Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Captain Sonar floored me

I went into Captain Sonar as a con event with these pieces of knowledge: you used dry erase markers, it took a lot of players and a lot of people really like it.

What I discovered was one of my best gaming experiences of 2018. Honestly, I don’t look back at years and try to mark down, say, five highlights but my introduction to Captain Sonar is one that will stay with me and I’ll bore friends about years to come.

In Captain Sonar, you are playing two crews of two submarines that are trying to blow each other into greasy clouds of smoke. On each team, there is a captain who plans the route and activates the systems, the first mate who charges the systems, the engineer who damages and repairs the systems and the radio operator who listens to other captain and desperately tries to figure out where the enemy sub is.

You know, there are other reviews that describe Captain Sonar in much better and greater detail and I haven’t even looked at them. I’m trying less to review the game than distill my experience of learning the game and playing it four times in a row.

Captain Sonar takes the theme and even some of the core mechanics of Battleship, a game I’ll begrudgingly say works, and turned into a harrowing, edge of your seat experience that is also an amazing experience in team work. Seriously, I won’t be surprised if Captain Sonar has been used as a corporate team building exercise.

Captain Sonar’s individual mechanics are pretty simple. Actually, even taken together, the mechanical side of the game is still simple. However, add in the real time aspect of the game, and those simple mechanics become a frantic, desperate scramble. I understand you can play it turn-based but that would kill so much of the fun.

Some of my friends would classify Captain Sonar as a party game and I can see that. With its very exact player-count, I think I would have to become some kind of youth group leader before I’d buy it. But boy would I play it again and I think it’s an experience any kind of gamer would really get something out of.

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