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Forgotten Waters Review

It’s time to hoist the black sail and embark on an epic pirate journey! Forgotten Waters is a cooperative game about pirates making a name for themselves and working towards a common victory goal. 

The decisions you make will impact the story and shape your adventure, so if the theme or the general premise interest you, join me as we explore Forgotten Waters in great depth! Check out our Forgotten Waters Review below.

Forgotten Waters

Brief Overview of Forgotten Waters

Forgotten Waters Board Game Featured Image

Forgotten Waters is a crossroads game, a genre that involves decision-making and a rich story affected by the choices made. The story is set in a fantasy universe and despite being described as silly and magical, it has a ton of engaging moments. 

The game can be played by 3 to 7 players and has a fairly low complexity rating because of the ‘learn as you play’ approach that makes Forgotten Waters easy to approach and enjoy. 

Gameplay is broken down into scenarios that take around 4 hours to complete and can be split into two sessions. There are currently 5 standard scenarios and 1 DLC scenario, which brings me to one of the most important features of the game.

Forgotten Waters relies heavily on a web app that can be used with or without internet access. Those of us that have certain reservations about such mechanics shouldn’t worry — Forgotten Waters is a fine example of how a game can be significantly enhanced through the use of an app

Fully voice-acted scenario stories, sound effects, and ambient noise create an experience that can be described as an interactive audiobook, and it certainly takes Forgotten Waters to another level of quality.

Versions & Expansions

DLC Pack 1 – Kraken’s Eye

Because of the way Forgotten Waters functions, it doesn’t have to ship physical expansions and instead offers DLC that is more in line with video games. 

On the Forgotten Waters web app, you can buy the DLC pack that includes the Kraken’s Eye scenario and additional 100+ entries that enrich the standard scenarios and increase the replay value.

Unboxing Forgotten Waters

Forgotten Waters Board Game Box and Book

The box contains the following components:

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 7 12-Sided Dice
  • 1 Location Book
  • 7 Game Tracker Boards
  • 2 Pads of Sheets
  • 5 Location Dials
  • 204 Assorted Cards
  • 132 Assorted Tokens
  • 11 Assorted Markers
  • 16 Assorted Standees

For a game about treasure, Forgotten Waters’s chest is quite low on loot. Jokes aside, the game does come with a somewhat limited amount of components — just some boards, cards, tokens. 

However, it’s not about how many components the game has, but how well it can utilize them. After all, we all know how far a piece of paper, a pen, and some dice can get you in DnD. We’ll talk more about how the components are utilized in the following sections, so for now, let’s focus on their quality.

Forgotten Waters comes in a very colorful box that immediately sets the tone of the game. The theme is definitely continued throughout the components, with the Location book featuring very impressive art. 

The game boards are made of punchout cardboard and are used to track the health and progress of the crew. The map is a one-piece punchout cardboard that’s almost the same size as the template. You’ll use the hexagonal map pieces on it to form the map of the sea.

I generally prefer figures over cardboard standees, but the quality of the character art is so impressive that I don’t even mind. Lastly, we have a few dice and a bunch of cards and tokens. There’s nothing remarkable about these pieces, but more importantly, there’s nothing wrong either. 

We’ll talk about the web app in the Pros & Cons section as I want to cover it in more detail. As far as the physical components go, Forgotten Waters impresses with the artwork but there isn’t all that much that sticks out.

Forgotten Waters

How to Play Forgotten Waters

Forgotten Waters Board Game Box and Components

Forgotten Waters is a very approachable game because you only need to know the essentials before you’re ready to play. The game will teach you the rest of the mechanics as you progress through the story. In this section, I’ll take you through the core mechanics to give you an idea of how the game is played.

The Rulebook

What may surprise you is that the Forgotten Waters rulebook contains a total of four gameplay-oriented pages and two component breakdown pages. Almost everything you need to know is contained within the web app and the Location book. 

Game Setup

During the game setup, you’ll create the map based on that scenario’s rules, adjust decks, and position ship trackers in the appropriate spots. The map should be placed in the middle of the table, with the Location book to its left. 

You should also place the tablet or the phone in the center if possible, or use a laptop or TV screen that anyone can see.

Players pick their pirate characters along with the dice, chest card, and infamy associated with them. Pirate titles are unique and randomly assigned to each player, and act as a character sheet. These will be important for personal goals.

The ship roles divide responsibilities among the crew and need to be evenly distributed. Players will be in charge of tracking infamy, crew discontent, ship damage, etc.

Playing the Game

Forgotten Waters is played over a series of rounds, with each round broken into three phases.

Preparation Phase

Open the Location book to the page specified in the setup, and read the hint found beneath the artwork on the left page. Then, start the 40-second timer within the app and quickly place your pirate standees on the available actions on the right page.

In Forgotten Waters, there are four types of actions:

  • Blue actions can only be taken by one player.
  • Green actions accept multiple players.
  • Red actions are mandatory.
  • Gray actions are locked and cannot be taken.

You must not read the detailed explanations of what each of the actions does — nor do you have the time! Just place your standees on the board from the most notorious pirate to the least, while making someone takes the red action. 

Failure to place all the standees in time will result in crew discontent which contributes to one of the game-over conditions. 

Action Phase

Now that the standees have been placed, the order of play goes from top to bottom of the action list. To resolve the action, you’ll now read the detailed action explanation on the right side of the Location book and follow the steps. 

