We Were Playing it Wrong: Capt. Sonar

Captain Sonar, by Roberto Fraga and Yohan Lemonnier, Matagot Games, art by Ervin and Sabrina Tobal, 2-8 players

Lately my group has been playing Capt. Sonar by Roberto Fraga and Yohan Lemonnier on Fridays. After making a splash (get it?) at GenCon, this game has created a bit of a buzz with my friends, as the game seems to be that rare title that seats a lot of people, plays at a fast-pace, and provides a good amount of strategic depth (get it?). Indeed, a couple of times we’ve had a full complement of eight players and still had people waiting to get into a game.

After playing the game several times a couple of mistakes from the initial tutorial became apparent. We got the rules for surfacing wrong—our rule-explainer thought that you could surface in any zone, effectively giving your boat the ability to teleport across the map if you’d been cornered by your opponent. Actually subs need to surface right where they are and declare their zone to their opponent. This makes Silence extremely important as it is the only way to slip away from an opponent. Speaking of  Silence, don’t forget to mark off a first mate gauge and engineering box just like a normal move. It even appears that you can even double move back activating Silence and then moving normally.

We also got the rules for Drones completely wrong—we thought using a drone required your opponent to announce their zone. In fact, the team activating their drone gets to ask whether or not their opponent is in a particular zone. There’s also usually questions about when teams can and can’t use their available systems (mines, sonar, etc.) as near as we can tell you can use them before or after moving. Due to the fluid (get it?) nature of the game, this ends up being less of an issue in the real time version of the game. Remember also that the First Mate can activate sonar and drone systems without getting the captain’s approval.

While strategy is not my focus in this blog I’m going to head into the deep waters (get it?) and offer a small amount of strategic advice for the real-time game: it seems like it’s less of an advantage to move often during the real-time game than simply moving at a pace your crew can handle easily. This is because the radio operator is the primary source of gaining information about the opposing sub’s location, and the radio operator only gets new information when an opposing sub moves. With each new move, the possible locations a sub could be drops off by an order of magnitude until in theory only one path remains. One way to mitigate this could be to simply not move as much, denying the opposing radio operator the information needed to eliminate possible locations and paths. Moving at less than full speed also prevents the sub from cornering itself as easily by preserving moves for the sub to take, and also might make it easier for the engineer to keep systems up as long as possible. The only advantages to moving quickly is that systems can be recharged quickly, and it allows one to close with the enemy. Until the end of the game neither of these benefits outweigh the benefit of minimizing the possibility of being detected and maximizing the possibility of getting away.

We Were Playing it Wrong: Capt. Sonar