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Sink or Swim: Old Salt Board Game Review

Updated: Apr 24

I have always been enamored by the Ocean. I love ships and ship based games. My interest in hobby gaming was launched by Man O War which was a Games Workshop fantasy miniatures game. This game had asymmetric factions that battled it out on a table with lots of measuring and charts. Old Salt by Never Board Games encapsulated that feeling for me in a low rule no measuring tape kinda way. So lets get into this navel combat game and see if you have the salt to manage a fleet.

Four Player game of Old Salt
Four Player game of Old Salt

The first thing that you notice when you open the box is instructions for putting everything back in the box. I very much appreciated this, Its always a challenge to get things put away. For Old Salt the box organizer and the sheet of how to put it all back make cleanup a breeze. In the box are the ship tokens and the hit markers both are nice wooden pieces. Each faction six in total have a box to store all their markers and tokens. There is a large map board faction boards and other tokens to use throughout the game.

Each of the 6 factions have unique abilities. There are also 5 types of ships that players can make their fleet from.


The map is divided up into hexagons and has 14 islands on it. Through the map there are 3 trade winds sections that can improve the movement of ships as they pass through. Each of the 6 factions have unique abilities. There are also 5 types of ships that players can use to build their fleet from. The ships have nearly identical stats but there is enough variety in the special actions that make the ships feel completely different.

Players will randomly (or not if you don't want to) select factions. Then players will choose 3 islands by placing 2 of their banners on 2 islands starting with the first player then in reverse order players place their third banner on an island. Players will then place their ships adjacent to the islands they have claimed using a similar method as choosing islands.

Fleet Construction

Faction Player Aids
Faction Player Aids

Old Salt is a sandbox game that allows players to play the game with many variations. Each of the factions come with a suggested fleet of 6 ships. I suggest going with the suggested fleet for your first play. There is an option for swapping out 2 of the ready made fleet ships out for others. Also included in the game are rules for using a point based system to buy a fleet as they choose. Also included in the game box is a supplemental manual that includes details on each faction as well as 9 scenarios to play. The 9 scenarios make up a campaign that build on the previous.

There are five different ships to choose for your fleet. The Grunt, Leviathan, Zealot, and Hazard boats all have the same sail range and fire range. They very in hit points and the Leviathan has 8 and the rest have 5. The Zealot gets a free fire on the players turn. The Hazard ship can explode damaging adjacent ships. Finally the Marksman ship also has 5 hit points and sail range of 3 however the Marksman can fire between 5 and 9 hexes away. When players build their fleets they have 17 points to spend. Each ship costs 3 and the grunt ship costs 2.

Game Play

Old Salt is an action point based game. Players will have coins to spend on their turn to preform actions. The Sail action is free and may be used up to 3 times per ship on a turn. If a player is in range of a ship, debris, or a faction token they may fire on it by spending one coin. Then the player rolls the attack die (a modified six sided die 0-5). If the player rolls equal to or higher than the distance to the target then the target is hit. If a player rolls less or the blank side then the target is missed. If the target is an enemy ship they may fire their broadside cannons back at the attacker if they are in the side arc. Each ship then takes damage tokens and places them under the ship to track hit points lost. If a player sinks a ship then they will take that ships banner.

Another action players can take on their turn is seizing enemy islands. This can be expensive. The starting cost is 2 coins and an opponents banner. The costs increase with every enemy ship within 2 hexes of the island. This is how players will win the game by controlling 6 islands. Alternatively players can control the only ships on the board (last person standing).

Players should keep in mind that they need the banners to take the islands from the enemy and win the game

The last actions players can take on their turn are their faction abilities. These are different for every faction. The faction abilities can cost coins to do and may have a condition to when the action may be taken. The variety of faction abilities are widely varied and we were not able to play every one of them but we played a lot of the abilities and they add a lot of flavor to the game. Players can however play the game without the faction abilities for a more simple version of the game.

Ships and debris in the tradewinds
Ships and debris in the tradewinds

At the beginning of their turn players may spend enemy banners for coins. Players should keep in mind that they need the banners to take the islands from the enemy and win the game. After the player decides to cash in banners or not they move to income. In the income phase a player will take a coin per island they control (minimum 3 coins). This is how players get actions back each turn.

One last interesting part of the game is across the board there are three shaded portions that are called trade wins. If a ship is moved in an active tradewind space the ship can move an extra space per space moved with a max of 2. This will allow ships to move across the board quickly. The board is large to give players space to maneuver and accommodate 4 players.


Playing Old Salt was a joy and we had a lot of fun with this game. The simplicity of the game got us into battle very quick. The setup and even the customization of player fleets is very fast. We enjoyed that the ships were only slightly different be did offer a lot of variety in how they were used. I thought that some of the factions were a little mismatched with the faction abilities, we would need a lot more reps in this to give a definitive opinion on this. The 2 player campaign in the supplementary rule book is well thought out and we look forward to playing through it fully.

Adam and Nick enjoying Old Salt
Adam and Nick enjoying Old Salt

If you love the high seas and naval battles then this is for you! Old Salt brings naval combat to the table in a an approachable way that has enough depth that new and experienced players will enjoy all that Old Salt has to offer. The game plays fast due to the simple rules. Players will not be looking up rules in the middle of the game bogging down game play. Also do not forget to check out the naval upgrade kit. Players can replace the card tokens with wooden tokens an upgrade that is well worth it if you enjoy the game.

Players: 2-4

Year Published: 2023

Recommended Ages: 14+

Time to Play: 60-120 minutes

A copy of Old Salt was provided to Bert's Tabletop Games for this review by Never Board Games Games.



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