My game, Search and Survive, is live on Kickstarter and that has taken the vast majority of my time the past few weeks. I have, however, been able to play 2 games I had never played before: Oh My Goods and Captain Sonar!
Captain Sonar was a game I had been looking forward to for a very long time and I finally got to play it down at The Jester’s Court recently. Ethan, Brian, Alex, Damian, Jeremy, another Alex, John, and myself (alternating with Trudi) sat down to play and see if it would live up to the hype.
Though we played several games and defected between the 2 teams several times, I started out aboard the S.S. Jester with John, Jeremy, and Brian on my team. I captained our submarine for the first 3 matches as everyone tried to get used to the game’s complex timing.
The rule book recommends that players start off with a turn by turn play style, but by all accounts the real time game is far superior so we skipped straight to it. The game makes use of pauses in game play with one captain yelling ‘stop’ to halt the chaotic action. This is very difficult to get used to because some stations require that the player focus nearly 100% on another player.
For instance, the radio operator has a complex and incredibly important job. As the enemy captain calls out movement commands (in the form of North, South, East, and West). These commands are written on a plastic overlay on the map and moved around to try and find the enemy submarine’s location. Since the ships cannot pass through islands it becomes easier to find potential locations as the path gets longer.
The submarines can only stay underwater for so long and must surface occasionally. When a sub does surface the captain of said ship must declare their sector. Other tools like Sonar and Drones help narrow down the enemy’s location as well. When a captain is confident in the enemy’s location a torpedo can be fired. It only takes 4 points of damage to sink the submarines.
I got to play each role on the sub (captain, first mate, engineer, and radio operator) and I liked some roles more than others. The radio operator was by far my favorite. It feels like you’re a spy as listen to the enemy captain and try to map the enemy route. The engineer was more stressful than anything. As the ship breaks you have to make split-second decisions on which systems will shut down before the submarine must surface for repairs.
Outcome – I had a blast and the game is a lot of fun despite some awkward timing moments as the teams yelled “Stop!” followed by a “We’re using sonar… oh… we don’t have sonar?… nevermind… GO!.. now we do?… Stop!” The S.S. Jester was victorious in its first 3 encounters, but once the teams switched it became much more evenly matched.
I am a sucker for small aerial artwork of medieval villages. It’s a known weakness I have. So when I saw Oh My Goods and that Trudi had a store copy I sat down and read the rules before game night. The rule book was not overly long but the game was not immediately clear to me. It looked to me like one of those games that must be played before it became fully understood, and I was right.
Keely, Ethan, John and I gave it a go as I stammered and stuttered and did my best to explain what was going on. As we played it began to make much more sense, but it took several turns to gain even a rudimentary understanding. The cards in the box are the only components, and cards can be used as buildings, resources, money, or goods. Different portions of the cards serve to fill these roles, depending on which portion of the card is looked at.
Worker cards and assistant cards must be placed below buildings in order for them to be activated, and these workers can only be moved during certain phases. Predicting which buildings you’ll be able to use is tricky and requires practice, and we spent a lot of time stockpiling resources that weren’t worth many points at the end of the game. And speaking of resources, there’s quite a few. Some are used for basic production, and others are only used in chain production. I will spare your sanity and not attempt to explain the difference.
In order to determine which buildings can activate (providing they have a worker) cards are laid out in the middle of the table until certain symbols are revealed. The resources shown on these cards are used to activate buildings and produce goods, which are taken from the deck and laid face down on top of said buildings.
Our biggest problem was ignorance of the finer points of the game. As more and more goods began to pile up on top of buildings that produced them (since the production chains for goods were unknown to us), the deck became incredibly small. This meant that the same cards were laid out in the middle of the table. This meant that certain goods were no longer available and many buildings were worthless.
Outcome – Ethan and I tied for the victory without bothering to see how to break the tie. Though I liked the idea of the game (and am sure I would like it better knowing what I was doing in a second playing) we were quite frustrated by the end and called it good with a tie. Read the rule book several times before attempting this one. It’s not a fun game to stumble through.