In Black Fleet you control both a merchant ship and a pirate ship. Your job is to get your merchant ship from one port to another to deliver goods (and make money) whilst trying to steal from the other players’ merchant ships using your pirate (also to make money). Also, on your turn you’ll be able to move one of the Navy ships sailing around the board – their sole purpose is to sink pirate ships, so you’ll be steering it away from your own pirate and toward the other players’.
The way the game works is really simple. You always have two Movement cards to choose from, and on your turn you play one of these cards and move the three ships (merchant, pirate, navy) the appropriate amount of spaces, in any order you choose. If your merchant arrives at a port, they deliver goods and reload. If your pirate sails alongside a rivals’ merchant ship, it steals a goods cube from it (and sinks it, if that cube was the last one aboard). If the navy ship sails alongside any pirate ship, it sinks it.
Delivering goods and sinking pirates or merchant ships get you doubloons, which are obviously key to winning the game. In front of every player there’s a tableau of cards that you pay money to flip during the game – as well as measuring everybody’s progress, they also (when flipped) give each player an individual special power on the board. When the number 10 card is flipped by any player, that triggers the end of the game.
You can also play any amount of Fortune cards during your turn, and these have a self-explanatory power on them that allow you to break the usual rules – sailing further, attacking from further away and so on.
Black Fleet is a fast-moving game for those who like a bit of ribaldry in their play!
A bona fide classic or another shelf-filler? For me Black Fleet is somewhere in-between: fun with the right people as the bunfight-at-sea nature of it all feels the right side of chaotic, but if your players want something a little more complex or thinky it’ll be a dry experience.
And certainly you need at least three players – for two I’d say it’s rather dull, as you simply have too much freedom.
The game is all about Take That. Get used to your ships being periodically sunk (they always come back) and don't take anything personally!
Not much. Black Fleet is a rapid game.
Again, not much. Choices are rarely agonizing and aims are simple.
For those who don't mind being serially scuttled and stolen from, Black Fleet will reward with multiple plays. The cards ensure randomness.