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 2 January 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Deep Blue

Game: Deep Blue

Publisher:  Days of Wonder

Designer:  Asger Harding GranerudDaniel Skjold Pedersen

Year: 2019

Deep Blue is the big box game release this year for Days of Wonder. When they released a small roll and write game - Corinth - earlier in the year, I wasn't sure whether a bigger game was coming, but Deep Blue really fits with what I expect from Days of Wonder. It has fantastic artwork, and really nice components. Deep Blue contains plastic treasure chests to hold small gems as well as plastic boat miniatures.

Deep Blue is a push your luck game for 2-5 players, in which you are diving into shipwrecks to try and take home a share of the treasure on board. It's a very accessible family weight game with a lot of player interaction. The look of the game and the reputation of the designers certainly had us interested to give it a try.

In Deep Blue, each player starts with two boats and a small deck of multi-use cards. To take a turn, you either play cards for actions, dive at a diving site, or rest and recover 3 cards that you have discarded. When playing cards, you play one, or a number of from your hand to take a single action. You can play for movement points or for currency to buy more cards for you deck. Diving is the way that you get points in the game. When you decide to dive, you become the dive leader and are responsible for pulling gems from the bag. Some gems are worth varying amounts of money, others are only worth money if you are holding a card in your hand that matches gems of that colour. However, black and blue gems spell disaster. If you draw one black gem or one blue gem, you're safe, but any more and you need to either defend against the attack, else you are forced to surface and not gain any money on the dive. You can, however, surface voluntarily and take some loot if you're feeling uncomfortable as either the dive leader, or another player who has joined the dive.

At its core, Deep Blue is a push your luck game. As a result, it's got quite a lot to live up to, after Quacks of Quedlinberg really made this mechanism jump up in my estimations, as well as seeming to be a big hit for a lot of people during 2018/2019. Deep Blue doesn't really give me a satisfying or fun push your luck feeling. The bag is filled with gems, but there aren't very many gems so it doesn't seem to be a big enough bag to obey the laws of statistics. It's so, so easy to fail a dive - it only takes you to pull your first two gems as either black or blue and then the dive is over. Not only is it over for you as the leader, but also for anyone else who came on the dive with you.

Having defence cards, as a follower, has no huge benefit if the dive ends so early that there's no real points to salvage. I've rarely seen anyone truly push their luck in the game, unless it's one of the last turns in the game and the person knows they're far behind. With two players in particular, it's pretty hard to get ahead because almost every dive will be participated in by both players - the board's just not big enough to get away and it's almost always worth jumping in on someone else's dive. Often you'll get very similar points as other players on the dive.

The best thing I've found about Deep Blue is the variety provided by the Captain's Log scenario cards. The suggested first scenario was certainly not a favourite, but some of the other scenarios were really fun. Each scenario also creates a completely different feeling to the others, but my favourite was one of the scenarios which I honestly felt was needed to fix the game. Deep Blue essentially feels like two games to me - a push your luck game and a deck-building/hand management game. Unfortunately that deck-building aspect was extremely weak in all of the games we played, besides ones where we brought in a Captain's log card that incentivises having more variety in your deck.

Building your deck and making it work, as well as trying to cycle cards into your hand can be the best part of the game if done well, and it's a shame that it barely featured in many of our games when players were just playing in the most natural way. It seemed even more apparent in a higher player count game, where the dives come thick and fast and the game ends really quickly - no-one has time to add cards to their decks. If you do spend the time to craft a deck - you can force a more interesting scenario where players' strategies diverge. The thing is, I don't want to force players around my table to do something that will be more interesting, rather than just play the game how it comes out of the box.

Deep Blue is an average game, but for me it's a pretty poor push your luck game, because it never makes me want to push my luck! I like that it really tries to introduce some different mechanisms into a gateway game - it would definitely seem fresh and interesting to new players, but it just doesn't feel like a single, cohesive, good game to me. I'm really not interested to play Deep Blue again and for the Yellow Meeple, it's a 5/10.

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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