Ahoy, matey! Thar be a board game about pirates plunderin’ treasure and the merchants who dare t’ sail the deadly seas alongside ‘em!
In Black Fleet, you play as pirate, merchant, and the navy – all on your turn. The ultimate goal is to earn enough gold to buy up an entire series of five Development cards laid out before you at the start of the game. Each Development card, when purchased and flipped over, holds a bonus to assist in your pursuit of dominance on the high seas.
Your merchants are trying to take goods safely from one port to another, trading the value in for gold. Your pirate is trying to intercept other merchants to steal their goods and burying it for, you guessed it, gold. And the navy is on the hunt for pirates, and you’ll attempt to direct the two law-enforcing vessels in the direction of your opponents.
A board game like this would seem a natural fit for dice. Something to roll for movement of the different ships. Instead, Black Fleet makes use of cards, drawn and played on your turn, that define how much movement your merchant, pirate, and one of the two navy ships can complete. Since you can have multiple cards in your hand, it does give you some choice each turn, but playing a card for movement is just never, ever, ever as satisfying as watching dice bouncing around a table.
Black Fleet has all the makings of a game I should love. It has pirates, simple combat, and ways to screw over your friends. What it’s missing, though, is the fun. It just isn’t that fun. You’re playing scalawags and swashbuckling merchants, right? These are men who brawl and drink and sing and tell great stories of their conquests. Sounds like a blast. And none of that is here.
Times Played: Twice
Times Won: Once
Most Often Played With: A trio of friends
Expansions Owned: No expansions are out yet
I like pirates. I like games with pirates, movies with pirates, talking like a pirate…
PLAYING BLACK FLEET
- Play a movement card
- Move ships based on the movement numbers on the card (your merchant, your pirate, and one of the two naval ships)
- Merchants who reach port sell their goods and restock from any type available
- Pirates adjacent to Merchant can steal one good
- Naval ship adjacent to a pirate can sink it collect a gold reward
- Play any Fortune cards you want (these are small one-time boosts)
- Draw 1 Movement card
- Pay for 1 Development card if you can (flip face up, you now earn its bonus power)
- Discard down to 3 Fortune cards
IT’S SORT OF LIKE…
All of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.
MOST FUN WHEN…
All things come together in one turn your merchant delivers high-value goods, your pirate robs your opponent just before they’ve reached port, and the navy sinks your wife’s brigand.
WANTED TO FLIP THE TABLE WHEN…
All of those things happened to me.
The art on the cards if colorful and fun, tricking you into believing the game itself will be colorful and fun. The ships are nice plastic models and it’s definitely a treat to place your goods in the slots on your ship. And the gold coins… so nice to even touch. Fantastic coins. Some of the best you’ll find in a game.
There’s very little to the rules and this is one that can be taught quickly.
CAN YOU PLAY THIS GAME DRUNK?
Drinking game idea: Take a swig each time your pirates plunder a merchant. Then sing a pirate song whenever you bury your ill-gotten booty.
THREE BEST THINGS
- Easy to learn.
- Delightful little coins!
- The joy of plucking a good from your friend’s merchant ship and setting it in your pirate ship’s hold.
THREE WORST THINGS
- Drawing cards for movement is not as cool as rolling a few custom dice.
- Lacks depth.
- Playing as merchants, pirates, and the navy all on the same turn is kind of weird
NUMBER OF SHIPS I’D PLUNDER TO GET A COPY OF BLACK FLEET
None. Piracy is wrong and you should feel bad for even thinking about it.
GET THIS IF
- You love pirates.
- Great components are a big part of what makes a game enjoyable for you.
- You want something light and easy to master.
Questions about Black Fleet? Ask in the comments. Played Black Fleet and have your own opinion? Tell us! We may feature you in the Dog and Thimble Podcast.