Board Game Review: Oceanos

Though our free time for board gaming has decreased a little since the birth of our son, my husband and I still find a decent amount of time for playing board games.  I’m going to try to bring back the monthly board game reviews on this site as well, since I enjoyed doing those for a while.

This week’s review is for a game called Oceanos.  It plays 2-5 people, and takes about 30-45 min.  The artwork is very pretty, and it’s kind of Steampunk ocean themed.

Each player has their own ship, and begins with all of the “Stage 1” parts.  There are 5 pieces to each ship, and each piece can be upgraded twice over the course of the game.  Each ship piece has its own function, and determining which parts to upgrade first is part of the strategy to the game.

Periscope – This piece controls the number of cards you receive each round.

Tail piece – This piece is just worth the number of points shown at the end of each round.  Upgrading to Phase 2 provides 2 points, and Phase 3 provides 5 points.

Gas Chamber – For each bauble of green liquid, you may use that piece to lay down an extra card one round.  Upgrades provide a second and third bauble.  The baubles refresh between Rounds 2 and 3.

Animal Hold – For each unique animal in your row this round, you receive 2 points.  The number shown is the number of unique animals you can hold.  Upgrading changes that number to 5, and a second upgrade changes it to 8.

Dive Chambers – At any time when you turn over a card, you can release a diver for that card.  He swims up, and is best placed on the second or third row of cards.  Place divers on cards that have treasure boxes, and the diver will pick up any treasures from where he is and above in a single column.  Upgrades provide a second and third diver.  Treasures are picked randomly from a bag at the end of the game and can be worth 2, 3, or 4 points.

Example ship with all Stage 1 Parts.

The game is played over 3 rounds.

Each round, the dealer gives cards to all the other players.  The number of cards each player receives is equal to the number of periscopes on their ship, plus one.  Players look at their cards and choose one to play face down in their ocean line.  Players can sometimes play additional cards face down if their ship upgrades allow them to.  Any cards that players do not place in their oceans are handed face down to the dealer, who picks up the remaining cards (and draws up to his periscope total +1, if need be) and choose one to play in his or her ocean.

When everyone has placed a card face down, players simultaneously turn the cards face up and do any actions that are available to them.

Round 1 cards

At the end of the round, you consult your cheat sheet card, shown below.  First, you do any upgrades available to you.  Upgrades are indicated by the yellow glass bauble city symbol, which you can see on the cheat sheet card at the top, and also sometimes on the bottom right of the cards in your row from the round.  In order to do an upgrade, you must have at least 1 crystal to the left of your upgrade symbol in the round’s card line.  That allows you to upgrade one ship part, one level.  If you have 2 different colored crystals (like in the line I am showing in the example above, green and yellow) prior to the upgrade symbol, you can upgrade from level 2 to level 3 for one ship part.

Additionally, if you found crystals in your ocean row but did not find an upgrade symbol, like the last dangling yellow crystal in my sample row, the end of each round provides a free upgrade symbol, indicated by line 1 on the cheat sheet card.  If you don’t have any extra crystals in your row, you cannot perform an upgrade.

Then in between rows you also calculate points for unique animals and the tail piece of the ship.  Also as part of step 2 on the cheat sheet, you must calculate which player has the most pink bell symbols.  These live in the upper right corner of the ocean cards.  The player (or players) with the most pink bells, must lose some points for the round.  The number of points lost is randomly selected based on the different sized octopus cardboard pieces, shown in the Round 1 picture above.  In the example, the player with the most bells for Round 1 would lose zero points.

Then you rinse and repeat the game mechanics for Rounds 2 and 3, using the cards for the appropriate rounds.

Round 2 example.

And finally Round 3.

Round 3 Example.

At the end of the game, you tally up the scores from all three rounds.  You also tally up a few extra score contributors: treasure points and coral reef points.  I discussed the treasure points earlier, but in the Round 3 example, this player would choose two treasure tokens at random from the bag because their single diver would pick up the treasure he is on, and the treasure above him.  For coral reef points, you tally the number of continuous cards with coral reef symbols on them.  You receive a point for each coal reef within the continuous set.  In the example above, the player would receive 9 points for coral, based on the continuous reef on the left.

The score sheet and the treasure bag.

And that is the game!  This game gets a high rating from me – 8.2.  It wins on artwork and theme, is very replayable and quick, and the symbology and explainability is excellent.  If I feel that I can explain it easily, and older folks like my parents can pick it up easily, it should get a high user experience rating.  Plus, who doesn’t enjoy building and upgrading fun steampunk submarines???  If you have played it, let me know what you think!


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