Deep Dive [Preview]

Base price: $19 for the KS edition.
1 Р6 players.
Play time: 15 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter!
Logged plays: 2 

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Deep Dive was provided by Flatout Games. 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. 

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s Crowdfunding Spring! Or something similar. That means there will be a number of games hitting the various crowdfunding services over the next few months, and I’ll do my best to cover as many as I can until I take a break from like, mid-June through August, probably. Need time to reconstruct my office and workspace. More on that later. In the meantime, though, we’ve got two Flatout titles to check out: Deep Dive and Point City! Let’s start with Deep Dive.

In Deep Dive, you’re living the dream. You’re penguins! Congratulations; sorry about the ice caps. Your goal for today is to get some food by diving and exploring the depths. There are so many useful things to eat! Try to get some variety, though; it’s part of a healthy diet. The other part of a healthy diet is making sure that you don’t become part of someone else’s healthy diet; there are plenty of predators down below, and the depths are murky enough that you never quite know what you’re going to find. Will you be able to get dinner, or will you end up on someone else’s menu?

Contents

Setup

Not a ton, but what you have to do is a bit involved. First, give each player a set of penguins in the color of their choice:

Then, organize and short the Ocean Tiles by depth (that’ll be from lightest [one dot on the back] to darkest [five dots on the back]). With 4+ players, you’ll need to shuffle in the extra tiles (with a + on the front).

Depending on the player count, you’ll need to remove three to seven tiles from each depth to randomize things a bit; put those back in the box without looking at them. Then, give one player the Start Player token and you’re ready to go!

Gameplay

Over several rounds, players will dive into the ocean depths and try to retrieve food and avoid predators! Each player has three penguins to take a dive, so choose one and get to it.

On your turn, you start at your “starting depth”. This is either the shallowest depth, the shallowest depth where you don’t have a penguin trapped on a predator tile, or if you spend a Rock Tile, any depth you want! Once you’ve chosen, you can either take any face-up tile and end your turn, or flip a tile over. If you flip a tile over, it can be one of four tiles:

  • Bubbles: You immediately go down one level and either take any face-up tile and end your turn or flip a tile over, repeating the previous step.
  • Rock Tile: You can resurface with this! It’s a rock. No points, but on a subsequent turn, you can spend the Rock Tile to start at any depth. You can also skip this tile and move to the next depth, repeating the previous step.
  • Food Tile: You can resurface with this as well! It’s worth points. You can also leave this tile face-up and move to the next depth, flipping a new tile or taking any face-up tile.
  • Predator Tile: This one ends your turn! Your penguin is placed on the tile and becomes trapped. If all of your penguins are now trapped on Predator Tiles, you may return them all to your supply and take one face-up tile from any depth that your penguins were trapped on.

When you take Food Tiles, place them in a grid where each color is in its own column (with the first tile you took of that color on top). They’ll score later based on certain criteria.

Play continues until any player flips the last face-down tile at any depth. Once play returns to the Start Player, they flip the Start Player Marker over to the Last Dive side, signifying that each player gets one more turn. This means that if the Start Player flips the last face-down tile, there are two more full rounds of the game. After that, players may skip any depth that has no face-down tiles in it. When the final turn has ended, calculate scores!

For each complete row of Food Tiles (one of each color), players earn full points. For each incomplete row, players score half the total number of points, rounded down. The player with the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

Not a ton beyond just like, structural differences as you change the number of players. The big change you’ll see is that more tiles are added for 4 – 6 players, but on the lower end of each tier (1 / 2 and 4 / 5 players) you’ll be removing more tiles from each depth. This means that functionally there’s usually a comparable number of tiles per player available in the game. Now, the one thing to notice with more players is that there are just more turns that happen between yours, so there’s a bit of a random element. If a tile is revealed that you want, odds are pretty good that it won’t last long enough to get back around to you. That said, with more players, there’s a better chance that tiles will be revealed in the intervening turns that you do want. That’s the joy of player count scaling, I suppose. Beyond that, though, the game plays the same at every player count. There might be some changes in predator count at lower player counts just because you’re pulling out tiles at random, but there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll get rid of predators, so the deep ocean can remain mysterious. No preference on player count, as a result! There’s also a solo mode, for those of y’all who are excited about that sort of thing.

