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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Open world structure, plenty of routes to victory.
  • Feels very pirate
  • Compulsive feedback loop from the voyages.

Might Not Like

  • The rulebook pretends to be your friend but really it hates you.
  • Combat might not be what you expect. You will need house rules
  • If you’re not up for games that can easily last 3-4 hours, avoid.
Find out more about our blog & how to become a member of the blogging team by clicking here

Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends Review


Fig 01: Here we go, unboxing time. There’s a whole booty-load o’ pieces to pop.

This is going to be a challenge.

I’m a bit of a pirate fanatic, alright? I love me some Cap’n Jack, I’ve written a few pirate adventures in my time, and I’ve been very excited about the arrival of Sea Of Thieves, savvy? There’s a temptation, then, to get a tad carried away while writing this review and lose my professional edge. I’ve made myself a solemn promise to avoid scattering a bunch of buccaneering catchphrases and sea-faring puns throughout this piece. Thing is, me hearties, I’m struggling already. It’s impossible to resist, isn’t it? The second anything vaguely piratey appears on the horizon there’s an insatiable urge that builds in the chest, a fundamental desire to squint in a peculiar fashion, stand on one leg and bark like a seadog. None of that here. I’m going to behave myself. We’ll do our best and give no quarter, or I’ll be the son of a biscuit eater.

A note before we continue: I will make some minor comparisons between the board game and the source material, however Voyage of Legends will ultimately be judged on its own merits and how well it functions upon the table.

Come, then, let us trouble the waters together.

A quick peek through the spyglass

So, first impressions. The box has great artwork - even without the title you would know which console this game first released on - and this isn’t the gargantuan beast I was expecting (overly large boxes are becoming the norm, it seems). In fact the impressive art style carries over perfectly from the source, with everything easily recognisable. If you aren’t familiar with the game, you will still think this looks garrr-rand.

There’s a lot of pieces to punch. Damage tokens, trackers, crew tokens, skeleton tokens, endless coins. It takes a while. Actually, it helped me perfect my piece-punching style, so perhaps it’s done me a favour. The two pouches struck me as thematically on point, and I’m quite tickled that the pouch for the treasure tokens is gold.

Less impressive is the fact that all skeletons and skelly captains are little round tokens - very little round tokens. Again, having these skinny clacky menaces as miniatures would pump up the cost to rather more prohibitive levels, but the tokens have such scant table presence that it reduces any sense of threat. Was there no possibility of tiny little skelly meeples?

That being said, the game looks great on the table, even with these limitations. It’s such a big ocean to sail! Plenty of islands to visit too. It’s a table hog, mind you. It dominated mine in a two player game, and that was with two sections of the board removed. All sections are used in a three or four player game, and with the additional cards for those players I don’t imagine the game would fit the space I’ve got available. In later games I ended up placing the reputation board with its associated card decks on a smaller foldable side table, just to make things less claustrophobic around the main board. We’re gonna need a bigger surface (terrible Jaws reference there, but it doesn’t break my no pirate talk rule, so don’t get your timbers in a shiver).

I’m a sucker for a good rulebook (from hereon I shall call people such as myself ‘sticklers’), so I settled back with a rum (cup of tea actually) and had a read through. Tis a lovely glossy thing packed with pretty pictures, which initially did a great job of getting me into a suitably swashbuckling mood for the game. The layout struck me as a little odd. There’s much talk of the game’s various elements in no particular order before we finally reach the ‘how to set up’ section on page 16. ‘These people know what they’re doing,’ I told myself. ‘This all seems confusing now, but it will come together nicely once the game begins.’

Oh boy.

Prepare for boarding (ha ha)

Fig 02: This game makes my table look small.

We’re ready for the first playthrough!

There’s a handy sheet detailing what to do for your first game. We were starting out with a two player game, and in this instance you play on a slightly smaller board/ocean (refer to pictures). The advice is to remove the kraken, megalodon, and skeleton fort while you’re learning the rules, which makes you believe that you’ll be eased into the game and have a chance to absorb the basic rule set first. Can’t really be any problems this way, right? I’ll give you a firm piece of advice: have the relevant forums ready on a nearby phone or tablet before you begin, as you’ll end up there anyway, it’s inevitable. No kidding, I almost sent myself cross-eyed with the amount of back-and-forth through the pages of that bleedin’ rulebook.

This is the point of the article where I make my usual confession, one that will be part of every review I do, I suspect. I’m amazing at missing the obvious. I’m even better at misreading simple concepts. Several trips to Reddit and BoardGameGeeks revealed that the answers to some of my questions were indeed within the rulebook. Generally, however, the document is a convoluted mess. Some symbols used within the game do not appear anywhere in the book, meaning that some event cards were a real trial to decipher. The lack of a glossary of terms is a major oversight, leading to a lot of back-and-forth through a patchwork of rules to find what you need to keep playing.

