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Board Game Review: Black Fleet

2015 April 2

Arrrr! You’ll be brought back to your childhood with this beautiful board and plastic pirate ships in, Black Fleet, distributed by Asmodee Editions.

Black Fleet

Black Fleet

 

 

Designer:Sebastian Bleasdale

Number of players: 3-4

Age: 14+

Time: 60 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

Pirates, merchants, and even the occasional captain of a Navy ship all seek glory and fortune on the Caribbean seas!

In the easy-to-play, tactical card-driven board game Black Fleet, you’re in command of three different types of ships: your merchant ship earns you doubloons by conveying goods from one port to another, your pirate ship by attacking and stealing goods from merchants and burying them on islands, and the Navy ships by sinking your opponents’ pirate ships. With your (not-always-honestly-won) money, you’ll improve your ships by buying advancement cards, giving you powerful additional abilities.

Outwit your opponents with fortune cards and combos, earn money faster than they do, and pay the ransom for the governor’s daughter to win the game!

Basic idea in my own words…

Black Fleet is a pick-up and deliver game with tons of direct conflict with pirates on the high seas! The gameplay is extremely simple and I’m going to say right off the bat, that the components are outstanding! The box insert has skull and crossbones, there’s plastic miniature ships, a big and beautiful board and gold and silver money to play with. The game is fun and doesn’t take too long to play.

Setup (summarized):

Black Fleet Game Board

Black Fleet Game Board

  1. Place the game board in the center of all the players. Place the cubes in their respective ports on the board. The yellow cubes will go in the one corner where the port is all yellow.
  2. Place the yellow navy ship and the purple navy ship in the middle of the game board; there will be a small graphic in the water space where they should begin
  3. Place all the money on the side in reach of all players. Players do not start with money
  4. Take all of the movement cards (a compass on the back) and shuffle the deck and place to the side; deal 2 to each player
  5. Take aside the fortune cards (mostly blue backs) and shuffle, give each player 1 fortune card
  6. Separate the development cards with the numbers on the back and sort them by their numbered values. This represents the cost to flip the card. deal out a card of each denomination to each player and place the remaining cards in the box. Do this for all the denominations except for the 10/20. Shuffle these but set aside. As for the other numbered cards (8-14), lay them down in front of you from left to right being smallest to largest. Now decide if you want a regular length game or longer game. If you’re playing regular length, place all the 20 cards in the box. If you’re playing the longer game, place all the 10’s in the box. The 20 cards mean it takes longer to get money equal to 20 so the game lasts longer. Give each player the 10 or 20 cards, and these cards go on the very right of the cards you laid down in front of you.
  7. Now shuffle the player ship cards of each color and randomly deal one out to each player, the starting player is always black. Each player takes the respective ships of their card color. The players place their ship color card on the very left of their development card row. Don’t put your ships on the board yet. Starting with the youngest player, that player places will begin and turn is clockwise around the table.

Playing the game:

Example of movement cards

Example of movement cards

On your turn 

  • Play a movement card – playing a movement card is the primary action in Black Fleet; but its not that simple, it’s about deciding the best course of action with the cards available to you. Each movement card shows movement points for your merchant ship, your pirate ship and a navy ship. You may only move on sea spaces unless you play a card that says otherwise. When you lay down a movement card, you take all of the movement up to that movement amount with the ships on that card. Also on the bottom of some cards, there’s a image of + 1/2 cards or a red X. At the end of your turn if you play a card with this, you can either draw 1 or 2 fortunate cards or discard one, if you can.
  • Move the desired amount and commence 1 action per ship.
    • The action of the merchant ship is to drop off/load goods. The main way to get points in the game is to pick-up and deliver goods around the board. When you are adjacent to a port, you can take all 3 goods and load them onto your merchant ship only. Then it’s your job to get back to another port and unload the goods for the marked value of the respective color. When you score this money, take it from the available pool of money. You may load/unload in the middle of movement if you wish. You don’t have to have a full load to unload goods, you get money for each goods cube you deliver.
    • The action of the pirate ship is to steal goods from a merchant ship. How you do this is get adjacent to a merchant ship and fire your canon! When you do this and you have no good on your ship, you remove one good from the opposing merchant ship and load it on your ship. You immediately get 2 doubloons. That is an action. On another turn, as an action, you can try and bury to treasure adjacent to the sea spaces scattered throughout the board. Remember, only 1 action per ship/ per turn.
    • The navy ships go after the pirate ships. With the navy ship you can fire at the pirate ships that aren’t yours, and you are awarded with 2 doubloons. The pirate ship is sank and goes back in front of the player and loses any goods.
  • Movement rules are
    • You can’t go through continents or land spaces unless a card lets you
    • You can’t move through enemy ships or navy ships under enemy control but you can move through spaces of ships you control.
    • You cannot end movement where any other ship is, even your own.
  • During your turn you may play as many fortune cards as you want. The game really bends due to these cards.
    Fortunate Cards

    Fortunate Cards

    A fortune card can only be played once then you discard it. The same goes for the movement cards.

  • At the end of your turn you may purchase a development card in front of you; you pay your doubloons and flip over the card. You are awarded with the new benefits on the back of the card; these can be powerful, especially the Insurance card.
  • Draw movement cards so you have 2 in hand, now you also get the benefit or non-benefit on the bottom of the movement card played. Play proceeds to the next player.

Play continues like this until 1 player flips their 10/20 development card. This card must be the last card flipped.

Game in progress

Game in progress

Game End:

After a player flips his last development card each other player up to the player to the right of the start player has one final turn so everyone has equal turns. If there is only 1 player that flipped their final card, they win, if there is more than one, the player with the most money wins!

Breakdown

Components: 10/10

The components in Black Fleet are top notch. The art is gorgeous; the pirate ships are really cool, the cubes are nice and bright; the playing board is big and colorful; the box insert has skull and crossbones cut into it. The cards the and manual are also very nicely done. Good job Space Cowboys and Asmodee!

Theme: 7/10

While I like pirates, it’s not my favorite theme. But the theme is extremely fitting for this game. The simplicity lends itself to the colorful nature of the components and theme. My friends commented that this game is more for 10 year olds, I tend to agree, but it doesn’t matter, the theme is alright and the game is fun.

Luck Factor: 8/10

There’s a lot of luck in Black Fleet. There’s a lot of card shuffling and a limit on how many cards you have to play with.

Strategy: 7/10

There’s a middle level amount of strategy in Black Fleet. You have to make the best decision based on what you have available to play; and you have to make the decision at the correct time to play movement cards that give you more fortune cards, because those cards are key. I still the the luck element a higher mark though, as in, this game is more about luck than strategy in my opinion.

Overall Feelings: 6.7/10

I like Black Fleet. It’s not spectacular or close to it, but it’s a good, middle of the road game. The gameplay is extremely simplistic but that’s OK. Just because a game is not complex doesn’t mean it’s not good. This is absolutely a game I can play with kids (as long as they can read), or if you wanted to make it easier, don’t play with the fortune cards. I don’t like that the game isn’t available for 2 players but then I don’t think the game would work, because the board is pretty large. Even with 3 players, there can be moments of one player escaping the action and the other two players going at it. It is recommended that you play the game with 4. Overall, I would recommend this game if you are looking for family fun that isn’t too deep, and you enjoy naval or pirate themed games.

Review copy kindly provided by Asmodee Editions. Also thank you to the BGG members that have posted pictures that I’m using.

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