Sail on a Pirate Adventure in ‘Forgotten Waters’

Gaming Tabletop Games

Take on the role of crew of a pirate ship under the command of one of five different captains, each with their own quest, in the adventure game Forgotten Waters.

What Is Forgotten Waters?

Forgotten Waters is the latest release by Plaid Hat Games. Players take on responsibilities of running a pirate ship and must work together to help their captain complete his or her quest. While the game is cooperative by nature, each player is also trying to become the best pirate and meet their individual goal. As their pirate ship sails across the open sea, the players encounter other ships, ports, islands, storms, and even deadly sea creatures. Forgotten Waters is for 3 to 7 players age 14 years old and up. There are also variants for solo and two players. The stories in the game contain some language that would be comparable to a PG-13 movie. Forgotten Waters retails for $59.95 and can be purchased from Amazon or other retailers. .

GeekDad Approved 2020

Forgotten Waters is GeekDad Approved!

Image by Michael Knight

Forgotten Waters Components

Forgotten Waters features many different components to keep everyone engaged in the game and in their individual role. In addition, you will need to download or access the Forgotten Waters app online. Let’s take a look at what you get in the box.

  • Rule Book
  • Location Book with over 30 different locations
  • Map Board
  • 7 Pirate Standees
  • 1 Ship Standee
  • 7 12-sided Dice in different colors
  • 6 different Crew Boards (Boatswain, First Mate, Cooper, Gunner, Quartermaster, Lookout)
  • Pad of Ship Scribe Sheets
  • Pad of Player Sheets
  • 10 2-sided Objective Cards
  • 89 Treasure Cards
  • 96 Store Cards
  • 7 Player Treasure Chest Cards
  • 2 Special Rules Cards
  • 20 Special Location Tokens
  • 30 Navigation Tokens
  • Nearly 100 other Tokens and Markers
The Location Book and Map go side by side in the center of the play area. Image by Michael Knight

One of the central features of the game is the Location Book. Players explore numerous locations during a game and each location offers different actions which can be taken by the members of the ship’s crew. The Map Board is placed right next to the Location Book and charts the course the players take as they explore the map with Location and Navigation Tokens placed during the course of play. The Pirate Standees show the actions selected by the crew at the current location while the Ship Standee keeps track of the players’ position on the map.

Player Standees and Dice. Image by Michael Knight

Each player gets a Crew Board or a Ship Scribe Sheet. These keep track of the status of the voyage and the condition of the ship, its crew, and supplies. If there are fewer than seven players, multiple jobs can be assigned to each player. A Player Sheet is given to each player at the start of the game. Each sheet in the pad is unique and allows players to create their own pirate with a backstory and personal objectives for the game. Players keep track of their skills and progress on these sheets. If you run out of Player Sheets, you can download more copies from the website.

Treasure Cards and Story Cards. Image by Michael Knight

Players collect Treasure and Story Cards during the game. These can provide skill bonuses as well as various effects. Treasure Cards can be stolen from other players at times during the game. So much for honor among pirates.

Various tokens from the game. Image by Michael Knight

Forgotten Waters uses several different counters during a game. Re-roll tokens can be used to re-roll a die roll. Players with a misfortune token must roll two dice and take the lower result, then discard the token. Constellation Event tokens represent a player essentially leveling up. Other tokens and counters are used on the Location Book and the Crew Boards.

Ready to play the game. Image by Michael Knight

How to Play Forgotten Waters

Setup

Before beginning a game, you will need to access the Forgotten Waters app from the website: fwcrossroads.com. The app not only advances the game, it also includes the storyline for each of the five scenarios. It features voice-overs for all the story text which adds to the game and plays background noise of a ship at sea during the gameplay. Setting up the game is fairly simple. The Location Book and Map Board are placed in the center of the play area with cards and tokens placed at either side for easy access for all players. The app shows how to set up the map with the initial location tokens. Other tokens are placed on the map as players sail around exploring.

Each player is given a Player Sheet from the pad and folds it in half to make a booklet. After creating a name for your pirate (the rule book includes a pirate name generator if needed), fill in the story blanks which are similar to ad-lib games. These responses are then used for the player’s backstory as well as events and endings for the player.

Once everyone has their name and backstory completed, each player is given a role or responsibility for the voyage. If there are fewer than seven players, some players will need to double up on roles. The Ship Scribe takes a scribe sheet and writes down the name of the ship with the help of the rest of the crew and then writes down the name of the scenario. The scribe sheet keeps track of events which take place during the game and also serves as a way to save information and stats if play is to be resumed at a later time.

Crew Boards. Image by Michael Knight

The First Mate keeps track of the crew as well as their discontent with associated tokens. The number in the mouth of the crew token also lets you know how many supplies you need to feed your crew. The Cooper keeps track of the amount of supplies on board the ship while the Boatswain tracks the status of the ship’s hull.

More Crew Boards. Image by Michael Knight

The Quartermaster keeps track of the infamy of the crew. Actions during the game will increase or decrease a player’s infamy. Infamy is used to determine the order in which players choose actions as well as to break ties. The Lookout is in charge of keeping track of threats as well as the current objective for the game.

The Gunner Board. Image by Michael Knight

The Gunner keeps track of the ship’s cannons including their loaded or unloaded status. In addition, the five wheels can be rotated to track various types of information depending on the location and the scenario. For example, if fighting another ship, one wheel could represent the enemy ship’s hull while the second the sails.

After all players have been assigned roles, follow any other setup instructions as described on the app and then you are ready to begin play.

