Black Fleet, published by Space Cowboys, is one of my absolute go-to board games for a bit of light-hearted card-tactics piracy. It’s fun and colourful artwork, with relatively simple game-play, makes this a jolly addition to game collections with mass appeal. Suitable for 3-4 players, it makes frequent appearances in our home when friends or family express even the teensiest interest in playing a game for an hour or so.
How It Plays
In Black Fleet, you are a merchant-pirate sailing around the Caribbean, trading goods between ports to gain doubloons with which you buy development cards to improve your ships, until you finally pay the ransom of the governor’s daughter (the victory/endgame card). The map of the sea is your board; the coloured cubes are different types of goods; and your player pieces are ships.
On your turn, you will take command of three ships and move them around the board using movement cards: your own merchant, your own pirate, and one of the shared navy boats. The movement cards set out the maximum number of moves each ship can take, and you will only have two of them in your hand at any one time.
Your merchant can carry up to three goods, which must be transported between two ports – you’ll need to keep an eye on which port will buy which goods and for what price e.g. red goods are accepted everywhere, but yellow is not. Your pirate steals goods from other people’s merchants, which can become buried treasure – doubloons are earned for both attacking and burying. Your movement card will indicate whether you are taking control of either the violet or the yellow navy ship – these attack and sink pirate ships, for which doubloons are earned by the active player. Do not fear, ships that are sunk will re-enter the game on your next turn – this will happen multiple times!
As well as your movement cards, you will end up drawing, discarding and using fortune cards – these have special one-off effects like changing the movement allowance for one of your ships or making goods more valuable. You’ll only ever have three movement cards in your hand, so think wisely about which ones you’ll be able to make most use from on any given turn.
As the game continues, you’ll collect enough doubloons to afford a development card – you’ll need to have bought all four of them before you can buy the victory card. These will start face-down (though you can look at your own), only to be turned face-up when paid for and your ships develop additional special actions for the remainder of the game. You can buy the development cards in any order, and they all have different effects – we find it helpful to read out what special abilities each player has when the card is activated and each time they use the special action. For example, there is a card that lets your merchant ship attack other people’s pirates…
Black Fleet ranks amongst our favourite games in our household – we love it for its fabulous design (like the little plastic ship player pieces), its competitive nature (you can’t be a pirate without treasure), and its comic feel (so plundering doesn’t feel as mean). Unfortunately, it doesn’t have established two-player rules so it doesn’t get as much play-time as we’d like.
That concludes our thoughts on Black Fleet. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Black Fleet today click here!