Captain Sonar review
Score : 9
Real time lends urgency and panic
No down time for any player
Four roles to play and learn
Instant set up
Incredibly tense and competitive
Really needs 8, or at least 6 players
First mate role quite dull
Not for those who like calm games or planning moves at length
The enemy sub knew our exact location and had just crippled us with a torpedo. Our only hope was to run on silent but first we had to surface to repair this system. We could hear the enemy captain shouting instructions, getting closer and charging torpedoes. We needed to dive right now. Our engineer held up his sheet to the opposing engineer. Had we finished our repairs? Yes. “Dive” shouted our captain. “Head West”. We heard the opposing captain’s frustration as he was told their torpedo system was down. We had lived to fight on – at least for another few minutes.
Captain Sonar is a real-time team vs team game best played where each of the four roles on each team is taken by one player (it does work well still with three on each team and two of the roles being combined). The aim is to destroy the enemy sub before you are blown out the water by them. A typical game will involve the captain making and announcing decisions, the team reporting statuses back to him afterwards, and in a well oiled team, advising the captain on where they need him to go, all while tracking the enemy sub's location. The challenge here is that often all players can be shouting at the same time due to the urgency of the situation but that chaos is why this game is so fun.
The captain will dictate movement (avoiding islands and your own trail), which in turn both charges systems such as weapons or sonar, whilst also gradually damaging those same systems. They also choose when to activate systems, including firing torpedoes, dropping and exploding mines, using sonar (where the enemy captain must reveal one true and one false piece of information) and drones, which force the enemy to reveal their sector location.
The engineer will have to feed back to the captain which systems are damaged (unusable), and which specific routes to avoid when systems are close to destruction, and which to take to clear that damage.
The first mate will tell the captain when a system is charged and ready to use and the radio operators’ job is to draw the enemy’s route onto a clear sheet of plastic, whilst sliding it round the scenario map to determine the enemy’s possible location(s).
When you surface to repair all damage and eradicate your trail, each player in turn has to trace round a shape on the board without going over the lines or outside the box. Sounds simple, but when every second counts, it becomes extremely difficult under pressure.
As each action taken impacts all roles, it is a real balance between speed, and ensuring the captain processes all information that is being shouted at him at once. It`s an extremely tense game of cat and mouse and really replicates the thrill of silently hunting the enemy, and sudden panic and laughter when you realise they`re not where you thought they were but are on your tail. Games are short, immensely satisfying and have a certain amount of stress – which I enjoyed, but others who prefer more calm games may not. It`s also worth pointing out that the first mates role is pretty dull, but as games are short and roles can be swapped, this isn`t a major problem.
There are five different scenario maps included for variety, ranging from straightforward maps, to open seas and arctic areas with ice covering the majority of the map, and there's also a turn by turn mode which is useful for learning the game, but lacks the thrill of the real-time mode.
Overall, this is thematic, hugely interactive and immersive and unlike anything else I`ve played. I`d highly recommend it assuming your gaming group is large enough!
Publisher: Matagot Games
By: Roberto Fraga & Yohan Lemonnier
Number of players: 2-8 (needs 6+ in my view)
Play Time: 45 mins