GTM #234 - Flotilla
By WizKids



Picture a world where nuclear testing in the late 1950s went horribly awry, generating unimaginable power and triggering a mass global warming in the ocean that melted the polar ice caps, flooding 90% of the Earth’s land mass. The survivors fled to the highest ground, but unsustainable conditions forced them to take to the sea. Anything that could float was lashed together. At first, hundreds of flotillas emerged, but slowly over the course of a few years, the Guilds brought many of them together to form a new waterborne city and usher humanity into a new era. 

In Flotilla, you begin as a ship’s captain a few short years after the nuclear event. You explore the new face of the world, searching the depths for valuable materials. You seek survivors and uncharted land masses, founding new ports and building your reputation as a world explorer. 

Or... maybe you don’t! Maybe you choose to join the masses on the flotilla, building and developing the city for the survivors that continue to migrate to the floating city. You research old technologies lost and new technologies discovered. You build your reputation as a leader worthy of the people. 

The choice to be a Sinkside explorer or a Skyside settler defines the very core experience of Flotilla. They represent two similar but distinct game experiences, utilizing the same game components, seamlessly intertwined among all players. A player may choose to play the game as a Sinksider from start to finish, or may choose to flip to the Skyside on their very first turn, or they may even play Sinkside for a time and switch when the opportunity strikes. The timing of when to flip is entirely up to each player, but once you turn Skyside you cannot go back. 

The majority of the key components in the game are double-sided, including your player board, the Ocean tiles, and your Crew cards. When you decide to go Skyside, you scoop up all the tiles you have built out as a Sinksider, flip them over and use their reverse sides to build out the floating city. You flip your player board and your Crew cards, as most of your crew train in new skills to better serve the needs of the people on the flotilla. Anchoring the experience of both games are the Guilds and your Guild reputation, important for all players in any role. 

In addition to Sinkside versus Skyside defining the player experience, it also drives the entire game experience. The key rewarding moments Sinkside players experience, such as finding artifacts from the old world and survivors from uncharted waters, also have a subtle long-term benefit for the Skyside players. The research breakthroughs Skyside players enjoy will improve the quality of the ships Sinkside players use, providing them a boon for the rest of the game. Overall, as the game state progresses both the Sinkside and Skyside players will enjoy improved actions and scoring opportunities as a result. 

Most importantly, the economy of the game changes considerably based on the balance of Sinkside and Skyside players. As explorers and scavengers, the Sinkside players find resources and sell them to the flotilla, filling the role of merchants in the game’s economy. As builders and researchers, the Skyside players are funded by the Guilds and have a great need for resources to perform their actions. They fill the role of consumers in the economy. At the start of the game, all players are Sinkside explorers, selling their artifacts and resources, driving prices down for all fairly quickly. Who will flip first to capitalize on the depressed market? Similarly, if you are last player on the Sinkside, you are now the only seller among a table full of buyers. Can you give up such a lucrative position? 

The basic gameplay is rooted in a simple action selection model. During your turn, you play one Crew card from your hand and resolve it. Each player turn resolves fairly quickly, lasting less than 1 minute, and in most games players will experience 25 or more game turns. Each Crew card is affiliated with one of the Guilds and defines the core actions of the game:

  • Delvers: While Sinkside, these are your ship’s hard-working crew, diving, salvaging, and loading goods. Upon switching to Skyside, they delve for knowledge by studying and innovating. In either case, they utilize different dice to generate resources, money, and technological advancements.
  • Founders: Sinkside, these are your explorers, navigating and charting the new world. Skyside, they are your builders, growing the size of the flotilla. In either case, Founders utilize the tiles in the game to build out play areas.
  • Speakers: For either side, Speakers work with the people and the Guilds. They build your reputation as a captain with the Guilds, recruit new members of your Crew, and advance your status as a leader.
  • Traders: For either side, Traders power the economy. They buy and sell goods, deeds, and ships.

Your Crew also features a Captain and Scholar. The Captain allows you to pick up the previous played Crew cards and gain income. The Captain is also the only card that allows the opportunity for a player to change to Skyside from the Sinkside.

The Scholar takes advantage of other players’ recent actions throughout the game, allowing opportunistic use of key actions that your opponents have recently taken. The key scoring opportunities in the game come from either Sinkside or Skyside modular objectives (most often tied to how you construct your play area), your reputation with the Guilds, and the many incremental points that come from smaller achievements (such as finding artifacts, survivors, technologies, building the flotilla, or Crew special actions).

Flotilla is a game of compelling player choices, emergent strategies, and opportunistic play. There are many lines of play to discover, and no two games will provide the exact same play experience.