Deep below the ocean are sources of hot water flowing from the earth’s interior through many cracks. These are places, where the human foot has not yet been, but that does not mean, that there is no life there. On the contrary, there is a constant struggle for space and nutrients in ever dark corner of that place.
And it is this battle, that players will join in the board game Deep Vents. This is one of the more relaxing games from the Red Raven Games stable and especially from its head, designer Ryan Laukat (Near and Far). We were very curious, if the uniqueness of Megaland would be repeated in another smaller addition to their lineup. This time, T. Alex Davis also joined as a designer, and Ryan Laukat again took care of the unique graphics. This is a novelty for the 2020 holidays, which went straight to the skin and avoided the classic test on the Kickstarter.
On the lid of a smaller box, we see one of the underwater creatures, and especially a life-giving outlet from the interior of the earth in the background. Inside, a pile of tiles awaits the player, but above all a lot of tokens, that form archaea (archaebacteria), but also defensive shells. Players will find starting tiles with the title Deep Vent among the six-sided pieces. They will become the central pieces of their creation (just as in reality), because it is this tile, that everyone places in front of them and takes a set of archaea starting tokens. In the middle of the table, there will be an offer of five more tiles, with the help of which rivals will expand their territory during their turns.
The novice player starts the growth of all areas by choosing one tile from the menu. However, only the acquisition of the one on the far left is free. If he wants to get a piece that lies further to the right, he must place one archaeon cube on all skipped tziles. The obtained piece is immediately connected to his surface, so that it touches at least one side of one of the already placed surfaces. He will also receive a new tile, including any archaea tokens.
In doing so, they must keep in mind the fact, that the adjacent tiles will play an important role in the following rounds. This is because in every round, players can decide for each of their pieces, whether they want to trigger its growth or ability. Their icons are printed on the upper left and lower right of the tile. It is possible not only to obtain new archaea stones through this action (although this is the main purpose), but also to attack opponents and deprive them of their raw materials.
If player lose all their archaea tokens in this way, then there is a decline. And in the event such a fate befalls all players in the game, then the fight ends immediately. Fortunately, the bankruptcy token can be removed, because at the end of the game, it would mean the deduction of ten points. If players return ten archaea to the pot, then they can return it. The standard end will occur after eight rounds, when each participant has nine tiles in his possession. Players receive points for their archaeons, unused shells and other points for all archaea on pieces. The one with the most points becomes the winner.
In Deep Vents, the path of all players leads deep below sea level, where they become underwater ecosystems for a while. And it is so unique theme, that it makes simply connecting several boards a great experience.
But of course there is much more. The author put his soul into the game again and result radiates in all directions. Thanks to that, the gameplay is at a fantastic level, and despite its really simple essence, you will never refuse another delicious match. In the middle is a reliable mechanism for offering pieces, where one piece of raw material has to be paid for all those who have skipped it.
Even the elimination of players does not matter, because it is not so sudden and unexpected as usual. Everyone has a chance to return to the game in time to avoid the second bankruptcy token. All you have to do is sacrifice other valuable pieces, but in general it is a balanced trade. If you don’t pay, they you save ten points, but lose the other ten in the end. Therefore, in the end, it is mainly about the question of whether you have sufficient reserve to pay at all.
The pieces offer a wide range of options and various connections, where placement plays an absolutely crucial role. Abilities of the tiles are well designed and give the players a grip in terms of placement. Each position needs to be thought through carefully, but the individual moves will never exceed a time, that would be uncomfortable for others, because they usually think about their own puzzles.
Repeating matches is actually almost an obligation. The attraction is the constantly changing properties of the boards and their activation, which is a little different with each game. You will never have your raw material machine the same and it is not easy to follow one path to victory points. This is also due to the fact, that you can’t just gather them, but you have to spend them again and put them back into circulation.
The game is excellent in all available (two to four) numbers of participants. But the more players, the more relentless is the experience in terms of attacks and conflicts between players. In two, this feature doesn’t stand out that much, so if you hate the attacks of others well, then don’t play it with more than one other opponent. This is despite the fact that everyone can defend themselves with the help of some defensive cards.
Eight rounds are all too few for players, because you can’t enjoy your well-built underwater world so well. Behind this number is definitely the reason to keep the game time at a reasonable value of around forty-five minutes.
But we must not forget the fantastic processing. Beautiful illustrations complement the great shell tokens. The only complaint is the absence of help cards, which would help during the game with icons, the meaning of which sometimes may not be completely clear at first glance.
Deep Vents is a game, that did not disappoint and even managed to surprise on top of all designer based expectations. It follows its small scope and apparent simplicity with excellent gameplay, which makes excellent use of these features. If you want to enjoy a nice little game, look no further. Deep Vents is a great game!
Review: Deep Vents – life deep below the surface
Deep Vents offers a story sunk deep below the surface of the sea, but it's far from cold fun. On the contrary, it is a fiery conflict for points, although players otherwise only connect tiles to build their underwater world. It brings pressure, that is in those deeps. The game offers not only a beautiful looks, but also excellent gameplay and sufficient variability. The game is short, maybe too much, but again, it's one more reason to want to play Deep Vents again and try a slightly different combo of individual tiles.