#380 – Ocean Crisis: Catastrophe [Expansion] [Preview]


Base price: $12ish? You can’t really buy it standalone via the Kickstarter.
1 – 5 players. (Again, just pick a player count and solo it.)
Play time: 30 – 60 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
heck it out on Kickstarter!
Logged plays: 2 

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Ocean Crisis: Catastrophe was provided by Shepherd Kit. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game. 

So this is a fun thing I haven’t tried before; reviewing a game and its expansion while both are on Kickstarter! I have no idea if this is going to be like, useful or provide a boost to views or even get shown on the Kickstarter itself, but hey we should always make an effort to try new things, probably. Either way, you remember Ocean Crisis, from last week; well, things are much worse, now. Let’s dive right in.

It’s a disaster! The oceans are in even worse condition than they have been in the past! Now, you have all sorts of things to deal with: beached whales, ghost nets, and an oil tanker that’s just pouring oil into the ocean. The company is very sorry about the last one. You’re going to have to get even more organized if you want to save the local wildlife. But don’t get too worried; you’ll have some help if you can do enough research to upgrade your Ocean Vacuum. Will you be able to save the sea from even more garbage?



There is no meaningful change to the setup (basically) from the base game, thankfully. There are, however, two new Missions:

New Missions

And two new Scenarios:

New Scenarios

They’ll require some changes to setup:

  • For the Oil Tanker Scenario, place the tanker between the last beach space and the first ocean space.
  • For the Beached Whale Mission, place the whale on the beach (third space).
  • For the Ocean Vacuum Mission, place the old Ocean Vacuum on the Ocean Vacuum Space, and put the new Ocean Vacuum on the card.

Naturally, these come with some new tokens:



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Once you’ve set everything up, you should be ready to go!



Gameplay 1

So the only things this adds are new missions and new scenarios. I’ll talk about each really quickly.

  • Upgraded Ocean Vacuum: This new vacuum allows you to upgrade it (basically with garbage) by taking garbage from the river and moving it to the card to unlock new abilities. This can be moved around in the ocean and even grab two tiles at once, if you get both upgrades!
  • Beached Whale: This whale is stuck on the beach! You have four rounds to help it back into the water before it, well, you know, dies. If you’re successful the whale will help you out by blocking a route to the Garbage Patch. If not, well, then you get to put down a Dead Whale token and feel, honestly, terrible for the remainder of the game.
  • Ghost Nets: These two nets have been left behind by fishers and are really doing bad stuff with trash! Before Round 2 and Round 3, place a net under the two spaces next to the beach’s entry point for garbage. In order to remove a Ghost Net, you have to clear both pieces of trash in the same turn! If not, they both reduce. The problem is, if either space with a Ghost Net gets sucked into the Garbage Patch, both end up there! That’s two spaces used up. Naturally, you lose if both Ghost Nets end up in the Garbage Patch.
  • Oil Tanker: Alright, you need to clean that one up because it’s leaking oil rapidly and that’s just making the trash worse! Every round that it’s not salvaged, you have to add two oil tokens to the Ocean Current board (one to each space near it). Every oil token adds +1 to the value you have to roll to clear the trash. You don’t want to get a +3 or something. You have to salvage the oil tanker before the end of the game to win!

Gameplay 2

Beyond that, the game plays normally.

Player Count Differences

Gameplay 3

Yeah, not huge player count differences, here. You may end up operating well at a higher player count since there’s a potential for more player abilities to be in play, but that’s only if you can get the routes working for you (and honestly, with both Beached Whale and Oil Tanker, I didn’t much bother with the routes in my second game). Beyond that it’s still “10 meeples; split them how you like”, so, the actual nuance of the player count is that it’s not going to matter all that much if you have 3 people or 1 person or 5 people. I’d play it at any count.


