How long can you hold your breath? My record is four minutes, but that was above water and I was super bored. Now imagine you are a deep sea diver and your air runs out. How long do you think you could hold your breath then? Deep Sea Adventure will help you answer that question, but believe me, the answer is a lot shorter than you’d like it to be. You aren’t Aquaman.
Deep Sea Adventure comes in a box that is shockingly tiny. It fits in the palm of your hand but holds some of the cutest tokens, dice, and diver pawns I have ever seen. If you are a fan of minimalist design, Deep Sea Adventure nails its look and brightens up any room it’s set up in. For some the game might be too small, especially the diver pawns, but its size matches how simple the game is so it isn’t a big problem. Literally.
You and other would-be treasure hunters have decided to pool your resources together to rent a single submarine. Hey, you’re not rich yet. In fact, you are so poor that you can only afford one tank of air to share between your fellow divers.
The depths of the ocean are filled with treasure beyond measure, but everyone knows that the best stuff is found at the bottom. A trail of ruins is laid out on the table, with almost worthless junk close to the submarine and more valuable gems near the end of the line. Players can easily distinguish potential profit from the cheaper ruins, but the real value is only printed on the other side, so divers don’t know exactly how many points they’ve picked up along the way.
Only when a treasure hunter returns to the sub can they flip their tokens over and turn their finds into permanent points. Any diver outside of the sub when the air runs out has to drop any treasure they are holding where it sinks and piles up at the end of the line. The bottom of the ocean becomes more tempting every round, calling out to players with the riches of fallen comrades. Yeah, it get pretty dark if you think about it too much. Moving on!
On a player’s turn, they have to do a few things before venturing off to find more treasure. First, the communal air supply has to be reduced by the number of treasures that player is holding. If you are empty handed, you are good to go, but each treasure you grab makes you gulp more air. The stink eye is a very common occurrence in this game.
Next, the player has to decide whether they will push on deeper or to head back to the sub. Always a tough call since better treasures lie just ahead and you can only change directions once per round. Why give exploration so quickly? I’m sure you can make it back in time, buddy! Keep going! I’m sure nothing will go wrong, right?
Once a player decided which direction they will be heading, they roll two special dice that will give them 2-6 spaces of movement. Or less. You see, gold is kinda heavy, so for every treasure you hold your movement is reduced that amount. You’re consuming more air, you’re slower, and your chances of getting back to sub safe diminish even more. But you might get a bunch of points, so it’s worth the risk, right? Luckily, diver pawns get to skip over spaces that other divers are on, so if you are lucky you can do some undersea leapfrog to sink to the bottom or zip to the surface.
Finally, depending on where a diver landed, they can choose to do nothing, pick up a treasure and replace it with blank chip, or replace a blank chip with a treasure in order to lighten their load. All of these decisions are very basic but are very agonizing to make. Other players will egg you on or groan at your greediness. Can you handle heading back to the sub with only one treasure? Or will your lust for riches overtake you like Abu in the Cave of Wonders?
If at the beginning of a player’s turn the oxygen supply runs out (and believe me, it will run out quickly), they can finish their turn and any diver outside of the sub drops their treasures off at the end of the line. All of the blank tiles are removed and the gaps are shored up, so the bottom of the ocean gets closer each round. After three rounds, the player with the most treasure points wins.
Deep Sea Adventure is beautiful in its simplicity and minimalist style, but can also be deeply depressing when the game ends with nobody bringing back any treasure. Of course, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun when we played that game. Deep Sea Adventure has a lot of luck in it, from die rolls to treasure distribution, since each level varies 4 points. But I am so glad I have Deep Sea Adventure in my collection because it looks wonderful, it plays quickly, and is a hoot to see others fail. I’m going down and I’m taking you with me!