Dale Yu: Review of Deep Blue

Deep Blue

  • Designers: Daniel Pedersen, Asger Granerud
  • Publisher: Days of Wonder
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Days of Wonder

In Deep Blue, players are treasure hunters who are trying to explore the ocean floor to extract the best  treasure from a number of shipwrecks. These wrecks are seen on the large playing board; there are six starting wreck sites near the harbor and nine advanced wreck sites further afield.  Each player gets a player board, two boats and a starting crew deck of 4 cards all in their color. The deck of additional crew members is shuffled and a tableau of 4 cards is placed out next to the appropriate area on the board.  A bag of gems is prepared per the rules, and the extra gems are set aside – they will be added in later. Finally, a Captain’s log scenario card is chosen and placed near the board.

Play goes around the table with players taking one action on each turn until the endgame condition is met – that is when the fourth Sunken City dive tile is explored.  On a turn, the possible action options are: Recruit Crew, Sail, Rest or Dive.

To Recruit a Crew Member, you play cards from your hand that have cash icons on them to choose one of the available crew cards from the market. The cost for the card is seen on the board above the care.  The different cards have different main actions, and some may also provide you with cash or propeller icons. You can only buy one card per turn. If you do not like the choices, you can make a one-time expenditure of $4 to wipe the market and refresh all the cards AND THEN take any one of the revealed cards for free.  Once a card is bought, all cards are shifted as far right as possible and a new card is placed in the $3 slot. At any time, if a card is exposed which has a gem on its bottom right corner, a matching color gem is added to the bag.

To Sail, you play cards from your hand that have Propeller icons on them, and them move one or both of your boats equal to the number of propeller icons.  After movement, things happen depending on where your boats have ended their movement. If on a faceup Wreck tile, you can place your boat on one of the Scouting sites on the tile which will give you an advantage when a Dive occurs here.  If on a facedown Wreck tile, you can flip over the tile to expose it and then place your boat on a Scouting site. If you end on an empty space or a buoy, nothing happens.

To rest, you shuffle your discard pile and then draw three cards from the top of that pile.

To Dive, you choose any wreck site where you have at least one boat.  You are the dive leader at this location, but before anything happens, players in clockwise order have a chance to rush the dive site – any boats which are only one space away from the dive site can join in -though they will not be able to take a scouting position.  All players that have a boat at the site will be able to participate. The dive leader now takes the special dive board and the bag with gems and he starts to draw gems out of the bag one at a time. If the 2nd or further blue or 2nd or further black gem is drawn, all players have to decide if they want to defend against the threat; by playing a card of matching color from their hand.  If they cannot, or choose not to, they surface and out of the rest of the dive. Other colored gems are placed on the dive board. Then, all players who are still involved in the dive have a chance to play one or more cards from their hand to score points – all scoring criteria are at the bottom of the crew card; it may give points for a certain color gem or perhaps points if there are 8+ gems in the dive.  Any cards played represent guaranteed points for the player.

Finally, the dive leader decides if the dive continues or whether he will press his luck for the group and draw another gem. If the dive leader had been knocked out by an undefended blue or black gem, the dive automatically ends after that gem. When the dive ends, points are given out. First, all players in the dive score points for any cards that were played.  Then, all players who were still active in the dive when it ended will score points for the gems drawn. 4VP per red, 2VP per gold and 1VP for each silver. There is a large bonus for a color gem if your boat is on the scouting spot of matching color. Finally, the dive leader scores VPs are shown in the center of the tile (regardless of the outcome of the dive). The Dive tile is now discarded. If it is a Sunken City tile, place it on the board area for this – if this is the fourth and final Sunken City tile, the game is over.

My thoughts on the game

The partnership of Pedersen/Granerud has been extremely prolific in the past few years.  They have designed a number of games which should be familiar to you: Flamme Rouge, Copenhagen, Bloom Town, Shaky Manor.  It is an impressive list of games to be certain. Their games tend to be on the lighter end of things, and this is no different.  Deep Blue is a nice family-weight game that rewards planning (in the deckbuilding and boat movement) while allowing plenty of room for luck (gem drawing and press-your-luck too).

While there are a lot of components when you open the box, the game itself is pretty simple once you get into it.  For me, the start of the game is a tactical bit of either moving my boats onto strategic spots in the early dive tiles or picking up nice cards (hopefully at low cost) from the market.  There is a nice feeling of deckbuilding here, though you have to balance the want of buying cards with the need to move your boats so that you can participate in dives.

Each time you rest, you only get three cards back at most, and this presents an interesting decision as the game progresses.  Sure, you’d like to optimize your cardplay so that you don’t lose many turns resting – but you also want to have a fairly full hand of cards because you would like to have a full hand of cards at a dive so that you can play cards to score VPs!   And, if you don’t have enough (or the right cards) in your hand, you may have to make a tough decision about whether to participate in a dive or not. I certainly wouldn’t give up a scouting spot at an adjacent dive site if I didn’t think that it would be worth my while to move next door.  The points for gems given to the survivors of a dive can be significant, even more so if you are on one of the scouting sites.

So, while the game is pretty simple at its core, it definitely gives you enough to think about on any given turn.  That being said, the turns move by quickly, as the limitation of one action per turn keeps things from ever bogging down.  I would say that a 30-40 minute game is the right range for a game like this, and that is a time frame that can be hit with four players who are all familiar with the mechanics.

The artwork and overall component quality are up to the usual Days of Wonder standard.   The production quality helps my overall opinion of the game as the beautiful components make it a pleasure to look at, and it helps attract other gamers to the table. My one quibble is with the plastic treasure chests. For me, this is an un-necessary thing (and I’m also not a fan of hiding trackable information). But, I know that I’m in the minority in this opinion as most people that have played the game have been gaga about the chests! Pedersen and Granerud have made a career out of making games like this, and their formula seems to have worked here again.  I don’t know if this is going to be a long-term keeper, but it is a nice lightweight game that I have enjoyed this winter.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Joe Huber (1 play): I found Deep Blue to be utterly unmemorable,  Not good, not bad, just meh; I haven’t felt any inclination to play the game a second time, though I wouldn’t mind doing so if others wished to.  For the theme, I’d rather play Deep Sea Adventure.

Tery (1 play): I agree with Joe here. It was fine, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to play it again.it has a lot of mechanics that I generally like – deck building and bag building – but the press your luck mechanic sours it for me. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Steph H, Eric M
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. Joe H., Tery
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2019, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Deep Blue

  1. Pingback: Dale Yu: Review of Deep Blue - Rollandtroll.com

  2. Pingback: Dale Yu: Review of Deep Blue – Herman Watts

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