Review: Seafall

Seafall review

Seafall is a Legacy game. In a nutshell it’s a game that evolves, decisions you make in 1 game will carry though into future games. They often tell a story with a definite starting and end point. During the course of which you will mark the board or cards and even throw away or destroy game components.

It sounds rather rash especially since these games are all over R1K each.  It is a lot of fun though. I’m going to be playing through the full story over a series of months and if my impression of the game changes, I’ll post an update. So here are my first impressions on Seafall.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the Box

Specs on the box

  • 3-5 players
  • Ages 14+
  • 90 – 120 minutes

Half of the content is actually not available from the word go. Inside the box you have lots of smaller boxes. 5 are for the players to store anything that is for their use, for them to carry over from game to game, the other boxes are sealed.

They contain cards, tiles, stickers and even rules that will be opened at certain points in the game. In this way the game will evolve and grow more complex as you play it. The rule book is full of spaces where unlocked rules will be added at future points in the game. Coupled with the fact that it’s advised to read the middle bit before the beginning might make it an odd read for some. It is however not difficult to read, it does lack examples. This can lead to some clarity issues.

Seafall review
Everything has it’s place but there were too few baggies and I have to get my own for the coins.

There’s a bunch of cardboard coins, plastic cubes for resources and a fair amount of cards to start the game with. Each player will also get a pair of plastic ships and a bunch of custom dice. Overall I’m quite impressed with the quality of the components given that you won’t be playing this game forever.

Sleeves

I’m actually not going to sleeve this game as I don’t think it will need it. I doubt I will play it again after the campaign is over.

Theme

Seafall is set during the age of exploration. It’s the time of high seas and adventure when man sets out to see if the world is really flat or not. Each player controls a province on the main land and sets off to discover and colonise islands out in uncharted waters, bringing back with him riches and glory.

At the end of the campaign the player that accumulated the most glory will be crowned the emperor!

It actually does a pretty good job of putting you in the role of the early explorers. Even the board starts off blank and you need to discover what lies beyond the known. The Captains’ Booke, while not expertly written, does a fair job of leading you on an adventure to explore the unknown with a ‘choose you own Adventure’ style of exploring.

Gameplay

This is going to be a rough overview of how the game plays.

Setup

This is a tricky one to explain because the initial setup and the setup thereafter differ a bit. For the most part you setup the board. Each finds their player board and chest. From the chest they will take any cards that they have along with enmity tokens and place them in the spots on their player board. Then they place their ships in their respective harbours.

Seafall review
Fully setup and ready for the first game. It is a bit of a space hog.

Next the supply board needs to be setup. Ship upgrades and buildings must be placed in the appropriate slots and there are spaces for the supply of resources (iron, wood, linen and spice). Then all of the decks of cards are placed where they need to go. Advisers go on the supply board, Damage and treasure cards on the main board.

Any available milestones are placed on the mail board too; achieving milestones will give you a glory boost and usually some kind of bonus. Some milestones will allow you to unlock one of the sealed chests to add components to the game.

Turn sequence

Seafall is played over a series of “years”. Each year starts in winter where players will get to harvest crops from their provinces which will be sold to provide income for the year. Exhausted (face down) cards and tokens are refreshed and a few other administrative tasks will happen. Then there are 6 rounds during which each player will have a turn to act, at the end of the 6th round a new year will begin.

Each player will have a rank, based on how they fared in the previous game. For the initial game it’s random.  This is important for several reasons; first the players need to be seated from lowest rank to highest. The lowest ranked player is the first player for the first year. At the end of each year the first player shifts to the left. This means that the winner of the previous game will be going last for the first 6 rounds of the game! Additionally if there are any ties for any reason in the game it will be awarded to the lower ranked player.

Seafall review
The ships are surprisingly well detailed.

So what can you do on your turn? First you get to either hire an adviser or buy a treasure. There are 5 advisers available each round and you can purchase any 1 of them. They all have some special ability and some expertise that they can award you during your turn. Buying treasure will gain you glory for having that treasure.

Next you need to decide which of your advisers you want to activate, if any. The active adviser will grant you a bonus for the rest of the round.

