July 22, 2017

Oceanos

Designer: Antoine Bauza
Artwork: Jérémie Fleury
Publisher: IELLO

With solid mechanics, an engaging theme, and phenomenal artwork, Oceanos rises above the rest. This beautiful game was Brian’s Got Game’s Best Game of 2016. And here’s why:

In Oceanos, players plunge into the depths of the sea on an expedition to collect exotic animals, discover great coral reefs, and bring back long forgotten treasure. Each player begins the game with their own basic submarine made up of 5 pieces. These puzzle-like pieces fit together and can be replaced later in the game with upgraded parts to help you along the way. Upgrades include a bigger propeller, more fuel, additional divers, better periscopes, and a larger specimen tank.

The game is played in 3 rounds in which players draft Exploration Cards that they play in front of them. This represents their little part of the ocean. One thing that makes this game so fun is looking at the art as you explore the ocean. Each round, the background of the cards gets a little darker, and by the end of the game you have created a masterpiece!

There are many paths to victory in Oceanos, which makes each player’s strategy a little bit different. This tends to cause problems at the beginning of the game when it seems there are too many things to do, and you want to do them all. The good news is, in most cases, it doesn’t matter which strategy you pick as long as you stick with it. Over time you’ll find a strategy that best suits your style of play. I always get excited and want to fully upgrade my submarine; however, each game I am reminded this plan will never work.

Oceanos is a card drafting game, meaning players are dealt cards and they choose one they want to play and pass the rest. The cards that were not chosen are given to the Captain (the dealer that round). This nuance adds a subtle twist to the strategy that I feel gets overlooked. The experienced player won’t give up a card the Captain really needs and sometimes has to make due with a sub-optimal card!

Scores are tallied at the end of each round. Players earn points for unique types of sea creatures, plus the points from their submarine, minus kraken points (if they have the most eyes that round). At the end of the game, players also add up their points from treasure as well as their largest coral reef. Treasure points are drawn from a bag and are random, within a small range. This may turn off some players that don’t care randomness, especially right at the end of the game. However, I find it refreshing since I probably made a mistake somewhere along the line and it might give me the opportunity to make up lost ground.

The artwork in Oceanos captures the imagination and helps immerse you in the theme of deep sea exploration. Each card can have different fish, coral, treasure chests, or even the dreaded kraken eye. Usually, the best cards have one or more kraken eyes. But beware, the player with the most kraken eyes will lose points at the end of each round.

Is it for me?
This game is for people who like card drafting and set collection. It’s for people who enjoy light-weight family games. Oceanos is great for people who like to sit back at the end of a game and feel the satisfaction of creating something. The only player interaction is denying the captain a card or two. So this game is good for those who don’t like people messing with their stuff. And of course, Oceanos is a must have for Antoine Bauza fans.