Gameplay 4

  • Honestly, and it’s terrible to say this, but maybe let the whale die? There’s no penalty for messing it up, and beyond you just feeling bad about it forever (deservedly) you don’t really get anything bad for messing up. It might be worth closing it up, sure, but it costs three perfect 5 rolls out of four rounds, which might be expensive. Best case, it knocks one player out for half the game, which isn’t … super interesting?
  • Clear those Ghost Nets as quickly as possible. They have a much higher chance of getting caught in the Garbage Patch and they’ll drag you down very quickly. And, of course, you lose if both get caught in the Garbage Patch, so if one’s already in there, put all your resources into making sure the other one doesn’t end up going that way, too.
  • Naturally, the Oil Tanker is bad news. Unfortunately, it takes two rounds (minimum) to get rid of, so you can’t really clear it before Round 2. It’s also not … the worst thing in the world (since the Ocean Vacuum sucks up oil and oil sent to the Garbage Patch disappears), so you can manage it out for a bit if you want. It’s a persistent negative effect, though, so you really don’t want it to be there for too long (a 6 with +3 means you literally cannot roll and get it [without four meeples on a space], which makes saving that garbage impractical).
  • The Upgraded Ocean Vacuum isn’t too bad. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of luck as to whether or not you can unlock its full potential; in the game I played with it we literally never saw a 6 in the River at all (unfortunately for us, all the 6s ended up in the Ocean, which was again, not awesome). If you can swing it, though, being able to hit two spaces is a HUGE boon; being able to move it only really helps if the spread is such that you can guarantee removing one piece of garbage during the round.
  • Don’t neglect the core game. It’s tempting with these fancy missions and new scenarios to ignore some of the basic game mechanics; just keep an eye on the river and the Ocean Board because you can and will still lose if you’re leaving them by the wayside. These new effects might just convince you to reexamine your prioritization of things (now I usually just beeline straight for the Additional Meeples and at least one like, player power). It’s very refreshing if you’ve been playing all the games the same way.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Gameplay 5


  • Still great art. I haven’t seen many games change artists between the base game and the expansion (beyond adding guest artists, like Millennium Blades), so, not terribly surprising, on that front. It’s still great art, though, so I’d like to call it out where I can.
  • Expansion fits in the base game box! Always a favorite of mine; makes transporting the game much easier. It’s four cards and some tokens, so, no worries at all.
  • The new content is a nice mix. On one hand, I thematically appreciate all the extra content they’re adding; I think it’s nice to expand out the world of Ocean Crisis with other real-world goings on. On the other hand, I really also appreciate that they included content that makes the game harder and content that makes the game a fair bit easier. That level of modular gameplay difficulty control is a nice finesse that I haven’t seen in many expansions since One Night Ultimate Werewolf: Daybreak. It speaks to a lot of thoughtful design, which I always appreciate. Solid work. Add in some seamless integration into the core game and I’m doubly sold on this one.


  • Even one baggie would have been nice. I think the Oil Tokens kind of need a bag to hit into, so it would have been not bad to have one that went with this expansion. But that’s just me.
  • Mechanically, not much new being added, here. It’s mostly a content-level expansion, which is great if you’re looking for more things, but it would be nice to see an expansion that changes up the city board. If you are looking more for gameplay mechanical changes, the extra round cards that come with this are going to make you happy.


  • The Dead Whale token is kind of … macabre? I mean, I get that it’s serious, but, damn, if I wanted to feel that bad about letting something I care about die I’d just keep up on my Holding On campaign. For a kid-friendly game that might also be upsetting for younger players, so, it might be worth setting it aside. Or making a cute tombstone? I don’t know what you’re into.

Overall: 8 / 10

In Progress

Overall, I’m definitely a fan of Ocean Crisis: Catastrophe! I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that I would always play with it as part of the game (I like some of the base game missions and scenarios, too!), but I think that it’s again, a smart bit of mostly-content upgrades that integrate pretty seamlessly with the base game in a way that’s innocuous but not obnoxious. That’s generally a good bar to set for an expansion, in my opinion; you want it to add value and not necessarily completely pivot the game off the rails, lest your players get really confused. The one valid critique of it might be that it may play it a bit too safe, in that you could have swapped these four Missions / Scenarios out with four from the base game and I wouldn’t have noticed, terribly, but I’d argue that these are the three most catastrophic options (and the Ocean Vacuum, which assuredly is not), so it’s still a good fit. Either way, I’m a big fan of this one, so if you’re enthused about adding more of a challenge or digging deeper into your Ocean Crisis, you might want to check out the Catastrophe expansion!

If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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