Not Waving But Drowning--A Single-Take Review of Deep Sea Adventure


In the last few months we've seen a slew of games coming out of Japan--being imported to the States. One of the titles getting the most buzz is Deep Sea Adventure, from Oink Games, a push-your-luck game about searching for treasure on the ocean floor. Is Deep Sea Adventure a gas, or will it give you the bends? Let's find out!


The Setup

You'll place the submarine piece out on the table, and then place the Ruin tokens out facedown in a line, from lowest numbers to highest. The end of the line represents the deepest part of the ocean, and is where the best treasure is. 

You'll place the Air marker on the 25 space on the submarine, and this number represents how much air is left. 

Pick a starting player. 



The Gameplay

As hapless deep-sea explorers, you can't afford your own submarine and tank of oxygen, so you're sharing these things with the other players. But it's not a co-op game. You're looking to get out with the most treasure, but you kind of have to work to conserve your air. 

Each person in turn order will first decide if he or she is going to keep going deeper into the ocean, or come back up to the submarine. Once you've decided, you roll the two dice and move that number of spaces down or up the line. (The dice have two 1's, two 2's, and two 3's.) You move forward that number of spaces, but players can't be on the same space, so if you would land on a space with another player, you jump over that space and don't even count it as a movement space. If you land on a Ruin token, you can choose to do one of two things.

1) Do nothing and end your turn.

2) Pick up the treasure, place a Blank token down where that treasure was, and then place the Ruin--still facedown--off to the side near you.


If you land on a Blank token, you can take one of the Ruin chips you're carrying and replace that Blank with the Ruin token. Why might you want to do that, you ask? Because you might DIE!!!! 

You see, at the beginning of your turn, you have to move the Air marker one space for each Ruin token you have. When that Air marker reaches zero, everyone outside the submarine dies, and any Ruin chips they have go as a single stack to the very end of the line--the deepest part of the ocean. 

In addition, when you roll the dice, you subtract the number of Ruin tokens you're carrying from what you rolled to determine how far you'll go. It's very possible that you won't be able to move at all on a turn--but you're still ticking off air each turn. Now you can see why you might want to ditch a Ruin on the way back to the sub--the weight could make it so you can't move and you die. (The stacks of Ruin tokens dropped by dead, fellow explorers only count as one token when moving the Air marker, and when subtracting from your dice roll.)


So eventually on your turn you'll decide that you have enough Ruin tokens, or the Air is heading down quickly--or both--and you'll decide to head back up to the sub. Once you make that decision, you can't decide to head back down again-you're committed to heading to the sub. You still take turns, moving the Air marker, rolling dice and (hopefully) moving. And you're still free to pick up any Ruin tokens you pass on the way back up. Indeed, a nasty tactic is to grab one a turn before you head in, just to deplete some air and mess with other players. Of course, depending on how you roll, that can backfire on you. And I've definitely seen that happen. 

If you make it to the sub, you get to keep the Ruin tokens you've collected--they're now considered Treasure. You play the round until everyone either makes it to the sub or heads to Davy Jones' Locker...

You play three rounds this way--except between rounds you remove any Blank tokens and tighten up the line down, so the trip to the bottom is shorter. 

After the three rounds you add up Treasure tokens, and the winner is the person who has the most!



The Verdict

Deep Sea Adventure is a clever, fast filler. It's short enough that the messing with other players never feels out-of-hand, and the fact that if can (and does!) backfire makes it fun.

The token-carrying mechanism is great, and creates real tension as you decide if you should ditch one that's weighing you down. 

I've played with gamers, nongamers, and family, and it works with everyone. It's easy to teach, and the concepts are quick to grasp. 

Deep Sea Adventure works best with more players. It's still fine with fewer players, but less exciting because it's harder to get down to the lower depths where the best treasure is, whereas more players means you're skipping more spaces and getting deeper faster. 

Firestone's Final Verdict--Deep Sea Adventure works well as a fast filler on game night, or as your main event for the family. The push your luck aspect means everyone is engaged and having a good time--and no one will dominate. Plus, it's small and efficient--just like everything in Japan!

Thanks for reading!