I bought this game at Jeux Descartes while I was in Paris, as an interesting looking short game with simple rules that can be played as an interstitial game during a longer game night. I highly recommend going to Jeux Descartes shop if you’re in Paris and checking out their fantastic board game and mini selection. Don’t be daunted by the French, as board games include rules in multiple languages out of the box, and Board Game Geek lists which games are language dependent and which aren’t.
Technical details about the game can be found here, and this is not yet a full review, as I’ve only had the chance to play it with two players, and the game is definitely better with more players.
The rules are simple and easy to learn, but take the time to read them carefully, as there are a few important nuances there that make the gameplay more interesting and strategic than what it would seem.
Visually the game is stunning, and a lot of fun to set up. It takes about 5 minutes to spread out all the tiles, shuffle and organize them, and the game itself from start to finish takes about 30 minutes, as written on the box.
The concept is original: you’re a group of poor deep sea treasure hunters trying to get as much treasure as possible with as high a value as possible, while being forced to share valuable oxygen amongst each other. You either move forward or backwards with your delightfully designed meeple (a choice that you can make only once per round, so there’ not much room for cautious play here — you’re an adventurer after all), and as you pick up treasure it becomes more difficult for you to move and oxygen runs out of your sub — and with it the time for the round.
There are three rounds, each one with several turns that are played very quickly, as even though there’s quite a bit of hidden strategy in the game, there isn’t a lot of choices each player can dawdle with. You either move forward or back, pick up a treasure tile or don’t, and in rare cases, drop a treasure tile. The more players there are the faster you can move deeper down the sea, because you skip other players’ tiles, and the line grows shorter the more treasure is picked up in a round. The deeper you go, the more valuable the treasure is, but if you don’t return back to the sub by the end of the turn, you drop your tiles at the end of the line in very nifty little piles of three. And here is where the real genius of the game comes in, because each of those piles of treasure counts as only one treasure in terms of oxygen and weight, so you can pick up much more treasure and move much faster that way. A strategy of picking valuable tiles up on the first round so that you can drop them and pick them up on the second and third rounds becomes pretty enticing. As you can organize your dropped tiles in whatever order you like, and other players will want to try for that strategy too, not to mention that there’s an element of chance to dice controlled movement makes for a very interesting game. Plus, players closer to the sub can play to deliberately shorten the game by picking up lower value treasure to run the oxygen timer up.
All this makes for a very interesting short game that is a lot of fun to play and is pure eye candy to look at. I highly recommend it.