What is this game about?
Fleet: The Dice Game is a roll and write version of Fleet, a card game from Eagle-Gryphon Games. Both games are all about fishing, and in Fleet: The Dice Game, you'll be rolling and drafting dice in an attempt to create a vast fishing empire. The game is played in two phases, boat and town. During the boat phase, you'll be concentrating on which types of boats and licenses to pursue. There are multiple kinds of seafood to catch (shrimp, cod, lobster, etc.), and each license type offers you a different useful bonus. On the town side of things, you can invest in the harbor or in buildings that give you further bonuses and victory points. Making money also helps you, because each coin that comes in propels you towards a wild "star" action that lets you make progress in any area you'd like. By the end of the game, you'll be having massive fishing trips, chaining multiple bonuses, and feeling like the greatest captain of the high seas.
How does it play solo?
Fleet: The Dice Game has a solo variant that is slightly different from two-player. You will play eight rounds instead of ten, and you'll be pitting yourself against a merciless opponent, the evil... Captain Ruth. Ruth doesn't build up an empire of her own, but she drafts dice in an attempt to destroy yours and block you off from various spaces on your score sheet. You will definitely have to think about which dice you draft in order to protect your most valuable options. The end result is a beat-your-own-score game, but one in which you're actively protecting that score agains a ruthless opponent.
Fleet: The Dice Game is a very good roll and write. In fact, it's among my favorites now. I love the fishing theme, and once you have played a couple of times and learned more about your options, it's a lot of fun to choose which paths to pursue in your attempt to get a great combination of bonuses and, hopefully, a lot of victory points. (I also like that you can choose to take any die as a coin—an option that prevents "dead" rolls.) Deciding what will be the most useful to you based on the way the dice roll is good fun, especially when you're also doing a little bit of hate drafting and trying to prevent your opponent from getting what they want. My favorite thing about the solo variant is that it maintains that tension even without a human opponent, because you'll constantly be trying to keep Captain Ruth from hurting your own prospects too badly. It's a clever design that will have you cursing Captain Ruth at your kitchen table. (Yeah... that happened...) It's also one of those games that leaves you wanting more. No matter how big your fishing business has grown by the end of the game, you'll be left wishing that you could do even more—which means you'll be reaching for another score sheet and preparing to play again!
There are a couple of quibbles I do have with the game. The main one is that the rulebook is not ideal. All of the information you need to play is somewhere in there... but something about the organization makes finding that information difficult. I had to reread entire sections to double check details of the game, and it was irritating the first few times I played. Now that I know the game, it's not a big deal. But expect some annoyance your first time out at sea. It doesn't help that there is a lot going on in this game. There are tons of spaces to fill in, tons of buildings to go to, and it can be a little overwhelming at the very start. You'll get your sea legs soon enough, but I wouldn't be surprised if you experienced mild annoyance during your first game or two.
The fact that there is a lot going on also makes it easy to forget all of the "little rules." Every single time I play, I forget to apply a license bonus or take some kind of reward. I'm getting better about it, but be prepared for some bookkeeping.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. Fleet: The Dice Game is a LOT of fun, and I am honestly thinking about bringing it to work to play during my lunch break today. It's got the chaining possibilities of Ganz Schön Clever, but with the thematic flavor I need to really enjoy it.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.