I was super eager for Seafall. It's pretty easy for me to get crazy excited for a new game but I was really on board the hype train for this one. I read some mixed reviews but it didn't slow me down. I hadn't been this genuinely excited to unbox something in a while.
The first couple games were exciting. I got both partners and a friend to play a four player campaign, which is apparently where it sits best. We had some shocking moments and I don't want to spoil them because this game heavily relies on surprise, which is a part of play that's not as common in board gaming. We get very used to games where you try to know everything about a game before doing anything meaningful, but Seafall has you picking characters and stickering the board with the rulebook still half empty. That is the game's biggest strength.
At game four, we're a little less excited. There are a few stumbling points that really highlight this game as a new challenge for the designer.
First, the rules are not simple. The amount of information you have to remember without any reference card or board element to hint at it is daunting. For example: goods cost 3 gold, they sell for 6 gold, they discount purchases by 8 gold, you need 6 to build a specific structure unlock later and must have 1 of each type minimum, sometimes they are 1 gold cheaper to buy and sometimes they sell for 1 gold more, and you can only purchase or sell 2 goods per turn. These rules don't exist except in the rule book, spread across different pages. We are constantly double checking things and it does something that creates a huge barrier to new players: it makes you give away your intentions by forcing you to ask questions about something that you should be able to figure out on your own. After not playing for a month, one player spent 3 turns trying to do something and ended up not taking the right actions to accomplish it, because the rules were new and hadn't come up much and they didn't want to give away their plans by asking about them.
I won't touch much on this grief, but after four games our score rankings, and therefore our starting turn order, has not changed since the end of the first game. I don't know how anyone will catch up. The game adds your scores from each game together for your total score and this means losses and victories get compounded. It's not working well for us.
The game features a great log of entries that you're instructed to read at certain points in the game, but you will encounter natives (really?) so many times you will find yourself skipping ahead to the rewards or punishments after a while. It's a shame, but everyone has checked out of the story unless something big is happening.
Which, speaking of, hasn't happened in two games and isn't likely to happen in the next game. Hour three really wore on while we all milled around doing what we had designed our ships to be best at until someone ended the round. The little discoveries in the game are all so similar and monotonous that without bigger reveals it isn't as fun.
Do I hate the game? Not at all. It's fun at times and none of us are giving up on it. The turns are long with all the questions we have, but we enjoy the social activity of it. Even so, I don't see game 15 happening with all four of us still playing. Who knows, it might surprise us. It's really difficult to make up your mind about this game because you want to like it so much. If anything, it's an interesting experiment. I'll write an update a few games later and we'll see how it goes.