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 31 December 2019

There'll Be No Accusations... :- Deep Blue

Game: Deep Blue

Publisher:  Days of Wonder

Designer:  Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen

Year: 2019

Deep Blue is a 2-5 player push your luck hand-building game in which you play as the owner of a diving boat. Your goal is to sail the oceans to find the absolute best diving spots and come home with the most valuable treasures. To do so you'll need to recruit a highly skilled crew. But if you spend too long recruiting and you might miss the gold rush. If you can be in the right place at the right time then you can be piggyback on another's dive and get most of the rewards.

On each turn you may do one of four actions, then it is the next player's turn. You can move your boats (you have two) by discarding a number of cards that show propellers. Each propeller lets you move one boat along one path to the next dive spot/buoy. If you end your move on a dive spot then you can park your boat on one of the bonus spaces, giving you greater rewards/a safer dive when the dive begins. To recruit you discard a number of cards that have money on them and in return pick up the matching cost card from the open market and add it to your hand. Then re-fill the market back to four cards. You can also rest, to do so you will take all of your discarded cards, shuffle them, and draw 3 back into your hand.
Parking your boat on the bonus spaces gives you a chance to to get better rewards or safer dives.
That leaves us with the last, and most important, action: diving. In order to dive you must start the turn with a boat parked at a diving spot. After a dive is declared, anyone with a boat 1 space away may rush to the dive in order to join in. To do so they move a boat onto the spot, but crucially they can't place their boat on any of the bonus spaces for the dive spot. When diving you will draw a single gem from the dive bag and then place it in it's matching colour space on the dive board. Most of the gems are valuable treasures: silver, gold, rubies etc. These will reward everyone who has a successful dive with cash rewards. But there are also blue and black gems, if you draw a second of one of these two colours then the dive will fail for everyone with no cash payouts. At any point between drawing gems anyone who is on the dive can cash out with what has already been drawn. At which point you get to translate the drawn gems into their cash value and add that cash to your treasure chest. If you were on one of the bonus spaces for the dive you may be able to get more than the standard rewards for one of the gem types too!

There is a final way to get money and that's with your crew cards. Many crew have a certain gem type or collection of gems that they want to see on a dive. As soon as that requirement is met you can play the card to get instant cash rewards. Importantly these rewards are safe as soon as you earn them. You can also find crew that offer protection from either blue or black gems, these can be discarded when the dive fails in order to get out with all the currently drawn rewards. If you are the dive leader this may even let you to continue the dive beyond it's normal limit. Just be careful not to push your luck too far!

Deep Blue is a simple and quick game. With only 4 actions available most turns are over with lightning speed. The one exception is diving which really slows the game down. This is fine if you are on the dive as you have an investment in the stakes. But should you not be able to reach the dive spot then you'll find yourself just sitting and watching other people have a good time. Although that good time assumes that they are having a good dive, sometimes the fates are simply not on your side. And ironically the first game is often the worst for this. Each game gets a special rule card drawn at random, the game recommends that your first game you have the special rule that you draw 2 gems at a time instead of one. This is akin to recommending that your your first date you punch your partner in the face. Simply adding a greater chance of failure to everything you do!

The left crew card let's you continue diving even after drawing the second black gem, the right crew card lets you get a cash bonus upon drawing a ruby.
Deep Blue manages to fail for me in a number of ways. The game is too quick for the hand building to be a huge element, investing in a bigger hand means you'll waste more time resting to recover them, so there's little reward for building up a big crew. Diving itself offers the greatest reward for the dive leader, but since everyone stops diving when they give up there's relatively little benefit for investing in protection against failure. The game ends up encouraging low risk behavior, especially once you know your opponents have protection cards. The idea of you coming up with nothing and them getting full rewards is so abhorrent that you simply don't want to chance it! The game ends once 4 specific dive spots have been dived at. These are randomly hidden in some of the spots further from the start space, which can result in the game ending incredibly quickly, especially at higher player counts where players tend to have spread out more.

Its not that Deep Blue is a complete failure, but for me the game ends too quick, is too luck based and doesn't reward investment into the game's core mechanics. Where it does succeed is in being a light, quick game that's very tactile. The game is charming with its plastic treasure chests to hide your points inside  and cute little boats to move around the board. Unfortunately the game fails to deliver on its gameplay premise too often. While I wouldn't refuse to play Deep Blue again, there are other light gateway games that I'd rather play any day of the week.


Deep Blue was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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