That's Karl on the left. Eternity on the right.
I love Melissa, but don't tell her. It's a secret if she can find this. Shhhhh....
First Fleeters: A game worthy of Australian History?
My History with First Fleeters:
I immigrated to Australia 9 years ago. I followed a woman and left my home, job, friends and family behind. I took an airplane. But, in many ways, my flight was similar to that of the First Fleeters. Such as the food was terrible, I had a stop over along the way for re-provisioning and I got motion sickness.
Consequently, when I saw this game selling for cheap, I thought that I found an opportunity to gain some Australian History and relive the experience again. To this day, I’m trying to figure out why I thought either of these reasons was a good idea.
The rulebook is very well laid out. It manages to spread about 3 sentences of rules over the course of 8 pages, as each page is riddled with diagrams and pictures explaining such basic concepts such as where to place your beginning ship marker. At first this seemed inane and rather insulting. But, after playing the ‘game’ I understand that the target audience for this game is, what Australians call, “nuff-nuffs”
Definition here: http://www.doubletongued.org/index.php/dictionary/nuff_nuff/
It also contains 4 pages of the history of the First Fleeters. This would likely be interesting to someone who wears their pants around their chest , smokes a pipe and wears an ugly green cardigan. But I skipped it.
The map is utilitarian. It contains a track around the outside for your ‘marker’, and a map of the world where your ship travels around. Littered across the map are significant events of the First Fleet, containing such riveting facts such as how many provisions the boats carried and the dudes who got lynched for counterfeiting coins out of buttons.
The Ships – Card board pictorials in different coloured plastic stands
The playing pieces - Plastic things. Not sure what they are supposed to represent.
The Provisions – Actually quite cute little cheap brown plastic barrels. It appears that the First Fleeters only drank Rum on their way to Australia. Explains why a)The current population of Australia are such heavy beer drinkers. B)The First Fleeters crossed the Atlantic to South America, and then backtracked back across the Atlantic to go back around the southern tip of Africa. They were bloody blind!
The Boat – Each player has a little cardboard playmat infront of them. This is used to hold your up to 8 provisions and remind you what colour you are. I think a little flag that you could nail into the back of your hand would have worked better.
You get not only one, but two! In case you lose one.
The Player Aid
The ubiquitous player aid is sadly missing in First Fleeters. It would have been nice to have a diagrammatic presentation of the different die faces and a numerical reference chart. With out it, one is forced to count how many pips one has rolled each riveting turn.
Summary of Play:
The game begins with each player rolling a die and collecting that many provisions. You keep doing this each turn until you have 8. This helps make the game fun by giving each player a lucky chance to take an early lead instead of having the ships begin with 8.
After 2-8 rolls, once you have your 8 provisions. You need to advance your marker to the Move Ship box. You ignore all the exciting events on the board while doing this. So again, just keep rolling until your marker has moved 8 spaces ahead.
You now pay two provisions and get one roll to move your ship. Distance between ports varies from about 7 to 15 squares.
You now need to move your marker halfway around the board to the next Move Ship box before being able to move your ship again!
BUT, and here’s the great part where the true genius of First Fleeters kicks in. You now need to apply any riveting events that your marker now lands on. Such as…
Miss two turns!
When you finally reach the next Move Ship box, you make that all important die roll to move your ship forward once more! Beware, there are spaces on the map which can move your Ship backwards. So, when I rolled a one, moved forward one space and then moved backwards one space, I was sitting on the edge of my seat with excitement!
If you manage to play long enough to reach the next port, you actually have a decision to make! Yes, the ‘game’ actually begins and you have your first decision to make! Yowzers! How much rum do you fill your ship up with. Do you spend two turns to get the full complement of 8 rum, or do you risk leaving port ONE TURN earlier and risk it with only 4! The tension is unbelievable.
Review of Play:
There are two decisions you get to make in this game. One is how many turns (dice) do you roll while in port to reprovision. And second, there is an optional square on the board that allows you to ‘attempt’ to steal provisions from an opponent. This works by both rolling a die and high roll steals one or two provisions depending on the square. This mechanic allows both Screw the Leader and Deep Tactical Elements to enter the game.
Play until you Vomit. (refer variant below)
My overall rating for First Fleeters is a well thought out “1”. Aside from the two rare decisions you make above, this is no more a ‘game’ than taking turns rolling a die until one person gets to 1000. It’s a ‘game’ you could play against 3 chickens and win on average only 1 in 4. Considering the verbosity the target audience for this game is either barnyard animals or … hmm … other barnyard animals. This does defy the description of a game. The topic/history is for adults, but the ‘game’play is worse than CandyLand or Snakes and Ladders.
I’ve played many children’s games, and even poor ones have more important decision-making than this game. If looking for a roll-and-move game, I’d suggest Haunted Wood or FairyLand Adventure easily over this. Actually, I’d suggest rolling a die and taking that many steps, seeing who can walk around the block first before this.
While ‘playing’ my wife commented “Playing a game about Australian History, I can’t think of anything lamer. This is a new low for you! In school they spread out one lesson of Australian History over the whole year!” First Fleeters recreates this perfectly. The game could have been summarised by simply rolling a die and high roll wins, but it’s spread over 1000 rolls instead, in the attempt to stretch it out. I think a whole year of Australian History would be less boring than First Fleeters
I would suggest:
Wargamers would probably -1 to the rating.
Ameritrashers would probably come in as rated.
Eurogamers would need to -1 minimum, depending how far their VP track goes into the negatives.
Family/Light Gamers should also look elsewhere.
We did come up with a drinking variant, ideally played in a rowboat. Every time your ‘crew’ uses up a provision, you need to drink a shot. Last one to vomit over the side of the watercraft wins.
First Fleeters should be avoided. Collector’s item only for John Sand’s collectors. If someone offers you a game, just punch them in the face and say that was less painful than playing this game.
To answer the Title: Yes, this game is worthy of Australian History! Mind-numbingly boring, full of alcohol, and nobody actually wants it.