Seafall was not a game I was looking forward to very much. I’d been listening out for people to hail this as “the next best thing”, but word never came. Many a reviewer claimed that the game was slow and unexciting and a far cry from the roaring success of Pandemic: Legacy. I believed that the hype train had derailed, and this title was on a crash course for disaster.
Then, a friend of mine invited me to take part in his copy of the game. Taking part in a legacy game is an investment, but being invited to one is a gift, one that I gladly took.
Please note that this will be a fairly photo light article because I don’t wish to spoil anything for anyone else.
The Set Up
Learning the rules fell to me, and it took me a while to cover everything in the game.There was very little confusion as to how to play the game once we got into it. Big plus so far; the rulebook makes sense (mostly).
There are plenty of treasure chests that line the box; what wonders will be found inside those? Well, we get to find out some things very quickly. We begin by choosing our leaders. For me, I chose this handsome fellow, whom I named Prince Ishmael of Zion.
Before we even got to play, we had to set up just who our nation and character were. My decisions resulted in Ishmael earning the appellation “The Efficient”; I knew exactly what I was going to be doing in the first game. The other players received an upgraded farmland and an improved luck stat, just a taste of the other things you can receive.
I was pretty excited to set sail into the world of Seafall.
The Early Game
Most of the early game was spent exploring the various options to us. I picked up a few advisors (effectively player powers) that would help me with my goal of building, whilst the others went off doing more exciting things like exploring new lands. Still, I was content to go about my merchant business.
At this point, it seemed to me that exploring was far and away the most exciting thing to do, and it also seemed to be an easy way to gain glory (how you win the game and the campaign overall). I was busy building up my home port with marketplaces and ports, meaning I couldn’t explore just yet.
Originally, we weren’t reading the events out loud, but there seemed to be no reason not to. After all, that’s one of the main drives of the legacy game; to experience a growing and deep story. However, this is where I encounter what will become a glaring issue later on.
The Late Game
As we got a handle on the mechanics, we started aiming for the milestones; an easy way to gain great amounts of glory. Ishmael the Efficient managed to claim the builder milestone, which led to [CONFIDENTIAL]. It was really interesting that [CONFIDENTIAL] and this really involved me in the game a lot more. I needed more milestones, but it wasn’t gonna be easy.
On what would be the final turn of the game, I made a mad dash for the last milestone with an adviser called the Madman, and managed to, on a fantastic roll, succeed and achieve my goal. In the end, the three of us tied on twelve glory each, though the winner ended up being the person who started with the lowest title.
One of the objectives resulted in a box being opened, and boy oh boy, it was a doozy. At that point, I was hooked and more than ready for the second game. Now, this is where I’d like to raise some design issues I have so far.
Both my friends received bonuses which will stack with others they gain as the campaign continues. The gold received from farms and the luck at the start of the game can be further increased later. However, my Appellation can only be replaced. Now that I’ve seen the others available, I’m contemplating aiming for one of them, but that would mean that I would therefore effectively start the campaign with no bonus. To me, that seems like a bit of an oversight in design, and I’m a bit disappointed.
In addition, as we played the game, we noticed that there are many cases and keywords that pop up in the game that are not well covered in the rulebook. This slowed down game time and resulted in a fair bit of google searching, with limited success. Whilst the rules did a great job at getting us into the game, they didn’t seem to be prepared for what we were going to encounter.
Back to the end of game stuff, it was pretty exciting to choose an advisor to start with (which would definitely dictate my strategy next game) as well as upgrade my ship. Sticking to my roots, I chose to upgrade my hull (to carry more goods) and to keep a building advisor to help me get my markets up and running quickly.
The End Game
Overall, after my first play, I was pretty eager to play again. In spite of the reviews, I felt as though the game was solid thus far and hoped to see it evolve as I went along.
Two days later, I played my second game. Without going into spoiler territory, here are my summarised thoughts on my second game:
-I felt like the game was pretty strategic and rewarded long term planning for certain strategies. However, it does currently feel as though there is a dominant strategy as far as each individual game goes.
-I love the advisor system in the game. For me, that is far and away the strongest part of the game. The actions in the game are all super simple to understand. What the advisors do is complicate them, altering them in interesting ways that allow for some really big plays.
-I’m starting to see how the game is going to evolve over time, and I’m curious to see if it will unfold as elegantly as I believe it will.
-I am not invested at all in the story of what’s happening, besides my own character and nation’s growth. All of the exploration that has been done feels more like random happenings than a coherent story, and I often couldn’t care less about the actual story. For me, this is not unexpected, but I realise moreso now that Pandemic: Legacy‘s biggest strength was the powerful narrative it drove. I really can’t see that happening in Seafall, as the players are driving the action forward, not the game itself.
I’m impressed with the gameplay and design of Seafall so far. It has definitely exceeded what low expectations I had of it going in and is a solid game in its own right. The Advisor mechanic, in my opinion, carries the game a great deal, and the mechanical legacy aspects of the game are rather simple but well thought out, rewarding long term planning of strategies.
Seafall is not without it’s faults though. I’d like to re-emphasise the story being quite weak. If you’re looking to be engrossed in the world, you’d best look elsewhere. I also feel that the game is a little more exciting for certain types of players than others; merchanting is a rather math based and calculating affair with little to excite. Exploring and raiding, on the other hand, are where the adventure is at.
Perhaps such a fact is not a fault, but a boon to the game. After all, who wants to be a trader and builder all day when there’s adventure to be had? Well, funnily enough, I did. I enjoy economic strategies, but I’m not certain they’re really what’s encouraged in Seafall. As such, for my third game, I’ve hired decided to speed up my assault boat and hire a cannoneer. We’re a-goin’ player hunting next game.
This is not the revolutionary game that Pandemic: Legacy was, at least nowhere close at the moment. But if you like nautical themes or campaign-style games, you’ll have a great time with Seafall.