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Captain Sonar» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Silence! rss

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Joseph Courtight
United States
Pennsylvania
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The game captain sonar is a wonderful game for about half the people at the table. Playing as the captain and the radar officer is an interesting mind game and puzzle. While I feel that the Engineer and First Mate are mundane and repetitive.

The appeal of captain sonar is not hard to see. First it is in real time, which is a rare gem in the board gaming world. Furthermore, there is nothing that puts the pressure on players more than adding a clock.
However, not only is captain sonar a real time game, but it is also competitive. I can only think of one other game which is both competitive and real time and that is Dutch Blitz. There may be others, but I never heard of them and I’m sure they are similar in style, but perhaps with more theme.

Even the few competitive real time games have players work as a team. This gives the benefit of both the team building of cooperative games and a human like opponent which is rare in cooperative games.
The theme fits very well and does remind me of how submarine combat should work.

The game really reminds me of a board game version of the video game Artemis.

The captain moves the ship and fires the weapons/special abilities. The captain is the most fun and probably the role you will play if you own the game, since they kind need to manage the rest of the team. The captain is the central planner it is his strategy that will win or lose the game. In many ways, the other roles are simply there to anticipate the captains needs and give it to him/her. Because of the real time nature of the game the players really do need to anticipate what the captain wants, because shouting it out gives the plan away and discussing takes time which are valuable for actions.

The next highly interesting role is the sonar officer. The sonar officers job is to listen to the other team’s captain’s orders and try to gather as much information about their plans as possible. The most important bit of information is where they might be, since you cannot kill them if you do not know where they are. It is a fun deductive roll.

Now to the first officer is a position which I do not find fun. Essentially his job is to reload the systems, so that when the captain is ready to use them they are ready. He needs to anticipate what is needed. These systems are very interesting in what they do. And they can be very strategically interesting. However, it really takes too much time to analyze the precise situation generally the best tactic is to simply check one, making the rule more about intuition than anything else. In our group we seem to have a set algorithm which really trivializes the role: load silence, then sonar, then torpedo.

Finally, to the last position the engineers. The engineers job is to tell the captain that systems are broken when he tries to use them. Unfortunately, a good captain makes the engineers job trivial. In short in order to clear a row of damage, the sub must move in certain set of directions. In our game group the captain knew what these patterns were and always moved in them. So the job became check, check, check sequence complete. Essentially, the engineer was just given busy work to keep him preoccupied. There are a few times when the captain deviates from these set sequences. Those few times are indicated by the captain and you get to check a radiation symbol.

Overall, I do not think captain sonar is a bad game. However, to keep all the players interested in the game they need to be able to make meaningful choices. Captain sonar is structured in such a way that two of the four rolls are less significant and less fun than the other two. Although this game is designed to be played 4 vs 4, my recommendation is that it is only ever played 2 vs 2.

I beleive you will love this game if you own it (usually meaning you end up as captian). But its flaws will eventially leave this game forgotten to time.
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Ted Magdzinski
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Cincinnati
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Dalek5 wrote:
In our game group the captain knew what these patterns were and always moved in them. So the job became check, check, check sequence complete.


I would have a real problem with playing with a captain that did this. Even if they were on my team.
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John McD
Scotland
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ScubaSteveKzoo wrote:
Dalek5 wrote:
In our game group the captain knew what these patterns were and always moved in them. So the job became check, check, check sequence complete.


I would have a real problem with playing with a captain that did this. Even if they were on my team.


I've not played the game, but why would this be a problem. It sounds like playing the game well?
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Tom Herman
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Renton
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So the captain dominates and doesn't allow the other players to participate. Is that a problem of the game or the player?
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Joseph Courtight
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Tomaton wrote:
So the captain dominates and doesn't allow the other players to participate. Is that a problem of the game or the player?


It is the problem of the game because the game does not discourage it.
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Barry Miller
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Saint Charles
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Dalek5 wrote:
In our game group the captain knew what these patterns were and always moved in them. So the job became check, check, check sequence complete.

Playing on one of the harder maps will make this a failed strategy pretty quickly.

And anyway, considering that half your objective is to get close to the enemy sub, sticking to this sort of movement pattern severely limits the Captain's flexibility when maneuvering to get within range of the enemy sub.

And finally, such a strategy also limits the actions you have available at any time. The captain may decide he needs Sonar before Torpedoes, but because of an inflexible movement pattern, may be forced to break Sonar first.

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Ashish Nair
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Having played the captain the most, this really hasn't happened to me despite me owning the game and knowing it the best out of the people I've played with. I found most of moves were towards where we thought the enemy was (thanks to our radio operator) and I'd constantly have to push into danger because I couldn't follow patterns if I wanted to move as directly as I wanted to. Therefore surfacing is something that often happens with my team and is a big part of my strategy (i.e. surfacing + silence).

I don't really see how anyone could be very effective just following patterns - in my opinion/experience you have to be moving pre-emptively towards where you think the others are, all the while trying to do movement patterns that are harder to track (which means in general constantly moving via patterns are out of the question, no?). On top of all of this, the more difficult maps give you less space to move freely (and thus less space to move according to patterns most of the time) and should mitigate this potential issue greatly I would think (though I haven't had a chance to play them).

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Ben Kyo
Japan
Suita
Osaka
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Forward 1, Forward 2, Forward 3... siege attack 5?
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I broadly agree with the review - captain and radio are fun, the other two not so much.

That said, it does exist in a pretty unique design space, and I think it deserves respect. Well worth the time to try it out.

For anyone who hasn't played it, the pattern of movement referred to above is 3 in any one direction and 1 east. You can mix and match, but essentially you just need to make sure you don't go 4+ times in one direction without a move east. Easier said than done and predictable, of course.
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H.M. Woggle-Bug, T.E.
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Dalek5 wrote:
But its flaws will eventially leave this game forgotten to time.


Disagree.
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Three Headed Monkey
Australia
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I don't think the movement patterns are that big of a deal. When we played both teams used this technique and the game was still super fun and interesting. The game of snake does mean that there is a cost where you may have to put yourself it a hard to get out of spot on the map. Generally the islands get in the way of moving in these patters forever. If you move West, it becomes especially hard to clear by using these patterns.

All it means is that you can keep systems up in the early game, but later on you don't get the luxury of using these patterns.

 
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Kenny Ie
Canada
London
Ontario
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I do agree that the captain and radio operator are leagues more fun than the other roles. But in my experience the game is short enough that multiple games can be played and players can rotate positions. And even playing the lesser roles, the game still does a good job of giving the player enough to do that they feel like part of the team, and win or lose, that feeling is hard to match.
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H.M. Woggle-Bug, T.E.
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Dalek5 wrote:
Tomaton wrote:
So the captain dominates and doesn't allow the other players to participate. Is that a problem of the game or the player?


It is the problem of the game because the game does not discourage it.


What are you talking about? The captain absolutely depends on his crew. If his crew makes the wrong decisions or takes too long (alpha player captain's involvement in every single action is really inefficient) the team will loose.

I have actually had a game decided by the speed of crew operations in a nail-biting finale where I could do nothing but pray (as sonar officer). We managed to fire a second torpedo and blow the oppossing team out of the water just seconds before they would have blown us out of the water with a mine. The clear communication between captain, officer and engineer and the precise execution was just beautiful to witness.

That was a moment of gaming perfection that will be remembered by the participating players for a long time.
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