Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Sonar

Game: Sonar

Publisher: Matagot

Designer: Roberto Fraga & Yohan Lemonnier

Year: 2017

Sonar is a 4-player sequel to the game Captain Sonar from 2016. I've been really eager to try Sonar, because I had rel problems with Captain Sonar, despite loving the concept. Captain Sonar was a game I loved when we first played it turn-based, but it completely fell apart when I played a real-time game with a team who were just awful at cooperating. It was so bad that it forced me to leave a gaming group and never go back.

The concept of Sonar is the same as it's bigger brother, with some hidden movement and an elaborate take on Battleship. I was really excited to see a version that I could play with 2-players, so that I didn't have to relive the experience of poor communication and cooperation. At first Sonar was a Target exclusive in the USA, but now it's available in the UK and we've been giving it a try.

In Sonar, two players are Captains of two submarines, and each submarine is trying to fire two torpedoes at their opponent to win the game. The game is played as two teams of two players- the Radio Operator and the Captain (although it can be played as a two-player game with each player taking on both roles). Each team takes two copies of the same map - one to plot their route and one to use with acetate to plot the route of the opposing team.

Each team will take turns taking one action. The action is chosen by the captain who will either draw a length one line in one direction - North, South, East or West, or activate a special action. The special actions require differing amounts of charge and charge is generated by movement. The opposing teams radio operator will use this information which is said out loud, to plot a course which will allow them to deduce the location of the opposing submarine. 

Timing your use of special actions is key, especially after the first hit is made. The special actions are; Sonar, which means the the opposing team have to give you one coordinate of their current location ie. the row or column; Silence, which gives you one free movement without having to announce it; and your Torpedo, which you can fire anywhere in the same quadrant to try and hit your opponent. Because of this location restriction, firing the torpedo too soon might give away your location, so we've typically been very cautious on when to fire.
Each team sits on either side of a screen, blocking their view of what the other team is doing.
Sonar ticks the first box in terms of what I wanted from the game - it is played turn based, which allows time for some deduction and planning. This does make it a slower paced game, and as we play it more and more, we find that we are carefully considering every move, trying to plot the most mis-leading route through the islands and ensure that no torpedo is wasted! I really enjoy this, but it can make the game take a little longer than it needs to.

The other potential issue is that the player who gets the first hit almost inevitably wins. It's very hard to get away once your opponent knows your location and has a hit, unless you can maneuver out of the quadrant and silence soon after. This isn't a real problem so long as you're aware that it's really a one-hit game unless you're extremely cunning.

We are really enjoying Sonar as a 2-player game, and I'm sure it would succeed well when player as 2 vs. 2, because communication is much easier. The game might actually move a bit more quickly as a result, so long as you have trust in your team mate. Sonar is a very clever game of deduction and spatial planning and the Yellow Meeple gives it a 7.5/10.

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