Review: Deep Blue – places the sunbeams won’t reach
Down there, far below the water surface, where no one dares, there are many ancient items, hidden from sight of all mortals. Its covered in moss and looking really old and uninteresting. For some it can be junk, for others it is a treasure. Despite the public opinion, you will not find coins at the bottom, but usually some items, which will be appreciated mainly by museums and historians. Yet every new wreck at the bottom of the sea is the beginning of a new hunt for treasure.
And one of them starts right now in the Deep Blue board game, which is created by a pair of designers Daniel Skjold Pedersen and Asger Harding Granerud. It was in cooperation with this couple, that the game was released by Days of Wonder and their novelty was released shortly before Spiel 2019 in Essen. The graphics were created not only by the popular Nicolas Fructus, but also by other famous illustrators as Biboun, Djib, Naiade, Piero or Miguel Coimbra. And the European continent will be filled with treasure hunts thanks to the distribution company Esdevium Games.
The game attracts with its lid made as the color of the ocean. We see a crack with a wreck on the bottom. There are several boats on the surface, and air snakes are winding from them towards various diving equipment. People are down there, hunting for treasure. Inside, players will encounter a game board, a map of the bay, full of streams, rocks, straits, but also deep gorges. Players will equip the whole environment with a set of large square wreck tiles – the starting ones closer to their dock and the deeper ones and more demanding in the bay. The right side of the map is then equipped with multicolored diamonds. Right next to the board, there should be a place for crew cards – shuffled deck and four revealed cards.
Each player chooses a color and gets corresponding ship miniatures, plus a player board, a set of four crew cards and an elegant plastic treasure chest. In turn, each participant will also receive one or two tiles of the starting advantage. Players then finish the preparation together by selecting one card of the captain’s log (scenario), which will determine the rules for visiting the sunken city.
Then the treasure hunt begins, in which players will take turns regularly. They always have a choice of four possible activities. In the beginning, players have a starting crew in their hands, so their desire for change may not begin with the first round, but they still have the opportunity to spend money (the number of dollars indicated in the card position) and get some reinforcement. They simply add such a card to hand and from then on, they can play that card to use its abilities. The rest of the market is pushed down and the most expensive $ 3 spot is filled with a card newly revealed from the deck. If the choice is not according to the player’s wishes, he can pay four dollars and replace the waiting sailors completely.
Of course, the basic activity for each seaman and diver must be sailing, ie movement on the water surface towards the target. The ships are equipped with engines, but at least one crew card with the propeller icon must be played to move. And for each such movement icon, the ship can cross to the adjacent position, whether marked with a buoy or wreck tile.
Players can then explore a new tile or occupy one of the free spaces at an already discovered spot to secure a place for diving. As a general rule, if the ship is docked above the wreck, the ship’s owner will be able to dive there as main explorer.
This is the main action, that players can take, but only if their ship is anchored on top a wreck. Ships present at that moment have the advantage of being in the corners. But as soon as one of the players announces start of diving, ships from neighboring fields can also come to the site to join. But they can only stop in the middle, where they will not have any advantage.
The player, who starts the dive is named the dive leader, taking an additional diving board, that we haven’t mentioned before. It shows the depth under the boat and also the value of the stones available. It is the diamonds, that players will draw from a canvas bag every turn. Whenever a player draws a blue or black diamond, it means danger. He does not put this stone in his pocket, but instead places it on the scale on the sides of the dive.
In addition, each diver must defend himself with a crew card or one-time bonus from his ship position (in corner). If player cannot defend himself, he must emerge and give up the dive (and lose treasures). However, a player may also play card even when stone has a completely different color, in order to score that card after emerging. These extra points (compared to stones) cannot be lost.
After each stone has been drawn, the dive leader and only he can end the expedition under water. The other players only follow his lead until the leader fails to defend against the drawn blue or black diamond. But at any time, player who cannot defend himself loses all diamonds immediately. However, players may emerge earlier to earn points for a complete set of treasures, only at the direction of their leader. In addition, those who were in place in time to secure positions in the corners of the wreck tile will be awarded bonus points. All victory points gained are immediately hidden by players in their chests.
Whether a player uses cards for reactions to underwater threats, movement or diving, they always place such crew members face down on the discard pile on their own board. At any time, player can decide to take a rest instead of the actions mentioned above, take all his discarded cards and shuffle them into one draw deck. Then he draws the top three cards into his hand to refresh.
Each explored tile is immediately discarded and the entire treasure hunt is moving further into deeper and more dangerous waters. The game continues until a complete sunken city is discovered. Then all players add up the victory points and the one, who hides them most in the chest, becomes the winner.
Deep Blue is a game, that will impress you with its look and design. But it is not easy to discover at first glance, that the sophisticated exterior conceals the classic game of push-your-luck. It will not be for everyone, but it is a great pity, because whoever misses it will lose a lot.
In fact, within the most important action – diving, players are able to earn points only by taking risks. And yet there is one important twist – only one player can end their common underwater expedition. The one, who started it. Fortunately, others can make decisions for themselves. If they choose not to defend against some of the threats. But there might be even another reason to emerge sooner – saving the crew card for upcoming dives, that might be more profitable for that player. Otherwise, the player does not gain any advantage by prematurely raising back to water level, no matter how the dive ends.
But because someone else is at the helm of the dive, there are very interesting and exciting moments. And they just support the game experience in the right way. And precisely because more players participate in each dive, the whole course is exciting. The exception is perhaps the player, who does not participate in diving, because he was too far away with his boat to join. But even watching the others is quite fun.
The position game has a very important place throughout the game and it is essential to be in the right place at the right time. Players can react to the situation in the opponent’s turn and ride the wave, but their point gain will never be so great, if they simply join at last moment.
In addition to central mechanics, we find exploration and, of course, deckbuilding. Players add their purchased crew members to the discard pile, which they only add to the hand at the cost of whole action (= turn). Gradually they goes through deck and shuffle again, as is the case with deckbuilding. This is quite a basic model, although the cards still have several uses and you can shuffle discard any time. You have to save them for underwater defense, they play an important role in scoring at dives, but at the same time you pay with them for moving. And just having the right deck of cards in your hands is, what can lead you to victory.
The whole game is really nice and you will have fun all the time. The game fits within one hour, which is the ideal time for such light family fun. In two players, the game is much more tactical, because there are fewer ships on the plan and often both rivals participate in the dive. With more players, the game gets crazier, but surprisingly feels still nice.
Deep Blue has mix of mechanisms, we’ve already seen many times, but does it matter? Definitely not! It makes them something more – a functional unit, that is not only entertaining, but also exciting and conflicting. All this is completely counterbalanced by the presence of chance, which only makes every dive special. Deep Blue is a fantastic entertainment, that makes diving the best sport for relaxing evenings, and it looks absolutely stunning!
Review: Deep Blue – places the sunbeams won’t reach
Deep Blue will not ask you, if you know how to plan well or if you want to spend five minutes thinking. Instead, it simply asks: Do you want to have a great time? If your answer is yes, then you'll love this treasure diving game. In terms of rules, there is enough to keep the attention of the more demanding, but at the same time it is accessible and glides smoothly on the surface towards the dramatic final. You will have great fun all the time, even if your fate is often decided by someone else - be it adversary or chance. Deep Blue is an amazing board game and a family hit!