(NOTE: Received this game as a gift from Kris and Rachel over at Double Jump. Thank you!)
Take a deep breath cause we’re going under! Deep Sea Adventure is a press-you-luck board game where two-to-six players will venture into the abyss as scuba divers with visions of fishing out the best loot. However, it’s every scuba diver for themselves and it doesn’t take much for someone to compromise the mission for everyone. Will you bring back hoards of treasure? Or will your finds slip through your fingers and fall to the bottom of the ocean?
Each player is represented by a wooden meeple. Starting out inside the submarine, they will each roll the dice and move an equal amount of spaces along the trail of tiles that represent how deep in the ocean you are. The deeper you go, the more lucrative the treasure. There’s enough air on the submarine for everyone until someone picks up a treasure.
Due to the extra breathing you’re doing from carrying the treasure, you’re draining the air supply at a faster rate. You’ll drain one unit of air on your turn for each treasure you’re holding. Worse yet, you lose one number from your dice value per treasure in your hands. Holding three treasures and roll a three? Too bad, you’re stuck. If you can make it back to the submarine before the air runs out, you’ll earn points equal to the values on the underside of your treasure tiles. If you don’t, you treasures slip to the bottom of the ocean in stacks of three. These are tough to get, but they only cost you one air and one point of movement if you make it to the bottom. After three rounds, the diver with the most points wins.
Steff and I’s first few trips were a disaster. Not fully understanding the meta, we failed many times at bringing anything back to the ship. With practice, we developed a few strategies that seemed to work for us. One, don’t pick up any treasure until you’re ready to swim back to the ship. Two, try not to get greedy. Because of the stiff movement penalties that come with holding treasure, rolling high enough to get back can be a real problem. Finally, being closest to the best treasure isn’t a sure-fire way to success. All it takes is one cheeky diver closest to the surface to bail out early, grab a bunch of surface level treasure, and take it back to the sub while draining everyone’s air. That said, some of the shallowest pieces are actually worth zero points, making the seemingly-safe proposition a real gamble.
Once you get a grip on the game’s dynamics, the choices become very interesting. How far are you willing to go for the biggest loot? Will you attempt to score big in round one, or save the deepest treasures for the final round when the board is at its shortest? Are you willing to settle for a bunch of low level treasure in hopes of draining the air before everyone else can get back at the risk of collecting the zero-point tiles? These questions persist during every turn, giving you a handful of thought-provoking choices to make each time.
Deep Sea Adventure is one of the more fascinating press-your-luck games I’ve played. Even if the mechanics are fairly straightforward, the core design opens the door for a lot of variability from game-to-game. In particular, the inclusion of a shared air supply adds a lot of drama to each round when someone starts to drain it. Where in the ocean will you be when someone starts to hog the air?
Furthermore, it scales very well for different group sizes. It works great form two-to-six players with no adjustments to the rules required. Better yet, the game is an easy one for new players while still providing a satisfactory level of depth for board game enthusiasts. At an average play time of 15-to-30 minutes, Deep Sea Adventure is an expedition worth embarking on.
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