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Deep Six

Tip out the contents of the Deep Six box and the first thing that will strike you is the plethora of dice. The preview copy of Deep Six sent to us by Oddgrove Games came with a huge bag of 12-sided dice plus two large 20-sided dice. Curiously tho', Deep Six is not a dice game. If you roll any of these dice at all it will only be to determine first player; in-game the dice are solely used as health trackers. Deep Six is a combat game where players each have their own Leaders, using units (cards) to battle for territory with the ultimate aim of reducing to zero the opposing Leader's health. It's primarily a two-player game but the designers plan to release additional four-player rules.

The game is played on a grid made up of tiles. The modular grid set up means that you have almost infinite options for your playing area and so huge variability. That said, the rules suggest starting off with an 8 x 5 tile grid. The nine tiles at the top left begin as one faction's territory and the corresponding nine tiles at the bottom right are the territory of the other. All the remaining tiles begin as 'unclaimed'. Players each select their Leader - each with their own asymmetric abilities - and these are positioned in the middle of their nine-tile area. The large d20 are used to indicate the Leaders' starting 13 points of health/power.

A random selection of 10 Event cards and 12 Glyph cards is added to the 40 Unit cards and these are shuffled together to create the draw deck for the game. On your turn, you draw a card and action it. Draw a Unit card and you place it out on any tiles in your own territory. You then immediately claim any unclaimed orthogonally or diagonally adjacent tiles - replacing them with those of your own faction. Units each have their own health/power (marked with one of those d12). When Units are placed adjacent to an opposing Unit (and ultimately a Leader) you compare power and each deducts power from the other - so if a Unit with power 8 is adjacent to an enemy Unit with power 6, the power 6 Unit is removed from play and the power 8 Unit remains but with their power reduced to 2. The other key effect is that the territory of the Unit that's removed is converted to that of the winner. In addition, when the attacker wins, any tiles that were adjacent to both the attacker and defender are also converted to territory of the winner.

By gaining territory, you get to expand where you can subsequently place out Units. Ultimately this dance for area control results in players being able to threaten the enemy Leader. Deep Six then is a tactical game tho' there's a high luck factor over what card you happen to draw each turn. Unusually in a combat card game, there's no hand management - you're pretty much always drawing a card and immediately playing it. The exception is when you draw a Glyph card: up to three of these can be banked for later use as a free additional action. Similarly, players can trigger their Leader ability as an alternative additional action.

Event cards are a mix of those that are helpful to the player that draws them and those that impose a positive or negative effect on both players. Bad luck then if you draw an Event card that turns out to help your opponent as that's also taken up your turn. In our plays at Board's Eye View, we had a couple of games where one player had a run of unlucky draws that they were unable to mitigate, giving their opponent an easy victory and putting them off from seeking a replay. That's a pity because Deep Six is a game with strong potential, particularly if players are able to make effective use of their Leader ability and Glyph cards. Problem is, you may or may not find yourself with Glyphs...

We experimented with house rules that gave players more immediate access to Glyphs. In particular, we upped the three-card limit on the number of Glyphs you could bank and we tried starting each game by drafting three Glyphs apiece. This immediately gave each player the potential for mitigation that could help to reduce the impact of an unlucky card draw.

It's always exciting to try a game that's still in development. We'll be keen to see how Deep Six continues to develop before it hits wider release.

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