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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Tuesday 17 April 2018

Torpedoes away! :- Sonar

Game: Sonar

Publisher: Matagot

Designer: Roberto Fraga & Yohan Lemonnier

Year: 2017

Sonar is a 2-4 player re-imagining of 2016's Captain Sonar. With a lowered player count and less roles, Sonar promises to be a quicker and easier to pick up experience. In Sonar you take the role of either the captain or the navigational officer of a submarine. As the captain you will navigate the submarine through the sea, avoiding islands and trying not to be predictable. As the Navigation officer you will "spy" on your opponents, trying to work out where in the ocean they are. Should you manage to hit your opponent with 2 torpedoes then you have sunk them and claim victory!

At the start of a game of Sonar a large screen is placed across the center of the table, separating the two teams. Behind the cover of fold-up cardboard each team is handed 2 maps of the area you are fighting in, one dry-erase pen per player and a sheet of cellophane. Teams will take turns, each turn the team captain will announce a direction of travel or one of the 4 actions. The opposing navigation officer will draw any movement on their cellophane sheet, over time the pattern of movement should narrow down or even completely reveal the enemy's location. To aid in finding them the navigation officer can move their cellophane over their copy of the map, testing out potential routes that the other team took.

Sonar part way through the game, each player has used silence to confuse their opponent

If you choose not to move then you can spend the energy that you gain from movement to perform actions. The most obvious action is to fire torpedoes, spend all 4 of your energy to fire at a grid reference within range, your opponent will tell you if you hit, score two hits to win the game. If you have little to no clue on where your target is though you may find it better to use your sonar rather than firing blindly, when you use your sonar the other team must tell you their x or y coordinate on their grid, very useful for elusive foes. If you think your opponent is getting too close to finding you then you may wish to go silent, allowing you to make 1 move without announcing the direction, this adds a very useful misdirection, splitting your potential path into multiple directions. Finally you can surface, often an act of desperation, when you do so you must announce exactly where you are. In return you are allowed to erase all of your movement lines on the captain's maps, this is very important as ordinarily you may never revisit a grid reference.

As you move around you generate energy, use this energy to power your special actions and hunt down your enemies.

Sonar comes with 4 maps included, each with a unique pattern of islands. Not only does this add to the replayability, but as the number of islands goes down, the difficulty in locating your opponent goes up. If you want a quicker game you are better playing on the crowded maps where the room for subterfuge is limited. Sonar is definitely a pared down version of the original game, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's simply aimed at a different market. Sonar is far easier to learn than it's bigger brother and it makes for a unique two player experience.

Fans of the original Captain Sonar may well be disappointed with Sonar, the loss of roles, player count and the real time mode are all pretty big blows. But they are all the cost of having a game that can be explained in a matter of minutes to pretty much anyone. There is definitely fun to be had in the slower, more tactical pace of the game, and games become incredibly tense the second the first torpedo hits. For me Sonar is best as a two-player game, having an extra player to perform the navigational roles will certainly speed up gameplay, but it doesn't feel like the navigational officer has quite enough to deal with. I hope that one day an expansion addresses this.


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