Into the Blue

Designer: Reiner Knizia

Artist: Alain Boyer

Publisher: Funny Fox

I tell ya, dice games can be thematic (Photo credits: FunnyFox@BGG)

I made a copy of Into the Blue along with High Score, both of which are recent Knizia releases. Both are small dice games and relatively easy to make a DIY copy. A few dice, a couple of chits and a small board is all that’s needed. Overall, Into the Blue is more thematic than High Score, with players rolling dice to simulate diving into the ocean to explore and collect treasure tokens with different point values. Shallow waters are easier to dive, but the rewards are not as lucrative. The deeper you go, the more risks you take, but the value of the treasure tokens increase. It’s a push-your-luck mechanism that is also tied to area majority control.

Overall, game play is simple. Players have 6 dice, with the value “6” of each die replaced with a treasure chest. There is also an game board that is split into 6 ocean zones representing the six die faces, with “1” closer to the surface and the treasure chest die face representing the ocean floor. Each round, players have 3 chances to roll and reroll a pool of 6 dice, with the ultimate goal of diving deep into the ocean floor to get treasure tokens. For the most part, everyone is striving to make a perfect dive – represented by all six dice having a consecutive sequence of number from 1-5 plus the treasure chest (formerly #6). If this happens, players will claim one of the face down treasure chests (with values 5-8) and then have another turn at the dice. However, getting a perfect sequence is not always easy. When a perfect dive is not possible, players will end up placing markers at any one value selected from the unbroken sequence of dice starting at “1”. The number of markers you place on the board depends on the number of dice in that sequence. For example, a roll of “1, 1, 2, 4, 5, 5” will allow a player to either put two markers at “1” or one marker at “2”. No markers can be placed on “4 or 5” as the sequence is already broken due to the absence of the “3” die. In this way, the dice will define where the markers are placed in the ocean zones depending on the string of values on the dice. So, the zones closest to the surface will be easiest to place markers, while zones 4-5 will be hardest to reach.

Chopping the board into 3 pieces to fit into the KOSMOS EXIT boxes

Each player has 12 markers and once they are depleted, the game ends. This is where area majority comes in. Players who have a majority of markers in one of the zones will get the points (or treasure) associated with that zone. Ties are broken by the area majority in the preceding zones. The shallower the waters, the fewer points you get for controlling a zone. This makes sense since you are less likely to find anything valuable at the “1” zone near the surface of the ocean. The deeper the dive, the harder it is to place your markers and thus, the more valuable the points.

The game does force you to make some interesting decisions when it comes to marker placement. While you mostly want to put markers where you have lots of dice, thus gaining majority control of an ocean zone, that is not going to be always the case. You have to assess the competition, tiebreaker situation and also how many markers are left on the play area. For example, going for a tie in a deeper ocean zone maybe more favorable than placing 3 markers in a shallower ocean zone. So, even for a kid, the game does make them pause and think a little between turns.

I often hear people complain that Knizia’s game lacks theme or that the theme is pasted on. To say that a Knizia dice game cannot be thematic is such a cop out. Decathlon (but not High Score) and Into the Blue can bear witness to this. Do I find it realistic that I am exploring the depth of the ocean to hunt for treasure or feel like I am competing in a track and field event on paper? Yeah, kind of. I certainly feel the pressure for each roll to get a perfect dive. The theme is present and not hard to find. In fact, a lot of these simpler games have a much easier time finding a theme than a heavy-weight Euro. So, Into the Blue gets a thumbs up from me in theme department.

Clearly, the commercial version by Funny Fox is of a higher production value and from the photos, it looks gorgeous. You get individual scoring chits for each ocean zone that fit in specific cut-out slots on the main board. The dice looking cool and the shells as markers add to the atmosphere of the game. I highly recommend the commercial copy of the game. In markets outside of the US or Europe, it is tougher to get a copy of the game. Besides, I just wanted to recycle materials from EXIT game boxes and to flex my creative muscles.

Initial impressions: Average; Good (family)

Kids Corner

7 years 4 months: As you can see, my DIY copy contains both Knizia dice games. Between High Score and Into the Blue, the latter wins out by virtue of the theme and push-your-luck mechanism that is evocative of the theme. I asked my kid directly about her thoughts and this is what she said “I like the dice rolling in Into the Blue better because you can roll and dive deep to get the treasure tokens. That is more fun than rolling just to get points alone even though I like collecting the point (chits) each round in High Score.” I observed that abstract are fine with my kid so long as they are short. Otherwise, the theme must come through a little stronger to lure her in. Theme doesn’t have to be elaborate, but must link to the experience itself. In this case, Knizia once again comes through with Into the Blue. I wonder if the theme actually came first before the mechanism. It is possible, I suppose.

In any case, between these two games, my guess is that Into the Blue will see more play time. The thought of doing a perfect dive really drives her desire to play the game, more so than winning the game. Perhaps it’s the cowardly adults who know the concept of probabilities that make the game dull by going for area majorities instead. Boo.

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