Salagames, £10
Designed by Nick Sewell
3-6 Players, about an hour
Reviewed by Dave Farquhar

Schatztaucher is a multi-player deep sea diving game, designed by Nik Sewell of Three Wishes fame (and thus carries something of a decent pedigree), and published by Salagames. The components consist of a deck of cards, playing board and plastic 'Wildlife Adventure' arrows, this time posing as harpoons.

The object of the game is to dive to the ocean bed, discover the treasure chest, and bring it back to the surface. Three to six players can take part, from age eight, with the game lasting about an hour (the box says 45 minutes, but I think that is optimistic).

Each player is dealt a hand of cards, and takes it in turns to undertake a dive. This starts just below the surface, and may go down through the various levels to the sea bed, located at level eight. In general, the deeper you go the more dangerous things become, but the rewards are correspondingly greater.

The player about to make the next dive normally lays the first card, but play then progresses around the table. The diver enters the water at level one and specifies to the next player whether to go up or down. When making this decision a limited amount of information is available to the diver concerning other players' hands, as the cards have the level to which they relate marked on the back, rather like an 'Indiscretion' deck. During the dive one may meet sharks or octopi, but may also find gold pieces (of eight presumably). Initial dives are made with the intention of successfully returning to the surface with a wet- suit full of money. This is then exchanged for harpoons, which may later be used to kill any troublesome sharks (one hit) or oversized squid (two hits).

Initial dives are generally good fun, with lightly armed (or unarmed) divers gambling on how long it is safe to stay down. This continues until one player collects enough harpoons to make a play for the treasure. Unfortunately it is at this stage where the game's weakness lies.

If at any time a player does not have a card for the required depth, the highest numbered card in the hand is discarded. This means that the '8' cards cycle through very quickly. It is thus often the case that a diver reaches level eight only to find that nobody has the relevant card. Players then continue to discard until an 8 is drawn. This makes it pot luck whether a treasure chest, shark or octopus is encountered.

If it is one of our undersea friends, this has to be fought off, and the player rises to level 7, all the cards for which have by this time also been discarded. So its go through the pack time again, then back down to level eight....and so it goes on ad infinitum. Once the chest has been discovered, the diver starts hauling it back to the surface. Usually by this time all the players are left holding are levels 1 to 3. This makes the rush to the surface a random card draw until you reach level 3, at which time expect sharks!

I hadn't played this game for some months, until today when I tried it again to check my previous thoughts on the game. They remain the same. The progress went as follows: Early on the dives were fun, and fairly exciting. Then I went for the big one, equipped with ten harpoons, and plenty of air. Ten minutes of bobbing up and down then ensued, culminating with me heading for the surface with one treasure chest, and no harpoons. Success seemed impossible, but nobody had anything left other than shallow cards. I made it to the surface, only to have my legs bitten off as I climbed into the boat. Although this should have been exciting, everyone was so bored we packed it in at that point. This is a pity, as the early parts of the game have promise. Schatztaucher may actually be quite suitable for children, but I really cannot recommend it for adult gamers.

Dave Farquhar

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