Designed by Isaac Vega, J. Arthur Ellis & Mr. Bistro | Published by Plaid Hat Games
1-7 Players | 120-240 Minutes
Gather your crew and prepare to set sail to the ends of the earth, meeting strange visitors and trapping through exotic places in this cooperative, story-driven, choose-your-own adventure game. In Forgotten Waters, it’s up to you and your crew mates to make sound decisions as you quest for treasure and glory. Along the way you’ll be seeking to make a name for yourself as well… but without careful consideration, your choices may leave the entire crew knocking on the door of Davey Jones’ locker.
Forgotten Waters is an app driven game where you’re fully immersed in the theatrics of a fantastic pirate adventure. Players will take on the role of pirates aboard a ship in a series of whimsical tales. Throughout the game, players will find themselves in unique circumstances where they’ll have the opportunity to affect the health, safety and prosperity of the crew and the ship. Equipped with a dice-rolling, RPG style of play, players will choose to feed the crew, ensure the integrity of the ship, prepare the cannons or seek their own riches. Every decision has repercussions and players must work together to keep the journey moving forward. Every stop in the adventure pairs both the mobile companion app and the location book. The voice acting and sound production in the app is top-notch, full of humor and atmosphere all contributing to not just a unique pirate game, but a completely new board gaming experience.
Forgotten Waters begins by accessing 1 of the 5 available scenarios in the app at fwcrossroads.com. The app will walk you through the unique setup of each scenario directing you to place certain navigation tiles across the ocean map providing places for your pirate ship to travel. The tiles, when reached, are where the games’ more dramatic and story-altering events typically take place.
Each player will choose one of the game’s 7 pirates and fill out their personal player sheet. The player is where you’ll keep track of your pirate’s skill set throughout the game. You also get to play a fun, little Mad-Libs style game to define your characters backstory. These usually end up being a little silly and really help set the tone. Forgotten Waters is full of good ole pirating adventures, but it also has tons of humor keeping things lite and engaging.
While the game’s action will be driven through a combination of the location book, ocean map and the app, the health of the ship and well being of the crew are managed through a series of mini boards. These keep track of your crew’s discontent, hull integrity and supplies as well as equipping your cannons and declaring each pirate’s infamy (or how pirate-y your pirate really is)! These boards will improve or deteriorate based on the decisions of the players. The responsibilities to manage these boards will be dispersed among the crew at random.
During the game you’ll be instructed to turn to specific pages in the location book. Each location provides visual context as well as a number of placement choices. Players then place their character standees on one of the places in infamy order. Each location has icons hinting at its purpose, but all players are required to make their choice within a limited amount of time or face consequences.
Once placed, and resolving in infamy order, players will be faced with a choice or a challenge. This could be anything from gathering supplies to adventuring off onto an unexplored island. In battle, players may want to man the cannons or prepare for one-on-one combat. The success and failure of many choices are determined by a roll of a 12-sided die. Of course, your choices and their level of success can benefit or plague both you and the crew as a whole.
As your pirate increases in experience, they’ll simultaneously improve at certain skills. These skill points will allow you to mitigate some of the game’s luck by helping to manipulate or shore up certain rolls of the dice.
Many locations will have a specific goal for the crew and if that goal isn’t met players will be forced to repeat the location… likely incurring some negative benefits. Once successful, the app will direct the crew onward.
Failure to meet certain criteria on the individual board tracks can lead to mutiny or death resulting in a failed scenario for all. This is why, while not 100% cooperative, players must always keep those tracks in mind as they make choices along the journey. If successful in achieving their ultimate mission, players evaluate their player sheet and determine who pirates rose to the top. Be it victory or defeat, the app provides a fun story resolution for each player.
Everything in the box is really well done. Everything looks and feels great. The track board and character standees are all high-quality. The tokens that play on the tracks are all themed and function well. There is also a pretty cool treasure chest-like box that holds much of the game’s cards and tokens. The dice are colorful and serve their purpose. The location book is spiral bound and should withstand many games.
The artwork in Forgotten Waters really drives the personality of the game. The iconography and graphic design on the tokens and cards are all really well done, but it’s the illustrations in the location book that will really blow your mind. Each illustration brings to life the setting (often strange and fantastic). They’re all colorful and carefully presented with fun details that really contribute to experience. Two thumbs up.
Forgotten Waters is more of an experience than a game. While your choices have consequences and steering the action in the wrong direction can easily lead to failure, I found myself, more or less, along for the ride. The game’s production is elite and the story unfolding through the voice acting and audio presentation is nothing less than cinematic.
It’s also the fun details that make Forgotten Waters a winner. Complete the Mad-Libs to flesh out your characters back story or the unique star constellations you fill out on the player sheets (providing a path to pirate glory) show a lot of care went into crafting this game.
Playing the game is pretty simple. Mechanically, you’re placing your character on a location option, possibly making a choice, and rolling your dice. This might seem like success is just a case of luck, but systematically playing and building to your pirates strengths will not only help you succeed, but the entire crew succeed. This was where the majority of the game’s interaction took place. The app requires all players to choose their location option within a minute – so you don’t have a lot of time to strategize between the crew, but the time we did, we made sure to shore up the more pressing issues with the more capable pirates.
Despite the obvious choice, often players would wander off or take unnecessary risks just to reveal more of the story. Often the right choice isn’t the obvious choice and that ultimately led to fewer and fewer players questioning a person’s decision. It’s these unexpected moments that keep the game full of wonder and mystery. The story will regularly throw a curveball and whether the outcome was positive or negative, it usually has a fun or humorous take.
The audio production is amazing and pairs perfectly with the creative storytelling. We never knew what was coming up next, but we were always excited to turn the page or see where a choice took us.
The game is difficult and is decently time consuming, but that didn’t stop us from pushing just a little further into a scenario. While it only comes with 5 scenarios, each scenario is a great and full-filling experience. I imagine Plaid Hat Games will figure a way to add additional scenarios or create expansions to extend the play. I also imagine you can replay these scenarios and experience new situations or just enjoy the story one more time like picking up a good book you’ve already read.
On top of everything, the location book is full of amazing artwork. I know I covered this in the artwork section, but I’m a huge fan and it definitely contributed to my enjoyment of this game.
Forgotten Waters is just a great time. The game is made for 3-7 players, but the designer has added official variants for 1 and 2 players. The variants are great and are perfectly acceptable ways to play, but this is a game you’ll want to play with friends and larger player counts. It’s not quite appropriate for younger kids, but this could be something you work through as a family. Setup is a breeze and the game is easy to teach so the accessibility level is really high. Overall, it’s a really unique, innovative experience. The theme is great, the stories are fun and the production quality is through the roof.