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Rum, Sodomy and the Thrash - An Afternoon with Sea Evil

AL Updated April 27, 2020
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
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Rum, Sodomy and the Thrash - An Afternoon with Sea Evil

Game Information

Game Name
Players
2 - 11
There Will Be Games

The hunger, the lice, the cold and disease! The sodomy, the dysentery, the amputees!

The boardgaming bug is a curious beast.  It had flitted about my head all my life as I maintained a healthy appreciation for the hobby, never really crowding my vision with its gossamer wings as I dabbled here and there, maintaining a respectful distance.

Board-curious if you will.

These manageable bouts of entomology came to a dramatic end about a year ago when that bug finally tired of our casual dalliances and bit me hard.  Like ‘leave scars’ hard.

All of a sudden I was ravenous. Impractically hungry. I fell to its embrace with a resignation bordering on delight. Since that time the infection has progressed via several stages that may be familiar to fellow travellers. First the giddy wide-eyed phase of random acquisition, then the ill-advised wallet-emaciating Kickstarter binge, and third, the dig for indies that burrows like a bore-worm as we find our flavour is not catered to by the overground Fantasy Flights and CMON’s of this world.

This dig pretty quickly brought me to a pit of infinite shadows presided over by one Nate Hayden. Auteur. Man of Mystery. Possible Black Wizard.

I blame the evocative art of Tempest Tome’s forthcoming Cryptic Explorers. Their persuasive pitch contained a testimonial from the creator of something called ‘Cave Evil’. And Cave Evil’s logo was badass.  A bit of google-fu later I yielded to the realisation that Cave Evil was a bridge too far, long out of print and commanding eye-watering sums on the re-sale market. But nestled beside it in the pit was a similarly intoxicating prospect.

I’ve always been a zine guy. My teenage years in the early 90’s were spent deeply enmeshed in the underground fanzine and tape-trading scene, shipping obscurities from suburban wastelands across borders and boredom in hand scrawled packages graced with wax slicked stamps. Like so many imprints forged in our formative years, a love for the DIY mindset and aesthetic never left me. In a world where digital toolsets have rendered the overground glossy and uniform in its competency, there are still thriving pockets of hand daubed passion that reek of the forbidden, and the Emperors of Eternal Evil are busy xeroxing the banner for this still proud horde.

Presented in zine format, Sea Evil (the third in an ongoing series of ‘Halloween Horror’ game magazines), had the strongest lure, playing as it did on my other obsession- salty tales of doomed sailors, shipwreck, scurvy, cannibalism and sodomy.

We all have our thing.

Sea Evil 01

Surprisingly, my friends were keen on the pitch and dutifully assumed the roles of the crew of the good ship Ishara on its doomed voyage home. I, dear readers, was to play the titular evil. A prospect I relished as I scried the sea witch and her complement of creatures.

Redolent of the old school zip-lock wargames I used to see gathering dust in the game store I frequented as a kid to drool over the loftily aspirational pewter figurines, Sea Evil nonetheless manages to evoke a sense of atmosphere that most bloated mini-heavy productions fail to match. Its hand cut cards and imperfectly punched chits dovetailing perfectly with the theme to conjure the hazy rustic scent of half-imbibed nostalgia as well as the briny tang of the unexplored. There’s no substitute for the theatre of the mind, and with the artistic prompts scrawled onto these not quite glossy artefacts, the roil and foam of our playspace was embedded as it unfurled upon the table.

Sea Evil 02

At its heart the mechanics are simple, if not quite elegant. A core sequence of events each turn beset by numerous situational exceptions. Like all good Amerithrash, it’s a suite of systems in service of a story.

The ten strong crew of the ship Ishara are wearily bound for home and the welcoming glow of the lighthouse. In their path lies a litany of archetypes drawn from the sailor’s tales and shanties that have evolved over history from the minds of half starved, diseased and overworked mariners, as they grasp for a romanticism to gild their drudgery.  Shades of Melville and more ancient scribes abound as they are confronted with white whales, krakens, crabs and fungus. The hunger, the lice, the cold and disease! The sodomy, the dysentery, the amputees!

Like most asymmetrical one-against-many games, the outcomes can swing wildly and the game proudly proclaims its disregard for balance. Players are meant to feel overwhelmed and desperate, their every move a contingent response to evolving calamity. As the evil player one must press, make the most of the random elements assigned you and never allow the crew to focus and combine their energies. Should they rally, then multiple harpoon tips are sure to puncture your veil of dread. Though dice will tumble adding the wrinkle of RNG, strategic positioning and deployment of resources are paramount to success for either entity.

If it’s perfectly balanced mechanics you’re seeking then there’s any number of meticulously tuned games about trading pottery that I’m sure you’ll forget about as soon as you’re done with.  Sea Evil offers something else entirely as players scramble to repair the mast, bail the flooding hold, harpoon the behemoth and stop the infection as their will to live dwindles in the face of monstrous fate.

