Scubi Sea Saga
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Publishers Rudy Games have built a specialty in developing board games that work with apps. Don't worry. These aren't video games with a decorative board; think of them more as board games supported by an app. The app is integrated into play but you couldn't play the game without the board game.
Rudy Games insist on the app's central role because Scubi Sea Saga doesn't come with any rules in the box. The idea is that you sign in to the app in order to learn how to play. Once you've learned the game, the app determines turn order and decides when to throw in random events, but it is principally functioning as a score keeper.
Designed by Richard Kern, Gertrude Kurzmann and Manfred Lamplmair, Scubi Sea Saga is described as a logic game. It's certainly a game that calls on players' pattern recognition skills. The components in the box include a board onto which round tokens are placed showing cute cartoon representations of various sea creatures (a yellow starfish, a red crab, a green puffer fish, a pink jellyfish and a purple octopus) along with seahorses in the colours of each of the others. When the tokens are in place, they make up an 8 x 8 grid. At the start of your turn, you get to switch any two adjacent tokens with the aim of being able to collect and remove from the grid orthogonally connected lines of three or more matching colours. If you collect, for example, a red set, you score a point for each of the crabs you take, doubled if the set includes a red seahorse. Players take and score whatever lines they can, and as many as they can, although they benefit from a 2 point bonus whenever they collect tiles matching their own colour (assigned at the start of each game).
When a player removes tiles to score them, the tiles that remain in the grid slide up or down to fill the spaces created. This means that players with keen spatial awareness can set up what is, in effect, a chain reaction, where the removal of one line of tokens creates a line of another set. In practice these occur less frequently than you'd routinely expect to find in a similar pattern recognition video game app. This isn't a game where players will often be planning a long succession of moves ahead; at best, you'll mostly just be setting up your first line each turn so that it creates a second line. The game is intended as a light game not a substitute for Chess; it's supposed to be played fast (the default time for working out which two tokens to switch is just 20 seconds) so you'll want to avoid over thinking your actions.
At the end of each player's turn, the grid is refilled by drawing more tokens from a bag.
During your turn, the app may well throw in some random events. These again discourage players from overthinking their choices. You may notice a seahorse swimming across your phone or tablet screen; tap it and you'll be rewarded with a bonus of 3 points. If you're very lucky, random events will throw you a Treasure Chest which lets you draw three tiles from the bag and substitute one of them for any token on the grid. This is a rather generous (overpowered) bonus because it is pretty much guaranteed to give you a decent scoring opportunity. The Shark removes a whole row of tiles, while a Depth Charge takes out a specific token and the eight surrounding it. If the Ship Anchor hits on your turn then that can be particularly brutal because it removes an entire column and so, unlike the Shark and Depth Charge, it offers no possibility of setting up any new lines.
Scubi Sea Saga can be played by quite young children and it works well as a family game. The box erroneously shows it as a two-player game. You can indeed play it with two but it is equally playable with up to five players. It's also worth mentioning that once you've grasped the rules from the free app, it would be perfectly possible to play Scubi Sea Saga app free. Aside from the random events, which you could either determine using dice or dispense with altogether, the app is really only keeping score, which you could do with pen & paper. You'd just need a way of determining when the game ends (ie: the number of rounds).