Avast me Hearties, explore an unspoiled pirate paradise with discovery, adventure and most of all treasure. As it makes the transition from screen to the tabletop, does Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends shine like a gold doubloon or does it sink to Davy Jones’ Locker?
Unboxing Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legend is almost like uncovering treasure itself. Steamforged Games have done a great job here. The quality of the package — from the materials down to the artwork — is all top quality and what you’ve come to expect from a first-party Microsoft property and legendary development house Rare Studios.
There are tokens upon tokens here and preparation time for the first playthrough was easily around 20 minutes. Not the easiest setup given the demographic for the video game is of the less mature, younger generation but once is enough to speed it up on repeat sessions.
Becoming a pirate legend is the name of the game though and to get that reputation players need to navigate treacherous waters whilst collecting the mainstay loot of Sea of Thieves digital counterpart. As a mirror to the game, players have the option of simply sailing around, plundering loot across the numerous islands dotted around the game board and defeating monsters and other pirates or taking up voyages and commissions for the trading companies to earn their fame.
Either way, players track their success via a secondary board showing everyone’s reputation score with a count of twenty-five needed to enter the endgame. Being first to hit it isn’t a surefire victory however as your gold, ships, crew and cargo can make a material change to the final count.
Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends takes place across an unlimited number of rounds before one pirate hits the magic number of twenty-five. Those rounds are then made up of a number of phases each with a selection of activities and tasks making for some fairly complicated sequences.
Round makeup follows the same pattern every time starting with the Fleet phase. This is all about player-led actions, traversing the board, repairing your vessel, bailing any water you have taken on, plundering loot or attacking other pirates. Most of your reputation is earned here.
Ocean hazards follow up as the second phase; where monsters and skeleton ships take their turn. Rather than leave the choice to selected players, each major adversary within the phase has their own behaviour card to ensure you follow Rare’s vision of their mythical Kraken. When a human decision is needed, Sea of Thieves places it in the hands of the Scurvy Knave, a most delightful moniker bestowed to the player with the lowest amount of reputation.
Phases three and four make up a replenishment and refresh phase for both the board and the players. The third phase allows the Scurvy Knave to draw an Events card. Events cards usually have three aspects including Ocean Adversaries, conditions that refresh part or all of the board with treasure or minor adversaries and then finally something that can be used specifically by the Knave to affect the board but in the favour of said Scurvy one.
The final phase replenishes your fortune deck to ensure players always have a few tricks up their sleeve to affect the next round As players advance, upgrades can be purchased allowing for more crew, faster travel and more actions speeding up the complexity of larger tasks such as legendary voyages. Even players at the back of the pack are catered for well, games are much closer given the Scurvy Knave always has some advantages thrown their way; sometimes it’s the Event cards and in rounds, it’s more fortune cards to help get you back on track.
Turn time can be around 5 minutes per player in complex sequences but down to 2 minutes on average keeping things moving fairly quickly. Players have the option to play however they want, pillaging the seas and islands, swashbuckling the numerous monsters or simply skirting around it all and looting the islands. Multiple paths to victory can also keep the difficulty in check for those looking for less adventure and more cruising. The multi-piece hex style game board is also reversible and can be locked together in several combinations leaving players with a few different variations.
Oddly the core voyage mechanic of the Microsoft Pirate Sim seems better placed as a tabletop mechanic. Continually going after Skulls or Chests after the initial few hours of wonder begins to grate and it wasn’t until Sea of Thieves was well into maturity Rare eventually added an overarching story/adventure. On the tabletop however, it’s a more succinct, leaner experience; the turnaround of voyages mixed with battles and monsters is focused into a more compact experience played over an hour or two rather than repeated ad nauseum over weeks of gameplay.
Given the large variation in events, voyages and fortune combinations; the replayability for those enjoying what Sea of Thieves has to offer is fairly high and subsequent games will keep players entertained, the complexity of the round phase mechanics may deter younger pirates with less attention span.
Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legend is available now from Amazon.