Black Fleet

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Black Fleet

Post  paulyg on Wed 10 Jun 2015, 12:52

Kat and I got to play this at the games expo and really liked it (enough to immediately buy it!).

It's essentially a pick-up-and-deliver game with the development card building bit of Machi Koro chucked in and all the fun of being a pirate! You get to move your two ships (merchant and pirate) on your turn as well as one of the 'shared' navy ships. The merchant's aim is to pick up goods from one port and deliver to another to earn money, the pirate is trying to steal goods from opposing merchants and bury them and the navy can be used to sink pirates. The fact that there are two navy ships and you all get to move them (well you get to move one of the two per turn) makes them really interesting. If you leave them too near to an opposing pirate at the end of your turn then you're essentially gifting the next player a free pirate kill (and the associated money).

What makes this game really fun are the development cards. Each player has four of them with different costs, and they're selected at random (there are six of each cost for a total of 24 cards). The powers on these development cards are all really great and quite game-altering. For example, the ability to swap the positions of your two ships, or the ability to use your merchant ship to attack or to attack from two spaces away. Some of the combinations you can pull off are great! The overall aim of the game is to build all your development cards and then build the game-end card. They all cost money, so the turn-to-turn aim is to amass as much money as possible.

What I like about this game is that the mechanics are pretty simple (play card(s), move ships, take actions, buy cards) but there is a lot to think about! If you sink a pirate, for example, then it'll come back on at one of the board corners which then might mean it's close enough to steal from your merchant when that player's turn comes round (and they'll be out for revenge). The board layout also makes it quite easy to blockade and force ships on longer routes. And once the development cards start to be bought the tactics can change turn by turn.

I have only minor quibbles with the game. I think the player colours are boring (why are the players black, grey, white and brown and the navy ships brightly coloured and not the other way round?). And it feels like there's a lot of scope for using the money for other things (maybe being able to steal it, or use it to bribe the navy not to sink your pirate). But this is definitely a game with a lot of scope for expansion - new development cards, different starting ships, extra trading / bribing rules are all things I could see in its future.

The fact that this game has simple rules, a fairly short play time and lots to think about with tons of replayability all add up to make this a favourite for a while to come I think!
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Re: Black Fleet

Post  DaveB on Wed 10 Jun 2015, 13:01

PaulG wrote:Kat and I got to play this at the games expo and really liked it (enough to immediately buy it!).

Funnily enough I had the exact same experience at the expo Smile

I basically agree with everything you say but there is one small point you missed - it has proper coins rather than cardboard tokens. I have no idea why but this immediately elevates the game in my eyes! That and the epic inlay design - simple things for simple minds...

Essentially its a cross between "Merchants & Marauders" and "Jamaica" - a lightweight and fast playing game that allows you to be mean to other people without it having a significant impact on their game (and indeed 9/10 they'll get their own back within two turns anyway). The component design is excellent - big cartoony ships* and cards and the aforementioned "proper" coins - this was a big hit for me at the expo and I remain a fan four games later. Looking forward to playing it again!

*although I definitely agree with your point that the player ships could have been more colourful
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