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Subject: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: The little brother of Fleet rss

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Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Fleet Wharfside

Fleet, by designers Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle, is a well-known and highly regarded strategy card game that has been favourably compared with San Juan. It also has an expansion, called Fleet: Arctic Bounty. In Fleet, players are trying to fulfil contracts by fishing.

But what happens with all the fish that are caught? That's where Fleet Wharfside comes in. It's the third member of the Fleet family, and is a small box game in the same universe. In this game, players collect fish from their fleet at the wharf, which they use to complete contracts from the Market. As the official description puts it, "It's what happens when the fleet comes home".



Strictly speaking, Fleet Wharfside is not a sequel to Fleet, although thematically it certainly can be considered a follow-up, and features similar artwork and graphic design. But this game is a much smaller game that is part of the EGG series from Eagle Gryphon Games, which is a series of very lightweight and portable games. So while Fleet Wharfside comes from a respected heritage and has a familiar look, it deserves to be evaluated on its own merits rather than being compared too closely to its bigger and older brother.

So let's show you what you get and tell you something about how it works!



COMPONENTS

Game box

Like all the games in the EGG series, the box is a small portable box that fits in the palm of your hand, and in this case features an artwork style that will be familiar to owners of Fleet.



The back of the box tells us the following:

"Wharfside is a stand alone card game set in the Fleet universe by its award-winning design team. The fleet has come home and in Wharfside its captains must fulfill contracts from local Ridback Bay businesses. Each turn players will either collect fish from their fleet at the wharves or purchase a contact from the market. Contracts provide a bonus while in play, but once they are completed the bonus goes away too! Choose and complete the most lucrative contracts and reap your rewards!"



Component list

Inside we find 111 cards, including the following:
● 4 Captains
● 4 Markets
● 4 Buildings
● 20 Contracts
● 7 Trophies
● 4 Buildings
● 72 Goods
● Instructions



The cards have a high quality linen finish that makes an immediate positive impression, with quality artwork and a pleasing graphic design to match; they exude quality from the moment you first hold them in your hand.

Goods

This deck of 72 cards features six different goods: King Crabs, Lobster, Swordfish, Tuna, Oysters and Shrimp. You'll be collecting these from the Wharf, trying to get the right combinations to complete contracts.



Contracts

Did I mention Contracts? You can purchase these (there are 20 in total), and then work towards completing them with the Goods cards. While working on them, you also will get the bonus it provides (e.g. potential bonus goods cards) until it is complete.



Markets

The price of the contracts is determined by the Market cards, which rotate as costs change. Three Contracts are always revealed and available for purchase at the Market, with the fourth market spot being where you can purchase Buildings.



Buildings

The four Buildings are a short-cut way of getting 9-12 points, but they don't give benefits like Contracts do, and you can only have a maximum of two in total.



Trophies

The seven trophies provide an additional way of scoring points, with bonuses going to players who are the first to complete contracts with a certain number of goods, and also to the player with the most King Crabs at game end.



Captains

There are four Captain cards, players all getting one at game start, and these function as a player reference card, and well as awarding a bonus point for Contracts with a particular good type.



Rules

The rulebook is available on the publisher's page here. While it covers all the elements of gameplay quite nicely, the font size is very tiny and that makes it somewhat challenging to read.



GAME PLAY

The main mechanic of Fleet Wharfside is set collection, and you are trying to collect different types of fish to fulfil point scoring contracts.

Besides your player area, there are two main areas where gameplay takes place, and on your turn you'll perform actions in one of these two areas: the Wharf, or the Market.



The Wharf

This is where you draw two goods cards from a selection of face up cards; contracts you're working on will give you special bonuses that assist you. Before taking these cards, you can allocate up to two goods cards to contracts you're working on.



The Market

This is where you purchase contracts (also using goods cards) to work on, which you'll then fulfil at the Wharf. Instead of a contract you can also purchase a building, which cost more but are also worth more points.



That's the gist of the flow of play, although there are quite a number of small details I haven't mentioned, including extra ways of earning points by setting aside King Crabs, and achieving trophies by being the first to complete contracts.

The game ends when someone has completed five contracts/buildings (four in a 4 player game).

