A to Z Gaming: Oceanos

Oceanos

We explored the animals, coral reefs, and treasures of the deep ocean in Oceanos, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Oceanos
Players: 2-5
Time: 30-45 Minutes
Designers: Antoine Bauza
Artists: Jérémie Fleury
Publisher: IELLO




Oceanos is a card-drafting game where players are building a tableau of increasing depth in the ocean that they are exploring. The cards show different animals they can collect, coral reefs, and chests where divers can pick up treasures. In addition, there are crystals and bases that allow upgrades to the player’s submarines to increase how many animals they can collect, cards they can see and play, and divers to leave at chests. The player who most successfully explores the ocean wins.

The game is set up shuffling each of the three round decks and setting them by the the player area. Then randomly choose one of each of the kraken tokens for each era, and keep them face-down by the player area.

Give each player all the pieces for their submarine and the associated fuel and diver tokens. Each player should set up their level-one submarine with the 1-diver airlock in front, the 3-fish. aquarium in the middle, the 1-fuel motor next, and the 0-point propeller on the back. The 1-periscope cockpit goes on top. The other pieces for the submarines should be set aside, ready to use when players upgrade their submarines.

The game is played in three rounds, with each round taking the players deeper in the ocean, creating a tableau of ocean discoveries. Each round consists of five turns, with the “captain” moving around the table each turn.

On a turn, the captain deals cards to each other player, but not themselves. Each player is dealt one card plus a number of cards equal to the number of periscopes on that player’s cockpit.

The non-captain players choose a card — or an extra card, if they want to spend a fuel — place it facedown in front of them, and then pass the remaining cards to the captain. The captain chooses a card to play from all of the cast-offs from the other players. Once everyone has chosen a card, all players reveal them and place them in a row for the round, starting from the left and moving right. (If the captain doesn’t get at least as many cards as they should — one plus their number of periscopes — they draw extras from the deck until they do.)

Each card shows a few possible things: animals, treasure chests, coral, crystals, bases, and kraken eyes. These each come into play at different times during the game.

Crystals are used as soon as a base is played. Playing a single crystal and subsequently a base card allows the player to upgrade a level-one piece of their submarine to level-two. Playing two different colors of crystal (there are just two colors) and then a base gives the player a level-two to level-three upgrade. This upgrade is done as soon as the base is played, and any crystals not used for the upgrade no longer count for upgrades — the player must start playing crystals over again.

At the end of the round, players get a base to use any left-over crystals for upgrades. Then they total up points for animals in the just-played row and points for upgraded propellers. Players get two points for each unique animal in that current round’s row of cards, up to a number of animals shown on their current aquarium. Then players look to see who has the most kraken eyes in the just-played row, and that person turns over the round’s kraken token to see how many points they lose.

After three rounds, the game is over, and players total up their round three points as usual, and then do game-end scoring, which includes treasure chests and coral. When players place a card with a treasure chest, they have the option of placing a diver from their airlock. The divers stay until the end of the game, and will gain the player a treasure chest token for each chest on the diver’s current card and any treasure chests on cards in the column above the diver, up to the surface. Finally, players get game-end points for their largest contiguous region of coral; one point per coral in that group.

Player with the most points wins.

I picked up this game because I loved the theme and was eyeing it on the shelf at our friendly local game store. I’m pretty sure I watched the Rahdo Runs Through episode featuring Oceanos first, but I didn’t take a lot of convincing.

This quickly became one of my most-played games. I will always be up for a game. It sounds like a lot of rules, but once you’ve played one or two rounds, it becomes intuitive. I love the decisions in this game — do I take the card with an animal I don’t already have, but that has a kraken eye? or do I go for the one with the treasure chest but also the crystal I don’t need? When I’m upgrading my submarine, do I trust that I’ll get another chance to upgrade this round, so I can focus on the propeller or aquarium later? Or do I upgrade those right away to guarantee some extra points?

How is it as a 2-player game? Oceanos works well as a 2-player game. It’s maybe a little more fun with more players, but there is a variant that helps to make it more interesting for 2 players.

How about the art and component quality? I love, love, love the art in this game — that’s what drew me to the game in the first place. Well, the art and the theme. The puzzle-piece-submarines are good quality (though, one of the submarines in my set has a piece that doesn’t fit as well, but it’s not a deal-breaker). The cards are good quality, as are the various tokens.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely yes. This is one of my most-played games, and I plan to keep it for a lot longer. It’s one we’ll bring out with a wide variety of players from those who enjoy heavier games or those who prefer light ones. Plus, it can play 5 players, and it still plays nearly as quickly, making it a rare find on our shelves.

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