Saturday, January 28, 2017

Captain Sonar- WTF is this?

Tonight we had a game of a new game I've recently bought, Captain Sonar. Dale, our resident board game junkie put me onto it a few weeks back so I ordered it and have been waiting for a chance to play and tonight we gave it a whirl.

What is Captain Sonar? Well imagine a game of battleships with two teams of 4  where you are trying to locate and sink an enemy sub.  Then take everything you know about Battleships and throw it out the window.

Each player in the team has a different role and their own game board. The captain gives orders and moves the submarine around his board- using a white board marker to show the subs position. Each time he moves the first mate powers up one of the systems: sonar, drones, mines, torpedoes or silent running. Once he's ticked off one of the systems he says Yes or Aye Aye etc to acknowledge he's done so. Each system requires a certain number of moves to be powered up and once they have been used then they need to be "powered up"  again so a few moves will be needed to get the system back online. You can also drop mines and detonate them at a later time too, but of course to drop them the torpedo/mine systems need to be operational which is where the engineers role comes into play.  

One of the 5 game maps the Captain uses to plot the subs course. Both teams use a copy of the same map and there are 5 to choose from.  

If the first mate's role is to power up the various systems the engineer's role is to break one of them! Well maybe not quite fair. On the engineers board (below) are boxes that correspond to the directions the captain is giving. Each time the sub moves the engineer has to "break" one of the boxes on his board that corresponds to the direction the captain called and so take a system off line! The different systems are linked and once 4 that are linked are all crossed off he rubs them out and the systems are good to go and no longer malfunctioning. Sounds simple enough. However as you can see if the picture beneath are 3 other boxes for each direction (North, East etc), if all 6 boxes in any one direction are crossed out the sub takes damage. So after a while the engineer is demanding the sub NOT go in a certain direction for fear of damaging the sub, or else is instructing the captain of directions they need to go to restore some of the systems.  

As well as damage from the engineer not managing their duties the sub can sustain 4 hits in total before it is destroyed. A direct hit causes 2 boxes damage, a near miss (or engineering malfunction 1). 

You can also surface which allows you to remove all damage to your operating systems BUT allows the enemy to know which of the boards nine sectors you are located in. You cannot move again until everyone has drawn around one of the sectors on the sub image at the top of the engineer's board and while you are doing that as it is played in real time the other sub is moving in for the kill! 

Well now we get to the fourth person on your team, the radio operator. As mentioned the game is played in real time. There is a screen between the two teams and the radio operator listens to the instructions being given to the other team by their captain and plots them on his own board. He has a clear plastic cover he puts over his board so he can move it round to try and work out the enemy subs position. Once he thinks he has its position he tells the captain and the captain gives the order to fire torpedoes! This is when the engineer will pipe up quite helpful-like. "Sorry sir we can't, the torpedoes are broken!" And that is the magic of the game. The crew have to work together to get systems up and running, avoid hitting islands, plot the enemy's location and sink their sub before they sink theirs. A doddle really!

It is battleships on steroids. As captain you are moving the sub, instructing the first mate as to which systems you need ready, checking with the engineer to ensure they try to keep the systems you want/need operational, and also taking their advice as to which directions you need to go to remove damage to your operating systems, whilst also checking with the radio operator as to where they think the enemy sub is so you can hunt it down and destroy it. 

It is fast, furious and hilarious. We had 8 of us playing tonight and had 5-6 games in about 3 hours. The first couple we used turn by turn play till we go used to it and then away we went in real time and it was crazy! After a couple of games we swapped the various roles. The last couple of games I was captain and was amazed at how difficult it was tracking everything. 

If you know enough board gamers to play an 8 player game then I say get it. I'm sure it works fine with 6 a side but 8 players is awesome. It one of those simple yet brilliant games that makes you wonder why someone hasn't come up with this sooner, it is elegant in its simplicity and brilliant in its execution. I'd give it a 10 out of 10. If you don't own it, go out and buy it NOW! 

A few shots of the crew tonight- Nigel at the end (trying his best to look like Ming the Merciless) was the umpire/referee to make sure we didn't cheat when drawing round the various sub parts while surfaced- but no ref is needed. We were playing at his place but as he is in a wheelchair he wasn't keen to play this one but we'll give him a a helper and get him involved. He thoroughly enjoyed it though and was positioned to be able to track both teams as to where the subs were and where the radio operators THOUGHT they were.  

Vaughn (blue shirt) and Richard (top right) were the radio operators for the first 3 games or so and both did outstanding jobs- unlike some of us who took on these roles later on. Tony (on the right) was captain in this game.

Here is one of the many review's here.

Here is a review from shut up and sit down.


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