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Speed Review: Deep Sea Adventure

Oink Games offers something unique within the gaming world. They are distinctive and stand out in the marketplace for being one of the innovators of the small box game. Where companies like Gamelyn Games have developed their own take on small box games with their Tiny Epic series, and collection worker placement or RPG style games, Oink has done something a little bit different. At their heart, all of Oink’s games are somewhat abstract, and that sets them aside from other more thematic players out there. As such, they are, if you will excuse the pun, big fish in a small pond.

Deep Sea Adventure is the second Oink game we have played. The first being A Fake Artist Goes To New York, which I have also done a speed review of in the past. You can read that here if you are really interested. Both have really tiny boxes, but only this one promises wave upon wave of oceanographic goodness.

The Deep Sea Adventure Box - hand for scale.

The Deep Sea Adventure Box – hand for scale.

So, in that tradition, we are now going to do a speed review of Deep Sea Adventure.

“What is a Speed Review?” I hear you ask. Well now…

A speed review is a review in which I attempt to write a review in less time than it takes to play the game. For Deep Sea Adventure the game time on the box is 30 minutes, however, the game is (in my opinion) shorter than that – so, to keep this focused we’re going to put 20 minutes on the clock.

That time starts…now.

Deep Sea Adventure Speed Review

Deep Sea Adventure is a Push Your Luck abstract dice game designed by Jun and Goro Sasaki. In it, you play the part of a diver, looking to pick up as much loot from the bottom of the ocean as possible. You and the other players (of which there can be up to 8 players in total) are all in competition to see how much treasure you can pick up on your journey. There is one snag, however – you all have to share the same air line. This means that, as a group, you have to conserve air – else, those left in the water at the end of each round must drop their treasure to the bottom of the sea only to swim for dear life back up to the surface.

The Deep Sea Adventure layout. We're playing it on a footrest.

The Deep Sea Adventure layout. We’re playing it on a footrest.

So, how does Deep Sea Adventure play? Well, to be blunt, it is incredibly simple. The game is set out with the submarine, the meeples (that do actually look like little divers), and a series of chips placed facedown trailing into the “water” (or down the table etc.). These chips have a difficulty ranking, and are placed in ascending order leading down. On one side they have a difficulty rating (face up), on the other a points value (face down).

On your turn, the players roll two dice (numbered 1 to 3) and descend that number of spaces. Wherever you stop, you have the option to pick up the treasure on that spot, replacing it with a blank chip. You can pick it up, but you can’t look at the number on the underside.

From the moment you pick up your first treasure, your movement then costs oxygen. Each movement costs the group the number of treasures you have off the oxygen track. What is more, you also subtract that number from your movement value. You have to keep this in mind as the deeper you go, for the better loot, the more dangerous it is as, if you pick up loot along the way, the more difficult it will be to get back to the submarine.

If you do die (for want of a better word) then your loot gets dropped and sinks to the bottom of the track, piled up in sets to make the deeper dive even more alluring.

The game is played over three rounds, and the person with the most treasure at the end wins.

IMG_20180316_223407-1664x1248.jpg

Mid-game on Deep Sea Adventure

So what is the take on Deep Sea Adventure?

Deep Sea Adventure is a difficult game to get right. As a player, it seems simple to begin with, and often you will find yourself with delusions of grandeur, but, at the end of the day, the entirety of Deep Sea Adventure only comes down to two things.

  1. How greedy you are for points.
  2. How the dice roll.

Only one of those two things is in the player’s hands, and thus it can be relatively easy to fail at this game. As such, this game, Deep Sea Adventure, should probably share a name with the Bioshock Infinite expansion – Burial At Sea. You will, at some point whilst playing this game, die. It is inevitable.

That being said, Deep Sea Adventure offers an odd kind of balance. The whole game is a see-saw (or “sea-saw”, if you will) that needs perfect balance. If you dive too far it tilts one way, and if you pick up lots of treasure it tilts the other. The balance comes with ensuring you can get decent points, as well as survive to dive another day.

It’s fun, but it is also frustrating. It is a great little game, but it will also make you cry out in anguish. This is a small game that works you hard.

There can, with the right group of people, also be a fair amount of meta in the game. If you know other players are diving deep, then there are several ways of messing with them in this uniquely competitive and cooperative game. As you come back up you can pick more up to slow yourself down, and thus steal their oxygen.

So, how would you summarise Deep Sea Adventure? Well, it’s kind of a game of polar opposites. On one side, it is small and fun and even light. On the other, however, it can be a difficult game to master. As such, you have to be in the right frame of mind to play it, but when you do you will probably have a good time.

Diver meeples up close.

Diver Meeples up close.

In a rainbow of colourful games, if you want something big and bold and bright and beautiful, then Deep Sea Adventure is quite beige. That being said, if you want a little game about playing both the odds (and occasionally the players) then this is where Deep Sea Adventure comes to life. This is where it is the great white shark in the tuna salad. No, that metaphor doesn’t make sense, but I am sure you know what I mean. Deep Sea Adventure is a good maths game.

So, there you have it. That is a very quick review of Deep Sea Adventure. Time is now dangerously running out, so please let me know what you think of Deep Sea Adventure. Do you love it? Do you hate it? Have you not played it? Or have you not even heard of it? Let me know in the comments below.

If you enjoyed reading this
you may enjoy:
Speed Review: A Fake Artist Goes To New York

12 Comments »

  1. I love this little game. I kind of went hog wild at the Oink booth at gencon last year and bought a handful, this included. I agree about the weird balance of the game but I also find it so charming that I love breaking it out regularly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed there. I think the “for what it is” is also a key part of that sentence. It’s good, but (and I don’t know about you here) at the end whether I feel like I want a balancing game is a key feeling as to whether I play Deep Sea Adventure or not. Fun, but brutal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the game. I like the play the gamer aspect. There is always that element of “Who is going to get too greedy?”. It’s pretty short, so it’s great as a warmup game or as one last game before wrapping up. Also love the portability.

    Liked by 1 person

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