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Subject: Black Fleet - a family guy-esque review rss

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Sándor Kolok
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OK, so is there a need for another Black Fleet review considering several excellent reviews have already been posted here? Probably not. But there’s always a first time and having decided recently to be more of a contributor rather than a just a boardgame voyeaurist/consumer on BGG I picked this game to be the subject of my first review as upon its arrival it became an instant hit with my family. This leads to the disclosure of some personal information helping to put my review in context: I’m a family guy (would not dare to call myself a family gamer if there’s such thing) with a relatively limited knowledge of boardgames, I play exclusively with my family (wife, 12-year old boy, 9-year old girl). Our present collection (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/collection/user/kolok) sufficiently approximates my experiences.
As for the review I’ll aim for a short and concise one. OK, to the subject then:

1. Components: by now, probably everyone knows that the overall production quality of Black Fleet is excellent so I won’t really go into details here. The box is nice, the cards – although not linen which I prefer – are of high quality material, the ships are superb, the overall (graphic) design is excellent, marvellous, top-notch – pick your adjective. Two minor caveats, not really important ones: as for the ships, their beauty can come with a price, as all those beautifully crafted little rigs and other small details makes them a little bit fragile, at our first play we immediately lost the stern-lamp of the white merchant. Unfortunately I do not know how it happened but I’m confident that falling to the floor or similar rude insults definitely did not take place. My conclusion: care has to be taken to handle the ships gently. My other, really-really insignificant nitpicking is, that the folding board is a little bit humpy when unfolded, not to the extent of disturbing the gameplay, it’s just to the extent of making a perfectionist with OCD leanings (yours truly) take notice.

2. Rulebook: IMO the rulebook is OK, although I’m aware that it’s a sensitive issue with rulebooks in general. It’s illustrated with pictures, examples of game situations are shown, at the end several important rules are re-stated in a humorous FAQesque fashion. As usual, there are some points (the text on certain cards, for example) which leave some room for alternative interpretations but there are not too many of them, they have also been mostly answered/sorted out in the threads here.

3. Gameplay: it is relatively simple (hey, it’s a family game), can be called tactical, but definitely not strategic I concur. Again, I’ll avoid going into details, you’ll find them in the other reviews here, I’d only emphasize a couple of things.
First, on the necessity of being „naughty”. OK, this is a pirate game, what did I expect? Well, reading about the game at first I thought there’re several possible ways to victory, some more peaceful than others. I was plainly wrong. You have to outright block/attack opponents in a regular manner to have a shot at winning, and this may be a serious concern depending on your family/group. But there’s hope, let me tell you: I have a little daughter who could be called typical: she mostly likes peaceful games without direct confrontation and/or overt/excessive competition, for example she likes the ship-building aspect of Galaxy Trucker but hates the way it is done in the game (heavy competition with serious time constrains). Well, even this little fairy blonde got quite comfortable with the inherent „ding-dong-fight” of Black Fleet, to the extent of regularly demanding another game of it on each day of the Xmas holiday. There’s hope also for those who want to drag their bigger kids, or maybe more gamer-like fellows into the game, as my son who definitely likes a little bit more complex and longer games (his fav is Catan with the Cities and Knights exp.) also liked the game very much right from the start.

Another thing which may put off some is, that after a couple of plays the game can get kind of repetitive, or at least may be perceived as such. IMO one of the reasons for this is the relatively small number of development cards: although there’re 24 of them, they’re put into 4 categories, so there’re only 6 cards in each one. Of course there’re are more than enough variation of your 4-card hands statistic-wise, but having just looked the cards those little sighs („Ooh, I had THIS card the last time as well”), they can come pretty quickly in some places I reckon… But I guess this is an inherent feature of family games in general, and in Black Fleet there are those fortune cards to stir/spice things up a little bit. Another thing with those development cards is that you have to purchase them all to win the game regardless you find them (your actual 4-card hand) useful or not. I had a vague thought that maybe some kind of auction mechanism could be worked out for acquiring the development cards instead, but I also usually think in these instances that it is mostly and likely rather selfish and ignorant to think that a player with average or even sub-par boardgaming knowledge and close-to-zero game designing experience (yours truly again) can come up with an ingenious idea that the designers had not thought of and tested already.

Lastly, there’s your usual „some cards are overpowered compared with others” comment, in an other review one particular card was even called out as a „game breaker”. I simply do not have enough experience with the game to conclude on this subject, I also had a feeling that some cards are better than others, but upon my limited experience, it is not the differences betwen individual cards, rather some extraordinary combos seemed to be capable of causing the dreaded runaway leader effect. Interestingly, those combos that granted the player substantially greater agility seemed to be more powerful to me (vs those giving extra money for example). But this may as well be due to playing ineffectively (aka having fun instead of carefully exploiting the maximum gains).

4. Replayability: I guess I really wrote about this in the previous section, my (partial) conclusion: after 5 games played in about a week (son: 3, daughter: 1, wife: 1, y.t.: big fat 0) we haven’t burnt out yet.

