The 7 Seas is a new game from Critical Hut, a Franco-Belgian studio. The game is coming to Gamefound in March. You can find details of that here. This is a prototype version of the game and does not represent the final quality or look of the game.
Let me introduce to you The 7 Seas. An interesting new exploration game that offers players the chance to dive into a rich Pirate themed game. There are two modes to play, one a lot simpler to help you learn the basics. Another a little deeper with a few more elements to get the full (current) experience of the game. More on that later.
The game works by players taking it in turns to place one of their two workers down into the central area, to chose to carry out two actions. The locations in which you can place your workers are next to a number of different actions. The actions next to your worker dictate which actions are available to you. These actions can be to move, upgrade, or repair your ship; interact with an island, port, another non-playing ship, sea monster, sea creature, or sea hazard; or start a fight with another player. You know? Pirate stuff!
The interactions are dictated by cards that placed round seven areas, representing the seven seas. Each sea area has one of each players coloured sea gems there during set-up. The cards come from seven different decks, linked to the seas in which they are placed. The cards offer players the chance to trade, fight, and attempt various missions. If players are successful then you will take the card and your sea gem and add it to your player mat. If this is the second card of the same type, then players in the advanced mode can also take the sea bonus (if it is still there) which allows players special one off powers. Although, you can recharge these powers and use them again if you get a third card of the same type.
As you place your worker, in the basic game, it doesn't matter which one you use. But in the full game, there are rankings. One worker acts as a Captain, the other as the Officer. If you place a worker with another of equal or higher ranking you can only carry out a reduced action this turn. Players are looking to interact with as many cards as they can during the course of a maximum of seven rounds to score points for their collected gams, completed mission cards, state of their ship at the end of the game, and any resource, coins, treasure, sea bonuses and parrot tokens (stolen in battle) in their possession.
As the game progresses, you will be looking to maximise your efficiency. Balancing movement and actions. You need to place your worker in the right spot to carry out the right actions, depending on what cards are available, and in what seas you wish to complete a mission. But you may not always be able to get to where you want to be, or use the specific actions you want, based on what the other players have done. Sometimes, other players can block you, the cards you want me be out of reach. Or on occasions, there are no actions available to you which are currently achievable. on those occasions you may want to take the time to spend your acquired resources to upgrade your ships movement and/or firepower. Or maybe set yourself up for a later turn.
There have been a few occasions in the later parts of some games where I cannot carry out any actions, but this is rare. But when it does happen, you can always Fish at sea, meaning you can take one food cube or money token, which are always useful! When the game flows it can be a lot of fun. Players are only ever carrying out two actions at once, and most actions are fairly quick. Downtime is fairly small because of this. However, there are times when you are simply watching another player. You cannot always plan out your action whilst you wait as the cards and situation can change based on what other players do. But you can sometimes get involved in the roll of some dice, acting for ships the other player may be attacking.
I much prefer the advanced mode, where the type of worker matters. Players can also interreact more with trading and fighting each other. Although in four games, not one single trade has happened! Perhaps this is more prevalent in higher player counts. I have only played this in two player.
The theme comes across nicely. The art of the cards is excellent. And I like the overall table presence this game brings. Set up and tear down is all very simple. And the rules are very easy to teach. Although the rule book is not the easiest to learn from due to the order, but again, this may change in the final game.
It would be interesting to see some changes to the player boards, with some small asymmetry perhaps being introduced to each player mat. And I think the game could benefit from a few more actions away from the cards to avoid dead turns. But other than that, this is a well executed, beauty looking mid-weight family game that I think a lot of people would have a lot of fun with.
The player boards are very good. The clearly show you where everything goes. What scores you get for each item. And how areas can be upgraded. They are double sided, this shows the advanced mode side.
Engaging in battles is straightforward yet enjoyable. Players roll dice corresponding to their current ship firepower level. Additional dice can be obtained by trading green Rum cubes. The objective is to roll enough cannonballs to surpass the enemy's defense, indicated by wooden planks. In this scenario, the goal is to match or exceed two planks. Successful rolls result in winning the encounter, acquiring the card and revealed rewards.
If the cannonball count falls short, players transition to the boarding phase. In a tie, the attacking player loses, as seen in this example where both players rolled two swords. However, the defending card possesses two extra dice. If either of these extra dice displays a third sword symbol, the defending card emerges victorious. The battle system is fast-paced and enjoyable.
The developers of the game have told me that the game I have represents 50% of the full game when played in advance mode. The rest will come with Captain cards, bringing the above suggested asymmetry. There will be an ancient legends module, a Pirates & Corsairs and New Governors expansions, as well as two things called Endless Adventures and Season of Mists, whatever that means! But obviously it means what I am playing with, is far from the finished article. If the final game can be twice as good then there certainly is something very special here.
Oh, and I know I mentioned the card art already, but...