Captain SONAR - Captain Wassing's Log

The first time that I played Captain Sonar, it was 2 vs 3. My brother and his wife made up the crew of the SS Johnno, named after their boy (this becomes important later) and my two kids and I manned the SS Manatee. We picked our starting spots on our Alpha maps and set out, hunting for ore. Hunting for each other.

My girl was acting as my radio operator and was confident that she had their position on lock within five rounds. She did. (This also becomes important later.) I had my boy as my engineer, trying to keep weapons and location systems running in spite of my aggressive captaining. Fortunately (I would only learn through my relentless hubris just HOW fortunately) he had our weapon systems up when we came within firing distance of the Johnno. Radio gave me their estimated location and I fired a torpedo.

Direct hit! The SS Johnno had taken two points of damage out of the four it could take before sinking. The SS Manatee was half way to victory.

Hubris indeed.

I should divulge a couple things at this point: I had accidentally given away a reasonably solid (fatal?) clue as to the location of the Manatee by correcting out loud something that my sister in law, the Johnno's radio operator had said; and Johnno, age one, had woken up from his nap and wanted to sit with his cousin. My daughter. My radio operator.

The radio operator records the position of the enemy with dry erase marker on a sheet of lucite. Not knowing where the enemy has picked as a starting location at the beginning of the game, sometimes the radio operator's recording runs off the side of the sheet, forcing them to erase it and starting the course up again so that it'll stay within the sheet.

I suppose that there's another thing that's important to note here. The submarine can repair engineering systems either by surfacing, which leaves them vulnerable for three rounds, by strategically navigating in a specific way that repairs the systems, or by running the engine so hard that the whole sub suffers damage, but leaves specific systems clear. It was the third option that I, the Captain and First Mate of the SS Manatee, had opted to utilize. I had taken three damage points of the four allowed as a result, in my haste to track down the Johnno. My engineer was a willing participant in this aggressive strategy and had lulled me into unwarranted confidence by keeping up with the requirements of the submarine so far.

After the direct hit, the SS Johnno fled and the Manatee worked on again readying our weapon systems. But the Johnno had left a saboteur in our midst. A beautiful, smiley, adorable, chaotic infiltrator: Johnno himself. He reached out one hand and shifted the radio operator's lucite sheet. Not anticipating this bit of sabotage, the radio operator hadn't marked down the graph location of our fresh starting point. Panicked, my girl made her best guess and we pursued the Johnno around an island.

"Ooooh, I'm going to torpedo you guys so hard on the next turn!" I threatened like a real captain would. "Uh, weapon systems are down," piped up my boy, the engineer.
And that was it. There was no strategic movement to take that would reset our systems because in Captain Sonar you can't go back on your own course, and I'd been running ragged, so there was no wiggle room. There was nothing to do but to flee and try to surface. Try to fully repair our systems the right way.

The SS Johnno rounded the island behind us, now the ones on attack, and let fly their ready torpedo.
Direct hit.
No points left.
And SS Manatee and crew sank to the bottom of the ocean.

When I tell you that this is the most unique gaming experience that I've ever played, I'm using no hyperbole.

So many moving parts, but such simple gameplay. And because you work in teams (as small as a team of 1 per sub, but as many as 4 vs 4) with unique, important roles, it feels great, win or lose.

We played it turn-based because we were just figuring it out, but you can play it in real-time as well, adding to the high-octane sub-hunting feel.

I can't wait to try this game with two fully-manned submarines. Expect to see me fishing among you for players for a li'l in-store Hunt for Red October (or whatever you want to name your submarine). If this sounds like something that you'd be interested in participating in, please feel free to reach out to the store to request to be included.

Or, if you'd rather test your mettle in the comfort of your own home, swing by and take home our rental copy for yourself! Just be sure to tell me what you think of it when you return it.