[REVIEW] The Shores of Tripoli by Fort Circle Games – The Boardgames Chronicle

About game plus historical detail:

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 – one I was oblivious to! As the United States, one player will pressure Tripolitania to allow the free movement of American merchant vessels – or face the consequences. As the leader 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.

Would you stand-up to the task and manage to prevail against odds, leading the US Marines & US Navy to victory over the determined Barbarian forces?

Number of players:

This is great 2-player game. Still, the author made sure that straightforward, playable solo mode is also included.

Playing time:

As per my experience, that is a pretty fast & short game. The initial attempts will take you about 90-120 minutes – unless quick auto victory is achieved. But knowing the rules you should be able to fit the session within 60 minutes.

Complexity:

The rules are not overly complex, clearly explained for US and Tripoli. Important to remember is that due to asymmetry, they do not overlap too much.

What I like:
  • Another small jewel which you can play quickly, switch sides and play once again. All in one evening!
  • The asymmetry is very well depicted here, with both sides having a similar chance for success. I would like to stress here not only different actions and tactics of US and Tripoli players, but also the various victory conditions!
  • I love the CDG 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 unique.
  • Theme & 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 and simply blows your mind! And true at the same time.
What I do not like or would like to see in the game:
  • Replayability – after numerous games it can become repetitive; Still, bringing it to the table for a quick game switching sides ever 2-3 months is a great idea.

  • Luck Factor – it is of course part of the game but that factor is to some extent nullified by the number of rolls and normalized probability. Still, some rolls can be very wide and destroy even the best strategy.
For whom?

On one hand I would suggest to all new adepts of wargaming, especially those interested in CDG (Card Driven Games). At the same time this is also a fantastic, refreshing design for seasoned Grognards!

More about the game:

And now let us have a look at the components – all pictures taken during my plays:

The standard scenario set-up.
What drives the game are of course cards. Above great play from both sides.
At some point in time it usually comes to the attack on Tripoli.

VERDICT:

From the first time I heard about the game in 2019 I was intrigued by a completely new historical subject to me – I will be honest, I never knew that US was fighting on the Mediterranean to repeal the pirates and they were supported by Swedes – all this happening during the Napoleonic wars! What draw me to the game was also the asymmetry plus great Card Driven Game concept where you – throughout the game – have access to all of the cards but it is a question when and how to use them.

I can definitely recommend it to the new wargamers, for whom this can be one of the first CDG games ones. It plays easily, quickly and thematically. It is also well suited for more experienced players, allowing to play it twice, changing sides, and comparing the results.

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