Reina Knizia, a master of game design, is taking us all Into the Blue. Will you hold your nerve and dive for tasty treasures, or will you swim back to shore?
*Area Majority * Push Your Luck * Dice Rolling * Strategy * Filler * Fun *
Mask? Check! Air Tanks? Check! Fins? Check! Dice? Wait. What?
Yep, I said it. Dice! Get ready because we are going diving Into the Blue to bag us some tantalising treasures!
Reina Knizia is a clever Trevor indeed. Mathematician, Financier, and Game Design Master. With so many industry awards under his belt, I’m surprised his trousers don’t fall down!
Indeed, some of my own favourite games have been created by Knizia (Battle Line, Lost Cities…). And Into the Blue is another one that has quickly become a go-to when we are looking for a quick hit of gaming fun! Why? Simple really. He has created a fast playing puzzly little push-your-luck dice chucker, and we are having a blast playing it!
Simple to set up and easy to learn, it is already hitting the must-haves for a quick game.
Place the main board in the centre of the table, and pop the primary and secondary Treasure tokens in the recessed slots along each level (note: 2/3 player games only use 1 secondary token per level). At the bottom of the board, place the 5 Treasure Chest tokens face down in a random order, and give each player their bag of 12 coloured shells. Then upturn the box lid (or grab your favourite dice tray) and throw in the beauuuutiful six blue D6s. These are each numbered 1-2-3-4-5-treasure.
So on your turn, you get to roll the dice up to 3 times. The aim is to try to create a sequence of numbers from 1 – treasure chest (6). Because only then can you drop your shells onto the various depth levels shown on the dive board. The player with the most shells on each level by the end of the game wins the primary Treasure token (with 2nd place getting secondary and everyone else getting a big bubbly zero!). And the player with the most points overall is crowned the jubbiest Jacques Cousteau of them all!
So long as your sequence starts with a 1, you can choose which corresponding number on the dive board to place your shell(s) until the sequence gets interrupted. And the number of shells you can drop on your turn depends on how many times that level is repeated in the dice sequence. For example, if you roll 1-2-3-3-4-5, you could place two shells on level 3 or one shell on any other level. Or if you rolled 1,2,2,2,2,3, you could place four shells on level 2 or 1 shell on level 1 or level 3. If you roll 1-2-3-3-5-5, however, you only have the choice of placing 1 shell on level 1, one shell on level two, or 2 shells on level 3. This is because 4 was missed out in the sequence so the higher number 5s are ignored.
Ooh and if you roll a perfect 1-2-3-4-5-treasure chest, you get to pick a random chest from the bottom of the sea that is worth secret points at the end!
Push Your Pikes!
With only 12 shells to use over the whole game, this is a whole heap of pike-worthy (or should that be pucker-worthy?!) push-your-luck fun! Roll once and secure at least a 1, and you think you still have plenty of choice. Roll the rest again and add a couple of 2s or even a 3…..but the big ones are out there……the 4s and 5s that are worth so much more…..if you can secure the sequence with your last roll……..Should you re-roll? Will you re-roll?
Well that is up to you. But let me tell you; we find the temptation to go for it to be irresistible! The promise of that perfect dive, the chance to grab a treasure token and all the points inside it (without wasting a shell I might add!) calls to you like the sea itself.
As well as pulling at your push-your-luck pants, you also have to consider your resources. 12 shells. For the whole game. To secure majority positions. Hmmmm. This is no summer snorkel. There are strategic sharks circling, and they are sitting all around you! It is super tempting to go for the deeper levels; those 5s are always worth more. But think about the mechanism for a moment. Because of the need to make uninterrupted sequences, the most you’ll ever get is 5-5. Two shells to place. But the game ends when someone drops all their shells. So the race is on. In that case, maybe it would be better to pack out the shallower waters before your opponents start gearing up to go exploring the Abyss!
Mind the Bends!
For such a lively, fast dice chucker, there is some conch-tastic crunch going on! And, like sand in your socks, it gets even crunchier and crazier the more players there are. Don’t get me wrong; we have a blast at a head-to-head treasure tussle. But seeing the Twilight Zone and Midnight Zone filling up with shells of all shades really amps up the pressure!
True that it could prove too much push (or luck) for some gamers. After all, push-your-luck is a pressure of a very particular sort. And I know that even I sometimes struggle with the stress that games of this type can engender. The thought of losing it all being too great a risk. But here, the dice re-rolling in Into the Blue feels tense in the exciting sense. In the laugh out loud when it all goes wrong sense. It all happens so fast that any regret is quickly washed away in the waves. And unlike some games in the genre, playing safe isn’t always second place in the fun stakes. With area majority on the radar, sticking with a surefire sequence might be the shell that shakes everyone else up just a little too much.
I couldn’t write this review without mentioning the components. The double layered board is gorgeous, and the colours on it and the blue D6s really pop. The little plastic shells are cheerful (glass or a weightier plastic would have been even nicer, mind), and the treasure tokens are nice and thick. I do worry that the folded treasure chest lids might snap with repeat plays. But it’s nothing a little sticky tape can’t remedy. We haven’t lost any to over enthusiastic play yet, but of all the bits in the box, they are probably the most vulnerable to the game being a victim of its own success.
We are really enjoying Into the Blue. It’s lovely to have a push-your-luck filler game which actually feels quite filling. Of course we want to play again as soon as a game ends. But a single game does feel more substantial than most of the same playtime. And I think this is for the options you need to balance. Always going for 5s isn’t going to guarantee a win. Likewise, however, padding out the shallow end of the board is unlikely to get you all the points you need. Unless you are tied with another. Then having more shells in the level above is going to break the deadlock in your favour!
And if you think Into the Blue could be a game for you, why not check out the lovely folks at Out of Town Games here
[Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own]. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.