There’s a couple of other glaring issues - for example, the skeleton fort standee is nowhere to be found on the contents page - this speaks of a document that was not checked and proofread to a sufficient degree before release. I’m tempted to say someone should walk the plank, but we’ll give it a miss for now.

After stumbling through an initial hour of gameplay (you’re in rough waters before you hit full sail), the character of the game becomes clearer. This is very much an open world game. There’s a target - first to reach 25 reputation triggers the end game - but how you get there is entirely up to you. The box suggests a game time of around 90-120 minutes. After seven playthroughs so far, I can state that this timeframe is very much the exception rather than the rule. Be prepared to settle in for the long haul (have I got away with that one?). The game style is suited to these longer sessions and the idea of questing further and further across the board/ocean. There’s a slow start as you get your sea legs, trying to gather enough gold to access upgrades and better crew, after which comes the push for that commodity a pirate captain prizes above all others - reputation.

How then, does a Cap’n navigate these waters? You’ll start your career with a pair of creaky old sloops, each with room for two crew. There is space for as much cargo and treasure as you can find, but only three water slots - if your water marker reaches the top, that’s it, you’re sunk. These vessels can act independently, and you share your three available actions across both, with the proviso that one ship can only perform a maximum of two actions.

When you select which ship will perform an action, place an action token on its card and don’t forget to undertake your chosen crew task first - I initially didn’t realise that each member of the crew performs a task, such as sailing one hex (Full Sail is a separate action you can take after tasks are complete). This means, as an example, a sloop can move two hexes during this task phase, and a galleon can move four. Other actions include attacking, plundering, and performing repairs.

Fig 03: Cap’n Green’s sloop is in a bit o’ bother here.

Aside from your two ships, you’ll start out with a scant handful of voyages, of which you can assign one to each of your ships at a time. These are your objectives, such as visiting a particular item and performing the plunder action a number of times successfully, or heading out on a bounty for a set number of skellys. Complete them and receive rewards such as treasure chests or reputation. Fail them or abandon them and you will be punished, usually and rightfully by losing some of that hard earned rep. You can buy fresh voyages - as well as tougher ones with greater rewards and punishments - but only during a visit to the Outpost in the centre of the ocean.

You’ll also start with a clutch of Fortune cards, with the prospect of collecting more and the end of everyone’s turn. After all, what kind of Cap’n would you be without a few brushes with Lady Luck? These cards will provide you with some form of context-sensitive bonus if played at the right time, ranging from an extra round of cannon fire to an easy two reputation points bonus for singing a rousing shanty (you don’t have to sing one out loud, but you’ll feel a lot better if you do). These cards also have another function, but as I’ll detail in the next section you might be wise to give that particular function a miss, otherwise you might find yourself hanging the jib…

Upgrades in this game feel meaningful. The key benefit to bigger ships is more crew. An extra crew member means an extra die to roll, which can transform your fortunes. You’ll move across the map quicker, you’ll be able to strike down multiple skellys in one swipe, you’ll haul more treasure than before, and you’ll have a better chance of surviving against the likes of the kraken. Speed and efficiency are the key to completing voyages, and if you can complete that difficult legendary voyage you’ve assigned to your ship within a move or two, your reputation as a fearsome pirate will increase that much quicker.

There’s a problem with the cannons, Cap’n.

The big conversation to be had around Voyage of Legends centres on the combat. While awaiting the game’s arrival I had a mooch around a few forums and found some fairly strong opinions. There are those saying that they’ve done the maths and attacking other players is pointless. Others have gone so far as to claim that the game is broken. I’ve got to disagree with the strongest negatives (this happens a lot: I find the internet allows people to get somewhat carried away), and I feel that combat has to be looked at from a different angle. In this game it’s a disruptor.

Fig 04: We’re in danger here, lads, best get ‘kraken’. 

Attacking another player can make a fundamental difference to your opponent’s tactics, and can set them back in their quest for gold and upgrades, hopefully just enough for you to get a little bit further ahead. You’re looking to score a better reputation for yourself at the expense of others: your peers will be cackling over their grogs when they hear of your opponent’s failures.

Here’s an in-game example. Cap’n Green’s sloop headed towards the Lagoon of Whispers on a routine quest to battle skeletons and claim treasure chests. Cap’n Red, meanwhile, has completed an upgrade to a brigantine, and while at the Outpost has picked up a meagre voyage with urgent business in the Lagoon. With a belly full of rum, Cap’n Red bursts out of the Outpost at full sail and finds Cap’n Green one hex away from the Lagoon. Open fire! The cannons cause four damage. Okay, the water won’t rise until after the end of Cap’n Green’s next turn, but it’s only a sloop with just two crew and two meagre resources available - this won’t be enough to fix all the damage. A desperate race for the Outpost - where repairs can be made in exchange for gold - is the only option. Dice are rolled for the Full Sail action - and it’s a pair of twos, otherwise known as a fail on both counts. It sinks.

