If I just go down one more step, I will *cough* get the better stuff. I am sure *gasp* it will *wheeze* be fine…
Getting rich by claiming the buried treasure. It’s a theme we all know, and as such it’s one we can all grab onto instantly.
Extending this theme though, the theme is also relatable especially today. Each player is a diver that is trying to earn their fortune, but they don’t have enough right now to pay for the expedition that should secure it.
So the idea of the game is that all of the competing divers have pooled their resources and hired a submarine and an oxygen supply to get the expedition underway.
Deep Sea Adventure, like almost all Oink games, is visually striking even with very simple components.
A tiny box, a submarine, and a trail of markers is all that makes up the board. A few colourful meeples mark the players progress.
Just look at a setup game – don’t you think you already have a bit of a handle on what is going on? Sure you may not realise the buried treasure aspect initially, but you know your going swimming!
And that is a real part of Deep Sea Adventures appeal – it’s a game people want to be interested in, and because it’s quick and works with higher player counts (up to 6) resetting is a breeze!
Setting up the game
Setup is incredibly simple. Let everyone pick a diver meeple. While they are picking colours, put the submarine at one end of the table where everyone can reach it and place the round token on 25.
Now group all of the relic tokens (different shapes with pips from 1 to 4) into the four piles, and shuffle them up in the different groups. Starting with one, place them face down in a trail from the submarine. It doesn’t matter how the pattern works, as long as it’s a single line that doesn’t cross itself. Because of this, I normally hand over the four piles to different players to shuffle and place.
That’s it – setup is complete. As I said, nice and simple. Getting people to lay the treasure path (even without knowing what it is) keeps people involved as well, so it’s a good way to let players setup the board while you explain the rules 🙂
Speaking of which…
How to play
Deep Sea Adventure has a very simple set of rules, but they must be done in the right order. Upfront, it’s hard to see why until situations arise, but like any game, if you want to play a little relaxed you are more than welcome to.
The last person in the sea goes first, but the order is the same for each player.
First, reduce the oxygen by the relics you are carrying. If it reaches 0, this will be the last turn.
Then, decide which direction you are going – further down, or back to the sub. You can only change direction once though, so timing is everything!
Once you know your direction, roll the dice. There are 2 three-sided dice, so you will always roll between 2 and 6. Now, move the number of places you rolled, minus the number of relics you hold. Also, no 2 players can share a space, so jump over any other meeples on your move.
You can never move backwards, and you can never move more than the trail of relics allows. You have to be careful how many relics you pick up though – if you pick up 6 pieces, you will never be able to move again!
If a player rolls before declaring their direction, they must continue going down this turn.
There also used to be a rule where you had to have picked up a treasure before turning around, but this rule has been relaxed.
Once you have moved, you have a few choices to end your turn.
You can decide to do nothing and end your turn.
If you landed on a relic, you can take it and replace the section you are on with a round X token. If you pick up a relic though, do not look at its score value!
If you landed on an X token, you can switch it for a relic, lightening your haul. This is where not knowing what you picked up makes which item to drop a little risky.
And that’s pretty much it. Play continues until all divers are back at the submarine, or oxygen has reached 0.
Once this happens, any divers that have returned with relics can now inspect them (turn them over to reveal points).
Any other divers have unfortunately drowned, and their haul drops to the bottom of the ocean. Starting from the player furthest from the sub, their relics (still unseen) are grouped into piles of three and placed on the end of the trail. These piles are now considered a single relic, but the points will be the total of all three tiles.
Finally, all round X tokens are removed, and the holes in the trail are pulled back in, shortening the board.
This formally completes the first round – play 2 more rounds, and the player with the highest score wins!
So you just grab all you can?
You can play this way – or rather, Deep Sea Adventure can be played this way. The thing is though if all players are only working in their own interest, it all but guarantees that no player will get a great score, and lots of divers will be lost.
The secret to how the game works is buried in the background of the game. All of the rival divers have worked together enough to pool their resources and rent the sub and get some air.
To get some truly high scores though, all of the players have to still work together to maximise your oxygen resource, and this can be hard to explain to people up front.
This means that if players work together, truly high scores can be reached by all. Winners will be determined by the luck of the relics that are retrieved, which is also incredibly thematic under the circumstances.
If there is one backstabbing evil genius in the group, they can play along just long enough to get what they need, then get themselves back to the sub – everyone else can fend for themselves.
And this is a hidden gem within Deep Sea Adventure – there are different play modes, either by design or by accident. If everyone works together as a group, everyone will get away with a points haul, making it more a cooperative puzzle. But add that you can stab everyone in the back and work for yourself element,
A game this relatively cheap and fun looking shouldn’t have such depth to it (no pun intended) – but it does, and it works so well.
But there is a downside
My biggest issue with Deep Sea Adventure is it’s a game you almost need to trick people into playing one way so the true game reveals itself to them. Apart from not liking to anyone into playing games they don’t want to, this can backfire a lot.
If the proverbial penny doesn’t drop, people will just walk away with the wrong idea of Deep Sea Adventure. But if you try to tell people everything upfront, they can feel trapped into a ‘this isn’t a game’ mindset.
This doesn’t mean that Deep Sea Adventure is a bad game – it’s just a victim of its own presentation. Small box and cute pieces surely mean a simple little fun game, right?
Having this presentation where you have to manage a group resource (oxygen) as well as try to optimise your play at the expense of everyone else means you are pushing other player’s luck more than yours.
I have heard many people describe Deep Sea Adventure as a simple push you luck game. This is being unfair.
Deep Sea Adventure is best described in my opinion as a competitive coop game. Sure, you can look after yourself and try for a score, but everyone doing this is all but guaranteed to lead to zero scores all around.
If you have the people (you really want four or more players), Deep Sea Adventure is a great game – but there are drawbacks that as the host or teacher you will need to navigate.
Until next time,
Not sure what the score means? Check out my Review Scores explanation for more info!