The Governor’s daughter has been kidnapped and only by paying a hefty ransom can she be saved. It’s up to you and your crew of shipmates, some noble, some…not so noble to raise the money and pay for her release.
Black Fleet by Sebastian Bleasdale is a pick up and deliver game with a heavy dose of take that! You control a Merchant Vessel, a Pirate Ship and each player takes turns controlling the Navy. Black Fleet plays 3-4 people and lasts about an hour.
The board is made up of a bunch of islands and atolls strewn across the Caribbean. There are five port towns, each with a different commodity that they produce. Merchant ships will load up with three cubes of goods when in town before setting out to try and deliver the goods to another port. Players are rewarded with 2-3 doubloons for each good they deliver depending how far they had to travel.
Pirates are out there to mess with the Merchants. If a Pirate can get themselves beside a Merchant they steal a good from them putting it in their ship and earning two doubloons for their trouble. Pirates don’t want to deliver the goods to a port. They want to bury it…they’re Pirates, duh. Luckily many of the islands have the perfect beach or cove for burying treasure. If Pirates can deliver their goods there they will make some doubloons.
Finally we’ve got the Navy Ships out there to keep some sense of justice on the high seas. There are two Navy ships and each turn players will get to control one of them. Navy ships sink the Pirates if they can get next to them, earning two doubloons in the process. Not to fear if your Pirates are sent to Davy Jones’ Locker. They’ll be back on the board next turn, resurrected like a ghost ship from a sea shanty.
Now you’ve probably realized that Black Fleet is just like real life in that it’s all about earning doubloons. But where are those doubloons going? Each player has a unique set of goal cards they must complete to win the game. The cost to complete the goals range between 5-14 doubloons (or 20 for a longer game). Once a goal card is paid for it can be flipped and the special ability on the back is yours for the rest of the game. Each card is unique, so while everyone has a 5 cost card the benefit it give you when completed will be special to your character. The goals are dealt out randomly each game, so the combination you get will vary every time you play.
Goals can be paid for and flipped in any order except for the 10 value card. You may be able to afford the 5 value goal earlier, but the benefit of flipping the 8 value card might be worth waiting an extra turn. The 10 value goal depicts the Governor’s daughter. It can only be bought once all the other goals have been achieved. Once someone is able to pay the ransom you finish out the current round and the game is over. Only players that have rescued the Governor’s daughter are eligible to win. Of those, it’s the one with the most doubloons that takes home the victory.
The first thing that struck me about Black Fleet is how pretty a game it is. The board is really eye catching and colourful, the card art is really cool and thematic and the components are amazing! Black Fleet comes with 10 awesome mini ships. They are designed so that the goods fit right in them. You truly get the sense of delivering corn from one port to another. When a Pirate steals from you it’s as if you’ve been boarded and one of your goods cubes is transferred over. The doubloons are heavy, shiny gold and silver coins stamped on both sides. It makes it a lot easier to get into a theme when all the bits are done right.
Black Fleet also is a pretty easy game to understand. Each turn you’re going to advance your ships based on one of two movement cards you’ll play from your hand. Each movement card gives points for your Merchant and Pirate ships as well as one of the two Navy vessels. Take your movement, earn your doubloons and draw back up. Pretty straight forward. You might also get your hands on Fortune Cards. They will help with movement, earn you extra doubloons for deliveries or give you some temporary ability. The box recommends 14+, but I’m sure you can play with buccaneers much younger and still have a great time.
Typically pick up and deliver is not my cup of tea…errr…grog, but Black Fleet does the trick. Well worth a try!