Tabletop Game Review – Forgotten Waters

Forgotten Waters by Plaid Hat Games
Price: ~$60.00
3 to 7
~2 to 4 hours
Perfect for:
Families and groups who enjoy a mix of a cooperative and competitive adventure steeped in a rich story and influential decision-making.

Forgotten Waters is a game of plundering, treasure-seeking pirates! Players assume various roles on their captain’s vessel as they chart a course for parts unknown encountering perils, dangers, and intrigue along the way. And while the motley crew must work together to survive, they also each have their own secret agenda tucked away which may sway their actions.

To begin Forgotten Waters, three to seven players collect a personal sheet that outlines their objectives and tracks their skill progression, as well as various tokens and markers to represent their character. Players also divvy up the ship’s operations/jobs, to make a people responsible for keep tracking of various things such as the amount of supplies onboard, the number of crew members, threat level, etc. Other components are also placed on the table including a world map with tiles (indicating where the ship is) and a corresponding location book which details the actions players may take while there. As a final step, the group must connect to the online interactive tool which provides the narration for the game and keeps track of consequences of decisions made over the course of the adventure.

During a round, players will have several options of things they can do at the location where they currently reside. Infamy (which is lost or gained throughout the game) decides the player order, and one at a time they quickly choose from their options. For example, while at port a player might decide to visit the local tavern where they get into an arm-wrestling match. They would then increase their “brawn” ability by +1, and then roll a d12, adding their brawn ability score, to see what happens for the outcome of the match. The available actions relate to the happenings at the time—so in a battle, players could load cannons, fire cannons, etc.

To win an adventure, two things must occur. First, the players must survive to the end of the scenario, which can be tricky given everything that must be maintained (i.e. enough food for the crew, the state of the ship’s hull, etc.). In this manner, the crew must work together to address the areas of need. On top of that, each player is trying to gain experience in their various skills and in doing so, can complete their personal objectives. If an individual achieves four of five goals before the end of the adventure, they win.

RELATED: Tabletop Game Review: Quirky Circuits

What works in Forgotten Waters is the absolutely fantastic and immersive storytelling, and the masterful integration of the Crossroads mechanic which allows players to choose their own path through an adventure. This is primarily made possible due to the online “guide” which helps players by spelling out exactly what they need to do after every encounter, and also provides rich narration through voice actors who make the adventure come to life. It even includes music and sound effects that correlate to places like bustling marketplaces, stormy seas, and ship battles. The mix of engaging decision-making that impacts the story and pure fun is off-the-charts as individuals will feel like they are truly a part of the tale as it unfolds.

Players not interested in a multi-hour commitment to the pirate life may not enjoy Forgotten Waters as much as others. While gameplay certainly speeds up once individuals learn the core actions and cadence, the experience can take several hours. Parents may also want to be aware that the story has a light PG-13 rating, with innuendo, language, and some silly violence. Finally, Forgotten Waters feels like there’s a lot going on with many variables to keep track of. This is certainly true, but if players are diligent in following the instructions and prompts with the online guide, this is won’t be a problem.

Forgotten Waters is an absolute delight of a game, especially for groups of people who want something slightly collaborative and highly imaginative. The balance of action, intrigue, exploration, and narrative is pitch perfect. Forgotten Waters comes highly, highly recommended.

Recommended if you like: Dead of Winter, Mansions of Madness, Gloomhaven,

Final Grade: A+

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