Arrrrrr! What’s that off the starboard bow? A co-operative pirate adventure for two to seven players. Well shiver me timbers, pass me my rum, it sounds swell. Between you and me, I think I may have played a few too many games of Forgotten Waters over the last few days. This is an app-based, co-operative game that pits you and your teammates against all manner of piratey shenanigans. You'll be maintaining, running and managing your pirate ship and its many resources.
An App with Attitude
In Forgotten Waters, you divvy out seven ship roles to your scurvy teammates. They range from managing cannons and keeping track of the crew’s unrest to being the ships scribe and managing supplies. Then according to what only can be described as an amazingly implemented app, navigates you towards taking simple worker placement actions to accomplish your goal and sail the seven seas. What initially surprised me and what I am still flabbergasted by is how well the app works, how simple it makes setup and how great the voice acting is.
All you do is type in a web address into any web-connected device and you are good to go. The rulebook is only a few thin pages and that is because the app does all the work for you. It takes you through the setup for each of the game's initial five missions. Then it walks you through everything you need to do as it happens. It's genius! Add to that the amazing voicework, the immersive gameplay and you have an all in one, easy to manage, treasure hunting experience.
Time Is Money
As of writing, there are five missions to undertake. Each taking around four hours give or take and depending on your crew. What is very clever though, is that you can save your progress at the half-way point of each mission and the app and added sheets make easy work of recording where you are in your adventure. We played our missions in two-hour spurts and found the time-frame perfect.
This is especially true when you play with your kids. I played with my two boys and they truly, truly loved it. Two hours is long enough for one sitting though, listening to the app, making decisions and ruling the waves starts to wear thin on a seven-year-old after an hour or two. What really surprised me though was how much my boys loved the role-playing aspect of the game, I did not expect them to take to it as much as they did but it was brilliant.
This was another part of Forgotten Waters that is very well implemented. Each time you start a mission you rip off a pirate backstory sheet from the included pad. Each one is different and gives your peg-legged swashbuckler a bit of depth and history. On this sheet, you come up with a witty name for your pirate and have a few weird but wonderful questions to answer. We all filled in funny and stupid answers for each question which led to some hilarious moments. For example, my pirate was the Assassin Pirate and one of the questions was “What is your pirate’s special combat move?” At which point I obviously picked the ‘stabby-stabby roundhouse’ and when it came up in my pirate’s story it always made my kids laugh.
After filling out your 5 or so questions, you have to read out your paragraph of backstory to the group and fill in the missing words with the silly answers you have written. It is only a small thing in the game but in my group, it added so much to the game. Each of our pirates had a funny story to them and it kept us talking about it throughout our sessions with the game. “Hey dad, remember when you took on that pirate with your sharpened banana?” my lad would say and giggle to himself.
Skills, Worker Placement and Rum
These booklets are not just mere fluff though. Your pirate has goals, skills to record and even different endings depending on what they achieve during your sea-based exploits. Your endings and rewards also include the five weird answers you created too, it ties the whole thing together beautifully and gives each person around the table weight, depth and makes the group chat together at each turn of the story.
I was known for visiting the games many bars, drinking a lot of rum and getting into fights. As the app guides you through the story you will turn to different pages of the game’s storybook. Each page has a new location, new choices to make and as a team, you must decide what’s best for your character but more importantly, what is best for your crew. Do you need more supplies, more treasure or do you want to work on your personal goals? Each turn in the story and each new page of the book offers everyone around the table vital choices. You all need to balance the goals of the team against your own private, more personal objectives.
The little bit of sharpness to this whole system is that you only have 40 seconds to pick where you want to go on each page, paired with some spaces requiring someone definitely goes there makes for some interesting conversation and shouting. Someone needs to feed the crew, someone needs to set sail and everyone wants to progress their character. You only have a short window to pick though otherwise, the crew will become restless. It's hectic, pirate-based fun.
You navigate your way around your current quest map in a Carcassonne style manner, turning over tiles and moving your ship standee where required. You can chart your course using some worker placement actions, so you have a bit of knowledge about what kind of hazards and terrains you will be encountering. The number of resources you spend in order to move will depend on skill checks your character will perform and take various variables into consideration.
Skills to Pay The Bills
Whenever you have to perform a skill check, which you will do a lot. You roll your own personal D12 of your pirates colour and add your unlocked skills and treasure bonuses to it. You have re-roll tokens and misfortune tokens that make the rolls harder or easier. I really liked how these skill checks worked. They make each character unique. Each pirate is good for some things but not others. There is a nice group dynamic when performing certain actions. When you have to perform these checks regularly, it's a testament to the system to make them simple yet fun enough to be done regularly.
We also really enjoyed how your skills are woven into the stories that are told in the game. If I visited a bar, for example, I would perhaps improve my swagger or brawn if I got into a fight. But I ended up with some misfortune tokens or being banned from the bar for starting a fight. I actually think I was born to be a pirate, being a pirate is really entertaining to me. Drinking and getting kicked out of bars is not something I would do in real life but as a pirate, it seemed very fitting.
You are a Pirate After All
Just because you are playing a co-operative game does not mean that Forgotten Waters does not have a little bit of a needle between players. You can steal treasure off each other and use your actions to slightly elbow each other in the back. It's not often and not a massive part of the game. It’s just enough to remind you that you are a pirate and you do sometimes do dastardly things. I feel I really got into the pirate life and made one or two decisions I was not proud of. As well as your worker placement decisions, quite often, in story-based events on the app you will have to make harsh choices too. Being a pirate I often took the bad decision rather than being the goody-two-shoes I am normally when playing games. Looting, pillaging and fighting were high up my list of pirate hijinx.
Forgotten Waters includes cardboard standees, a map board, map tiles, tokens and cards. Everything is really well made, well printed and a joy to use. It may be pirate-themed but it is a fun, bright, vivid pirate theme that has a cartoon-like charm to it. The dice are well made, the rules are well written and with the amazing app to guide you through it all, it's a brilliant, problem-free production.
The boards used to track each person’s job. Resources are all simple to read and adjust, making all the jobs available to anyone at the table. Even my young lad had no issue keeping track of things, he even pointed out to me a few times I had forgotten to adjust my own jobs, that’s my boy!
The star of the show really is the app though, I know it's not a true ‘component’ but it is amazingly made, brilliantly implemented and makes managing everything a breeze. I think we would have had nowhere near as much fun if we had to read all the story dialogue, there is a lot of it. The fact it is all voice acted and acted surprisingly well is amazing. The stories are well written, funny and had surprises at every turn. I hope more games do this, it made the whole experience a lot more immersive.
Wow, what an experience. I had heard how much fun this game is! I was not expecting it to be so well designed, well implemented and such a breeze to manage so many moving parts. Each story is different, each playthrough different and in every game, we came away with stories we talked about long after we finished playing. Forgotten Waters is great for kids, great for families and barring a few naughty words, which you can read ahead to negate, my boys were hooked. Haha, hooked, I really should not do pirate puns.
With Forgotten Waters, you get a boat-load of content, with more to come and you will have an experience like no other. This game is really like nothing else in my collection, I struggle to think of another game it is like apart from the other crossroad titles that preceded it. This game takes that premise and really runs with it though. I really cannot say enough good things about Forgotten Waters. Now get out there, pillage the weak, discover new lands and achieve your pirate goals. ARRRRR!