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Secrets of the Sea» Forums » Reviews

Subject: No sir, I just don't like it. rss

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Julie Taylor
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I want to like Secrets of the Sea, I really, really do. But try as I might, I just don't. That's not to say that it's devoid of all charm, it has some great stuff going for it, but in our experience games start strong and go long. Allow me to explain...

Secrets of the Sea is a push-your-luck children's game about diving for sunken treasure. Which is a FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC theme, which brings the game back to the table time and again. And that fantastic-ness lasts for 10 minutes. But the game goes on for a lot longer than that.

The board shows a cross-section of the sea, with 5 bouys on the sea, then the deepening sea itself with 50 face-down tokens on it (25 in the upper sea, 25 in the deeper sea) with a shipwreck at the bottom with some more face-up tokens there. Above the bouys are reward tokens, for example, if you're the first to get 4 shells, then you get the reward of 5 coins.

So you roll 2 dice, these represent your air tanks, if an X is rolled it means that air tank is done and you can go no further. If both are rolled, you are clearly done your turn. For example, if you roll a 4 and a 3 you start at your chosen bouy and dive down either 4 or 3 tokens...

NOW IS THE COOL PART: you use a black light pawn and illuminate the face down token that you're on. It reveals an image of, say, a shell, or treasure, or a gold bar, etc. Do you take that one and stop, or leave it and dive further down? You can reroll any dice that don't have an X and continue down to the wreck.

However, because you're in the sea, it's a little murky and you can't always trust what you see. What you think is a bottle could be just seaweed when you collect it, or it could be three bottles. The tokens in the deeper part of the ocean are more reliable and deliver more than the ones up higher, so you'll often want to push it. Continuing with the cool theme are the sea monsters to fight (you'll need the appropriate die roll to do that) or the caves which give you no idea whether what's in there will be treasure or monsters.

The first few minutes, every time, are great, because the theme+gimmick is so, so very, cool. But then there are holes left where treasure used to be, and things get sparser, and you have to dive deeper to get more stuff but you keep rolling double X's, so the game slows down and the pay-off lessens as time wears on and it becomes far too long. And, my family (2 children ages 4 & 6) have never finished a game because what started as exciting ends up feeling futile.

We threw in an additional die so that you would need triple X's to stop your progess. In fact on one of those X's we labelled it as X+5 so you could do a super deep dive (the other dice max out at 4) but then that tank is empty and you can't reroll. It helped...a bit.

I can't recommend it. While the gimmick and theme are fantastic, the mechanics make it disappointing, unless you can come up with other fixes for it, or create a new game with the great bits.

It fails because it starts so strong, but then the excitement dwindles over the course of the game. Other push-your-luck games we have (Viva Topo, Midnight Party, Max, etc) have that feeling of excitement building through the whole game, so Secrets of the Sea is a let down. At this point my 6 year old wants to give it away, but my 4 year old won't allow me to because at 35 min. into the game I always just let him start taking stuff from the wreck at the bottom, and like I said, that's the theme that shines.
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