The room that we game in is above a pub and next to the kitchens so that when I get home and undress for bed all I can smell are chips. It makes me hungry.
Players: 4 (Plays 3-4)
Duration: 1 hour
Break out the rum, dust off the parrot and Ronseal up that wooden leg because it’s pirate time. In Black Fleet you get to raid merchants as pirates, avoid pirates as merchants, and sink pirates as the Navy. Throw in a some random player abilities and a few special boosts and you have some real chaos on the high seas. It looks lovely too.
The game takes place on a large board which is an inland sea covered with islands. The players get a merchant ship which starts at one of 5 ports around the board and a pirate ship which enters from 3 waterways at the edge of the board. There are also 2 navy ships which start in the centre. Players are dealt 2 movement cards, 4 development cards (with values of 5, 8, 11, 14) and a victory card (with value of 10). Players are trying to be the first to buy all their development cards and then their victory card using doubloons earned from trading goods, burying goods and sinking pirates.
On their turn players play a movement card which features a movement allowance for their merchant ship, their pirate ship and one of the two navy ships. When the merchant ship enters a port they take three goods in that ports colour and then try and take them to a different port. The further they go, the greater the value of the trade. Pirate ships are trying to move next to an opposing players merchant to steal one of their goods (one at any time) and then take it to an island to bury it for doubloons. Islands in the centre earn more but this is where the navy ships start and if you move one next to a pirate ship you sink it (they then re-enter on their next turn) and get two doubloons for your efforts. The slower movement cards get you fortune cards which you can use on a subsequent turn for a variety of effects. You then get to buy a development/victory card and draw a replacement movement card.
This game is crazy. With 4 players the seas are filled with chaos and that’s before players start buying development cards to give them increasibly greater boosts and powers. The development cards are randomly dealt and I was told that some combinations are game-breakingly good. My own combination of allowing the navy to attack merchants and giving 2 extra movement to the ship of my choice let me tap into another source of income and gave me the means to get it. I thought this was unfairly excellent until another player managed to get a huge amount of points in one go from an inspired combination of development and fortune cards. This was mostly random but I think there is an art to picking which of the developments to get first and then combo them together with your fortune cards. However by the end ships are flying all over the place and all plans sink without trace! On a piratey side note why do people love Pirates of the Caribbean so much. Squint and Johnny Depp looks like Russell Brand with extra guy-liner and Legolas doesn’t even down a single oliphaunt! Rubbish.
Players: 5 (Plays 3-5)
Duration: 3 hours
It was back onto the deep blue sea for the second game because Container is all about shipping. However, seeing as it’s a ‘proper’ game there are no pirates no special powers and definitely no dodgy pirate accents. For shame. In Container, players are trying to get points by making money and buying containers from ships. At the start of the game players are given a player board (including a factory in one of the five container colours and a warehouse), a unique scoring card and a rather excellent container ship piece. An island board is placed in the centre of the board.
On their turn players are given 2 actions. They can produce containers from their factories, buy a factory (up to a maximum of 4), buy containers from other players and put them in their dock (players can only have 2 per warehouse), buy a warehouse or move their container ship. Container ships can move into other players docks and buy/load containers (5 maximum), move out to sea, or go to the central island where there is a blind auction for their cargo. When the highest bid is revealed the ship owner can either take the money and the same amount from the bank or match the price offered and buy their own cargo. The game ends when two container types from the central supply are exhausted.
This all seems very simple but the complexity comes from 2 sources. Firstly this is a free market game so the prices of containers sold from factories and those loaded from the docks are set by players (within boundaries) and secondly from the unique scoring that containers have for each player. Containers that a player has bought from ships at auctions are either worth 10, 6, 5, 4 or 2 points but if a player has one of each type then the 5 value container is worth twice as much. However, before scoring occurs the container you have the most of is discarded meaning you also want to buy your lowest value container just so you can trash it at the end. It’s a balance that involves paying the right amount and specialising in one particular part of the process (producing, selling at the docks or shipping).
I couldn’t have done much worse at this game. I overpayed massively for a couple of shiploads as I clean forgot that money was also worth points at the end and I was desperate for containers in my scoring area. Big mistake. There was a bigger points gap between me and fourth than there was between fourth and first and my stupidity punished me hard. It still smarts! So what does it say about me that I want to play this game again? Probably that I am a masochist as well as an idiot but next time I will remember that where in most games you spend every last pound, in Container you CAN take it with you. Also, that container ship piece is one of the best gaming tokens ever! ALL ABOOOOAAAARDDDD!!!