“Fleet is an exciting, strategic card game with in-depth decisions and thrilling game play that new and experienced gamers can enjoy! In Fleet, you’ll acquire licenses, launch boats, and fish the great briny blue. The player who best manages his resources and acquires the most VP via fish, licenses, and boats will build the strongest fleet and lead his crew to victory!” – Board Game Geek (and maybe from the manufacturer)
I bought a copy of Fleet to fill a specific need in my game collection. I don’t have more than a few smaller-yet-harder games. I have Azul and Sagrada which mostly fit this need. I also have Nova Luna which is a little bit less complicated but still interesting enough to count in this area. I also have Arboretum which is a serious game but it is also a very competitive game with a lot of player interaction. Fleet fits in with these games and has interesting mechanics making it worth having.
Fleet is mostly a card game with two types of cards: Boat/Money/Captain cards and License cards. The boat/captain/money cards get used for any of those three things and when a player uses a card as a boat, it can no longer be spent as money or used as a captain for another boat. The choice of using a card for one of three things is one of the interesting features of the game. The license cards are used to provide a player with a special ability as well as allowing a player to launch boats of the type matching the license.
The game plays like this: Players bid on a small set of licenses until each player has bought one or passed. The the players have the opportunity to launch a boat by placing a boat card in front of them. Boats cost money so other cards, and sometimes crates of fish, are used as payment. Players can then play a face down card on a boat to captain it. Players then fish by placing crates of fish (little cubes) on the boats with captains. There is a limit of four crates so it’s important to launch boats fairly often. There’s a round of players processing fish and trading some for cards but this only applies to players with a processing vessel license. And finally, players draw some new cards. These different phases or steps of gameplay are straight forward and the only rule problem I came across was in the Launch and Captain phase; It’s not clear why this is a single phase and if players get to use a special power to draw cards if they launch a boat before or after they play a captain card. We just treat launching as being a separate round from captaining. And of course, I’ll look into clarifying the rules after I write this post. I wanted to include this confusing to show what might be confusing to others who read this then play the game.
The licenses are fairly straight forward if you read the rules carefully. For instance, the Lobster license gives players the special ability to add a captain to two boats instead of one when captaining boats. It also allows the player to draw cards based on the number of captains they have on all of their boats. This is the total number of captains, not the number of captains added to boats in this round. Contrast that to the Cod license that only allows a player to draw a card if they launched any boats in the current round. The Lobster license was confusing to one player that forgot to draw cards in rounds where they didn’t add any captains to any boats.
After a few rounds, each player will likely end up with a few of the same abilities as other players and with a few different abilities. The game then feels a bit like others games that start off with each player having a special ability of their own (Terraforming Mars, Root, etc…).
The game gets a little repetitive during the middle rounds but not to the point of being boring; This is not a long game and should take experienced players about 10 minutes per player to finish the game. That’s just a guess but it seems about right since our games with three and four players took between 35 and 50 minutes and we have only played the game twice.
Be careful in the bidding phase because there is an urge to replace any bought licenses with a new one before the next person starts a bid. The rules say to replace any missing licenses (in the bidding area) after the entire bidding phase is done. This is another rule I want to double-check since we played it wrong the first time and the game was shorter because of it. In the second game, I think we played it correctly and the game was longer and we eventually used all of the fish crates (small cubes) right at the end of the game. Running out of licenses or fish cubes triggers the end of the game and players simply finish the current round. There’s no point in drawing cards or even in processing and trading during the last round since neither of those things can lead to a change of score. Well, processing can lower a players score but there’s no reason to do that in the last round since there is no way to spend the processed fish crates at that point in the game.
If it isn’t obvious from the text above, here are the components of the game:
- Playing cards that can be used as a boat, a captain, or as money.
- Large cards that are fishing licenses that allow players to launch boats of that type. Licenses also give the player unique abilities that differ for each license.
- Wood cubes that represent crates of fish.
Onn Board Game Geek, I gave the game a 7 because I am so far always willing to play. Right now, it’s more like an 8 out of ten because I suggest it sometimes. But since I only suggest it because it’s new, I feel like a 7 is a good rating from me. Board Game Geek numbers have specific meaning and the average rating for the best games out there is usually around 8.5; A game getting a 7 is a good game and worth buying if the theme and gameplay seem interesting. The only downside to the game is that if a player falls behind somehow, it’s hard to catch up. But not having a lot of licenses might be because the player is launching a lot of boats and filling them with fish, all things that are worth points in the end. It’s hard to say at this point of the game has any real problems and I recommend playing it for anyone interested in games that are more complicated than Exploding Kittens.