Then you get to perform actions, which is depending on which guild you want to use. Every guild has 3 actions and you get to perform any 2 of those actions.

  • With the Explorers guild can explore unexplored sections of the available islands or do some research. This will often result in you reading passages from the Captains’ Booke and then making a decision based on the information provided. This can result in a bonus or a penalty, either way there’s a new site discovered on the island for all the players to interact with and you gain a point of glory.
  • Merchants give you the ability to buy goods from the islands and sell them back at your home port. It’s the easiest way to get a much needed cash boost. The sites that produce resources only produce them once per year though so if someone buys them before you, they are gone.
  • The Soldiers guild allows you to raid explored island sections to steal from them or to raid other players. It’s a way to gain extra resources, if they are already sold out and to sabotage sites so that other players cannot use them. Raiding also makes enemies. If you raid an island or an enemy you must give them enmity tokens. These make them wary of you and increase the difficulty of future raids. They also increase the cost of doing normal business with the island.
  • The Builders guild can repair or upgrade your ships or build structures back in your harbour. You can pay for these in gold, but you can get a discount if you trade a resource that you brought back from the islands.

All of the guilds will grant you the action of sailing, moving your ships makes things happen.Most of these actions will grant you glory if you are successful in performing their actions. Failing to raid a site or explore properly can result in damage to your ships or even sink them. It’s not a permanent setback as ships can be repaired and rebuilt. It can result in the loss of glory if you lose the upgrades that you had purchased for your ships.

Seafall review
I’ve got 2 spice and 1 linen in my warehouse.

After either of your actions you have fulfilled the requirements of a milestone then you may claim it and the glory it provides. If at the end of a round a player has reached or exceeded the target glory for the game then the game ends with that player as the winner.

The winner will then get to upgrade his leader or is player board which will grant him a bonus in all future games. After that all the players will be allowed to upgrade 1 of the advisers that they have in play, making them better in future games.

Then each player selects 1 adviser to keep for the next game. There’s 1 caveat to this; the winner can only keep an adviser if he was the cheapest adviser selected by any player, so he might not have one to start the next game with.

After that each player gets to make permanent upgrade to 1 of their 2 ships. This will make them faster, stronger, better at exploring or raiding or increase their hold capacity so they can carry more goods.

Then the player rank is re-arranged based on the game’s outcome and you’re ready to start the next game.

Seafall review
I’ve got 2 spice and 1 linen in my warehouse.

Conclusion

So what do I think of it? Well first off, the game as it stands is OK. Rules wise, it’s a Euro through and through. It’s just not a very good one. The downtime can be significant as there’s (initially) quite a bit of reading from the Captains’ Booke which is not particularly well written. During that time all you can do is plan and wait.

If you are a fan of Euro games and have no particular enjoyment of Ameritrash games, then give it a skip.

That being said, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and I just cannot wait to play again! You see rules wise it’s an ‘ok’ Euro game (so far) but the meta gaming… it’s like a PVP Ameritrash RPG. You get to define your Province and build them up the way you want to build them. My friends and I used to be avid role players and we just enjoy finding ways to sabotage each other. We are all getting into character and enjoying the game.

The Captains’ Booke, actually does a pretty good job of what it sets out to do. It feels accurate to the setting, based on what I know of the early explorers. We found ourselves laughing and grimacing in equal measure as we read the passages. We reached points in the game were we just did not want to let go, but we had to move on and continue.

As our provinces grew we were faced with some awesome choices as to how to proceed. Kas took an early aggro play which, while it will make him a target of raids, will give me a bonus point of glory every game. Since the overall winner is the person that accumulated the most glory across the entire campaign, it will hold him in good stead.

I, on the other hand, selected an upgrade to my leaders’ reputation; it’ll grant him some bonuses during the game but nothing quite like direct points. It’s fun and exciting, we cannot wait to see what’s going to happen next, but all the while we are agonising over decisions that we have already made.

It’s not just a game, it’s an experience. If I’ve got any changes in my impression of the game I’ll create another post for that too.

Can I play this at a braai?

That depends. Do you have someone that is not playing then he can that can braai for you while you are playing?

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