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Just recently, I got a fresh copy of a newly released board game Forgotten Waters. The game was published this year by Plaid Hut Games, which owns my favorite game of all times, Dead of Winter. You can imagine how excited I was to see a pirate-themed crossroads game!

Now let’s get to the actual game. This game was something I was looking for for a long time. It’s a perfect blend of a good narrative, fast-moving scenario, a bit of role-playing, LOTS of humor, and (drumrolls) an app with a voiceover that reads out loud the story with a pirate accent. Just by knowing this already, I’d be running to grab a copy.

What is it about?

You are a pirate going on an adventure with your mates, trying to uncover the secrets the ocean holds. You win or lose together as a crew, but at the same time, you’re advancing your pirate skills and trying to solve your personal quest. It’s a cooperative game and you need to work together. If the team focuses too much on their own agenda, the chance that your ship will sink is quite high (and then, for obvious reason, you will all lose).

So as I just mentioned, the game ends as soon as you complete your mission defined by one of five available scenarios, or if something unfortunate happens to your crew, for instance, mutiny on the ship, an enemy ship catches you, your ship sinks or you simply run out of time.

The state of your ship and crew is defined by a few measurements: state of hull, supplies, cannons, crew, and their discontent. 

From the start of the game, each of you, pirates, would get a character sheet that you are supposed to fill in as the game progresses. 

Here’s an example of how a pirate sheet looks like. You get a bunch of those with the game and can print more from the app.

Your personal goal is to solve your life’s mission that is defined by your pirate skills progression and other events in the sea. 

Your team, in the meantime, is working towards a common goal. While you’re on it, you travel across the sea, come across storms, inhabited and uninhabited islands, sea creatures and mystic places that I won’t tell you about so that you can discover it on your own.

At each location, you have to quickly (and that’s important) decide what each of you is going to do. No matter the play count, you have only 40 seconds to distribute roles and actions. That’s just icing on your pirate cake, as you just need to move fast and decide on the go. 

One of the many locations that you will come across during your game.

Each location can have multiple missions and roles available, from feeding the crew to exploring new areas, fishing, fighting squirrels, and many more. That’s, in short, the whole game. You explore, level up, and fulfill your mission.

What I enjoyed

  • The story, humor, and lots of fun. This is my favorite part of the game as it takes you on adventures and you’re basically exploring the ocean and learning about your crew. The narrative is full of jokes and you never know where the story will take you. There’s lots of agency and opportunity to make a choice. Will you drink the weird smelly potion your ship doctor gave you to cure your maladies? Will you protect squirrels that are burned for sacrifice? You can’t know what’s right until you decide. 
  • Pirates! If you enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ll enjoy the game as well. Not only it takes the theme with good humor, but you’ll also find adventures, joys, and dangers of the open sea. 
  • Very simple rules. Now that my board game collection is bigger, I noticed I started to avoid bringing the “simple” game to my gaming group. I was a bit afraid that lack of complexity can impact the world the game builds and it won’t give us any agency going through the adventure. How wrong I was! The rules of the game are simple and the app helps you to navigate you through them, and that is only for the advantage of the game. You are there to enjoy and explore and the rules and the app only help you get immersed in the world. 
  • The app enhances the experience. I know, I know. Sometimes board gamers are skeptical of games with apps. This is, however, an amazing example of how a board game and an app can work together. The app of Forgotten Waters mainly serves as a narrative (or narrator) tool. It guides you, helps to understand the game, and progresses the story. In most cases, you’ll have to add a number from the game into the app and the app will tell you what that means for your crew and what will happen now.
  • Voiceover. I must be honest, I haven’t played many games that have apps, but the voiceover in Forgotten Waters has totally stolen my heart. All the narrative has professional voiceover with amazing accents and role-playing. It’s like you’re watching a movie, playing a game, and reading a story at the same time. The voiceover is a very powerful tool in video games and often, is missed in board games, as you’re the narrator. In this game, the story that’s read out loud only takes you further into the pirate world.
  • Cooperation vs Independency. An issue that is common in coop games for me is that the whole group decides what we do and often, it’s the most experienced/loudest player that has the lead and the rest follow or you all lose. This game takes a different approach. Of course, it’s still a coop game but there’s much more playing around “who’s that main guy”. It’s actually an infamy scale that shows who has the most power in your crew and decides. You can win infamy or lose it, depending on what you do. A bad hunt? No one wants to hang out with you anymore. Did you win a battle? Now you’re the boss.

What could be better

  • 2-player game.Yes, the box says that the game is for 3 to 7 players and that’s when it’s played at its best. If you are like me, a board gaming couple, 2 player games is what we have to deal with the most. I played the Forgotten Waters both with a group of friends and just two of us, and the experience is quite different. You will still get the story and the fun, but... a bit less. The hustle and lack of time and just lots of pirates competing, yet working with each other were missing for me here, but it’s just another argument for 2 players vs many players in other coop games. This game has taken cooperation to the next level, where you are working towards the same thing, but each of you is a pirate, after all, and can decide on your own what you will do next.
  • It’s very very long. Even if the game has the timer, even if it’s moving fast, our very first playthrough took about 6 hours. It was very exciting, but very long, as you can imagine. The game itself can split into 2 parts or with special rules, save it at any moment, so there’s no problem there. Just a heads up that it’s possible you won’t finish the very first game on the very first day.

Is this game for you?

I just want to say yes. This is a 2020 game that’s a must-have or must-try for any board gamers. 

This game is very simple to learn for those who’re a bit afraid of complex games. It has an amazing narrative and story for those who love board games already. 

It’s a game about cooperation but also everyone has personal missions. There’re pirates and humor. There are risks and rewards.

Honestly, I’m in love.

 

Anna Pogrebniak

I’ve been playing as long as I remember myself. When I was a kid I dreamt of building my own games, and now I’m trying to make it a reality. Board games carry me away into a different world where I can be a knight, a researcher, a kingdom builder or a zombie fighter. Love semi-coop and engine building games. Favorite game of all times: Dead of Winter.