Pirates, role-playing, and a narrative where the colonizers are the bad guys? When I got the chance to play Sea of Legends from Guildhall Studios at PAX South 2020, I was beyond blown away. Now, as their Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up, I got the chance to play again and break up some of the quarantine monotony by being a pirate captain and trying my hardest to romance a mermaid and help the Merfolk – The Shape of Water changed me, okay?
If you haven’t heard of this table top game that has now quadrupled its Kickstarter goal, it’s a pirate adventure RPG set in a narrative-driven sandbox and accommodates 1-4 players with the play time ranging between from 90 minutes to two hours or roughly 40 minutes per player – although my group has somehow found away to make the game last all day. In Sea of Legends players are pirates in a reimagined Caribbean bursting with magic based in Aztec and other pre-colonial myths. As you adventure, completing individual narrative quests and interacting with other players, you’ll also have to face hordes of the undead, Merfolk, and ancient gods that begin to reawaken, with other factions available for backers at different levels.
The first striking thing about Sea of Legends is the diversity of both playable characters and NPCs, not only in visual appearance – something much needed in RPGs but also in how different attributes impact the way you play the game. To begin, each player chooses a captain to be by picking a card and matching it to the miniature which you’ll move around the board. From there, each captain has a love interest and a nemesis which are represented in the narrative aspect of the game and on the dice. As a captain you not only manage relationships with both by completing adventure quests, but you must also manage your crew, tapping members to use their abilities which affect dice rolls and more. Each decision you make shapes the board for the other players at the table.
Using an app to manage the over 200 branching narratives, there are multiple paths to victory. Collecting relics, overwhelming the board, or helping who your opponents believe to be “enemies” to win so you can as well, thee are so many ways to play. The first player to gain 10 Notoriety wins, but if left unchecked, the NPC Factions moved by each player on the start of their turn can also claim victory. That means that as the players compete, they might also have to band together so they don’t all lose.
Each turn, players may move and take one of three possible actions: attack, visit a port, or go on an adventure. When attacking, you’ll gather your dice and utilize your crew, ship, items, and Lover abilities to gain the advantage. Not only will you have to worry about the other Captains, but you’ll also have to worry about the NPCs from the spawned factions and of course your Nemesis. While the prototype of the game we played only featured The Spanish Armada, The Children of Tlaloc, and The Dread Tide, the base game will also feature The Atlanteans, and the British Empire – with The Aztec Awakening, The Sea’s Fury, and The Harpy’s Descent all available for those pledging to the All-In tier of the Kickstarter.
There are a lot of mechanics in Sea of Legends and counting multiple dice can be slightly overwhelming. That said, the beta rule book does a great job of outlining the progression of turns and each step provides enough immersion to make them hard to forget. Whether you’re attacking another player, grabbing a drink in the Tavern, or interacting with your narrative, each choice is fruitful and is highly customizable to your playstyle. But, the real game-changer is the way Guildhall Studios has integrated technology into it in order to ease narrative tracking which allows for more immersion.
With the base game including 38 miniatures and over 200 cards there is a lot to keep track of, but having an app keep track of story helps keep the game on the rails even all of its parts. In fact, the app integration is a wonderful way to open the gateway of playing table tops for folks who don’t usually pick them up. While some table top gamers may be hesitant given that it is an app driven game, I can promise you that you don’t lose any of the immersion. The use of the app is no different than using a pen and paper, and if anything allows you to move more quickly and less fuss.
Additionally, I’m so used to RPGs set in primarily European or European inspired-fantasy lands that the fact that Sea of Legends uses pre-Columbian myth is not only welcome, but long overdue for the gametype. With names inspired by Nahuatl and a story that unequivocally leaves the Spaniards as the bad guys. Especially when you close in on the Merfolk, The Children of Tlaloc. In the game, the islands you visit were original homes of the Merfolk, but they were driven from them. Now, by choosing narrative options, you can help them reclaim it and fight colonialism (my words) with a relic which allows you to win if they do, or you can work against them.
While the refreshing setting it a huge draw for me, with The Aztec Awakening being the main reason I pledged “All-In” for their Kickstarter, Sea of Legends is phenomenal because of its range of choices in every avenue. With no gender restrictions, you can romance any of the Lover characters, with a choose your own adventure story, you can make different decisions each time, and with multiple avenues to victory no game will be the same.
Sea of Legends is truly a game to support. With an imaginative story and so many different ways play to play – including solo – this is a game that will keep on giving. Additionally, Guildhall Studios has hit an incredible 22 stretch goals which include, eight new Lovers/Nemesis, a background soundtrack, faction upgrades, 150 more adventures, and so much more. To top it all off, the 5-player expansion update is included in the stretch goals and will be available for those who pledged “All-In.” There is so much content to dive into in one game that Sea of Legends is definitely a game to watch become a household name.
To back the Sea of Legends Kickstarter, head on over to their page. The app will be available for Android and iOS devices.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.