5. Price: I'm afraid I really can't say anything useful in this regard as I happen to live in a small country in Eastern Europe. Might be a little bit expensive to some, but I think if you find the game at least OK in the end, then together with the excellent production quality you won't regret buying it.

+1: Suggested age: On the box the lower limit is like, 13 or 14 ys. IMO this seems too much, my 9-y. old daughter plays the game very well. Recently I learned that it costs a lot of money for the producers to be able to put that "from 8 ys" text on their box, so this may be the case here as well. The alternative (and not very favorable, at least to us) explanation would be that we (my family) all played ineffectively (dumb) not being capable of grasping the deep complexity of the game

My overall conclusion (really „spoiler-ed” in my intro): the game should be nominated for the family GotY award. OK, this might be too strong of a statement from a non-gamer of my calibre, but that's how I feel.

So there you have it: your short... er, not, but at least very concise... er, forget about it, so a very personal family guy-esque take on Black Fleet.

Edit notes: having submitted it well after midnight I felt some minor editing was necessary (some stylistic & grammmar corrections, also forgot to add the sections about the price and suggested age in the original post). No major changes were done however.
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Corinna S
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A very good review, I wish I could write as well (and as witty) as you.
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Sándor Kolok
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Thank you very much!
Not like that I want to be buttered up (which I possibly won't be anyway), but I see the flag under your name so I'd like to tamely ask you how you'd rate my English on a scale of 10?
Be honest, please!
Thanks again!
 
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Corinna S
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Haha! I am German, though! But a translator by profession, so probably qualified ... To be really honest, before I saw your little flag, I totally thought you were a native speaker. Take that as a 9.9, at least, Sándor! Coming from another non-native speaker blush
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Marshal Anderson
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Just to agree about the low number of development cards. I guess it's quite a trick designing and balancing these, but more of them would really open the game up.

Grumbs
 
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Steve O'Grady
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kolok wrote:
Thank you very much!
Not like that I want to be buttered up (which I possibly won't be anyway), but I see the flag under your name so I'd like to tamely ask you how you'd rate my English on a scale of 10?
Be honest, please!
Thanks again!


I never noticed a translation issue, never considered you might not be English speaking...until you pointed it out in your subsequent posting, and only them did I notice your flag icon. Like the other poster...9.9 for your English.

Good review. My 2 children are much older (23 and 27, and are out on their own), but I truly enjoy playing with them and my wife during the holidays. And of course, Black Fleet was a hit at our table this season.

Enjoy gaming with your family.
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Sándor Kolok
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GeekDadGamer wrote:

I never noticed a translation issue, never considered you might not be English speaking...until you pointed it out in your subsequent posting, and only them did I notice your flag icon. Like the other poster...9.9 for your English.

Good review. My 2 children are much older (23 and 27, and are out on their own), but I truly enjoy playing with them and my wife during the holidays. And of course, Black Fleet was a hit at our table this season.

Enjoy gaming with your family.


TYVM, you're too kind.
Good to hear that you can play with your children even when they reached adulthood, you made my day, thanks for that as well.
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Sándor Kolok
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CorinnaS wrote:
Haha! I am German, though! But a translator by profession, so probably qualified ... To be really honest, before I saw your little flag, I totally thought you were a native speaker. Take that as a 9.9, at least, Sándor! Coming from another non-native speaker blush


Thank you, I'm flattered!
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Pat Connolly
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Excellent review, better English than many native speakers/writers. I would never have guessed that English was not your native language, except for your mentioning it. But now that I'm looking for tip-offs, there is the way you use quotation marks. Standard English has both starting and ending quote marks "in the air" and often not even tilted inward. I wish I could even communicate in a language other than English. I jokingly claim to be fluent in four languages - English, Mathematics, Texas Instruments, and Casio.
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Sándor Kolok
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patcon wrote:
Excellent review, better English than many native speakers/writers. I would never have guessed that English was not your native language, except for your mentioning it. But now that I'm looking for tip-offs, there is the way you use quotation marks. Standard English has both starting and ending quote marks "in the air" and often not even tilted inward. I wish I could even communicate in a language other than English. I jokingly claim to be fluent in four languages - English, Mathematics, Texas Instruments, and Casio.

Thank you for your kind words as well! Although I'm getting somewhat uneasy sliding completely off-topic, we should really be talking about Black Fleet, or at least how to write a proper review, no?
As for the quot. marks I used to know that!
I'd definitely love to be fluent in maths! (also in music, but I'm completely analphabetic in the latter )
 
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K Murray
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This is a great review and carries my sentiment exactly. It great for the family and among my friends its regarded as Diplomacy light.

A question though, could you link an article in regards to the cost for boardgames showing the From 8 Years age category? I am very interested to find out more.
 
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Sándor Kolok
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Zidago wrote:

A question though, could you link an article in regards to the cost for boardgames showing the From 8 Years age category? I am very interested to find out more.

I saw a game designer mentioning it in a BGG thread, I think it was Antoine Bauza with regards to some discussion of Samurai Spirit. It was just a mention, no additional information were revealed, I guess one can try and google it.
 
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K Murray
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Alright, thanks.
 
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