An important interjection here: this example comes from my first full playthrough, and I’d made one of my traditional errors. I really will lay blame for this on the rulebook though, as it’s a real mess and I missed this particular rule multiple times over. You can use Fortune cards to reroll any crew rolls you make. After two playthroughs I played a third game wherein I employed this rule. Now, there were a few occasions when the rerolls failed -I am infamous for a bizarre ability to roll the same number many times over. In the above example, even if I had used a Fortune card to reroll that Full Sail action, there remains a chance of failing again, and the sinkage would have happened anyway. However, during this playthrough with the Fortune card rule in place, there were quite a few more escapes from tight situations where perhaps it would have been more fun to have the fails. I’ve read various workarounds for ways of making the combat ‘work’ better, but I feel that my error has led me to a simple house rule I will always employ in Voyage of Legends, and I strongly recommend you do the same thing. Do not use Fortune cards for rerolls. Let those rolls be.

Combat, as I’ve said, is about disrupting your opponent’s plan. At a fundamental level you’re looking to slow down other players’ progress around the reputation track. If you can cost them a few extra gold for repairs on top of this, even better, as the quicker you require gold the faster you can access more dice rolls through extra crew. If you do manage to sink a player and therefore reset their progress on a voyage, even better. Bear in mind that repairing damage can consume a crew’s tasks which might otherwise be used to move a couple of hexes across the ocean. Delay your enemy, put up obstacles. Be a rascal, you old seadog. Plots, schemes and skulduggery will win the day.

The thing is, those who are complaining about the combat aren’t really providing a sensible solution. What alternative is there for a board game representing a sprawling open world? Respawning clearly suits the nature of the source material. It wouldn’t be much fun if a sunken ship meant that vessel was gone forever. What happens if both of a player’s ships were sent to Davy Jones’ Locker early in the game? It would be an abrupt and unsatisfying ending. Thematically, the combat’s functionality makes sense - at least it does to me. The constant challenge and chase and threat makes for strategies that must regularly alter course. The islands are close enough so that situations can flip quickly: you could be a sloop busy at one island with a couple of skeletons and a pair of treasure chests when a brigantine anchored at a nearby Lagoon decides to activate a voyage card and suddenly wants to be where you are. If you’ve got hatches, you’d best batten them.

Fig 05: The Outpost Board. Reputations are finally on the up after nearly three hours of play. You’d best get plenty o’ rum in for a session of Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends.

The sun sets across the ocean…

At last we come to the end of our voyage. How have we fared? First and foremost, I’ve played this long, table-hogging game seven times in about a fortnight, and where I’ve found the time for it I couldn’t tell you, so that says something. The issues with the rulebook cannot be ignored and will somewhat affect the final score, and the game has been released with a rule that quite frankly it is better without - do not use Fortune cards for rerolls, people. A single reroll can change the entire course of the game, so let Lady Luck do with you as she will. Even with all the issues discussed above, however, I find myself drawn back to Voyage of Legends again and again. This is no mean feat considering this can be a very long game to fit into a busy day-to-day life. I keep thinking about it, keep wondering when next I’ll set that wide ocean out again. When a game is easily dismissed then it’s time to type out that eBay listing, but that isn’t the case of Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends. This particular vessel will remain part of my fleet.

The essential issue, then, is whether or not you can accept that combat is not for destruction, it is for disruption, and it is part of facilitating the sweep of an open world. You also have to be readier than usual to implement house rules for the benefit of the game. There has been mention on some forums that it’s possible for players to put together power combos of cards that score enough reputation to win in one fell swoop. If true, this is down to the luck of the card draw surely, and I haven’t come across this situation myself, but I’d be happy to remove the offending cards if necessary. Again, the existence of such combinations is another hint that Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends sailed out of port a little earlier than it should.

Do I recommend the game? Yes, as I found myself immersed and fascinated despite the rough edges. It feels sufficiently piratey and there’s a good variety in board setup, event cards, and the wild combinations of interactions that erupt from the monsters that rise up from the deep at inopportune moments. You will require some patience, however, and an openness to accept this game’s quirky personality.

Until we sail together again, may your anchor be tight, your cork be loose, your rum be spiced and your compass be true. And we got through all of that without a single daft pirate phrase. Knew I could do it.


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Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Open world structure, plenty of routes to victory.
  • Feels very pirate
  • Compulsive feedback loop from the voyages.

Might not like

  • The rulebook pretends to be your friend but really it hates you.
  • Combat might not be what you expect. You will need house rules
  • If youre not up for games that can easily last 3-4 hours, avoid.

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