Select actions from the Location Book. Image by Michael Knight

Gameplay

The app guides play of the game, with players making choices at times. When the app directs, turn to the designated page in the Location Book and begin a round of play. Each round of the game is divided into three phases. As soon as the new page is opened, the Planning Phase begins. Read any warning text on the left side of the book and then start the timer on the app. The default time is 40 seconds. During that time, players in order of infamy take turns selecting actions on the right side of the book. Symbols next to each action show what skills might be improved and used as well as the possible outcomes. There is not enough time to read all the details for each action and that is the purpose of the timer. If time runs out, the discontent of the crew is increased. Some actions can only be chosen by one player while others can be chosen by multiple players. Some locations have required actions. If you are the last player to choose, the one with the lowest infamy, you have to take the required action if no one else has done so.

Once all players have chosen their action, the Action Phase commences. Starting with the first action at the top of the page, players resolve the actions they have chosen. Many actions increase a skill for the player and then require a skill check. The player rolls their die and then adds their skill level to the result. Treasure and Story Cards can also add to the die roll. The result is then compared to options in the Location Book to determine the outcome. Some actions do not require a skill check but give the player options from which to select. After all players have completed their actions, the End of Round Phase begins. All this requires is entering the entry number into the app to see what to do next. Play continues until the final objective of the scenario is completed.

Move the ship on the map to travel to new locations. Image by Michael Knight

After each round, players often have the choice to move the ship. As they do, navigation tokens are drawn from the stack and placed in the ship’s new location. Each of these has a number which it entered into the app and instructs players which page to turn to in the Location Book. Some actions allow players to scout out hexes ahead of time so they know into what they are sailing.

Each player gets their own unique Player Sheet. Image by Michael Knight

As players improve their skills, they mark it on their Player Sheet by filling in boxes. Some boxes contain a star. When these boxes are filled, the player can then fill in one of the circles on their constellation, starting from the star in the center. As they follow the paths of the constellation, they eventually fill in circles with an ‘!’ in them. These are constellation events. When this occurs, they collect a Constellation Event token. Then at a time designated by the app, they resolve this event on their Player Sheet by reading the event and gaining the designated reward. Constellation events are how players individually determine how successful they are at the end of the scenario. The more events completed, the better.

During the course of the game, the Lookout keeps track of threat. At the end of most rounds, a threat token is added to the track. When a threat check is called for by the app, the Lookout checks to see if the number of threat tokens equals or exceeds the limit for the current objective. If it does, the Ship Scribe checks off a box for a threat event and that entry is typed into the app for more instructions. The threat track helps keep the game moving and serves as a time limit so players don’t just stay in port for multiple rounds.

Finishing the Game

Players win the game if the app states they have completed their scenario goal and they have completed at least four constellation events. Each player then reads their ending from their Player Sheet. There are also three different ways to lose the game. If the hull value on the Boatswain’s board ever reaches zero, the ship sinks and the players all drown. If the discontent token is ever equal to or higher than the crew token on the First Mate’s board, the crew mutinies. Finally, if the last threat event on the Ship Scribe sheet is ever reached, the app describes the cause of failure for the players.

Why You Should Play Forgotten Waters

After describing the components in the game, the rulebook only has four pages of rules, one of which is how to setup the game. At first, this can seem somewhat confusing. However, the app as well as the Location Book really walk everyone through the more detailed parts of the game. Any confusion such as what the wheels on the Gunner’s board represent are clarified and explained during the game. Therefore, it is easy to get right into and start playing Forgotten Waters. I really liked how every player has a role and responsibilities during the game. This keeps everyone engaged during the game. In addition, the unique Player Sheets encourages players to specialize in certain skills. Each player has one skill they can only increase by 2 and one skill they can increase by 7. Therefore, when deciding on actions during a round, players should focus on those actions that increase their specialty and take advantage of the bonus to their skill check die roll.

The app has set up information for each scenario. Image by Plaid Hat Games

Infamy really becomes important as you progress through the game. If you are the lowest, you end up with the actions no one wants since they usually do not provide a skill increase. So even though player are working together, there is also competition between them to have the highest infamy so they can pick their action first. In addition, having the timer during the planning phase forces the players to quickly discuss what actions need to be taken and then selecting actions before the timer runs out. This again encourages players to stay engaged and for each player to fulfill their responsibility. For example, the Cooper wants to make sure that supplies do not get too low while the Boatswain has to keep the hull repaired or everyone drowns when the ship sinks.

The app shows where the location tokens go on the map. Image by Plaid Hat Games.

While some locations are placed on the map at the start of the scenario, most of the map is open sea. The placement of random navigation tokens as the ship moves ensures that each time playing a scenario features new and unique encounters. Each location in the Location Book features beautiful artwork that helps players visualize the game. Finally, the app really takes the game to the next level. While the function could be accomplished with an event book where players have to look up numbered events and read them aloud, they app takes care of this for you with dramatized readings of the story text. There are also several events where players have to choose from various options. The choice they make then determines where the story leads.

Forgotten Waters is a story-driven adventure game which features a robust story that gives context and purpose to the gameplay. While some players may think listening to the story from the app slows down the game, I found it exciting and immersive. I personally like story with my games rather than abstract gameplay. Scenarios can take 2-4 hours to play. However, each scenario can be saved at its midpoint to play again later. Therefore, Forgotten Waters is the main feature for a game night. If you like pirates, story-driven gameplay, and player interaction, Forgotten Waters is the game for you.

 

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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