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Deep Blue is Days of Wonder’s 2019 family game. In the game, two to five players are competing to recover the most treasure from the wr...

Deep Blue Deep Blue

Deep Blue

Deep Blue


Deep Blue is Days of Wonder’s 2019 family game. In the game, two to five players are competing to recover the most treasure from the wreck sites that make up the gameboard.  Deep Blue is primarily a simple push-your-luck game of drawing the right coloured gems out of a bag.  But where this game differs is that your opponents will be involved in nearly every decision that you, as a dive leader will make.

Gameplay

Players are acting as the captain of two treasure-seeking ships, all of which start in the Harbour space.  After setup, there will be a total of fourteen wreck sites randomly placed across the board that you and your opponents will have the opportunity to explore.  The wreck sites are split into six basic and nine advanced wreck sites.  Basic wrecks will start the game face up, so all players know which immediately accessible spots could be the most helpful.  Advanced wrecks start face down and the game will end after four of the advanced wrecks have been revealed which contain the sunken city.
4 player early game
Players can do just one of four actions on their turn: Recruit, Sail, Rest or Dive.  The first three actions are quick and simple to complete, even in a five-player game your turn comes back around relatively quickly.  However, the Dive action is the meat of this game and does interrupt the normally rapid turns, during a dive each player may also be able to participate and each bag-pull will cause a flurry of actions.  Downtime doesn’t really exist in this game.

Each player starts with four starting crew cards in their hands and must play one or more cards each turn to commit an action (except resting which returns spent cards to your hand).  Each crew card has icon(s) that dictate what that card can be used for.  For example, crew cards with propeller icons allow you to sail, money icons allow you to recruit more crew; and then there are the oxygen, creature and gem icons which only are used when diving.  After you’ve used any card it will go to your rest area on your player board. 
All the icons
Additional crew are recruited from the market which is down the side of the board.  Newly drawn crews in the market will always go to the most expensive spot ($4) and the market will gradually fill in the least expensive slots as crews become cheaper.  Whenever a new crew card is placed in the market an extra (good) gem may be placed in the treasure bag.  Switched on players should pay attention to those crew that add to the bag as they probably won’t stay in the market for long.

Push your luck games tend to be multiplayer solitaire events without additional mechanics.  In Deep Blue, the player interaction primarily comes when diving, although there is some during the recruit actions as well.  When you take the Dive action, all other adjacent ships may rush to the wreck and ‘share’ in the spoils.  After each gem pull, whether good or bad, each player in the dive can play cards to increase their reward, or prevent them surfacing early (and losing points).
A dive in progress
Dives finish when the Dive Leader chooses, or when they can no longer cancel out the bad gems drawn from the bag.  Blue (oxygen)and black (trident) gems are considered bad; after the first-drawn warning of each, each player must defend against them by playing a card or using the inherent defence of your ship's location, with an equivalent black or blue icon.  Nearly half the starting bag is bad gems that will cause you to surface early unless you’ve bought extra crew or your ship’s location on the wreck tile has those defensive icons.

As Dive Leader you will get an extra bonus and will likely score more victory points than other players. However, if you’re forced to surface early you will lose all the points that you would have got from the drawn gems.  Players that are able to defend when the dive leader fails would still get the points from gems.  Pushing when you have more defensive icons available than your opponents and knowing when to rest (often) is crucial for success.  A well-played dive could net the dive leader over 50 points quite easily.  However, the final scores for each player will likely be different due to the crew cards that they were able to play during the dive.
Quality components
I enjoyed the ability to indirectly mess with your opponents that this game permits during the dives.  Diving also prompts a lot of over the table pleading with the Dive Leader to stop the dive early.  As your crew increases and players get familiar with the diving mechanics/probabilities you’ll be earning upwards of 200 points per game.  Although I have seen quite large gaps in scoring from first to last, whether that was down to poor skill or good luck, I’m not sure.

Components

Very little needs to be said here. The game’s components are all of excellent quality and I particularly like the little ship meeples.  This is a simple family game and the cartoony artwork throughout reflects the typical family audience that this game would appeal to.  The actions and particularly the icons the permit them are simple and easily understood. After two rounds any adult player will need no further guidance.
A well thought out insert
I often ditch provided inserts or make an alternative insert for most of my games.  There is no need for that here, the insert is great in almost every respect and the little treasure chest each player gets to store their victory point in is a nice touch.  The only criticism of the insert is that they’ve provided slots for the victory points.  No ones got the time to stack dozens and dozens of chips into these slots, mine are just thrown into a baggy.

Criticisms

The game is a little simple for my tastes and I think relies on luck just a little too much.  There are obviously ways to mitigate bad luck (black and blue gems), but as you’re building a communal bag of gems throughout the game every other tactical player will be wanting the same crew to mitigate bad pulls or enhance good gems.  

There are no apparent scaling or rule changes for 2 or 5 player games.  The board felt a bit empty with 2 players.  In a 5 player game, there weren’t enough available defensive options and the crew deck seems to run out very quickly.

Conclusion

There’s an easy comparison to make with Quacks of Quedlinburg but this game is far simpler.  I imagine this would make an ideal Christmas gift for a non-gamer family.  It’s not that expensive and it plays quickly, if you’re stuck looking for a fun gift that may convince friends there’s fun to be had beyond the Christmas pain and suffering of Monopoly then this just may be that game.  The rules are easily understood and I’ve even had a 6-year-old playing it.
The last sunken city tile
I would recommend it at four or five players but beware with five new players it may just start to drag a bit. When a game is this light the last thing you want is it for it to outstay its welcome.  The published game length is fairly accurate at 45 minutes.

There are some tactical decisions to be made, e.g. finish the dive early to deny your opponents even more points, keep pushing to exhaust cards, rushing to dives to move further into the advanced wreck sites etc. but there’s not really enough here to keep me coming back for more.  The Captain’s Log cards do alter the gameplay and help to an extent but I didn’t find any of the rule alterations particularly interesting and I don’t think this will keep the attention of any gamers beyond one or two plays.

I’d like to thank Asmodee for sending out this review copy for the website.

Publisher: Days of Wonder
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/283649/deep-blue
Players: 2 – 5
Designers: Daniel Skjold Pedersen & Asger Harding Granerud
Playing Time: 45 minutes

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