Designer: Mr. Bistro, J. Arthur Ellis, Isaac Vega
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Artist: Anton Fadeev, Nadezhda Tikhomirova
The world of Forgotten Waters is silly and magical, with stories designed to encourage players to explore and laugh in delight as they interact with the world around them. There is so much to find and discover that will leave players wanting to turn over every rock just to see what they encounter.
Forgotten Waters is a Crossroads Game set in a world of fantastical pirate adventure. A Crossroads Game is a game which has a grand narrative game with multiple possible outcomes. The choices players make as they play will alter the direction of the story and can have an have an effect on the outcome of the game.
In the game, players take on the role of the senior crew of a pirate's ship embarking on a shared adventure. Together they will all serve under the same colourful pirate captain and work together to successfully complete that captain’s adventure. Each player will also seek out their own glory by filling in stars on their personal player sheet. Once players reach the end of the adventure, their characters fate will be determined by how many stars they filled in their constellation.
The game is driven by a companion app, the location book, and the map board, placed in the centre of the playing area. Each player selects a pirate standee, the matching colour 12-sided die, a treasure chest card and infamy marker. They also each choose their own unique player sheet and come up with a name for their pirate which is written on this sheet (there is a handy pirate name generator in the rule book if players get stuck) and fill out the story blanks section on their player sheet.
Players each take on a role or responsibility that they will be in charge of for the duration of the game, if a game consists of fewer than 7 players, some people may have to take on more than one role. These roles are The Ship Scribe who writes and references info on the ship’s log (they also together with the rest of the players come up with a name of their Pirate ship); The Quartermaster who keeps track of infamy and times the Planning Phase; The First Mate who keeps track of the crew and their hunger and discontent; The Boatswain who keeps track of the ship’s hull; The Cooper who keeps track of the ship’s supplies; The Gunner who Keeps track of the ship’s cannons and finally, The Lookout who keeps track of threat level and current objective.
Forgotten Waters runs over a series of rounds with each round taking place on a page of the location book and consisting of 3 phases that must be completed in order:
Planning Phase - During the planning phase players will have a limited amount of time to choose their actions for the round (these are not resolved straight away). The Quartermaster starts the timer in the app and players take it in turns by order of infamy to choose an action in the location book using their character standee before the clock runs out. Some of the actions that are available can only be selected by one player and some are mandatory so must be chosen by at least one player. Some pages also have special actions which advance the Captains story, which can have a big impact on the narrative of the story.
Action Phase - During the action phase players resolve their chosen actions in numerical order by performing skill checks and following the instructions listed under that action. These can vary from helping to sail the ship and feeding the crew while on the open seas or heading to the local tavern and going on a side quest when ashore. Some actions may become locked once a player has picked them so they can only be attempted once per game. Over the course of the game players will acquire Re-roll and Misfortune tokens which are applied at this step.
Re-roll tokens can be spent when a player chooses to have another go at a skill check if they rolled badly and a Misfortune token means the player must roll their die twice when attempting the skill check and take the lower result. These tokens are discarded as they are used and there is no limit as to how many tokens a player can have.
End of Round Phase - To end the round, the entry listed under the current page’s Round End section is read out. The effects of this can vary depending on the nature of the page that the players are currently on. For example, if the player’s ship is engaged in battle with another ship, they might take hull damage or loose crewmembers.
If the players have moved onto a new page in the storybook, they remove all the tokens on the current page and turn to the new page. If there is a location warning on the page, it is read out to the group as this may guide players as to what actions they may need to take or any negative effects that may happen at the end of the round if they remain on the page.
Play then proceeds to the Planning phase, the timer is started, and players select actions they want to take by order of infamy.
There are 4 ways the game can end:
Drowned: If the ship’s hull reaches 0, the ship sinks, and all players drown losing the game together.
Mutiny: If the discontent crew is ever equal to or higher than it, every player loses.
Threat: If the last threat event is reached, every player loses.
Scenario Goal Reached: If a scenario entry instructs that players have reached the scenario goal then all players that have completed at least 4 constellation events win the game. If a player has completed all 5 of their constellation events, they have achieved a superior victory. Starting with the player with the highest infamy, each player consults the Endings chart on their player sheet and reads their indicated ending.