Catering to anything from 2-11 players, the sweet spot is probably six. Allowing each member of the Ishara team agency over two of the crew lessens the potential sting of early player elimination without sacrificing the tension and risk inherent when death is a very real possibility.  And when each death is accompanied by the delightfully grisly textbook margin scribbles that adorn the Kill cards, it’s a demise worth savouring.

Ideally the players will fall into their roles as events dictate. Our group had one member finding their natural voice as they barked orders and kept sight of the bigger picture as they delegated duties, whilst others embodied their characters to a fault, clashing with one another, the evil and the elements, engendering the most boisterous table-talk uttered in many moons. Meanwhile evil sat back delighted as these pitiable pawns somehow found the unity of purpose to repel each mounting assault. We were paying scant concern with who was ‘the winner’, wrapt in the story as we were.

I’ll spare you the details of their fate, harrowing or triumphant. Did dead reckoning find them safe harbour or were they whittled to husks and set adrift?

You’re going to need to play to find out.

Sea Evil and a raft of other sinister gems are available here.

Sea Evil 03

Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
4.0
AL
Andi Lennon (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Andi Lennon is Sydney based writer, musician and soap dodger. He graduated from Wizbang University with full honours and no teeth. When he isn't feeling conflicted about Morrissey he likes to play indie games with a dubious 80's aesthetic.

You can read more of his work by visiting Mongol Cult

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Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #308767 01 Apr 2020 11:50

This dig pretty quickly brought me to a pit of infinite shadows presided over by one Nate Hayden. Auteur. Man of Mystery. Possible Black Wizard.


This just set the hook.

I might have passed over this article had it not been on a game title that I just stumbled across on BGG -- current Geek of the Week Tom Russell (chief cook at Hollandspiele, the coolest game company on Earth) just declared it a game that "rewired my brain in some very important and interesting ways." So stumbling upon a review of the same title here made me perk up more than a bit. But damn, I really stayed for the writing. I usually read the first and last paragraphs of reviews to see if the rest is worth a look. I read this critter beginning to end.

I want to make sure I'm looking at the right thing on the web site -- this is only $29? That's really cheap these days, and frankly, I don't care about minis or custom dice or the thickness of the cardboard. This is in the impulse-buy zone and I got a birthday coming up.

One last thing -- please quit your job and spend more time entertaining me.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #308768 01 Apr 2020 11:59
Andi,
Many thanks for a well written review. I bought Sea Evil as soon as the e-mail arrived in my inbox. It's been on a shelf ever sense it arrived in my home. I loved Psycho Raiders. Not so much with Freakface! Sea Evil just got tucked beside the other two 'zines, and honestly - was forgotten.

Time to pull that little beast out again!

And now that I think of it; there's a fourth horror game from the fine folk of Cave-Evil. It's entirely POD. Released as an "exclusive" for a holiday issue of Fangoria, the game's title says it all.
DON'T LET THE WOLVES EAT OUR BABY
NeonPeon's Avatar
NeonPeon replied the topic: #308769 01 Apr 2020 12:44
I totally need to play this.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #308770 01 Apr 2020 14:19
* Eyes filling with tears * Shut up, just shut up. You had me at "Sodomy"
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #308772 01 Apr 2020 15:34
I have played Sea Evil twice. The first time was really just a learning affair and I'm not sure we finished the game.

But the second... the owner of the game controlled the evil forces, and I was manning the ship. He made some key errors which allowed me to take out some of his units and we ended up sailing home to victory. Well, not all of us did.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #308777 01 Apr 2020 18:19
This is excellent work Andi, very well done.

You really ought to take a look at some of the indie RPG stuff going on right now. It’s very zine-influenced. I really got into Nate’s stuff because it has that metal/punk zine vibe and if you look at some of the things out there right now like Best Left Buried, Mork Borg, Esoteric Enterprises and such I think you’ll see a lot of the same aesthetics...but in an RPG setting, not BG.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308783 01 Apr 2020 20:22

Michael Barnes wrote:
I really got into Nate’s stuff because it has that metal/punk zine vibe and if you look at some of the things out there right now like Best Left Buried, Mork Borg, Esoteric Enterprises and such I think you’ll see a lot of the same aesthetics...but in an RPG setting, not BG.



Cheers Michael, that means a lot coming from one of my favourite tabletop writers. Yeah, the lo-fi punk flyer/metal zine art and themes are totally my jam. Helps that the game is also excellent and a skilled marriage of the thematic with the mechanic. I've found some corresponding and adjacent flavours in my BG quest such as offerings from Goblinko, Themeborne and Craft Fair (I'll be receiving a reprint of Trash Lords shortly and hope to give it a write up here), but i really need to dig further into the indie RPG scene. As an OSR guy I'm aware there's a huge wave of new creators putting the R firmly in that acronym so i probably have some fun digging ahead of me. Cheers for those titles, I may start there.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308784 01 Apr 2020 20:29

Sagrilarus wrote:

This dig pretty quickly brought me to a pit of infinite shadows presided over by one Nate Hayden. Auteur. Man of Mystery. Possible Black Wizard.


