People who pre-ordered SeaFall directly from Plaid Hat Games are getting their shipping notifications, so I figured now was a good time to write up my updated impressions of SeaFall after having played a couple more games of it. As like before, I will keep things spoiler-free.
You’re Going To Need A Razor/Knife!
There are 8 empty hex spaces and 1 inset space that run across the vertical fold of the board, and you will almost certainly end up placing permanent stickers on some of these spaces. Since that seam folds outwards, it will cause these stickers to tear/rip! I highly recommend you have a razor or other small blade that you can use to cut the sticker in half once you’ve applied it to the board. This results in a nice clean edge between the two halves, and no issues folding the board. I’m not sure if this was an oversight when producing the physical game, or an oversight in the rulebook to not point this out. Huge shoutout to No Pun Included for pointing this out on their Twitter feed.
There are also empty hex spaces running on the horizontal inward seam that you potentially could put stickers on, and I would probably recommend slicing those in half as well so that you don’t get a lot of wear and tear from folding the sticker.
Even after a handful of games, SeaFall is still a long game. Games have lasted 8-11 rounds total and it’s still taking us ~3 hours to play a single game with 4 players. This does include the game end upgrades and winter phases, and a couple real-life distractions, but that’s averaging out to be about 4-5 minutes per player turn. Some of this can be attributed to having to read story entries from the captain’s book when things are explored and milestones are completed, but analysis paralysis is probably the biggest culprit. My observation has been hiring an advisor at the beginning of a player’s turn is the biggest bottleneck, as players have to read all five advisor’s cards (more likely if they’re sitting on the far end of the board, or mentally checking out between turns), then think about if they want to buy one or not, and which one. If you or people in your group hate longer games, this might not be the game for you. That all said, players have stayed engaged in the game during other players’ turns, so people do find it interesting. A quicker group could probably knock a game out in 2 hours. Adding a fifth player would also lengthen the game, and I probably wouldn’t recommend playing with 5 unless you have 5 people who really want to play it. If you only have 3 or 4 people, don’t go seeking out an extra player(s).
Rules Ambiguities and Mistakes
As we’ve unlocked new content and new rules are introduced, we have hit some issues with rule ambiguities, and we don’t appear to be the only ones after seeing some very heated discussions on BGG about these new rules. Rob and JR have been replying to questions and clarifying things, which helps a lot and hopefully will make things smoother for people just getting the game now, but there have been instances where it felt like we were playtesters ironing out the rules. This isn’t a spoiler, but under the enmity section of the base rules there really should have been a line that said “Province enmity and At War With enmity applies whenever anything a player controls is raided, regardless of its location”. This line alone would have cleared up a lot of issues that we and other people on BGG had.
Speaking of rules, we also hit a snafu where we were playing a new rule incorrectly for two games that ended up giving one player a slight advantage. Getting a rule wrong in a Legacy game is scary, as you typically can’t undo mistakes made in previous games, and if the mistake is severe enough it could potentially unbalance the rest of the campaign. Thankfully, our mistake was pretty minor. There are no rules in SeaFall for what to do about a rules mistake, so we ended up just having to kangaroo court it within the group. In the end, it was decided upon that the player who got the advantage will get the equivalent disadvantage for the next two games, which is effectively what Rob/JR suggested we should do when I asked.
That All Said, I Can’t Wait To Play Again!
I decided to start with some of the more negative aspects I’ve had with the game so far, but that’s not to say it’s a bad game. We’re enjoying the game a lot, and one player in my group is head-over-heels in love with SeaFall. I look forward to playing it every week, and it is quickly becoming one of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve had with my group. Some of this is due to the core gameplay itself, but a large part of it has to do with the meta that has evolved around the game. Most board games we play start and finish when the box is put on the table and when everything is packed up, but the campaign and meta with SeaFall is ongoing. We’re always talking about it, and between games during the week I find myself debating what strategy to pursue in our next game. We’ve gotten to a point in the campaign where there are more options and strategies for what you can do in a game, which has led to a lot more interesting decisions you can make since the initial game.
And speaking of meta, every group is going to have a different arrangement of islands, different arrangements of sites on island, different order in which content is unlocked, and more, which means not only will no two physical copies of SeaFall be alike, but no two groups’ metas will be alike either.
All Playstyles Are Viable
As mentioned before, as the game opens up a little more, there’s a lot more flexibility for different playstyles. One player in our group is playing it basically like it’s a Euro, buying and selling goods for mass amounts of wealth (he was actually able to win a game without rolling a single die!). One player in our group is playing it more aggressively, raiding the islands and players constantly. He’s been doing pretty well in the short-term, but I am very curious to see what the long-term ramifications of these early games will be for him, as he’s already amassed 18 permanent enmity, making it more and more difficult for him to buy goods and continue raiding in future games (the rest of us collectively have 3 permanent enmity!) I’ve been focusing more on exploration, and have enjoyed pushing my luck with difficult exploration endeavor rolls, discovering new things, and reading the little story bits. You never know what you’re going to find, and sometimes it’s not necessarily good! And finally the fourth player has been playing a bit of a hybrid, focusing more on achieving milestones to get the points and rewards associated with them. At this point in time, there is only a 4 points spread between the player in first and last place, so all paths have seemed pretty viable!
Is 2-Player Viable?
SeaFall is listed as a 3-5 player game, but the designer and developer have said you could theoretically play it 2 player. Having played a couple games, I would agree with that. The game itself doesn’t really scale at all based on the player count, so playing with fewer players does mean that things will get explored a slower rate, and there will be less competition for resources and milestones.
If you’re interested in the game for more of the mercantile or exploration aspects, you should have little issue playing it as a 2-player game. If you want to play it more combat/raiding focused, it may not work as well 2-player based on how permanent enmity works. Each province/island has 6 spaces for permanent enmity stickers, and once they are full you start stickering over existing stickers of other provinces. This means that once you fill up the other player’s province with your permanent enmity, it’s going to take a long time to fade away, or maybe never will. Players will largely leave each other alone in a 2-player game, and it will become more of a race of who can build a better engine and/or achieve objectives faster.
In summary, my group and I are still liking this game a lot, probably a little more than we did when we first started the campaign. I can totally see how many people are going to hate this game due to the length and pacing alone, but it’s a rewarding experience if you can put the time into it.
I don’t know if I’m going to do any more mid-campaign impressions, but I will write up a final review when we’re all done, whenever that may be. For all of you about to start on your first game(s) of SeaFall, hopefully my initial and updated impressions have helped set your expectations going into it, and hopefully you enjoy it as much as my friends I have!