Ridback Bay is a remote and timeless village in the northwest corner of Nunavut, Canada. A formerly inaccessible bay has now become accessible and is rich with sea life. The world's greatest fishermen are flocking to the bay to harvest the bountiful supply. The docks of Ridback Bay are being revitalised and as a fisherman of the high seas you will need to acquire licenses, launch boats and fish, fish, fish to capitalise on this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Fleet is a 2-4 player auction, hand management card game designed by Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle. It sets players out to acquire licenses, launch boats, and fish to build the strongest fleet and gain victory points.
Each player starts the game with the same starting hand of cards; a Cod, King, Crab, Shrimp, Tuna, Lobster and Processing Vessel boat card. The License deck is created as detailed in the rulebook with a combination of premium licenses and normal licenses. The number of licenses available for auction is equal to the number of players. The crates of fish are placed in the middle of the player area and the number used is player dependent.
Fleet is played over a number of rounds with each round having five phases.
Players auction for a fishing license from those on display, using boat cards from their hand as cash. If the player successfully wins the license it is placed in front of them. Once a player has obtained a license they can't obtain another this round and do not participate in future auctions. This way every player will have the option to obtain a license, unless they decide to pass.
Players can launch boats from their hand that match a fishing license that they own. They place the boat in front of them and pay the costs using boats cards from their hand or processed crates of fish. A player can typically only launch one boat per round.
Players can then hire a captain by placing a boat card from their hand face-down on an available boat. Each boat can only have one captain and each player can typically only hire one captain per round.
Any boat that is not at capacity (max of four crates) and has a captain produces fishes. Players take a crate of fish from the supply and place it on their boat.
If a player has a processing vessel license they can place one crate of fish per boat on the license for later use. Processed crates of fish can be used as cash ($1) towards any transaction or traded for boat cards in this or later rounds. Any crates of fish used this way are removed from the game and not put back in to the general supply.
Players draw two cards from the supply and discard one of the cards just drawn.
The licenses not only allow you to gain fish, they also offer bonuses depending on which license a player has obtained. These bonuses also increase in power the more of a single type of license a player has. For example, the shrimp license grants a player a discount off every transaction including launching boats and during the auction. A single shrimp license gives $1, two shrimp licenses gives $2 and so on. The Cod License allows players to launch two boats and draw an additional card if a player does launch a boat.
The game of Fleet can end in a number of ways
- There are not enough license cards to refresh the license auction at the end of the auction phase. The current round is played out to the end of the phases.
- There are no more crates of fish available. If the last fish is taken during the fishing phase, this phase is completed and the game ends. All players that should receive crates of fish during this phase still do and any other means is used to track the additional crates.
Points are awarded based on:
- Victory points listed in the license cards.
- Victory points listed on the launched boats.
- One victory point for each crate of fish on a boat (Processed crates of fish have zero VP).
- Bonus victory points for the king crab license.
The player with the most victory points is the winner.
Final Thoughts on Fleet
Fleet is a neat card game packed in to a small box. For a small box it has a few interesting choices to make. Do you double down and specialise on the same licenses to get the bigger and better extra bonuses, or do you become a jack of all trades and go for multiple different licenses, you might not get the bigger bonuses, but you will get smaller bonuses more often.
Another component I like about Fleet is the multi-use cards. I love multi-use cards in game. In Fleet the cards are used to pay for licenses, pay for boats and used as captains for the boats. Careful management of these cards is essential to the game as you can soon run out. Players are only gaining one new card every round as standard (not including any bonus cards from licenses or fish crates). One card is not a lot when you need this for the auction, launch and captain phases.
The game is not long, typically taking around 45 minutes, and there are tough choices to make throughout. The iconography takes a bit to get used to, but after a game or so it is easy enough to understand. All in all, Fleet is a great game packed in to a small box.