Deep Blue – The Review

This is for #Blogmas 2019 day 25. As such this is a bit quicker than my usual reviews. At some point I’ll come back to this and dive deeper into it.

Deep Blue is a push-your luck game by Days Of Wonder. In this game players control 2 boats as they traverse the big blue heading for diving sites and then diving for sunken treasure.
Each player has a starter deck of four cards and can use these cards to either purchase extra cards in a quasi deck-builder style or to move their two boats about on the central board.
In a turn a player can:
1. Play cards to move boats.
2. Play cards to buy extra cards.
3. Resting – all played cards are placed in each players’ personal discard pile, these are shuffled and three are added to the hand.
4. Diving
Once a boat reaches a dive site, they are placed in one of the available bonus slots that either assist with a dive, or improve the rewards from a successful dive. When a player declares they are going on a dive (by putting the diving bell on the appropriate spot) players who have boats at adjacent locations may rush their boats there (but not on a bonus spot).
The lead diver then draws gems out of the bag. There are 19 gems to start off with but more can be added during the game. 8 of the gems represent diving hazards (4 oxygen depletions and 4 monster encounters). The diver can draw gems from the bag until they either choose to stop or draw more hazards than they can deal with. The first oxygen and monster is freely overlooked, but the subsequent require either a diving bonus or a card in hand. If the dive is successful all players get the full points. If not, only those players who could counter the final hazard get the points.

Thoughts:
This is one of the more basic games from Days of Wonder, but there’s still enough going on to keep it interesting.
The push-your-luck mechanic is always a divisive one, so if it’s not a thing you like in games, this is probably not the game for you. However, I did enjoy the level of stress and indecision that builds up with the drawing of each gem, even if it’s not me doing it – or even invested in that particular dive. There can be a certain element of pure luck, for one dive I drew two oxygen gems and that was that.
As usual with games by Days of Wonder, this is a beautiful game with well-produced components. All the cards are fully illustrated and the gems are a mixture of opaque or translucent. There are some Captain’s Log cards which add special rules for four dives in each game, which is a nice way of giving each game a different feel. However, the cards themselves haven’t got the rounded corners that most playing cards have and feel like they’ve just come off the guillotine.
Each player is also given a rather snazzy plastic treasure chest to hold their victory points in. This does seem to be a little bit over the top, particularly as all the previous Days of Wonders games have 1-sided VP tokens that simply sit face-down in front of each player. They’re nice, but unnecessary – had they been made out of wood, they would be better still.

Final thoughts:
I liked this game but I can see fans of previous Days of Wonders titles feeling a little underwhelmed as this is not as meaty has they rest. Having said that, knowing Days of Wonders’ propensity for throwing out expansions for their games, I would not at all be surprised to see a slew of expansions bigging up the game over the next few years. I would probably get them too.

Score: 4 out of 5.

Game Review: Sorcerer

Sorcerer (Kickstarter edition)

from White Wizard Games
Contents
Box Contents
How to Play
Scores
Further Thoughts and Final Verdict
Expansions

Box Contents

1 rulebook
4 battlegrounds
4 double-sided player boards
Red glass beads
Blue glass beads
7 red cuboids
Double-sided Damage/Omen tokens
Flame tokens
Tree tokens (with Kickstarter expansion)
3 Fate tokens
1 Blood card
1 Moon card (with Kickstarter expansion)
2 Moon tokens (with Kickstarter expansion)
9 Character decks or 10 cards each (4 in base game)
9 Character skill cards (4 in base game)
9 Character avatar Standees (4 in base game)
6 Lineage decks of 20 cards each (4 in base game)
6 Lineage skill cards (4 in base game)
8 Domain decks of 10 cards each (6 in base game)
8 Domain skill cards (6 in base game)
7 custom d6 battle dice
1 large d8

How to play
The object of the game is to win. Winning is achieved by being the first player to control two battlefields (or 3 in a 3+ player game).
Either randomly or by selection each player chooses a Player, Lineage and Domain deck and matching character standee.
After separating out the 3 skill cards, the 40 remaining cards are shuffled to create the grimore (main deck).
The deck is placed on the player’s board along with a blue bead on the 6 of the energy tracker and the red bead on the 6 of the turn tracker. Each player also gets 1 Omen token in their omen pool and the first player get the Fate token.
The skill cards are placed next to the board for player reference.
In a two-player game, three battlegrounds are placed between the players.
In a three + player game, one battleground is placed between each player. The base game allows up to four players. Each battleground gets 2 red cuboids which start off in the middle (an extra counter may be needed in a four-player game).
Certain decks also come with their own special card (i.e. Blood Card or Moon Phase card) which also need to be separated out and put in a place of reference.
Each player deals themselves 6 cards. They may mulligan.
Each player places their avatar in a battlefield, the abilities of their three skill cards will only affect that battlefield.
The Action Phase
Starting with the first player, each player takes turns to perform an action.
To perform an action a player must first spend 1 red action point (move the red bead down the track by one). In this way all players will get to perform six actions.
The actions are:
– Play a card from hand: Each card has an energy cost and must be paid by moving the blue bead down the energy tracker by the requisite number. Spells are played straight to a player’s personal graveyard (discard pile) and actioned accordingly. Minions are played to any battlefield (in a 3+ player game minions can only be played to the battlefields to the left and right of the player and spells can only effect those battlefields). Items are played to already played minions.
– Move a minion: A minion can be moved from one battlefield to an adjacent battlefield (some minions have flight and can move to any legal battlefield).
– Gain two energy: Move the blue energy bead up two spaces.
– Gain two cards: Pick up two cards from the grimoire.
Once all players have performed all six actions the action phase is complete.

