This is a fleet meant for fun. The goal isn't even necessarily to win the game, but to establish many treasure trades that confuse the opponents you're facing and when combined with abilities and UT's, possibly end up in you getting all the high-value coins. I wanted this to be a fleet that was somewhere around 60 points, but as usual the costs spiraled out of control as I kept finding things I wanted to add. It's quite thematic.
The goal here is to be a friendly but profitable trading nation. There are no captains, and combat of any kind is frowned upon. Everything is about doing business and conducting transactions. With enough luck and a somewhat mellow opponent, you may be able to set up a "trading empire" and win handily.
As one of the better gold ships in the game, the Neptune's Hoard was the first ship I chose. The combo of Bones Wiley and his parrot are absolutely perfect for this fleet, as they link to save a cargo space on the NH and give the ship a second trading ability along with some spying potential. With good speed and 3 open cargo spaces, the NH will get gold and should be able to trade effectively, whether it be with islands or "enemy" ships.
The next ship is one of the more odd 5 masters in the game, the USS Morning Star. With the extremely powerful treasure/crew trading ability, the Morning Star has a flexible role in this fleet. She'll be getting gold and possibly trading it with the little-used original version of DNT. The ship ability is a nice option to have if the ship explores right before getting attacked (which happens rather often in games), but with no other American crew in the fleet it's not as practical as when you base a fleet around it. The ship has good speed and the crew and durability to protect the chieftain reasonably well, and functions as the fleet's main gunship if the need arises.
The canoes are one of the most powerful gold running options in the game, and feature great speed, above-average cargo for canoes, and of course another trading ability. This is more of a "taking" ability, but the canoes should do well ferrying gold home from the other ships. The strategy can work in different ways: the larger ships have the speed and durability to reach some faraway islands, and the canoes can ferry their coins home in chains. In addition, the "trade within S" ability could work great with the native canoes. Imagine your opponent's look of shock when Wiley or DNT is flipped to trade a 0 (more on that later) for a high-value coin, which is suddenly warped home through the canoes using their ability!
Just like the NH, the Foresight has both of the regular trading abilities available. Gilbert speeds the ship up with some sacrificial oarsmen, and the Foresight will have 4 open cargo spaces once one of them leaves. Similar to the previous ships, the Foresight has some good durability for a gold-oriented ship, so taking damage isn't completely crippling.
Have you had enough trading confusion yet? How about some more! The Artesien gets the point total closer to 100 while introducing a more typical gold runner. This combo results in a third ship with both regular trading abilities. I'm not a fan of the explorer/wild island swap mechanic, but it could be used since the Artesien could only pick up two coins without it. (you could also swap out the explorer for an oarsman on one of the other ships, or even better, perhaps a Letter of Marque equipment...)
The final ship was chosen to bump the points to 100. I didn't want to go the ultra-cheesy route, but Aristide's flavor text fits perfectly with the fleet. The Coeur will stay near home and add his +2 bonus to as many coins as is convenient. Gold bonuses win games, plain and simple, so this fleet of traders and businessmen could be quite profitable indeed.
Finally, we have False Treasure, the most hostile thing this fleet contains. I'm not a big fan of events, but this is one of the only events that isn't underpriced. It was my first event, and could tip the game in favor of the traders. Between Lucky and the UT's, there will be plenty of knowledge about what gold is where throughout the game. This could allow for perfect timing with False Treasure. It's also a good insurance policy in case you aren't able to trade away low coins for good coins with the within S ability, or if your opponent has a very fast gold runner that can get home before any of this fleet's ships can get to her. Finally, it could lead to confusion in the other fleets. Unless they count the points of the rest of the fleet, it's not exactly expected that False Treasure would be picked over the other events. In addition, since False Treasure could be saved until near the end of the game, your opponent could be lulled into a false sense of security that you're just bluffing with Rolling Fog or simply haven't had an opportunity to use Raft. Little do they know what's in store for their gold!
Trade Route is the only "mandatory" UT for this fleet, but I've included a lot of other fun options. Marksman's Map, Shipping Charts, and Spyglass should help with knowing which ships to go after with the S trading. The Artesien was the original ship used in the Rum Bomb combo, and is a great option with so many S traders sailing around. Jade, Spices, and Trade Route are purely thematic, though Trade Route could become rather strategic if you can manage to trade a 0 for a 7 or something. Try to ensure that both players have a low number of coins on their HI's, so the swap is less random (such as 1 for 1 if you know what both coins are with the help of the spying). Since it's loaded face down, it could even become a nasty surprise. Maybe even avoid using False Treasure on purpose when you only have a 0 on your HI (prioritize getting low value coins home early, using the canoe chains), and then flip Trade Route for a quick reversal of fortune! Include at least a 0 or two in the distribution so you have some great things to trade away with the various abilities.
Maps of Alexandria is a proxy for:
When this treasure is revealed, mark all wild islands as explored and choose any wild island and look at all the face down treasure on that island. Then remove Abandoned Charts from the game.
This should help with the fleet's lack of explorers, and further help with knowing what treasures to pursue via trading. It's not that bad if your opponent finds it, because it will just allow for easier trading with them (using the trade within S ability). In addition, through their ship movements it may become obvious if the island they choose to look at has very good or very bad gold on it, so unless it's about average, it's almost like all players see what's generally on the island. (unless of course they sail towards the island to deceive you lol)
As this isn't a hostile fleet, the forts were included to help with the strategy. St. Pierre could actually see some usage, while the Devil's Maw will help keep the traders (and possibly even the chieftain!) alive. If any crew come back ghostly, that could help protect the traders since enemies wouldn't be able to board and steal back their valuable gold you made fair trades for. XD
I'll admit, this fleet is a kind of dumb. In a game called Pirates, it's likely that everything will fall apart when your opponents bring multi-action gunships and nasty UT's to the game, especially at this point level. However, between the durability, some speed, and lots of targets to hit (most of which will be scattered all over the sea, establishing trading opportunities), it won't be automatic to eliminate everything. In addition, with all the island trading abilities, negative UT's could be traded away as needed, or simply avoided through knowledge gained of what's on each island.