Voyages board game (solo) review – a hidden Roll-and-Write gem
Posted On February 28, 2022
I’ve been on a “Print and Play” (PnP) streak recently as I’m trying to curb my board game spending. What I’m finding as I dig more and more into PnP board games is that there are a lot (a lot!) of them, and some of them are basically AAA level games. The only difference being that you have to print them yourself instead of buying a “produced” game.
Such is the case of Voyages, a roll-and-write game of sailing across the seven seas to become a legendary captain.
I say in the title that Voyages could get underrated, or fly under the radar. It is a bit of an exaggeration: I feel that PnP games are getting a lot of attention since 2021. The recent success of Under Falling Skies (my review here), a retail game that started as a PnP, and Voyages itself (which is a PnP, but not free, and which had a phenomenal kickstarter campaign for a PnP) are proof of that. It’s very likely that the combination of worldwide shipping issues these past few years, and consumers being a bit more aware of the climate impact of worldwide logistics, are giving Print And Play games a boost as well. It doesn’t hurt that the folks behind Voyages are seasoned Board game designers: Matthew Dunstan (of Elysium, Monumental, and Chocolate Factory fame) and Rory Muldoon.
But I digress. The point is, don’t be mistaken: Voyages might be a Print and Play game, but it is AAA quality and super enjoyable.
Voyages Board game – Gameplay
First things first, please note that this review will 100% focus on my own experience which has been playing solo. If you need an overview of the multiplayer gameplay, boardgamegeek is your friend.
In Voyages, you are travelling on a nautical map with your boat, trying to explore uncharted seas, collect and sell supplies, recruit sailors, and occasionally defeat monsters and enemies. You win the game by collecting 3 or more “Legendary Stars” within 16 turns, and maximizing the gold you get along the way. Legendary stars are obtained by completing specific tasks such as visiting certain parts of the map, defeating the “Dread” (the map’s monster), recruiting 12 sailors, or selling some specific cargo. Gold is acquired by selling cargo (ideally in an optimal way), finding treasure on islands, and more.
The game provides 3 maps, each one of them with additional rules that come on top of the basic movement mechanisms. And the community has been hard at work, with dozens of new maps already created (more on that in the review section below, because I believe this will be a key component of Voyages’ success).
As I mentioned above, the game consists in 16 turns. If you can acquire 3 (or more) legendary stars in 16 turns or less, you win (and can then total your score), otherwise you lose. Each turn is dead simple: you roll 3 dice, and chose one of them to indicate the direction in which you ship will travel (1 is north, 2 is North-east, etc…) a second dice to choose the distance (a 3 will let you move 3 steps), and the last one will be used to fulfill a “duty”, a nice mini-game within the game that lets you acquire specific bonuses.
Landing on specific spots of the map will grant you bonuses (an extra crew member, some cargo to haul, and island that give you gold), which is the heart of the game. You’ll want to land on the right spots to acquire the right cargo, upgrade your sailors to heroes, or hit an island with a particularly juicy treasure. Each turn becomes a balancing act between landing on a nice resource spot this turn, versus preparing for a better opportunity the turn after that. Do I want to get this food supply this turn, or do nothing of value this turn, but get closer to the dread and defeat it next turn?
Dice rolls can be mitigated to some extent with a clever system by “exhausting” sailors on board. Sailors on the ship are limited and each one of them can be only used once. Luckily, we can recruit more of them for example by stopping at a “settlement”.
Voyages Solo “campaign”
As part of the launch Kickstarter for Voyages, the designers posted a series of “solo missions” named “12 Voyages of Christmas”. Each day, they posted a new challenge which added specific constraints to players’ game session, such as “you must use exactly two settlements in the game” or “remove 3 sailors from your crew during setup”.
These increase in difficulty as the days go by, and using these 12 missions as a “campaign” on the first map, I’ve been having a blast. This is not an actual campaign, but it does look and feel like one.
Voyages Board Game as a Print and Play – Art, Components quality and assembly
Voyages cannot be purchased in regular retail. Instead, you purchase a series of PDF files from the designers’ own website, for £4 (that’s about $6), and then print the map you want to play. I swear it’s worth it, check the review section below.
