What is it? 7 Wonders Under the Sea
The deets: 2-5 players, 30-45min
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Another year, another Antoine Bauza game. The guy’s seen a few hits – 7 Wonders and Takenoko, to name a couple, and he’s at it again with this underwater-exploration themed drafting game.
In a way, Oceanos is sort of like a lite version of 7 Wonders. There are three rounds, each played out through six rounds of drafting and a variety of ways to score points.
The drafting works a little differently this time around. Instead of getting a full hand of cards, choosing one, and passing it along, each player except the dealer is dealt 2 cards. Players must choose one card to play and one card to pass to the dealer.
Once everyone has chosen, the dealer has a bunch of cards to choose from, makes her selection, and everyone plays their card. Your cards are played in one long row per round, and the rows are aligned vertically.
The features on the cards determine actions and scoring. Coral icons want to be chained together; the bigger the continuous group, the more points you get. Fish icons earn you two points per unique fish up to 6 points, but you can upgrade your submarine to increase your limit. Incidentally, you can play crystals followed by lanterns to upgrade parts of your ship. There are also treasure chests, and at some point you can place your diver token on a card. The Diver will swim directly upward and collect any treasure along the way.
As I mentioned, you can upgrade your submarine, which adds a neat tactile element to the game. There are five different parts: periscopes, fuel tanks, main bodies, cockpits, and tail fins. Additional periscopes give you more cards to choose from when you draft. Fuel can be spent to keep more than one card when you draft, and upgraded fuel tanks give you more fuel to spend. The main body is what allows you to increase your fish variety score, and the cockpit gives you more divers for that valuable treasure collection dive. Tail fins are just worth straight-up points.
The theme is fun and colorful, and the micro-puzzle that is your submarine is fun to swap out new parts into. And the positioning element of scoring adds a further twist that separates this game from 7 Wonders. It’s definitely lighter and easier to explain, so Oceanos might end up being the preferred choice for less-gamery families and/or younger players. The theme is certainly accessible, and the iconography is far less intimidating. This is sure to be a crowd-pleasure if only for how pretty it looks.
Oceanos should be available later in August.