of the Caribbean; and that a faster, more chance oriented version was played in Jamaica, while a slower, more skill-oriented one was played on Tortuga Island. Which is why in our game, too, we offer two ways of playing: a "Jamaica way" in which chance plays more of a role and a "Tortuga way" based mainly on skill. As explained in the rules, the difference between the two versions is only in the layout and handling of the cards. In all other respects the two versions are identical.

The game in brief

Each player controls a group of pirates and tries to have all of them escape through the tortuous underground passage that connects the fortress to the port, where a sloop is waiting. As soon as a player has brought his pirates aboard, the sloop sails away and the game is over. In the original game the number of pirates for each player is 6, in the online version you can choose the number of pirates each player will use during the game in a range from 4 to 8.

Game start

The computer joins the board-segments so as to form a continuous under ground passage of many spaces (signs); this can be done, randomly, in thousands of different ways. In the original game the number of segments is 6 giving a passage lenght of 36 spaces, in the online version you can also use 4 segments (24 spaces) or 8 segments (48 spaces). You can select the passage length when you create the game.
Each player receives a set of pirates, from 4 to 8.
All the pirates are placed at the beggining of the underground passage and the sloop is docked at the other end.
The computer shuffle the deck and deal 6 cards to each player.

This is where the two versions differ:

The Jamaica version in which cards are concealed (more luck): The players hold their cards in hand (hidden from the other players). The rest of the deck is placed face down on the table to form a stock, from which players will pick new cards during play.

The Tortuga version in which all cards are face up (more skill): The players lay out their cards face up on the table, for all to see. From the rest of the deck, 12 cards are dealt face up in a row. The card with the arrow is placed under the row and shows the direction of the sequence - that is, the order in which new cards are picked up during play (instead of from stock). When the row is depleted, a new 12-card row is laid out. In this online version the arrow is not showed, the cards are picked up from right to left and there are always 12 visible cards.

How to play

The game is begun by a randomly chosen player... Whenever it is your turn, you may make from 1 to 3 moves. Two kinds of moves are allowed:

play a card and advance a pirate,
move a pirate backwards and pick up one or two new cards.

Moves may be performed in any order and in any combination but at least one move must be made at each turn.

The two kinds of moves

Play a card and advance a pirate:

Play a card to the table (discard pile), select one of your pirates (either one already in the underground passage or one who has yet to enter it) and advance him to the next vacant space marked with the same sign as the sign on the card you just played (vacant meaning not occupied by another pirate).

If there is no vacant space with the sign you selected ahead of the pirate you intend to move, you can advance him all the way to the end of the passage and let him climb aboard the sloop.

Move a pirate backwards and pick up one or two new cards:

Select one of your pirates and move him backwards to the first space occupied by one or two pirates, whether yours or belonging to an opponent. While moving backwards, vacant spaces and spaces occupied by three pirates are ignored and passed by. (Note that there can never be more than three pirates on a space.) If your pirate moving backwards lands on a space occupied by 1 pirate, pick up I card, if occupied by 2 pirates, 2 cards.

But keep in mind that when moving backwards you are not allowed to skip a space occupied by one pirate in order to reach one occupied by two. In the Jamaica version cards are picked up from stock, in the Tortuga version from the row of face up cards. When the deck is depleted, form a new deck with the cards in the discard pile.

End of game

First to land all his pirates on the sloop wins the game.


The winning player receive 1,000 points.

All the other players receives a score that is directly proportional to the total number of spaces their pirates have moved. It's a percentage scoring system, the winner takes 100% of the available points and the other player a percentage of it related with the final position of all the pirates.

Game Credits

Author: Leo Colovini
Publisher: Venice Connection
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