Fleets of Fortune
Designer: Andrew Tippin
Artist: Sid R. Quade
Publisher: ROXIE Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-5
Playing Time: 30-60 min
Main mechanic / Theme: Deck Building, Card Drafting, Take That / Pirates
A fast-paced romp on the high seas!
(From the Publisher) "Hoist the main anchor and batten down the hatches, as you compete to rule the seven seas in Fleets of Fortune! Recruit your Crew members, amass your wealth, and use your riches to acquire your Fleet of ships to conquer the world. Rough tides await, and it will take an even rougher band of buccaneers to heft and hornswaggle their way to the top. Do you have what it takes, or are ye just another cowardly landlubber?"
In fleets of fortune, you compete against one to four opponents to see who can build the most powerful Fleet of four ships and recruit a Captain to lead them. End game triggers once these conditions have been met (those who have not played yet in the round do get an opportunity to finish if they can) and the player who finished their fleet first is declared the winner. In the event that multiple players finish in the same round, the player with the most Crew members (with the second tiebreaker being the most gems left over) wins!
Gameplay and mechanics:
Fleets of Fortune is very quick to set up; you are basically just setting out decks of cards, dealing five Influence cards to each player and dealing out a row of 5 crew for purchase. The game itself plays equally fast. You are using your Influence cards to recruit Crew members who in turn produce gems that are used to purchase the four types of ships (Fleet cards) that you need to complete your Fleet. On your turn, you must perform two separate actions (each action may only be performed once per turn.) The available actions are: exchange Influence cards, recruit Crew member, put Crew member to work, purchase Fleet, and search for Pirate Booty.
Exchange Influence cards – Influence cards serve as currency to hire Crew members to your ship and are of six types: parrots, ale, pistols, cannons, swords and wilds that can be used as any one of the previous five types. As an action, you may exchange any number of the five Influence cards in your hand by discarding the unwanted cards and drawing new cards from the Influence deck.
Recruit Crew member – You may use your Influence cards to purchase a Crew member from the Crew row by paying the cost listed on the Crew card. Special Crew members also have an alternate cost that can be paid using specific amounts of dubloons from the Pirate Booty deck. The ability of the regular Crew (in the form of the color of gem that they provide) is pictured on the top right of the Crew card.
Types of regular Crew – Diamond, Emerald, Ruby and Sapphire (corresponding to the four gem types available in the game.
Special Crew – Captains (each has unique art but all have the same ability) are needed to win the game and allow the player to exchange gems at the rate of 3 of one color for 2 of any other color; Mutiny Crew cards allow the player to steal one regular Crew member from an opponent and are then discarded, and Thief Crew cards which allow the player to steal up to 3 gems from an opponent (not Pirate Booty) and are then discarded.
Put Crew member to work – This action allows you to activate one of your special Crew members or one type of your regular Crew members. (ex: if you have 3 Sapphire Crew members, they all activate and you collect 3 gems.)
Purchase Fleet – You can use gems that you have collected or Dubloons from the Pirate Booty deck to purchase Fleet cards from the Fleet card decks. In order to win the game you must purchase one of each type of Fleet card.
Search for Pirate Booty – This action allows you to draw a card from the Pirate Booty deck. These cards range from Dubloons and Gems to cards that let you manipulate the Crew member row and Fleet decks or steal Pirate Booty or Crew members from other players.
Theme, Artwork and Illustration, Graphic Design and Layout (optional)
The artwork/illustration for this game is fairly minimalistic but stays nicely on theme. Ship cards look nice, crew has a bit of a cartoonish feel and item cards are fairly simply but all art conveys what the card is clearly and the cards from each set differ enough from one another to easily identify what they are. I liked that all of the Captains had different art to make them unique even though they perform the same functions.
The basic mechanics of the game could really be applied to almost any theme, but the art and some of the special cards that let you steal and mess with your opponent do give this game a nice, pirate theme!
I’m always a fan of games that have a bit of a “take that element” and this game definitely has that. The cool thing is, you only have to use the “take that” in the game if you want to employ that strategy. In one of the games that I played, I was able to recruit a Captain on my first turn and then mostly went for purchase power and worked on getting the crew that I needed to purchase my ships. Having the Captain early meant that I could load up on one type of Crew and exchange gems for others that I needed to buy ships. My opponent did use quite a few of the “take that” cards to slow me down, but I had too much rolling and pulled out the win. It’s nice that this game has multiple routes to victory depending on how you like to play or what opportunities present themselves during play. I also like that this game plays fast and has very little set-up/tear-down time. Makes for a great filler game in between heavier far or a good ice breaker at the beginning of the session or session ender when there’s just a wee bit of time left.
What I did not like:
There’s not much to not like about this game unless you absolutely only like super heavy games. My only complaints, and both are super minor, are first that you can be affected by luck of the draw rather heavily. There are some ways to mitigate the card draw a bit, but they involve a bit of luck in what comes up from other decks as well. Although luck does factor in fairly heavily in that there are several different decks generating random effects, I feel that there’s enough that you can do in the game to be able to strategize around it.
The other minor nitpick that I have is the box. Quality is fine, but it’s a bit deep and has no divider so the cards tumble and shuffle around during transport. I know that this can be easily solved by bagging them, but I think that streamlining the depth and providing a separator would have easily solved that.
Overall, Fleets of Fortune is a fun, quick filler game. I only played it at two players and it played pretty close to the 30-minute mark. More players will increase playtime but as long as your players don’t suffer from analysis paralysis (AP) the game shouldn’t go much longer than 45 min to an hour. Set-up and tear-down is a breeze so this game is great for those situations where you don’t have a lot of time. Graphics are colorful and easy to identify, the rules are short and easy to learn with quick reference to what certain cards do if you don’t remember.
I would recommend this to people who like card games such as Jaipur or Hanabi. The designer relates some portions of the game to things like Splendor or Century and I would tend to agree.
Stefan Yates is a professional in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Kansas State University. Finding ways to work gaming into work, he serves on the university’s Alternate Reality Game Committee and is a co-Faculty Advisor for the Board Game Club. He is also a PhD student whose field of research is Gamification in Student Programming. He enjoys playing (and mostly losing) almost any type of game and likes to work in multiple game sessions per week whenever possible. An avid solo gamer with an additional interest in tabletop miniatures games, the stay-at-home orders of the pandemic were not particularly concerning as there was always painting to do and terrain to build. Stefan is also a book and movie collector and a huge football fan (go CHIEFS!)