Strategically Thematic: Captain Sonar

October 26, 2017

Strategically Thematic is a segment featured on The Dice Tower's bi-weekly Throat Punch Lunch videos about games where the theme and mechanics go together really well.

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Hi! This is Ambie from Board Game Blitz, and this is Strategically Thematic, a segment where I talk about theme in different strategic games. This time, I’m talking about Captain Sonar.

Captain Sonar is a team game where you and your team are on a submarine trying to find and destroy the other team’s submarine. There are four roles: the Captain, the First Mate, the Radio Operator, and the Engineer. Each role has a different function, and you have to work together in order to find and sink the other submarine before they can sink yours. There are also these huge player screens that you put across the table so that each team can only see their own submarine and teammates during the game.

Some of the roles aren’t very thematic, but I think a really neat mechanism that also feels pretty thematic is how the Captain and Radio Operator roles work. During the game, the Captain will choose where your submarine moves, and call out the direction of North, East, South, or West. The Captain will be keeping track of where your submarine is on the map using a whiteboard marker. Meanwhile, the other team’s Radio Operator will be listening in on your movement and marking the movement on their own transparency sheet. The Radio Operator has their own map, so they can try to figure out where you are by overlaying your path with the map. The play between the Captain and the Radio Operator is really neat, since the Radio Operator can’t actually see where the other submarine is, but uses what he hears through the “radio” to determine where it could be.

In order to win, you need to shoot the other submarine down with torpedoes or mines. The Captain decides when to use weapons systems or other systems that can help locate the other submarine, but the First Mate and the Engineer are the ones who actually know when the systems work and are ready to fire. So there’s a lot of communication that needs to be done within your team, with the Captain bringing everything together and making all the decisions.

The game can be played turn-based or real-time, but I think the real-time mode adds a lot to the theme, since you wouldn’t be taking turns in an actual submarine battle! Captain Sonar is a fun, hectic battle between two teams, and it’s a great game to play when you have a big group of people. Because of the mechanics of the different roles, the game really makes you work together as a team to defeat the other submarine.

Thanks for watching Board Game Blitz! As an aside, I’ve been running out of games I own that fit this segment. I have some thematic but not very strategic games, like these story games, and I also have some strategic but not very thematic games, like these.. games that start with “T” and end with “N.” And I also have a bunch that are neither! So let me know if you have any suggestions for future episodes!
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