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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Wednesday 17 March 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Dive

Game: Dive

Publisher: Sit Down!

Designer: Romain Caterdijan, Anthony Perone 

Year: 2021
Dive is a simultaneous programming game for 1-4 players. Plaers are divers, descending into the dpths of the ocean and passing many of its creatures along the way. Divers must carefully avoid sharks, whist taking advantage of freidly turtles and manta rays who might be able to give you a free ride, hastening your descent.
The ocean is represented by layers of transparent blue acetate that are stacked in the centre of the table. This stack is a very eye-catching centre piece and you'll spend the whole game gazing into its depths in this very unique, and stunning game of visual perception.

Each player will be given a dive board, a screen and a set of five two-sided numbered tokens. In the center of the table will be the dive stack - a stack of semi-transparent sheets with a handful of aquatic creatures printed on each one. Simultaneously, each player will look at the central stack and decide how to arrange their tokens on their dive board. Each space represents one sheet of the dive stack, with players wanting to get as deep as possible while avoiding sharks.

After everyone has arranged their tokens the screens are removed and the dive begins. The top sheet is removed from the dive board so that everyone can clearly see what was on it. Any players who have played their token shark face up will only proceed if there was a shark on the board, similarly anyone who predicted no shark when a shark is present will be out for the round. Of the players who correctly guessed, the player who bid the highest total value in tokens on this layer will gain the rewards of any friendly creatures (if any) on that sheet. Play will then continue onto the next ocean layer until either everyone has made a mistake, or the final dive has completed.

At this point players will progress one space on the score track for every correct guess they made, even if they later made a mistake. Once the players reach the darker end of the score board they will only progress if they made no mistakes (you can always bet on fewer than five dives). The first player to reach 23 points wins.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
It's rare that a game has a mechanism that's completely and utterly new to me, but Dive has managed it. Being a strange mix of visual perception, programming and push your luck, Dive is unlike anything I've played before. The clear sheets do a fantastic job of obfuscating the sheets below them, being transparent enough to see that a shark is coming up, but just opaque enough to prevent you knowing exactly when. This mixes with the push your luck elements, going for a full dive of five spaces might be a sound plan, but it means you'll only be putting low bids on those spaces and as soon as you make a mistake you are out. So perhaps it's worth pushing less hard and doubling down on the spaces your are more certain about, betting higher than your opponents often lets you get those game-changing turtle bonuses!

This all combines to make a fantastic game mechanic, but not quite a full game. Dive is something you can sit down and enjoy for a few games, but then you feel a little done with it. Without there being more purpose to the creatures you encounter along the way there is little here than a filler game, and a filler game that requires a larger box size at that. Even the advanced mode, which gives each player a one-use companion creature, does little to make Dive a full experience. It's fun, for a time, and a good light game to bring out during well-lit drinks with friends or a perfect light game to pull out at a game cafe.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
With a beautiful cover and incredibly unique and eye-catching components, I opened Dive and read the rulebook with much anticipation. Whilst the rules are simple, they definitely didn't get me excited for the game - in fact it didn't seem like there was a game here at all. However, I'm pleased to say that there is a bit more going on than I expected. The game has a nice mix of blind bidding and programming, which is definitely where most of the strategy lies, along with an urge to push your luck and dive to the full 5-level depth each round!

However, observation is the core of this game and it's really impressive how well the acetate layers manage to give you just enough visibility to make predictions, but also confuse you enough so that you're never quite certain what layer the shark, turtles or manta-rays might be on. Choosing whether to bet heavily on the layers with turtles, or try to dive as deep as you can is quite often influenced by how well you believe you can see through the layers. Getting some good lighting is key, and the rulebook even suggests a variant where you can use a torch to try and light up the board. I'm not sure if some people will be naturally better at this game, but Amy certainly seems to be able to bet correctly more often than me!

There's certainly decisions to make in this game, but they're really not overly interesting. For me, Dive is an example of 'style over substance'. I wish that the same components and ideas were used to make a more engaging board game experience. However, if you're won over by the look of this game and want a nice activity for the family to enjoy, then Dive is still a fun, quick experience.

You Might Like...
  • The game looks gorgeous on the table.
  • There's a little more to the push your luck mechanisms than first meets the eye.
  • Dive deserves kudos for doing something completely new.
You Might Not Like...
  • Dive is much more of an activity than a game - you can't take playing it or winning very seriously.
  • The 'advanced' mode, with companions, felt far too minor and could perhaps have been added to for a more substaintial experience.
  • You're going to want good lighting to play Dive - it might not work for that board game meetup in the dark corner of a pub.

The Verdict
5/10 Dive is a beautiful production of a very basic game concept. There really isn't much game here and it's all over very quickly no matter which game mode you play. However, it's certainly unique, since we've never seen a game where your visual perception is the core mechanic, so if you're looking for a game that's a bit of a showcase of the weird and wonderful of modern board gaming, then this might be a good pick.

Dive was a prototype preview copy kindly provided to us by Sit Down! 

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