Geek of the Week Tom Russell (chief cook at Hollandspiele, the coolest game company on Earth) just declared it a game that "rewired my brain in some very important and interesting ways."

Hey man, thanks for reading. Would you be able to point me in the direction of that article you mentioned? I'd be keen to read an interpretation of this game from a design point of view.

Yeah it's only $29 although for me the postage to Australia was a hefty burden on top of that. It's 100% worth the outlay though, unique and limited as it is. I'd go so far as to recommend you throw down some money on the triple pack based on the strength of this alone. Issac Childres wont miss it.

As far as my day job, it obviously sucks but blessed as it is with the boon of legal currency as opposed to 'exposure' i'm gonna have to keep reluctantly punching in. Don't worry though, there's heaps more shit I want to write about. Find more at www.mongolcult.com

Thanks again!

Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308785 01 Apr 2020 20:30
Sadly the game has no officially prescribed mechanics for Sodomy. However the scope for 'implied sodomy' is pleasingly immense.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308786 01 Apr 2020 20:31

NeonPeon wrote: I totally need to play this.



You really do.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308789 01 Apr 2020 21:48

drewcula wrote: Andi,
Many thanks for a well written review. I bought Sea Evil as soon as the e-mail arrived in my inbox. It's been on a shelf ever sense it arrived in my home. I loved Psycho Raiders. Not so much with Freakface! Sea Evil just got tucked beside the other two 'zines, and honestly - was forgotten.

Time to pull that little beast out again!

And now that I think of it; there's a fourth horror game from the fine folk of Cave-Evil. It's entirely POD. Released as an "exclusive" for a holiday issue of Fangoria, the game's title says it all.
DON'T LET THE WOLVES EAT OUR BABY


Thanks for reading Drew, since playing Sea Evil i have ordered both Psycho Raiders and Warcults as well as downloaded 'Don't let the wolves..' and i'm eager to dive onto them soon. I really recommend Sea Evil, especially if your group has a flair for the theatrical.

Tell me, what was it about Freakface that didn't hoist your freak flag as it were?
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308790 01 Apr 2020 21:49

WadeMonnig wrote: * Eyes filling with tears * Shut up, just shut up. You had me at "Sodomy"



And no 'BUM OK' snake oil!
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308796 02 Apr 2020 02:37

hotseatgames wrote: I have played He made some key errors which allowed me to take out some of his units and we ended up sailing home to victory. Well, not all of us did.


I must shamefully admit my own failure to dispatch the crew during one attempt. Neptune was surely with them that day.
Dr. Mabuse's Avatar
Dr. Mabuse replied the topic: #308797 02 Apr 2020 07:12
YESSSS ANDI!!! What a wonderful review of one of my favourite EEE magazine games, tied only with Psycho Raiders. Thank-you!!!
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308798 02 Apr 2020 07:24
Glad you liked it doc! I have both Psycho Raiders and Warcults sessions lined up for this week. Pick up trucks and pitchforks. It's gonna be grim.
mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #308847 03 Apr 2020 03:11
cheers for the read, Andi, very entertaining.

it, plus your bio had me nostalgic and misty eyed for a number of things, but especially underground Sydney in the 90s. Nice one.
bfkiller's Avatar
bfkiller replied the topic: #308880 03 Apr 2020 15:35
Great, great review. Such an entertaining read. (There's not much worse than a dry, formulaic, emotionless review.)

I've owned this game since its first release and, to my great shame and sorrow, I have yet to get it to the table. And this damn pandemic will prevent that from happening for a few months more. I'll have to put Sea Evil near the top of the list of activities to enjoy when the world returns to normalcy.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308888 03 Apr 2020 18:24
Hey MC, glad you dig it. Yeah the 90's Sydney underground was wild. So much creativity and so many fucked up nights. I'm still recovering. I miss my teeth!
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308889 03 Apr 2020 18:29
Cheers bfkiller. I'm of the opinion that a piece of writing should succeed as a piece of writing first and foremost. More power to those who choose to lead with a laundry list of rules but that's not my jam. If the idea of a game intrigues me, then I might try and find out 'how many pieces of wood you can trade during the turn three bartering phase' but it's surplus to my requirements for a review.
Cheers
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308928 05 Apr 2020 16:49
Okay gang, this thread has inspired me to create my first tabletop mod. I hope you're happy with yourselves. May I present the Unofficial Sea Evil Sodomy Variant:
boardgamegeek.com/filepage/198671/sea-ev...icial-sodomy-variant
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #308929 05 Apr 2020 19:31

Andi Lennon wrote: Okay gang, this thread has inspired me to create my first tabletop mod. I hope you're happy with yourselves. May I present the Unofficial Sea Evil Sodomy Variant:
boardgamegeek.com/filepage/198671/sea-ev...icial-sodomy-variant


Not clicking that.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #308930 05 Apr 2020 19:36
Hahaha why you lily-livered cur!
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #309072 08 Apr 2020 22:40
Michael- MORK BORG looks astonishing. Thanks for the heads up. I ordered it double quick.