Strategy

  • You really want to make sure you’re completing rows. If you don’t, you only score half points! It sometimes is worth taking a lower-value tile specifically because you both don’t risk a predator and you get to complete your row. If you want to think about it a different way, you always score half points unless you get a complete row, in which case your score effectively doubles for that row. As a result, it’s almost always worth going after that complete row.
  • Having a rock or two in your supply is great! You can use that to pick up tiles that other players have ignored. This is particularly helpful if someone skips a tile that would complete a row for you, instead going for a lower depth. You don’t care if they get predated or not; you just want to get the tiles you need. That said, rocks are worth nothing at the end of the game, so don’t just go taking rocks all the time; it’s hardly worth it.
  • Getting hit by a predator at the lower-value levels isn’t that bad; it just means you can skip straight to the more valuable depths. Naturally, you’d prefer not to get hit at the lower levels, but at least you don’t have to reveal low-value tiles that might be useful to someone else. Skipping depths can be pretty handy, as a result. Getting hit at the deepest depths is kind of a bummer, since you don’t get anything for it and you’re removing a predator from the supply.
  • There’s not really any particular strategy for choosing tiles; some are going to be predators and some won’t be. Keep in mind there are fewer predators near the surface, at least? The best you can go for is just hoping that you get lucky, but there’s a reason this is a push your luck game. You have no real way of knowing whether or not the tile you’re picking will get you attacked by a predator, so just do what you can. At the lower depths, you have a better chance of getting a scoring tile, but they’ll generally be worth fewer points, since they’re “safer” zones.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Yeah, this one’s an easy win for me; I love penguin games. One of my all-time favorite animals; up there with manatees and narwhals. As a result, I’m all-in on this theme and very excited about it.
  • Plays pretty quickly. Each turn you flip basically five tiles, max, and there’s no real point agonizing over them since they’re randomized anyways, so you can bust through a game pretty quickly.
  • I really like the art! It’s clean and having the blue as the base color allows the green, pink, and orange to really pop. Looks great. It’s a very pleasant art style, and the tiles having entirely different colors on them (green / pink / yellow / orange) is a good amount of contrast. I’m excited to see what I can get done on the photography side of things.
  • The push your luck elements are pretty fun; every time one of us gets trapped by a predator we’ve started yelling “PREDATED!”, which helps. We mostly just like having fun things to yell whenever we play anything; it keeps us engaged the whole time. Plus, it helps lessen the sting of losing one of your penguins, which is never an ideal feeling. I do appreciate that the penguins are only trapped and can be rescued; I would like this game significantly less if the penguins got eaten.
  • I appreciate that you can skip levels where one of your penguins is trapped; it’s a nice way to help players who got unlucky score some better tiles. Having some way to help players who end up having bad luck recover is a nice thing.
  • The penguin tokens are delightful, as well. They’re three different fun shapes! Everyone seems to prefer the belly-down one, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

Mehs

  • It’s a bit funny when everyone is looking for the same color to fill out their row so that they can score full points; you’ll see a lot of perfectly good tokens getting skipped. It’s not bad or anything, but in the last game I played we had a lot of people looking for yellow tiles, so a lot of pink and green tiles were just getting ignored. I scooped a few up on the cheap, but still had trouble finding the yellow tiles I needed to complete rows.
  • While I appreciate that the Extra tiles are clearly marked, separating them out from the standard tiles is a process. It’s mostly just having to flip every tile face-up to check the plus and then back face-down to shuffle them up. It doesn’t take all that long, provided you have other players helping.

Cons

  • Generally, the benefit for pushing your luck and failing is fine, but there are particular circumstances where an intrepid and unlucky explorer can really get screwed. The problem is really that you only get to take a face-up tile from one of the levels where your penguins are trapped when you rescue them. This means that if you’re unlucky and all three levels are empty, then you truly just end up with nothing. Normally I wouldn’t be too bothered about this but this happened multiple times to one player in the last game I played, which put them at a pretty big disadvantage.

Overall: 8.25 / 10

Overall, I think Deep Dive is great! It’s a nice, light, and pleasant press-your-luck game, with no major consequences or bummers for players (unless they get exceedingly unlucky). Granted, the unlucky player case happened in at least one of our games and that was kind of a problem for them, but I was having an extremely lucky game, so all that bad luck had to go somewhere, I guess. Sorry, Beka. I was always kind of set up to like this game, since penguins are one of my absolute favorite game themes, but Flatout has once again demonstrated why they’re one of the stronger design groups in the business. There’s a lot to like here. It’s very simple to learn, the turns are quick, and diving deeper for better rewards feels satisfying, even when you get predated by a bright orange seal. Just like real life, I imagine. But more specifically, I think Flatout really gets some aspect of the modern gaming audience, and continues to make games that appeal directly to them. This is the kind of game I can break out for my family and play with them, and it’s also the kind of game that I’ll happily play after work without taxing my brain too much. I’ve been looking a lot for games in this category, and I’ve lately been noticing a lot of Flatout’s games end up in that space. Coincidence? Probably, but it’s another tightly-designed title with a great theme and fun gameplay, so I’m all for it. If you’re a press-your-luck fan, you love penguins, or you’re just looking for a nice, quick, and simple game, I’d definitely recommend Deep Dive! I’ve had a great time playing it.


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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