It’s hard to overstate just how prolific Dr. Reiner Knizia is. The man has published over 700 board games during his 30 year career. And while he’s perhaps best known for his medium-to-heavy strategy games like Samurai, Tigris & Euphrates, and Witchstone, I find that I enjoy his lighter fare a bit more. Games like L.L.A.M.A., Kariba, Excape, and My City are solidly in my wheelhouse, offering just enough strategy to be interesting, generally with a simple ruleset and ease of play.
When I came across Into the Blue from French publisher Funnyfox, I knew I wanted to dive right in. Why not join me as I see just how deep a dice game can go?
Into the Blue Overview
In Into the Blue players attempt to earn the most points by rolling dice, which allow you to dive down to the ocean floor in search of treasure, dropping shells of their color along the way. Anyone lucky enough to make it all the way to the bottom can earn a treasure chest, but everyone will be competing in majority scoring for each of the 5 levels of the game board.
A Round of Into the Blue
Setup is simplicity itself: open the board and place the level scoring and treasure chest tokens in their correct spots, give each player a stack of seashells in their color, and you’re “ready to roll”.
On your turn you’ll roll all six dice, then reroll as many as you like up to 2 more times. Once you’ve stopped you’ll group all your dice by number and place them in ascending order next to the board. You’re doing this in order to determine the best placement for your shells.
Select a single number from your set, then place a number of shells equal to the number of dice, on that level. So if you choose three dice that feature a 2, you’d place three shells on level 2.
Here’s the catch: in order to place any shells on a level, you must have every number leading up to that level. If your final set of 2-value dice doesn’t include a 1, you won’t be able to place at all. And if your set consists of a “perfect dive”, the numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6, then you don’t place any shells, and instead you take a treasure chest.
Continue placing shells until either one person places their last shell, or the last treasure chest has been retrieved. At the end of the game, the person with the most shells on each level will earn the most valuable scoring token for that level. (In a 4-5 player game, the player with the second most shells earns the alternate scoring token for that level.) The most valuable tokens for each level are worth twice the level number, while the alternate tokens are worth the level number. Treasure chests are worth between 5 and 8 points.
Add up your points from level scoring tokens and treasure chests, and the player with the highest score wins the game.
First off, Into the Blue is a beautiful game—nice glossy box, gorgeously illustrated double layered game board, amazing dice (seriously these dice are amazing), and translucent shells in each player’s color. It’s clear that Funnyfox put some serious time and effort into the game.
But how does it play?
To answer the question asked at the beginning of the review: no, it’s not deep, but it is fun, in a casual way. It’s a dice game which means it leans heavily on the luck factor, and that unfortunately means it’s going to alienate some people. But for the rest of us who love tossing some dice, it’s a fun way to pass the time.
But let’s talk about some of the shortcomings. Even in the land of light dice games Into the Blue comes across as a bit of a one-trick pony. On your turn, you’re going to roll the dice, and your only two real choices are:
- Do my current dice support my push for a “perfect dive”, and do I want to push hard to pick up a treasure chest at the risk of not placing shells on lower levels which are worth more points?
- Do I have sufficient high numbered dice to allow me to place the shells necessary to win a majority on a level?
Remember that in order to place ANY shells on a level, you must have every number leading up to that level. So those two 4s you rolled are worthless without a 1, 2 and 3. That means being able to place shells on levels 4 and 5 is not only difficult, but also valuable because of the high point totals. In fact, it’s a bit odd that the treasure chests are worth as little as they are given how difficult it is to roll a perfect dive. So, while there is some strategy, it really comes down to taking a chance with the dice you have vs the dice you want.
Do I recommend playing Into the Blue? Definitely if you enjoy dice, and push your luck games. But I’d suggest playing someone else’s copy.