WBG Score: 7/10
Player Count: 1–4
Published by: Sit Down!
Dive is a beautiful production. Let’s make this very clear from the off. It looks beautiful. The effort that has gone into the manufacturing of this game is stunning. Both in terms of originality and quality. It looks stunning set up, and all works very much within the theme of the game. This is not style over substance.
Dive is set in the beautiful world of the Windbark. A beautiful remote island beyond the last continent, where diving is an ancestral tradition. During the summer solstice, divers compete to see who can navigate the shark infested waters and dive into the depths to retrieve the sacred stone of the village and become the town hero. Players will compete to analyse and in truth, guess what creatures will appear as they dive deeper in a mechanism new to me, but one that offered a lot of entertainment for my family.
Simultaneous, Pre-Programmed, Push-Your-Luck!
What would technically be described as simultaneous, pre-programed, push-your-luck movement, Dive employs clear plastic sheets that represent each layer of the ocean. Players look into the depths and try to assess where Sharks will or will not appear. Layered as they are, these sheets create a confusing cacophony of images. Making it very hard to predict what will appear where.
Some of the sheets have holes cut in them, creating illusions of depth that can confuse players. With the thickness of the ocean cards, the slight blue hue, and the sheer number of them, making predictions can be somewhat haphazard. There are also many other creatures and plant life on the cards which have no affect on the game, other than creating more confusion. Mechanically this may not be new, but this is something I have not see on a gaming table before. And it’s barrels of fun!
Each round, all players will place five tokens on their dive board. Simply trying to assess if a shark will or will not be present at each level of the dive. The tokens are numbered one to five. On the levels where there are no sharks present players can get bonuses if they predict correctly. If more than one player correctly guesses that no sharks will be there, and there are also one of the three helpful animals present, the player who played the highest number gains that animals assistance. The Red Sea Turtle will help you dive down two more spaces. The Green Sea Turtle will swoop you down one spot. And the Manta will help you catch up with the next player ahead of you, as in, you catch up to the next player deeper than you, if there is one.
After each round, players move down the same number of spots on the score tracker for each correctly guessed level. If you guessed wrong on any level, that is your dive over! It is harder than it looks to guess where the sharks are. It feels like it should be easier. But it just isn’t. But it is certainly fun to try and guess. There are a lot of “Oh no!” and “Yeah” moments as each ocean card is lifted to reveal exactly what was on it after all.
Race you to the bottom?
This is a race game in truth. The first player to reach a 23 on the score tracker wins. This typically takes between 15-30 minutes, depending on how well each player assesses the ocean. As this is somewhat guesswork, the game could outstay its welcome if much longer. You may feel this game isn’t for you were it a 45 minute plus game. Getting your predictions wrong over-and-over can be frustrating. But in this light family game, played in under half an hour it works well.
There are lighter rules for younger players where making a mistake in your predictions doesn’t stop your dive. And there are companions to add to the game if you want some diversity. The companions offer a lot of different options. Players can choose one of the seven extra animals to play with and they all feel quite different. From the Anglerfish who offers you the chance to dive down one further level on your turn, to the Giant Octopus which can be placed on the Ocean tiles obscuring the view of all players for what may be lurking underneath, each companion adds a nice subtle asymmetry to the game.
A family favourite in this house was the Fugu which is available with all pre-orders from Sit Downs website as one of three bonus companions. When you play with the Fugu, all players are given the length of time that they can hold their breath to programme their tiles! This is a hilarious rule that has become a must have addition to every game we now play!
Style and Substance
If this game was set-up on your table at home, I would suggest it highly likely your kids would put down whatever they were doing and come and ask to play! Games like this serve a purpose. Their attraction comes less from their complex gameplay and strategies, and more from their unique visual appeal and table presence. This can be a good thing. More games should consider this for this age bracket.
Games that are fun to play with your family are important. Once everyone has understood the rules and played a game few times, a good game should make people want to play it often. But to overcome that initial hesitation or intimidation of learning new rules, some games should be appealing right out the box. Having something as beautiful as Dive to draw your children in, cannot hurt.
Many great games can discourage people from wanting to play them as they look complicated or dull. Conversely, many dull games can attract players to them as they look fun or original only to then disappoint. Dive has the best of both words. It is a Dolphin mixed with an Anglerfish. Sure, it looks light and fun to play with. But it also draws its prey close ready to pounce! Not letting go when it get a chance to play with it!