Spiel 2014 Preview: Black Fleet

Posted by James (admin) on August 11th, 2014

Black Fleet gameFresh from their SdJ nomination with Splendor, Space Cowboys are releasing the very fun-looking, pirate game of Black Fleet.

The board shows a sea full of Caribbean islands and ports.  Players each have a pirate ship and a merchant ship, plus there are 2 navy ships on the board too.  On their turn, players play a movement card from their hand (usually only 2 cards).  This states how many spaces their merchant ship, their pirate ship, and one specific navy ship can move.  The ships can be moved in any order and each can perform one action during its move too.

Pirate ships not already carrying treasure can attack an opponent’s merchant ship if in a neighbouring space earning 2 dubloons and taking 1 of its cargo (plus sinking the merchant ship if it has no cargo remaining).  Pirate ships carrying treasure (stolen cargo) can bury it on specific islands to earn extra dubloons.  Merchant ships can deliver goods at ports that will accept for them (ports pay different amounts for different colours of goods, but don’t accept all colours).  Selling goods means the merchant ship then gains a full load of goods of the colour that matches the port too.  The navy ships can be moved next to opponent’s pirate ships to sink them (earning 2 dubloons too).  Sunk ships may be inconvenient but they are back in play at the start of your next turn so you’re never without all your movement options.

As players move around, they can only move through the ships they’re allowed to move on their turn (i.e. their own and one of the navy ships).  This means the game is not only pick-up-and-collect as well as move-and-raid, but it also a game that should have plenty of humourous blocking of other players too.

Black Fleet game development cards

Your development cards (with player card on the left and victory card on the right) form a continuous scene

Each player has a set of development cards in front of them and can buy one at the end of their turn which turns it over and gives them an on-going special ability.  When a player has bought all of their development cards, they can buy their victory card to win the game.

In addition to the special abilities from development cards, players may also gain Fortune cards which can also be played for special effects.  The gaining (and loss) of Fortune cards is determined by the movement card you play.

Black Fleet box

Black Fleet sounds like a very fun and simple game – makes me think of Merchants and Marauders Lite which is no bad thing.  I can see it being a good family game, but I know I’ll also play it with my serious gamer groups too who will be especially blocking in their play.  I’m looking forwards to playing this one.

The visuals and production quality remind me of games by Swiss publisher GameWorks – especially their pirate game Jamaica; however, this is not surprising as one of the founders of Space Cowboys is Sébastien Pauchon who founded GameWorks.  The game is designed by Sebastian Bleasdale who was co-designer of the very good Keyflower.

You can read the rules and game details on Space Cowboys rather amazing looking website (probably one of the nicest I’ve seen) using this link: bga.me/blackfleet

For more Spiel 2014 previews, check out my Spiel 2014 Previews page which lists the games on my radar with links to their previews too.


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