If Battleship was actually fun and strategic, and could fit in your pocket, then you would have Pocket Sub
Players: 2 – 4 Best with: 2 – 4
Age: 8+ GN Age: Child
Game Type: Board Time: 10 – 15 minutes
Publisher/Year: Alley Cat Games – 2018
Game Play: Troop Placement, Strategy
Score: out of 12
Pocket Sub is so neat, and cool, and new that I’m breaking my intended schedule of games just so I can talk about it.
Last weekend, we attended Total Con 33 in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Total CONfusion, as it officially called, is the largest board game and role-playing convention in New England. You can check out my post about Total CON 33 in Topic Tuesday.
At the convention, they had a good-sized Vendor Area, but one booth, in particular, intrigued us. It was a small game developer booth with just a couple of titles for display. The game that most interested us was a tiny little blue box with an explosion on it called Pocket Sub.
We picked it up, stared at it, mulled it over, put it down, and walked away. But we kept coming back to the booth and repeated the process, trying to glean via osmosis if the game was any good.
Then we heard that the developer of the game himself was on the gaming tables, teaching people how to play. That sounded like the coolest thing ever. We ran over to the gaming room. This was going to be like Jimmy Page popping over to my flat to teach me Stairway to Heaven.
Okay, it wasn’t that cool, but it was still pretty awesome.
We met Darrin Horbal, a friendly, outgoing guy, who clearly was proud and happy to see something he envisioned come to life, as it were. While he taught us the game, we talked a bit about its creation and production. The coolest thing he said was that while some games are laborious to create, this one came to him virtually whole when he woke up one morning. I’ve always fantasized about having just such a stroke of inspiration for anything, so I was happy for and jealous of the man at the same time.
First off, we were shocked that so much game came out of a tiny little box. There are actually two versions of the game. There is base game that is fun and exciting, and an advanced game that added new elements, game play, and tactics. In addition, the game feels completely different, with changing strategies and tactics, depending on the number of players. It’s like getting 6 games in 1.
So, here’s the base game. You control a couple of submarines, 2 or 3 depending on the number of players. Your subs travel around a small ocean area, which will get much smaller very quickly.
During your travels, you plant mines that block your opponent’s sub, while avoiding enemy mines. During each move you must move 3 spaces, plant one mine in a space you’ve moved through, and end your turn in an empty space. If you can’t meet all three conditions, your sub blows up.
If you enter the space of an enemy mine, you blow up. If you enter the space of an enemy sub, you both blow up. This kamikaze tactic will inevitably be used by at least one player, whether on purpose or by accident. Once you are down to one sub that becomes a “Hero” sub, which has the ability to ram other subs and still survive.
The last player with a sub is the winner.
What makes Pocket Sub challenging is the unique and random game board. The board consists of 5-9 hex tiles that can be placed in any manner creating a new ocean every game.
Each tile has 7 areas to maneuver in, each with one of three features; regular open water, rocky shoals that requires 2 movement to navigate, and “the Deep”, which also costs 2 movement but allows you to pop up in another Deep across the board.
This combination of ocean terrain and limited sub movement makes Pocket Sub very easy to learn but challenging to play. Your options get very narrow, very quickly as you try to box in your enemies while your own escape routes become cut off.
Pocket Sub is immensely fun. It is quick, tense, and strategic but not maddening; a great way to spend 15 minutes.
Pocket Sub is great for kids. Both my boys learned it quick and enjoyed playing it. Kids around 8 years old will easily understand the game and teenagers will still enjoy playing it.
Pocket Sub is a perfect Game Night game. So many games try to impress with excessive game time or sheer number of pieces, but not every game needs to be Gloomhaven. Pocket Sub is great to play alongside a few other shorter games. Three or four games like Pocket Sub; instant Game Night.
Pocket Sub is also a perfect travel game to take on vacation. We’re taking it on our vacation cruise this summer, unless they confiscate it for inciting destruction of ocean vessels.
We just loved Pocket Sub, and we can’t wait to see what comes out of Darrin Horbal’s brain next.
As always, run silent, run deep, and Game On!
Once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of chess against our old adversary – Captain Marko Ramius “The Hunt for Red Octoher”