Oink Games, from Japan, is a go-to source of big games in small boxes, and Deep Sea Adventure is one of its masterpieces.
The players each represent a deep-sea diver seeking treasure on behalf of some shadowy employer. Each player seeks to bring the most valuable treasure to the surface, but with a catch—the players all draw on the same air tank! The result is a compelling little game of pushing your luck to the limit.
The game begins with a small submarine, with a marker for the level of air remaining. Going down from the submarine is a long trail of treasure in a single-file path. The precise value of each treasure is unknown, but in general the values are greater the farther down towards the seafloor you go.
Players start in the submarine, about to venture into the murky depths. On a player’s turn, the air tank is reduced by the number of treasure the diver holds. The player then decides whether to keep going down to the sea floor, or turn around. (But once a player turns around, they have to keep going back up towards the submarine.) Then, the player rolls two dice (marked 1-3), adds the numbers together, and moves that many spaces—minus the number of treasure tokens they have!—skipping over other divers. If the space has a treasure, the diver can pick it up; if the space is open, the diver can drop off a treasure token.
If the air runs out, the players still in the water lose all the treasure they were holding to the bottom of the ocean. The players who made it back to the submarine and score points according to the “secret” sides of the treasure chits they brought back. Then, there is a brief preparation for the next round. The game lasts three “air tanks.”
The game is usually highly exciting, as towards the bottom of every air tank there are a few people scrambling to get back to the top, laden down with treasure. But even if you ran out of air this round, the next one has the chance to turn things around…
The game is designed for 2-6 players, and most gamers think it plays best with four or more. Games last about a half hour, and while the rules are not very complicated it’s a fairly unique game and it can take a few turns to really internalize the rules when you’re just starting. Kids as young as eight should do fine with a little supervision the first time playing, and there is no language on any of the pieces.
Thank you again to Oink Games for donating copies of this fantastic game!