Review – Deep Dive

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Designer Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich

Artist Dylan Mangini

Publisher AEG, Flatout Games

Category Push-Your-Luck

Length 15-20 minutes

Release Date 2023

Player Count 1-6

Deep Dive is a push-your-luck game from AEG and Flatout Games, the team behind smash hits like Cascadia, Point Salad, and Calico. In this game, players control a waddle of penguins diving into icy waters. The deeper they go, the better their potential rewards are, but the more likely they are to encounter predators! Let’s check it out.

Review

In Deep Dive, players are penguins hunting for fish to eat. Their goal is to score the most points, and they do this by moving their penguins through a field of water tiles and trying to collect sets of food.

To set up the game, tiles are placed face-down in color clusters to form the different depths of the water. Each turn, the active player sends one of their penguins into the water, going from one depth to the next. At each depth, the player must either reveal a face-down tile, or else claim a face-up tile and end their turn. If they decide to reveal a tile, it will be one of four types:

  • OPEN WATER: Has no effect, but forces the player to continue onto the next depth.
  • ROCK: The player can either claim the rock and end their turn, or leave it behind and continue on. If a player begins their turn with a rock tile, they can discard it to start their dive from any depth.
  • FOOD: The player can claim the food (which is worth points) and end their turn, or leave it behind and keep going.
  • PREDATOR: The player busts, and their turn ends immediately. The penguin becomes trapped and remains on the predator tile.

Encountering a predator is obviously bad, but it has one upside—on any future turn, a player with a trapped penguin has the option to skip over that depth as they dive. (If all of a player’s penguins become trapped, they are released and returned to the player.)

As players collect food tiles, they make personal tableaus. Food comes in different colors, and players try to collect as many sets of colors as they can. Each complete set is worth the sum of the points shown on the tiles, and each incomplete set is worth half its sum.

The game end is triggered when all the tiles in a single depth are revealed. At the end of that round, everyone gets one final turn, in which they may skip over the depth that has been completely revealed. After that, points are scored and the player with the most points wins!


Push-your-luck games vary in quality, and Deep Dive is somewhere in the middle. It’s easy to learn, quick to play, and it works well for mixed ages and experience levels.

This game has a different vibe than many push-your-luck titles. In a game like Can’t Stop, players gain a little ground every time they push their luck, risking more and more until they either stop or bust. The same can be said for Incan Gold—in that game, players tend to earn more treasure the farther they go.

Indeed, the tiles in Deep Dive are more valuable farther down, so players are incentivized to push their luck, but because there isn’t an incremental buildup—because players don’t accumulate a physical, measurable reward as they go—the stakes don’t feel quite as high, even if they actually are. Until a player decides to stop, they haven’t actually earned anything. Thus, even though risks are still being taken, it doesn’t feel as dramatic as a player losing a fat pile of loot. As such, this game doesn’t inspire players to egg each other on the way some push-your-luck games do, trying to goad opponents into a costly mistake.

Production-wise, Deep Dive looks nice on the table. The different shades of blue on the tiles are easy enough to distinguish, and they have a number of dots on their backs as another way to indicate which depth they belong to. I like that the penguin pieces come in 3 different poses, but I wish that they, and the tiles, had been slightly larger. Still, the rules are clear and concise, and the iconography makes sense. Overall, it’s a good production from AEG.

I enjoy Deep Dive, but I don’t think it rises to the level of a push-your-luck classic. It is a fun family game, and one that I will likely hang onto and play from time to time, but I’m not sure how much staying power it will have in the long run.

A review copy was provided by AEG.

The Bottom Line

While Deep Dive does not rise to the level of classics like Can't Stop or Incan Gold, it is an enjoyable push-your-luck game in its own right. Recommended for families.

 

7

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.