Dale Yu – First Impressions of Dive

Dive

  • Designers: Romain Caterdjian and Anthony Perone
  • Publisher: Sit Down!
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30 min
  • Preview (final prototype) copy provided by Sit Down!

In Dive, players are deep ocean divers, taking part in a festival where they try to retrieve a sacred stone out of the depths of the ocean.  As they dive deeper and deeper, some friendly creatures will help them out (turtles, manta rays) while sharks pose a constant danger to all.

The ocean is represented by 36 transparent ocean cards, stacked on top of one another, and placed in a cardboard holder.  Some of the cards may have holes cut in them (to symbolize bubbles) – and each has a variety of animals and sea plants printed on them.  Prior to the game, these cards are shuffled, flipped, rotated and stacked to form the ocean.

Each player gets their diver planning board which is kept behind their screen as well as some Air tokens (numbered 1-5, with a white air number on one side and a blue shark number on the other side).    The scoreboard is set off to the side, and each player puts a marker on the zero space.  The scoreboard is split into shallow depths (0-15) and deep water (16+).   The game will be played until at least one player has 23 or more points.

The game is played in rounds (until someone gets to 23 or more points).  Each round starts with a programming phase, and then followed by a Diving phase.

In the programming phase, players are allowed to look at the ocean tiles – but no one can touch or move them.  Players try to determine what depth they will encounter the various animals that they see – and then plan their dive accordingly.  Players want to dive as deep as possible (up to five cards deep in the stack).  You use your five dive tokens to program your maneuvers.  If you think there is a shark on a particular level, you need to make sure that you flip your counter over to the blue shark side.  If you think there is a helpful animal at a certain level, you want to have as high a value as possible to make sure that you get the positive benefits.  You are able to place as many tokens as you wish on a level; though if you stack tokens – this does limit how far down you will be able to explore that turn!  

Once all players have programmed their dives, the dive cards are revealed.  The top card of the stack is taken off and shown to all players – the three things to look for are: sharks, turtles and manta rays.  All other things (fish, shells, bubbles, plants, whales, etc) do not matter.  There are three stages to evaluating this card.

1] Is the dive program correct?  Essentially, see if there is a shark on the card.  If so, all dive markers at this level need to be on the blue side to be correct.  If no shark, then the markers need to be on the white side.  If the player is correct, push the dive marker(s) to the right of the level to show that a correct play was made at that level.  If the player is wrong, than all dive markers from this level and deeper are removed from the programming board.  These players are eliminated from the rest of this round.

2] Is there a helpful animal (Sea Turtle and/or Manta Ray)?  If so, check to see which player has the highest total value of air markers at this level.  That player then reaps the benefits of the helpful animal(s).  A Manta Ray allows the diver to advance their marker on the scoreboard to the next furthest player on the track (well, up to space 15 – the Manta does not help you through the deepest waters).  A green turtle gives +1 space and a red turtle gives +2 spaces.  If there is a tie, no one gest the benefit of the helpful animals.

3] Do we continue deeper?  As long as one player still have dive markers deeper on their board, reveal the next card and resolve it.

Once all of the cards for this round have been evaluated, each player then moves forward one space for each level where they have markers to the right of the level on their board. (i.e. they had made a correct decision for that level).

Then, the game moves into another round where the same process is repeated.  The game continues until at least one player has 23 or more points.  The player with the most points at that time is the winner.  If there is a tie, there is no tiebreaker, and in fact the rules state you those play again to determine a winner!  The game can also rarely end when the entire deck of ocean cards is revealed and no one has more than 23 points.  In this case, the player with the most points wins.

My thoughts on the game

When I first read about this game in a press email about a year ago, I was pretty excited to learn more about it.  I really love the idea of the transparent ocean cards, and the near final prototype that I have does not disappoint!  At the start of the game, with the entire deck of cards stacked on the stand, you get a really neat visual effect of the depths in the ocean.  Things closer to the top are a bit clearer, and you can honestly make out things about 10 cards down….  The added texture of the cards with cutouts really enhances the feeling of depth to the deck.

The main part of the game – that is, trying to decide how deep down something is – is quite challenging!  You have to rely upon the clarity of the art, some perception edges provided by cutout edges as well as clues from overlapping artwork to decipher what you see.  I would highly recommend playing this in a room with bright light!  Alternatively, we allow players to use the lights on their cellphones to illuminate the stack of cards in order to get the best view.

For me, the biggest thing is trying to figure out where the sharks are.  After all, if you make the wrong decision about the location of a shark, the rest of your round is literally blown out of the water.  You will score no points at all from that round forward…  so that is the key for me.

The manta ray is the next most important because it can give a player a huge jump forward on the track.  OF course, this only works for the first portion of the scoring track, but it’s still a possible huge play.  If you’re in the lead, it might even be a useful thing to get the manta ray in order to prevent someone else from catching up to you!

Searching the depths of the ocean is more difficult than I thought it would be; I’d say that I rarely make it through a round where I can successfully place markers on all 5 levels.  The thickness and slight opacity of the ocean cards really does give a good simulation of depth.  Things near the surface (on the first few cards) are pretty clear, though there are times when things on levels 2 and 3 are very hard to tell apart!  As you get deeper down, especially down to the 5th level, you sometimes have to try to decide (guess?) whether a shark you can dimly see is in fact on that level or if it is deeper…  I have had more success recently trying to grab turtles closer to the surface and locking in scores that way.  But as other players have cottoned onto my strategy, it is becoming quite expensive to get the surface animals, and it is making it worthwhile to try to be a successful deep diver instead.

From my prototype, the cards are great and the artwork is well done.  Of course, these components aren’t final – but I would be duly impressed if this is what I got in the retail box!  I look forward to diving to the depths of the ocean this summer, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing the final product when it hits the market!

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

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.
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