It’s important to emphasize how easy Voyages is to print and assemble, because I think that’s a massive part of its success: no glue, no scissors involved here. Print a few pages, and you’re done. There’s even a low ink version (the one I’ve used) for those of us who feel bad using too much ink for a sheet of paper that’s going to be thrown away after playing. (Haha, who am I kidding, I’m never throwing them away, they are part of my captain’s log!)
In that aspect, Voyages is like a lot of other Roll and Write games: all you need is the rules, a few dice, and then a pen and a printed sheet for each player. That’s it.
The art of the maps is also very clean and simple while being pretty evocative of a nautical chart. What that means for me is that the theme remains strong, with a map that even my terrible printer can’t really mess up. Let me explain: I’ve had some print and play games with very detailed, very complex art that didn’t work well on my old inkjet printer. Some Print And Play games feel amateurish on the table, either because the art/design is bad, or simply because your printer rendered it like crap. Conversely, Voyages looks professional on your table even with a low quality inkjet printer like mine. I feel this is important to help you immerse in the game even more. You clearly don’t feel like you’re testing a prototype, but actually playing a professionally made game.
And it helps that some folks in the community have created really good looking add-ons. For example, people who want to store their game with style can follow Fireflashx32’s example and craft a nice box (picture below from Fireflashx32 on BGG).
Voyages – Solo Review
Voyages Board game – Art and Theme
Don’t be mislead by my pictures: I’m a cheapskate and printed the low-ink version of the game (which, as far as low-ink goes, is still good looking by the way), but Voyages is gorgeous. The art is fairly simple but so evocative of the nautical adventure we embark on! There’s a very clean design here (which applies to the gameplay as well) which has a perfect balance between being functional a great to look at.
The game is dripping with theme too, which is surprising considering how minimalistic it is. But the idea of “charting” our destination with a pen, and using the dice to decide direction, is just brilliant. It does feel like we’re a captain on the seven seas trying to accommodate for the wind direction and speed, just with three dice and a sheet of paper. This amazes me every time I play.
Voyages Board game (solo) – opinion
I love Voyages, and would recommend it to anyone who likes board games. The gameplay is very elegant: it is simple while still immersing me completely in the theme. Game sessions are short (30 minutes) but intense, and provide a fun puzzle without melting my brains… at least in the first map!
And that allows me to segue into the amount of content we get for the price, which is probably one of the best I’ve seen this year. Under the appearance of a “couple of sheets to print”, there is a lot of game in Voyages‘ “box”. The first map alone has given me 5 hours of gameplay so far, and I’m only halfway through the “12 Voyages” campaign. I hear the second map is even more interesting (and might be my sweet spot), and the third one is allegedly brutal. I can’t wait to try them, but I want to finish my “12 voyages” campaign first.
This does not stop here. Although I don’t know what the designers have in mind for future updates (for the £4 price of the game you get “all updates free”), the community on the game’s discord server have been boiling with ideas. At the time I’m writing this, there are 9 fanmade maps (with accompanying rules) sitting on my hard drive, waiting to be printed and played. Voyages feels a bit more than a game, something closer to a roll-and-write navigation system that could be expended into a lot of content.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’re getting the equivalent of a gloomhaven 150 hours campaign here. But for 5 bucks, the “hourly rate” of this game is going to be among the lowest I’ve had in a while (excluding free PnP, obviously)
Voyages Board Game Review – Conclusion
What I liked about Voyages
The professional art and design, simple and clear, yet evocative of the theme
The perfect mix of theme and gameplay, in particular drawing on the map and using the dice rolls as direction/speed
Each turn is quick and crunchy. You get something each turn even with “bad” rolls thanks to the “duties” mechanic, and it feels great!
The amount of content I get for such a low price
The community maps and “12 Voyages” Challenges are an awesome bonus
What I didn’t like about Voyages
For that price, and the amount of content I am getting, I do not have much bad to say about Voyages, but here goes:
A retail-produced box version could help the game get more attention. I’m worried people will assume “PnP = sub par game”
An actual campaign would be awesome for solo players
Voyages is an elegantly designed roll-and-write board game, at a very low cost. Don’t dismiss it simply because it’s a Print-and-play game, you’d be missing an opportunity to play a surprisingly thematic solo experience.