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Scoring: The bulk of your points in this game comes from completed contracts, which will typically account for about 40 points, with 10-20 points coming from various bonuses: captain bonuses, trophy bonuses, king crabs, cards in hand, and incomplete contracts. Without these extras, the game would be quite simple and straight forward, but it would probably also be somewhat boring. Trying to eek out extra points and gain small advantages is what makes your decisions interesting, and gives you more to think about. But this also comes at the cost of some added complexity which somewhat belies the light-weight nature of the game.

Complexity: The depth and complexity of Fleet Wharfside mostly corresponds to the size of the box it comes in: it's a lightweight game that shouldn't be taken too seriously. Considering that it's not a very deep game, there is a bit of a learning curve with the rules, which can seem somewhat more complicated than they actually are. It doesn't help that there's somewhat of a point-salad as mentioned above, with bonus points coming from the captains, trophies, king crabs, incomplete contracts, and some cards in hand, all in addition to the contracts/buildings which are the main way of scoring points; these elements take away from the elegance of the game and could provide a slight barrier to entry. There is also some fiddliness that results from the changing prices in the market and ability to pay for these prices with sets of greater value.


Accessibility: Despite the above, with not too much effort, the game isn't that hard to learn, and in reality the game is simpler than it first appears. Just expect your first game to be somewhat of a learning session, and from that point on you will be able to focus on enjoying the gameplay. And if you're willing to give it a shot, you will find something worthwhile here, that you'll probably want to return to after your first game.

Decisions: At times you will find yourself frustrated by the card draw, but the game does let you be making enough choices for it to be fun and enjoyable. Decisions aren't always obvious, and you will have to manage your limited hand size of six and the limited contracts/buildings you are working on as best as possible, so there are elements of hand management that play an important role. There's also some tension as you compete for the trophies in a race with your opponents.

Scalability: We especially enjoyed Fleet Wharfside with just two players. While it could start to drag with a full player count of four, it seems especially good with 2-3 players.

Components: The theme is a decent one, and the quality of the cards is outstanding. On the level of both component quality and graphic design it's a very attractive game.



Recommendation

So is Fleet Wharfside for you? In the end, despite some initial complexity, and a light feel, there's still enough game and quality in this small box to make the people I was playing with be impressed with it. After our first game, we found ourselves looking forward to playing again, and half a dozen return visits didn't disappoint, although the point-salad scoring added a degree of complexity that didn't quite fit with the lighter nature of the game.

Fleet Wharfside is relatively light and casual, but even if it doesn't match the strategic depth of its bigger and older brother Fleet, this is still fun card game that offers enough choices to make it worth coming back to.



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Matt Riddle
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Thank you Ender! Well thought out (and well formatted ) review as always
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Susie_Cat
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We took our copy to Essen to play on the train. We got through several games both there and back, and really enjoyed it. It's a bit of a table hog, but if you can find an empty carriage is great. Not sure how you get through a game in 10 mins though...

Susie_Cat.
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Dan Mansfield
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I've enjoyed this game with 2 or 3 players, from adults to 7-year-olds, and it's quite accessible to all levels of players. I agree that the "point salad" adds a bit of complexity to the final scoring and can take something away from the overall game plan when there are surprises in the final scoring. However, that goes away once a few games are under the belt and everyone is aware of those hidden points.

Nice, thorough review!
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Ender Wiggins
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Susie_Cat wrote:
We took our copy to Essen to play on the train. We got through several games both there and back, and really enjoyed it. It's a bit of a table hog, but if you can find an empty carriage is great.

Not sure how you get through a game in 10 mins though...

Good point about the table space required, Susie_Cat.

As for the game length, on the box it says "20-30 minutes". That sounds about right to me, based on the games we've played (mostly two player).
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Susie_Cat
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EndersGame wrote:

As for the game length, on the box it says "20-30 minutes". That sounds about right to me, based on the games we've played (mostly two player).


My mistake, I thought it was "10-20 minutes" - it's been a week or two! laugh

Even so, I think our first game or two took us an hour or so (with two players). After a few games, we made sure we were playing correctly and then we began to wonder about the time thing. So, we made a point of trying a game played quickly. The conclusion was that we were getting into a sort of "group think" where both of us were concentrating on building our engine which was taking quite a bit of time. It was quite enjoyable played like that, but very different to the "speedy version". If all players get into that "save up to buy the perfect card" mode, the game can easily take an hour or so in our (two player) experience.

Susie_Cat.
 
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