Card Drafting and Upgrades: Tales from the Deep Oceanos

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Oceanos tells the tale of a deep sea expedition trying to gain new critters for their aquariums and sunken treasures, all while trying to upgrade their personal submarines as they dive deeper and deeper into the vast unknown. Some could say, you and your friends are boldly going where no one has gone before (well, I would say that and I just did.) The goal of the game is to gain the most starfish (or points) and the most submarine upgrades by the end of the final round. Whoever is sitting on top of the most echinoderms will be the winner.

The game is a relatively more complex card-drafting game than something like Sushi Go! that is played in three rounds of five turns where players draw cards and create the best ocean for you to explore. One player will be the Expedition Captain who will pass out cards equal to one plus the number of periscopes (we’ll get into that) to each of the players. Each player will then pick a card they want and give the rest back to the Captain who gets the rest and picks one. Everyone reveals at once and the captain’s hat gets passed along to the next player.

This is all you need for deep sea travel, right?

With each card you lay down, you want to create the best ocean filled with crystals, fish of all types, continuous coral reefs, and fill it with treasure. Cards not only score you points, but give you abilities. For example, players must use crystals and bases to upgrade their submarines, but the catch is that the crystals must come in your card order before the bases are played in order to get the next level of shiny new part. The other catch is that you must level up one level at a time and you can only upgrade one part of your submarine at a time. If you have two crystals before a base, you can still only upgrade one part. But what do the upgrades mean, you ask?

Well, each piece allows you a different resource. The periscopes are how many cards you can draw plus one extra (if you have two periscopes, you draw three cards). The front holds your scuba divers, the aquarium determines how many creatures you can get points for, and the propeller can give you extra points at the end of every round.

How to Place the Cards 101

Now, upgrades aren’t the only thing that matter when considering which cards to play. Other things are animals, which give you two starfish at the end of every round for however many animals you are allowed in your aquarium. Coral gives you point at the end of the game and it’s based on how big your biggest coral reef is which is formed by positioning cards with coral on them horizontally and vertically. But if you have three coral vertically and then two connecting horizontally from one of the connecting then you will add all of those up. It’s a great way to boost points at the end of the game.

You also get cards with little treasure chests on them. These are also added up at the end of the game. These can only be collected if you have a scuba diver to collect them. I found that waiting to use your divers till round three was most effective because the diver can swim up a row and collect all the treasure in that row, not just the one it was on. And unlike Clank!, I did actually win this game. I know, I was surprised too.

It may look cute but don’t let those beady red eyes fool you. It’s a killer.

The last thing to keep an eye out for were the little red Kraken eyes on each of the cards. The player with the most of these will get a Kraken attack on their submarine and will lose points equivalent to number on the back of the Kraken tile. During the setup of the game, three tokens are randomly drawn; one baby, one medium, and one large Kraken tile. The players have no clue what’s on the back of each one. This adds an element of danger to an otherwise very humorous and lighthearted game.

Overall, from my experience with the game, it wasn’t the most straightforward in the rules but the art-style was colorful and engaging and the game itself was fun to try and strategize even with the more random, uncontrollable elements (never knowing what you’re going to draw or get from other players.) Oceanos is definitely more enjoyable with more players and when you don’t have one half-interested in the game player (aka my mother and I know she will read this. Love you, mom). I recommend giving it a try if you’re into games like Sushi Go! or just want to try something new and each game averages thirty minutes!

Meet Wolfgang. He does not like cooperating. Dog not included.

Be sure to check out Oceonos by Iello on their website. It’s fun for the whole family! No, really it is. It’s ages 8+.

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