The spiritual successor to acclaimed pirate board game adventure Forgotten Waters has been revealed as Freelancers, a GM-less fantasy RPG-in-a-box with a beautiful art style.
A follow-up to Forgotten Waters - easily one of 2020’s best games - was revealed by Dicebreaker during last year’s Gen Con, with publisher Plaid Hat teasing a new game designed by Forgotten Waters co-creators J. Arthur Ellis and Mr. Bistro (without Isaac Vega), alongside new co-designer Donald Shults. Freelancers’ box credits Shults with its design.
As we revealed last year, Freelancers is a spiritual successor to Forgotten Waters’ app-powered co-op adventure - the latest in the Crossroads series that also includes Dead of Winter - rather than a direct sequel.
The new game moves away from the previous game’s pirate swashbuckling to a fantasy world akin to RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. (The game’s website cheekily acknowledges the influence by saying Freelancers will have “Dungeons & Exactly One Dragon!”)
Like Forgotten Waters, the game uses a physical book as its board, with players flicking between its spreads as they move between the two dozen locations in the world. When visiting a location, they’ll be able to engage with various actions and events to gather resources and trigger story events - helping move boxes, visiting a junk shop, grabbing drinks or picking pockets in the Hub Marketplace, for example, or scouting, translating graffiti and exploring strange shadows in the Dark Corridors.
The artwork from illustrators Allison Carl and Skullboy (both freelancers themselves) soaks the world in a glorious sunset palette of purples, oranges and yellows, with the delightful roster of characters including catpeople, dogpeople, fishpeople, bugs on stilts and someone wielding an enormous fork.
Players’ characters will be created from a combination of species and job, represented by two separate halves of a character sheet - for example, “Stilt-kin” + “Ranger” - that come together to track their progress, skills, equipped weapons and armour, and stats. Over the course of the game, players can unlock various titles - for both lawful and chaotic behaviour - in pursuit of glory.
These characters will be joined by followers, such as a gopher go-getter and harpy, who will aid them with unique abilities and effects.
Freelancers plays with three to seven people in approximately 90-minute sessions, with each playthrough aiming to recreate the feel of a tabletop roleplaying campaign - without the need for a game master.
Freelancers is due for release at US board game convention Gen Con, taking place from August 3rd to 6th. A price is yet to be announced.