Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends Review

Sea of ThievesThe wind fills your sails, a rousing shanty fills your ears, and the promise of riches fills your heart. In Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends 1-4 scallywags will embark on a sandbox adventure for 90-120 minutes, each seeking to prove themselves the most feared pirate legend of them all.

As someone who sank a lot of hours into the video game—until my husband and I grew tired of other players, in turn, sinking our ship and stealing our hard-earned plunder—I was cautiously optimistic when I learned about the board game version of Sea of Thieves from Steamforged Games. But is it a faithful adaptation? More importantly, is it good? Let’s dive (i.e. sword lunge) in and find out.

Gameplay Overview:

The game board is a map of the Sea of Thieves, divided up into hexes containing open sea spaces or islands. On their turns, players will spend up to three actions to sail their two ships around the map, plunder islands, fight the various hazards of the sea, attack other players, and complete voyages in order to gain points.

Sea of Thieves Cards
There are three levels of voyage cards in the game- Meagre, Valuable, and Legendary.

Many of the game’s actions are accomplished by making a Crew Roll—that is, rolling a number of dice equal to the crew onboard your currently acting ship. Any roll of 4 or 5 is a success, with 6s counting as two successes. You would then get to act based on the number of successes rolled: move your ship one space for each success during the full sail action, acquire treasure and supplies or defeat skeletons during a loot action, inflict damage on enemies during an open fire action. Your crew can also perform some actions for free, such as repairing the ship, or sailing.

Each player also has a hand of Fate cards, which can give you special actions or help boost regular actions, sometimes even earning additional points. The other action available to players is trading at the outpost, which is where you can sell cargo for gold and sometimes points, upgrade and repair ships, acquire new voyage cards, and hire special crew with powerful abilities.

Once each player has taken their turn, the round ends, then the game’s NPCs will take their turn (each enemy type has a behavior card with a flow chart to keep their turns simple), and an event card is drawn. Event cards might cause new enemies or treasures to spawn on the board, and will give a little boost to the player with the fewest points (affectionately referred to as “the Scurvy Knave”). Once somebody reaches 25 points the end of the game is triggered. The round is finished, end game scoring is added to the scores accrued during the game, and the player with the most points wins.

Sea of Thieves Gameplay
During a game of Sea of Thieves you will visit islands to plunder and battle, and face threats from other players, skeleton ships and maybe even face off with the Kraken!

Game Experience:

My initial foray into this board game got off to a rocky start, as the rules were not laid out in the most digestible format, with the game setup being found in the middle of the rulebook, sandwiched between fragments of rules that will have you jumping from page to page during your first couple play sessions. I think I spent more time buried in the rules than actually playing the game at first.

Sea of Thieves Outpost
The Outpost Board is where players can purchase special crew and new voyagers. it’s also where the event and fate decks are kept.

And yet… once you do learn the rules, the theme actually starts to shine through and, it turns out, this game is pretty stinking fun. Some of the same tension from the video game is there as players race to the best treasures, or gear up to fight the most rewarding enemies. You can pull nasty tricks on your opponents by playing the right Fortune cards at the right time. But there’s more to this game than player versus player battles, in fact, you can play without ever attacking your opponents at all. During a play of Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends, you might defeat a megalodon, raid a fort, steal cargo from other players (only to have it stolen back from you), or even get caught in the snare of the mighty Kraken with no choice but to blast your way out! Yet, for all the fun this game has to offer, there are some issues beyond the rules that I should point out.

Let’s talk a little about the game length. As you’re learning the game those first couple plays will almost certainly take longer than stated on the box, but once you learn the rules the game flow is mostly smooth, though players may get caught in a little AP from time to time. The Trade at the Outpost action can also take a while because there are multiple things a player can do, but even that will get quicker as players become familiar with the options. As for scaling, I did find the game enjoyable across all player counts. For two players you use a smaller map. At four players the game is likely to last longer, with three probably being the sweet spot. But overall, I felt it scaled pretty well and I’d happily play at any count.

Sea of Thieves Dice
Most actions in the game require making a crew roll. After rolling, players may discard fate cards to re-roll any results they don’t like.

There can also be instances in the game where it seems fortune favors one player more than another. For example, events are drawn at the end of each round, which means the starting player gets first dibs on the best of the enemies that turned up as the result of an event. This is especially true for one event, the Skeleton Fort, which gives a tremendous point gain, potentially turning the tide of the entire game. As a counterpoint, though, whoever has the most cargo is also likely to be targeted by other players. Not only that but, since cargo falls to the hex you’re in when an enemy is defeated, it’s possible you won’t always have enough actions to pick it up, so other players can swoop in and claim it. There are also a few cards in the game that let you steal cargo from other players, so treasure might switch hands multiple times, which adds to the lightheartedly cutthroat experience of the game. The catch-up mechanism at the end of the rounds, which benefits the player with the fewest points, also helps balance out these issues.

Sea of Thieves hold
Players store their cargo and crew on their ship cards.

Of course, attempting to sink your opponent is also an option, but that’s not actually easy to accomplish. The damage system is such that damage does not take effect until the end of that player’s turn. In other words, no matter how much damage I cause a player ship to take, it will not sink on my turn, which means any treasure dropped by their ship might not even be there by the time it gets back to my turn. Not only that, but a player might also be able to make it back to the outpost and repair their ship before the end of their turn. So, more than anything, getting attacked by other players is a setback, but it is not always beneficial to the player doing the attacking. This incentivizes a broader strategy, such as completing some of the voyage missions for points, going after NPCs, while choosing key moments to attack your opponents. Utilizing Fate cards is also an important part of your strategy.

Final Thoughts:

So, at the end of the day, this game is a little messy. The rulebook could be better, balancing is questionable, and downtime can be a problem, but those issues aren’t strong enough to break the game, nor to prevent it from being fun. I really do get the sense that I’m playing the Sea of Thieves video game while playing this. Not only that but, it’s fun as just a pirate game even if you’re unfamiliar with the video game.

The rules actually aren’t that complex, so once you have navigated the rulebook and figured it all out, they’re pretty easy to memorize, and you’re free to just hit the high seas, pour a pint of ale, and let the wind carry you through what is sure to be a memorable time. It’s the sort of game that creates stories and shared experiences as you play and, for me, that’s the type of game I enjoy most. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of Sea of Thieves or pirate games in general- if you’re willing to overlook some of the rough edges.

Final rating: 3.5 stars – With a little more polish I would have rated it higher, but it’s still a great experience.

3.5 StarsHits:
• Thematic
• Creates fun, cinematic moments
• Enjoyable at all player counts

• Confusing rulebook
• Downtime during certain actions
• Possible imbalances

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