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How To Play Cargo Noir (5 minute guide)

How To Play Cargo Noir (5 minute guide)

Cargo Noir is all the fun of a board game mixed with the seedy criminal world of smuggling. Set in 1950s film aesthetic, Cargo Noir challenges players to collect as many Victory Spoils as they can by outbidding other players for the chance to take home the goods. Cargo sold under the table at each port is used to get more ships, control more ports, and obtain the most Victory Spoils. The thrill of the game is matched by its elegant artwork and is great for ages 8 and up.

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The goal of Cargo Noir is simple: win. To do this, you will need to strategize your Port visits, obtain Cargo by outbidding other players, and turn your Cargo into Victory Points by trading it in effectively. The Family with the highest number of Victory Points at the end wins!

How to Setup the Game

  1. Place the Macao central piece on your game table and place the Port cards around the center piece. The number of Ports open will depend on how many players you have (see section below).
  2. Mix all non-wild Cargo tokens in the Cargo Noir bag. Add the same number of Wild Cargo tokens to the bag as you have players. Shake up the bag. Place Cargo tokens randomly in the Cargo slots at the Ports and in Macao. 
  3. Each player gets a Family sheet, 3 Cargo Ships, and 7 gold coins (to be put in the Family Safe).
  4. Put Smuggler’s Edge cards in three separate decks based on card type. Victory Spoils cards should also be split into separate decks. These will be useful later.
  5. The first turn of the game goes to the person who mostly recently visited a port in person. They will also be the one to turn the Game Turn tracker each time (with the tracker set to the non-numbered space first).

Possible Actions


There are two types of turn that can be followed and after a round of each person’s turn, remember to turn the Game turn tracker.

  1. Ship deployment: Deploy ships to specific locations in the game based on the desired result. What happens at each location will not occur until the next turn.  These locations and events include the Casino, the Black Market, or a Port. For the Ports specifically, place a ship on top of the number of coins to be spent to purchase the goods. If there are already other ships there, however, more coins must be provided.
  2. Decision time: After choosing a place in the last turn, the player’s next turn will require action. Actions available for each location are below:
    1. The Casino: Gain 2 coins.
    1. The Black Market: Draw 1 Cargo token or trade Cargo for other items. Place Cargo in Family Warehouse.  If there are no more Warehouses available, the Cargo can be kept but must be traded or thrown away during the next turn. When trading Cargo from ports, similar types of Cargo give more “contraband value” when traded in. This value can be used to purchase Victory Spoils cards or Smuggler’s Edge cards (effective immediately), with the cost of the card being shown in red.
    1. Ports: Add coins to outbid others at the Port and stay there for another turn, leave the Port (keeping the coins, but not returning during the next turn), or buy all the cargo at the Port by being the only one at the Port by the end of the turn.

Each location has unique advantages and disadvantages, so it is wisest to tread carefully. Spending lots of coins might obtain more cargo, but this can also hurt later in the game when more precious Cargo is available. If avoiding a Port, the Black Market is a good location with many options available. Also, thought Smuggler’s Edge cards are expensive, they give numerous advantages to the player right away!

Ending the Game

The number of turns for each game will depend on the number of players (see section below). When that final turn is reached, players can use coins to purchase Victory cards (not previously allowed). Then the Victory Points must be added up.

How to Score the Game

  1. Count the number of victory points (in blue) for each player. This includes Victory Spoils card, Smuggler’s cards, and Warehouses.
  2. The player with the most Victory points wins; but, if there is a tie, the player with the highest Victory Spoils card wins.

Changes to Game Based on Player Number

  • Each port is numbered in the bottom corner.
  • Place a Port card next to the Macao piece if it is the same or lower number of players playing.
  • For example, in the 2-player set-up, only 4 of the 8 ports are open.
  • 4-5 players will result in 10 turns for each player while 2-3 players will have 11 turns.


  • Trade in cargo of the same type to have more available spending money because similar cargo types yields more contraband value (thus providing more money to buy Victory-based items).
  • Watch how many coins the other players bring to a port to see if you’ll be able to outbid them (or scare them off!)
  • When in doubt, visit the Black Market in Macao for more opportunities.

Common House Rules

  • Place the cards within easy reach of each player after thoroughly shuffling
  • Focus on the challenge of beating the other player when they are ahead, not being upset that they are ahead.
  • Have fun!

Quick Info

Gameplay Time: 30-60 min

Alternative titles to Cargo Noir: None

Suggested player age: Ages 8 and Over

Community suggested player age:  Ages 10 and over

Expansions: None

Community rating:  6.5/10

Popularity: Mildly Popular

Difficulty: Easy  

Published year and Creator: 2011,  Serge Laget through Days of Wonder

Rules and Publisher Site:

Awards: 2011/2012 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Winner

2011/2012 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee

If you like this game, you’ll also like:

Kingsburg, Pirates Cove, and Mystery of the Abbey

If you don’t like this game, you should give one of these a try instead:

Sheriff of Nottingham, Pirates Cove, Cavemen: The Quest for Fire