What: Team-based Battleships turned up to 11
Players: 2 – 8 (we recommend 6-8)
Time: 45 minutes
People: Best with two teams of friends who like to get their adrenaline pumping (with a board game)
Available: Get it on Amazon here and support Best Play at the same time!

The Gist

Why we recommend it

We also talked about Captain Sonar on our podcast over here.

I want to you to think about what your worst board game memory was – that sickening defeat that made you not want to touch a dice again. You might remember your dad making you bankrupt in Monopoly and your mother leaving the room in tears. Maybe when your brother destroyed your army at Risk.

What if I asked you what your most excited and joyous board gaming moment was; the most brilliant triumph. You might say it was the first time you set off the mouse trap contraption. Maybe something more modern, like getting five words in Codenames or something similar.

Well I lost a game which made me hate it. It made me never want to play it ever again, so upsetting and deflating was the loss.

I once won a round of that very same game that made me feel on top of the world, like I was a genius and so were my team mates. There was hugging, cheers and just general jubilation as the adrenaline flowed.

It’s probably very bloody obvious given the title of this recommendation that the game that elicited both of those reactions is Captain Sonar.

Captain Sonar is best described as team battleships. Other than in many ways, it’s nothing like battleships.

It’s a game for eight people in two teams of four (although you can make it work with less) in which you are both driving submarines whilst trying to blow the other one up. The specific role you play determines exactly what you’ll be doing. You might be choosing the direction of your sub, or you might be controlling the weapons and sonar to help find the other vessel. You might be a desperate engineer trying to keep the whole thing from falling apart or the radio operator intently listening to the opposition, writing down their every move with the hope of narrowing it to one square of the map.

The real thing that gets the adrenaline pumping and will leave you either jubilant and victorious or exhausted and deflated is that all of this happens in real time. There are no turns here. The faster you can co-operate with you team mates and track them down, the further ahead you’ll get.

The game often starts pensively, as both players are trying to feel the other out. You’ll be slowly making your way around the board, readying your weapons and conducting tests with your sonar. You might even just stop for a while, let the other team do all the rushing around, and helping you narrow their position whilst you give minimal information back.

By the end though, the game has changed entirely. In battleships at some point you strike your target. B3 methodically becomes B4, the next turn is B5 and then B6 and so on, until you reach the slow step-by-step destruction.

In Captain Sonar when you get that first hit everyone pauses for a moment. “They’ve found us”. You have mere seconds as a team to either retaliate or run before they ready another. Torpedo at your exact co-ordinates. Every space you move being perfectly tracked unless you can give them the slip with your silence.

These are the moments where everything escalates, the adrenaline is pumping and the outcome will define whether you loved the game and want to go again or hate it and hope no one ever opens the box in your lifetime.

Don’t let that put you off though, because those moments of triumph with your heart pumping are rare and precious moments in the world of board games, and all you have to risk is mind-crushing, soul-destroying devastation.

Get yourself a copy of Captain Sonar and support Best Play at the same time by buying it here from Amazon