Seafall First Impressions – Ships, Sailors, and Sinking
Legacy games have grown in popularity over the past few years. First there was Risk Legacy, which gave way to a wider genre of game. Pandemic Legacy soon followed, and now games like Gloomhaven, Charterstone, and Betrayal Legacy are all taking the spotlight. Somewhere on route, however, is a lesser known game also hit the shelves. That game was a sea exploration game called Seafall and a game we managed to play for the first time recently. Since we can’t really review a legacy game until we have either played the whole campaign or given up, I thought we would look closer at our first impressions of Seafall after having played the very first prologue mission.
First thing to cover is what Seafall is. Unlike with Risk Legacy, Pandemic Legacy, or Betrayal Legacy, Seafall is not based on a pre-existing property. It is, like Charterstone, a completely new and original game. The theme is nautical exploration, with the players playing as different factions who are all looking to rule the seven seas. Like with Charterstone, you name your characters and factions; however, in Seafall you also get to name your ships and every island you come across as well.
The game is split into years, with each year lasting a set number of turns. Each Winter the game is more or less reset; however, before then you get to have around seven turns. Each player takes their turn in order, completing all actions. These begin with hiring experts, choosing your active expert, choosing a guild to complete two actions off, and then reaping the effects of that choice.
Each turn you can take two actions from your guild. Every guild gives you the option to sail, and then you also have the choice of doing either one or two additional actions (based on whether you sail) ranging from exploring, raiding, trading, repairing your ship, or any number of other things.
Seafall is scored, again like Charterstone, on a series of points across various games. At the end of each game you get to upgrade your ship, and carry some of your resources on to the next game.
So, what were the first impressions of Seafall? Well, before we go any further I just need to reiterate again that we only played the prologue due to time constraints. This was enough to get a flavour of the game; however, it was not enough to fully sink our teeth into. As such, take the words here with a pinch of salt.
First thing first, Seafall is, like with most legacy games, a good looking game. It feels epic, with a board that is split into hexagonal spaces designed to make nautical exploration as accessible as possible. All players get a box, and in that box is everything they need to start the game (bar the leader of their faction, which the players choose). They get a series of tokens, along with two plastic ships. One of these is bigger, and one faster. This gives an additional level of strategy to the game, as ships can support each other as well as go out on their own. Both ships play an integral part to deciding what to do each turn.
The question is: how does this translate into the game?
Well, I have to admit – Seafall kind of surprised me, in a good way. It is quite a cheap legacy game, in the UK at least, and is certainly one of the easiest to get your hands on. It has a high level of customisation for any kind of game, and it feels like you are on the edge of building a great fleet.
So, what works well?
Seafall is a well thought through and has a few really strong points. The exploration is great, with each island having a series of places to explore, with each place having its own text and effect based on a book of possible results reminiscent of Tales of Arabian Nights or This War of Mine. This adds a lot of flavour to the game, and often you will find that there are extra actions available off the back of your initial choice.
What this means is that you get a chance to really sculpt the kind of captain or leader you want to be. It adds a sense of roleplaying that goes beyond simple text. It adds meaning to each choice.
What this means is you can act like a royal admiral – however, realistically, it really means that at least 50% of the players will act like pirates.
The exploration option within Seafall is definitely one of the strongest aspects of the game. How exploration occurs is also interesting; however, within the core book, and within those additional options, lies the real impact of the game. It is there that Seafall really seems to shine.
Another place the game shines is with the additional experts within the game. Each turn you can hire an additional advisor who grants you special abilities. Together the advisors form a deck for you to choose between. As you use an advisor you exhaust them until the next round. Each advisor can have their own name, and can massively swing the course of the game.
There are, of course, aspects of the game that don’t necessarily click as well as others. Where exploration is incredibly strong, raiding islands, at this moment in time, feels a bit weak. It comes without the flavour of the exploration, and just results in resources. This can be a bit of an anti-climax – especially when most exploration seems to result in resources anyway.
That being said, in the later game, post the prologue, it is possible to raid other ships, which could be quite fun. It’s just not included in the example mission.
Another aspect that doesn’t work quite as well as it could do is the ships at the beginning of the game. Upon playing it the first time, a friend of mine (whose copy we are playing) warned that it can be slow for the first few games. He noted that it was one of the biggest criticisms that Seafall gets, that it is a bit slow. This was a little bit noteworthy in the first game, as the ships aren’t hugely manoeuvrable. Where this is understandable, as they want to give room for the ships to grow over the course of the campaign, it also means they are somewhat slow to begin with.
All in all though, Seafall is an interesting game. It is rich in its own mythology that acts as a structure between the different missions. We are all looking forward to playing the next mission over the next few weeks. Obviously, we only played the prologue, but it will be interesting to see how it progresses as a game. The basics are interesting enough to make us want to play on and, although not a perfect game, each playthrough should be a couple of hours of great entertainment.
So – yeah – those are our first impressions.
Now over to you – have you played Seafall? If so, what do you think? Is it worth continuing with? Let me know in the comments below.