Forgotten Waters has some level of RPG mechanics mixed in with the game, each player is given a character sheet at the beginning of the game. On this sheet they build their character, giving them a name, and filling out the story blanks mad lib style to build a background story. Each character also has a base set of skills which will be built on throughout the game.
A lot of the actions in the game require players to perform skill checks, this is where Forgotten Waters' RPG elements come into play. To perform a skill check players, roll their 12-sided die, adding 1 for each filled-in box for the required skill on their player sheet, plus any bonuses they have on their treasure and story cards. Next, they consult the text in the location book and resolve the option corresponding to their total.
When a player gains a skill for example, hunting +1, that player fills in the left-most unfilled box for that skill on their player sheet (boxes with cross symbols cannot be filled in). If the box, they fill in has a star they may also fill in a star on their constellation. When they reach a circle with an exclamation mark, they take a constellation token to remind them to read the next part of their chosen character's story when prompted by the game.
So, what do we think of the game?
Forgotten waters is an incredible immersive story telling experience. Plaid Hat have a real knack for creating stories which are deeply compelling, highly thematic and barrels of fun! The writing in the game is outstanding, it is clever, playful, tongue in cheek, silly and in places absolutely hilarious.
The game has a perfect balance of narrative, exploration, and action. The gameplay and mechanics are simple yet exciting and still provide plenty of opportunity for strategy. Gameplay becomes a balancing act of weighing up whether to make choices that benefit and advance the main objective or taking a more selfish approach and choosing options which benefit your own personal story. An individual loss can sometimes mean even more hilarity as the play reads out the tragic ending of their chosen character.
The game is designed to be a family-friendly experience and has an age rating of 13+ due to light innuendo, mild language, and playful violence which can be found in some of the scenarios.
Forgotten Waters is quite a long game and generally sits at around 4 or 5 hours for a full scenario playthrough, while this seems long - the time flies by as you sail your way across a vast adventure filled with thrilling sea battles, raucous tavern encounters, and magical underwater explorations. Each turn of the page in the location book feels exciting... what will you encounter next? A village with lush green scenery inhabited by merfolk, an enchanted jungle filled with mysterious magical creatures or a gigantic megalodon shark?! It is worth noting that the game does give you an opportunity to record your progress halfway through each scenario so you can pick it back up another time if you don't want to play it all in one go.
The free App which drives the game provides rich narration by way of voice actors, and thematic sound effects bring the game to life in a truly magical way. The voiceover acting is outstanding, captivating and really funny!
There are lots of easter eggs packed into the game which really bring a smile to our faces when we run into them, in one of our scenario play throughs we came face to face with a giggling sponge, a grumpy squid and a chubby starfish. These little details bring even more joy to an already gripping storyline.
The art in the game is stunning, the location book is filled with breath-taking scenes filled with endless magical details and easter eggs. We could pour over the location book for hours just admiring the artwork and finer details. Also, a special nod goes to Plaid Hat for fantastic diversity representation in the set of playable characters they included in the game.
What really makes Forgotten Waters special is the free remote assistant which takes the Forgotten Waters experience and makes it possible to play online with friends.
The Remote Assistant takes the Actions, the various ship, crew and gunnery tracks and the decks of treasure and story cards and loads them into a web browser that your friends can join using a game code provided by the host of the game.
As long as all players have a Character sheet (which can be printed out online), a D12 and substitutes for the misfortune and re-roll tokens, they will have everything they need to play the game.
When we have played Forgotten Waters, we used Zoom so we could have a camera on the table to show the Location Book, and a screen share from our iPad which has the App running so everyone could see the narrative and hear the voice acting, as well as individual cameras so we could all see each other.
We were blown away with how well the Remote assistant works and it was so nice and refreshing to be able to get stuck into a game in which we didn’t have to improvise or adapt to be able to play with our friends while we are not able to meet up due to Covid-19.
Overall, we feel that Forgotten Waters is the ultimate immersive story telling experience, it is charming, silly, hilarious and steeped in rich adventure that will have you hooked and eager to jump into your next game. It is hands down one of the best semi-cooperative gaming experiences we have ever had.