During the summer of 2017, we were contacted by Kevin Bertram who was working on a card driven game focused on the Barbary Coast and the American intervention in that region called The Shores of Tripoli. The game looked very interesting and Kevin agreed at that time to do an interview with us for the blog and do a series of Event Card Spoiler posts that provide an inside look at the game mechanics as well as the history behind the game and the cards which are based on historical events.

Keep in mind that the pictures of cards shown, as well as the text on them, are not yet finalized and are for playtest purposes only at this point.

In 1801, the newly inaugurated President Thomas Jefferson sent a “squadron of observation” to protect American merchant ships in the Mediterranean Sea from the pirates of the Barbary states (Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers and Morocco). As the squadron arrived in Gibraltar, the Americans learned that the Bashaw of Tripoli, Yusuf Qaramanli, had already declared war on the United States. The United States fleet proceeded to blockade the Barbary ports and harass the Tripolitan fleet. 

After four inconclusive years of war, former diplomat William Eaton hatched a plan to form an army and capture Tripoli, installing the Bashaw’s pro-American brother, Hamet Qaramanli, to the throne.  This army, consisting of eight U.S. Marines and five hundred mercenaries, marched from Alexandria, Egypt, to capture the Tripolitan city of Derne. Worn down by the blockade and worried by the scheme to depose him, Yusuf Qaramanli agreed to a treaty favorable to the United States in 1805, thus ending the conflict.

In The Shores of Tripoli, the United States aims to protect its right to free navigation of the seas while Tripoli’s goal is to make the cost in blood and treasure too high and force the United States to pay tribute. In game terms, the American player can achieve a diplomatic victory by forcing the Tripolitan player into signing the Treaty of Peace and Amity or achieve a military victory by conquering Tripoli (via Assault on Tripoli). The Tripolitan player can achieve an economic victory by acquiring twelve gold (representing successful pirate raiding) or achieve a military victory by either eliminating the Arab/American army or by sinking four American frigates.

The Treaty of Peace and Amity card reflects the historical result of the conflict. The American player wins immediately upon playing the card, but must meet four conditions to play the card and win. First, it must be the Fall of 1805 or later. This gives the Tripolitan player at least 18 turns to achieve their victory conditions. The other conditions – that all of the other Barbary states must be at peace with the United States, that the American player must have captured Derne and that Tripoli does not have any frigates – reflect Tripoli being painted into a corner and thus opting to agree to the treaty.

Conquering Tripoli – via the play of Assault on Tripoli – reflects the “what if” scenario of Eaton’s original plan. Of course, the United States must actually win the battle for the American player to win the game.  The American player is able to bring the entire fleet for the naval battle and even send in some sharpshooting Marines to assist the Arab/American army for the ground battle, but the final result will be in the hands of the dice gods.

Thanks Kevin for the insight into these historical event cards and the explanation of how they work. Kevin is planning to provide us with several more examples of Event Cards Along with the history of the conflict. If you want more information on The Shores of Tripoli, please check out our interview with Kevin about the design process and mechanics.

-Grant