Cartagena is a game all about breaking pirates out of jail! Cartagena was designed by Leo Colovini and my copy was published by Winning Moves (most recently published by Ravensburger). Cartagena is for 2-5 players and a game takes about 45 minutes. The board is set up with six tiles, each is a hallway with a different configuration of several symbols (every symbol appears on every tile). Each player starts with six pirates at one end of the board, and one empty boat awaits the pirates at the other end. Players start with a hand of cards, each of which has a symbol matching one of the board symbols, and on their turn they may take three actions. The player may play a card to move one of their pirates to the next available matching space on the board, or they may slide a pirate backwards on the board to the previous space which contains one or two pirates. Sliding backwards is the only way to obtain additional cards in the game. If you slide back to a space containing one pirate you take one card, and if you slide to a space containing two pirates, you take two cards. The first player with all six pirates in the boat at the end is the winner.
Cartagena is one of my all-time favorite games. It is incredibly simple, yet has a surprising amount of strategy. You want to move your pirates as far ahead as fast as you can, but doing so can leave a trail which the opponents can follow easily. For example, if I play hat, hat, hat and now have pirates on boards one, two, and three, all my opponent has to do is play another hat to have a pirate on board four. In addition to moving forward, you have to be careful of the backwards possibilities that you leave open to your opponent. Essentially, you don’t want to give them any opportunities to get two cards right away (moving backward to a space with two pirates). It becomes a fine line and I’ve found that you have to move your whole group of pirates slowly up the board rather than making huge leaps… I mean, if your opponent leave a huge leap open for you to take, then you have to take advantage of it, but try not to leave those opportunities for your opponents.