As a fellow gamer unpacked his homemade version of Deep Sea Adventure, complete with shiny metal coins, 8 inch tall diver figurines, a plastic mat featuring a flooded ruins, and a wholly unnecessary foot and a half long submarine, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I looked over at the original game’s tiny sea blue box at the edge of the table, adorned with an adorable little submarine, I couldn’t help but think this gamer had gone quite mad pimping out this tiny little game in such a spectacular fashion.
Yet once I had finished my first play of Deep Sea Adventure, it was clear to me that although the game’s original components fit in a box of less than 15 cubic inches, my love for it never would. Of all the games I played at The Gathering of Friends, it turned out to be my second favourite, beat only by Orléans (to be released later this year by Tasty Minstrel Games). That’s pretty impressive for a game of this ilk, especially when I consider what else it was up against.
In Deep Sea Adventure, you and your friends are rival treasure hunters who are sharing a rented submarine and single tank of air. You can only keep what you can get out of the water before the air supply runs out, which is stressful and ever so fun.
The game is played in 3 rounds, each of which starts the group with 25 units of air supply. Players take turns rolling a pair of 3 sided dice (values 1-3) to determine their movements in and out of the sea’s depths. Players move along a path of treasure tokens grouped into 4 tiers; the lowest valued trinkets float near the surface, while the really valuable treasure lies at the bottom of the sea floor. At the end of a player’s movement, he or she can choose to take the treasure on which he or she has landed. And as soon as a player picks up a piece of treasure, the race is on!
You need treasure to win, but for every piece of treasure the group is holding, the harder the game becomes. At the beginning of each player’s turn, the air supply is reduced by 1 unit for each treasure that player is holding. As if this countdown weren’t enough to ramp up the tension as each player scrambles to get a piece of that sweet, sparkling bounty, a player’s rolled movement is reduced by 1 each for each treasure he or she is holding; the greedier you are, the more difficult your ascent will be. Those players who manage to get out of the water and back into the submarine get to keep their gathered treasure. When the air supply drops to zero, any players still underwater pass out, go limp, drop their treasures to the sea’s floor, and get dragged up by their hose so that they can try their luck again next round.
The spaces from which players gathered treasure in the previous round then disappear, allowing them to dive further in the next round. You won’t get the best treasures on your first dive, but if you’re brave and a little lucky, you might just haul up a sweet payload on dive number 3.
It’s dead simple to learn, in addition to being an absolute blast to play. Very few press-your-luck games have been able to capture the fun, tension, and greed that Deep Sea Adventure packs into its charming little package. It’s honestly the only game I can think of that gives Can’t Stop a run for its money in that category. Each time this hit the table, the desperate wails of doomed treasure hunters (those of my friends or even my own) brought me immense delight.
I desperately hope that a North American (or even European) publisher will pick this one up, as it is currently almost impossible to track down a copy, especially if you want to spend less than $50. If we hear anything of the sort, we’ll be sure to let you know here at the Daily Worker Placement. Until then, this homemade copy made out of bottle caps and pocket lint will have to do.