I’m not going to explain the possible actions so I don’t spoil the game, but here’s one that you’ll likely see often:

The hungry crew is a mandatory action that gives you three choices: 

  • Feed the crew — spends the supply of food, slightly increases infamy, and reduces discontent.
  • Ask them to go hungry — increases discontent and reduces infamy but increases swagger.
  • Let them raid the supplies — significantly increases infamy, but drops the supplies to 0. If supplies are already at zero, the discontent is increased.

End of Round Phase

The last phase of the round instructs you to read the Round End section of the current Location book page and follow it through the next round.

Skills & Constellation

On each pirate chart, you’ll find a table with the six pirate skills set at zero. Through certain actions and events, you can increase your pirate’s skill level, but only up to a limit defined for that type of pirate. 

The skills you increase will help you during certain actions and skill checks. Increasing skills will lead to crossing out stars on the skill table, which allows you to also fill in a spot in the constellation. Filling out the constellation contributes toward personal victory.

Game End

There are a lot of mechanics I haven’t covered in this section, but it’s better that you discover them yourself as you play. Although the scenarios take up to 4 hours, you can decide to pause and save your progress, and continue the scenario another time.

The game comes to a bad end when the ship hull marker reaches 0, the crew discontent reaches or surpasses the crew marker, or the final thread event is checked off on the ship’s log.

The web app will inform you that you’ve reached the end of the journey, but that’s not the only victory condition. Players that have completed 5 constellation events get the legendary pirate status while those that have completed 4 get the good ending. Lastly, players with three or fewer constellation events have technically lost, but you can interpret that ending as you see fit.

Forgotten Waters

Your First Game of Forgotten Waters

Forgotten Waters is a story game that is not very complex, so there’s really no need for any beginner tips or tricks. I will say that if everyone focuses too much on personal objectives, it may lead the entire crew to its demise, so balance the personal and group goals to at least reach the end of the first scenario.

Playing a board game for up to four hours can be taxing, but you don’t have to do the entire scenario in one sitting. You can save the game’s progress and continue playing it on another date.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • The App is Excellent
  • Perfect Scenario Length
  • Learn As You Go Approach

I don’t remember ever complimenting a board game application, so this is probably the first time I’ll do so. While some games use an app to cut down on production costs or as a gimmick, Forgotten Waters uses it to enhance the user experience significantly.

You’ve still got the Location book to follow, physical trackers and map, as well as character sheets, dice, and cards. You’re not tapping away at your phone for every single thing instead, you’re just using the app as a guide and a narrative tool.

All of the scenarios are fully voice acted and/or can be read, with sounds of seagulls, sea, and cannon fire as constant background music & effects that bring you even more into the game.

The 3-4 hours that it takes to finish a game of Forgotten Waters is just right, and with the save function, you can split it into two or more pieces. Lastly, the game itself is learned through playing, so there is no investment or effort needed to get started, just gather everyone and the game can start!

Cons:

  • It Has an App
  • Quick-Decision Making
  • Personal vs Team Goals

No matter how good the web app is, I understand that the player base doesn’t like those features added to board games. I’m mentioning it as a con for those skimming over the review, but if you’re reading this part — give the Forgotten Waters app a chance, as I’m certain that it’s going to exceed your expectations.

Honestly, I can’t find glaring flaws with the game, more so features some players won’t like. For example, the 40 seconds to make the decisions is an intentional feature designed to speed the game up and teach you that it’s okay to take quick actions. 

However, I know that some people find that pressure stressful regardless, and may not enjoy the game because of it. The same applies to the goals of the game. 

The players in your party are going to fall somewhere on the selfish vs selfless scale. It’s normal for a player to be pushing for a personal goal, but if they’re always acting in their self-interest, then the game can feel a bit off. I guess the point here is that you should pay a bit of attention to who you’re playing with. 

Forgotten Waters Review (TL;DR)

Forgotten Waters is a board game that’s a lot of fun to play. You can start playing effortlessly and learn as you go while listening to the excellent voice acting over the web app. The scenarios can be replayed multiple times and always result in different outcomes, significantly increasing the game’s replayability. 

Forgotten Waters can be described as a game that offers “party game” levels of fun, but with the mechanics of a proper board game. The story is great and each scenario can be completed in one sitting, giving you a perfect pirate experience!

Conclusion: Verdict?

I don’t consider myself a board-game purist, but I’ve never been too fond of board game apps. It always felt like at that point, I could just boot up the digital version, or play a video game for that matter. Having recently played a game with a 200-page almanac, I have to say that Forgotten Waters handles that in a much better way. 

With the app, there’s no constant scrolling to the storybook, searching for the right entry, and spoiling yourself on half the pages in the meantime. The app provides text and voice acting, while the Location book handles the mechanics. All my reservations about it went away within the first 20 minutes of the game. 

It may seem like I’m more impressed by the app than the game itself, but that’s really not the case. I know a lot of people have reservations about apps in board games and wanted to emphasize that it can be a huge benefit to the genre. 

The game itself is a lot of fun to play, especially if you’re surrounded by a positive group of players. The time limit set on picking action really keeps the momentum of the game going, as it prevents analysis paralysis. 

Instead, you’ve got a bit more time to think about your choice, go over it with the rest of the crew — and ultimately do what you want to do! We’ve sunk some ships due to our incompetence to work as a team, but also made several successful journeys. And that’s what Forgotten Waters is ultimately about — making ridiculous stories about you and your pirate crew.

Forgotten Waters

We hope you enjoyed our Forgotten Waters review! Have you tried this pirate storytelling game yet? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think about the gameplay, app, theme, or whatever strikes your fancy. We’d love to hear from you!

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Stats at a glance

Players: 3-7

Ages: 14 +

Medium

120-240 Mins

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Published: 2020