Buying this fabled map was a stroke of genius. The most ancient, legendary, and extravagant underwater wrecks are waiting for divers. Diving suits and oxygen tanks are aboard, and the ship is ready to weigh anchor. There's no time to lose! The increased hustle and bustle of the harbor, with ship captains attempting to hire the best divers and historians, can mean only one thing: Other captains have the same map, and the biggest treasure hunt of all time is about to begin!
Deep Blue is a press-your-luck and engine-building, family game in which players dive for wealth and may join and benefit from other player's diving fortunes. In this game, players have to collect the right crew of divers, sailors, and archeologists, race to wreck sites to claim the best spots to dive from, and scout the seas to discover new wrecks. Players have to take risks if they want to be the most wealthy diver!
Designer: Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Price: $59.00 Amazon.com
Deep Blue is a push-your-luck game of subaquatic treasure hunting. Players move boats about the board, picking locations for their deep-sea dives. In order to be successful, they will need a hearty crew, a trusty vessel, and perhaps a bit of luck.
Deep Blue is Days of Wonder’s big release from 2019. In this game, players compete to acquire loot from the depths of the ocean.
To begin the game, the board is seeded with a number of tiles which represent different dive sites. Everyone receives a set of cards in their color, as well as 2 boats, which are placed in the corner of the board. From a shuffled deck of crew cards, a tableau is drawn and placed face-up in the slots along the side of the board.
The goal of the game is to collect the most treasure. A player can do 1 of 4 things on his/her turn:
- Acquire new crew members by spending cards for their listed dollar amount. The crew cards on the side of the board can be purchased for their indicated price. Alternatively, a player may spend $4 to sweep all the available cards, deal out a new tableau, and take a card from it.
- Move boats by spending cards for their listed movement amount. The movement can be divided between the 2 boats as desired. If a player moves onto an undiscovered tile, it is revealed.
- Refresh 3 played cards by taking a rest action.
- Perform a dive, which involves all players with boats on the current player’s tile. (This is the core of the game, so I will explain it below.)
At the beginning of the game, a bunch of different gemstones are placed into a draw bag, and more get added as time goes on. The majority of the gems are good, representing different types of treasures, but a handful of “bad” gems are mixed in, as well. Specifically, blue gems represent issues with divers’ oxygen supply, and black ones represent attacks from sea creatures.
When a player initiates a dive, he/she become the “dive leader.” This player draws gems from the bag until he/she either 1) decides to stop drawing voluntarily, or 2) encounters a blue or black gem and cannot defend against it. As gems are drawn, they are placed on a small, supplemental board, which lists the values of good gems and tracks the numbers of bad ones encountered.
The first time a bad gem is drawn in either color, it is merely a warning and has no negative consequences. However, when the second blue or second black gem is drawn, all players in the dive (that is, all players present on the tile) must defend themselves. Normally, this is done by playing a like-colored card from their hands. If a player cannot defend against a bad gem, he/she must resurface, which means he/she will miss out on the points awarded from treasure.
After each gem is drawn, players still in the dive can play matching cards from their hands. These provide other ways to earn points, such as “Earn 6 points if 8 or more gemstones are drawn in this dive.”
There are also 2 colors of gems that represent “artifacts.” These are worth nothing by default, but if a player has a particular crew card, they can be worth major points.
Lastly, the tiles themselves usually offer bonuses, such as a free defense against a bad gem, or an increased payout for a certain color of gem. (It’s worth noting that when a player initiates a dive, players in adjacent spaces can move into the dive space for free to participate, but they cannot receive these bonus abilities.) When a dive is completed, the tile is removed from the board.
As players continue exploring the board, they will eventually uncover “Sunken City” tiles. When a dive is completed on the 4th and final Sunken City tile, the game ends and the player with the most treasure wins!
There is a lot to like about Deep Blue. Push-your-luck is a mechanism I greatly enjoy, but this game implements it differently than most by involving a group dynamic. In the majority of push-your-luck games, players’ decisions affect only themselves, but in Deep Blue, the dive leader’s choices affect all players participating in the dive.
The game offers multiple ways to strategize. Some players may want to stay far away from opposing boats to keep their dive rewards all to themselves. Others may want to start off slower, stocking up on crew cards early, so that they are well-prepared for a deep dive later. Still others might want to stay close to opponents in order to make the most of the free movement offered when a dive begins. Basically, the gameplay is simple, but the decisions are meaningful.
The diving theme comes through very strongly; drawing blindly from a bag is always a great abstraction of treasure hunting. The production is as good as expected from Days of Wonder, particularly the vibrant art and the large, plastic treasure chests. The box is just the right size, and the insert holds everything nicely. The only issue I have with Deep Blue is its scalability. It doesn’t work as well at lower player counts, but it really shines with 4 or 5.
I like Deep Blue a lot. It has Days of Wonder’s signature blend of accessibility and interesting gameplay, and I think lots of people will enjoy it. This one is a highlight of 2019.
A review copy was provided by Asmodee.
+ Great production quality
+ Group dynamic puts an interesting twist on push-your-luck
+ Multiple ways to strategize
- Does not work as well at lower player counts