The Battle Phase.
Starting with the battlefield on the first player’s left, minions battle one at a time until all minions have battled or been destroyed. In a two-player game, the first player gets first attack in the middle battleground only.
All minions have an attack and defence score. To attack, a minion is tapped (turned sideways) and their attack value is counted (their red value + any extras). That many dice are rolled to determine damage (up to 7 dice). Die rolls can be:
-Blank (a miss!)
-1 skull (a hit!)
-2 Skulls (a double hit!)
-1 star (a critical hit! – or a double hit if the Battle Phase commenced with no opposing minion on that battlefield).
Both players involved in the battle can spend an Omen tokens to force die rerolls to better or worsen the roll outcome. The first player may also flip the Fate token to force a complete reroll (but only once per turn).
Damage done can go to any opposite minion or to the battlefield. The attacking player only gets to choose where damage from a critical hit goes – all other damage is decided by the defending player.
Damage counters are added to minions one at a time to denote damage. If damage = minion defence (the blue number) the minion is destroyed and sent to the graveyard with any items it was carrying.
Damage to the battlefield is indicated by the red cuboid and is placed on the tracker on the defender’s side of the board. When the damage reaches 12, the battlefield is completed and turned over with a red cuboid on the victor’s side. When a player has 2 such victories, they win. In a 3+ player game, the battlefield is reset and the first to win three victories is the winner.

Scores

Number of players Mostly 2 players, but has the capacity for 4 with a little rejigging.
End game conditions A player controls 2 battlegrounds (or 3 in a 3+ player game).
Victory condition The player who controls 2 battlegrounds (or 3 in a 3+ player game).
Replayability If I don’t play it tonight I’m gonna freak! With 96 different deck combinations with just the base game and 432 deck combinations with the current Kickstarter expansions, this has a lot of replayabilty.
Reading Requirements Oh yeah! I forgot it did that! As usual with this type of game, there’s a lot of information that builds up in front of you. No card has too much writing, but it’s easy to forget bits, particularly with the skill cards.
Rules Comprehension I only read through the rules three times The rulebook reads quite well and is laid out logically. The player boards also sport the crucial details so there’s not too much flicking through the rulebook.
Game-Breakability They clearly game-tested the meeple out of this With over a year waiting for this on Kickstarter, there was a lot of testing. However, with 96-432 different deck combinations there will be stronger synergies than others.
Durability Use as directed Don’t get wet! Also the cardboard standees are made from a good rigid cardboard, but could be damaged if caught wrong.
Box Size Under Arm A little bigger than the average box.
Play Area Coffee Table With 2 players, you don’t need too much room, with more players, more room will be needed.
Component Stability Indoors or no wind The standees from the expansions come with tiny bases, but the base game does come with spare bigger ones.
Storage Layout Hey, I can fit all my expansions in here too! Particularly regarding extra cards (all sleeved too). I have heard that those who got the extra battlegrounds have found that the bit of the box that holds them isn’t deep enough to take more.
Aesthetics Photogenic I love the box art particularly. I’d say the battlegrounds are a bit dark and bland, the player boards have two great sides. The card art isn’t to my personal taste but is okay.
Theme Good, if you like that sort of thing. Excepting the artwork, there’s nothing here that really shouts out ‘Sorcerer’ and any theme could be super-imposed over this without changing anything of the game.
Some may find the demonic theme more Torches and pitchforks and I know some will have nothing to do with it because of that.
Turn Time/Involvement Already? I’m still choosing 3 cards to discard from my last turn Although every person has six actions to perform, because they can only do 1 action a turn and the actions are pretty simple, the turns move quite quickly.
It’s a bit slower during the battle phase. With a 3+ player game, it may even be possible to have two simultaneous battles going on if there are enough dice.
Game Length We’ll get a couple of games in before bedtime Provided everyone knows how to play, this should be about 40-60 minutes.
Setup Time Minutes The bulk of the time is spent separating out the different decks. The box comes with some nice dividers for the Character, Lineage and Domain decks, but nothing for the individual decks. I’ve tried using the selection process using just the skill cards, but then there’s sifting through trying to find the relevant decks picked. I may need to make my own dividers to make this easier.

Further Thoughts
The main issue with this game is the demonic theme which will limit who will actually play this with me. I know many of you will scoff at this or not even think this is a thing, but for some, this is a real problem.
Apart from that, this game plays a bit like Smash Up, with the similar deck mixing mechanic and battleground break point goal but with a much better focus on the combat. The Omen token mechanic makes for some interesting extra strategy choices where a player may play a weaker minion purely to increase their Omen stash. The order of battle turns on the battleground also keeps players thinking about what should go where, and when.
As I’ve mentioned above, the artwork isn’t to my taste, but I can look past it to enjoy the simplicity and complexity of the game.
I feel it’s a stronger game as a two-player, but am grateful for the adaptation to accommodate extra players. I’m glad I got it with the extras and will keenly keep an eye out for more.
Final Verdict: Add this to your collection!

Expansions
These came with the Kickstarter but will probably be available as expansions too:
Each of the Character Packs comes with a deck of 10 cards, a Character Skill card and an Avatar Standee. The bases are small but can be swapped out for the extras supplied in the base game.

Each of the Lineage Packs comes with a deck of 20 cards and a Lineage Skill card. Both these packs come with extra rules and counters.

Each of the Domain Packs come with a deck of 10 cards and a Domain Skill card.

Lunatic Asylum Domain Pack – Kickstarter Stretch Goal
Royal Palace Domain Pack – Kickstarter Stretch Goal

The reverse of the player boards features an Egyptian theme – they play exactly the same regardless, but three matching battlefields were made available. I declined having spent enough, but I’ve heard they don’t fit too well in the box.
3 Egyptian Battlefields with red cuboids.