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Captain Sonar v Sonar - Dastardly Review #104

There is a some confusion and lots of debate on Captain Sonar v Sonar. Hopefully this will help clear some of that up. Note: These pictures are mainly from Sonar.

I first saw Captain Sonar at GenCon and was immediately hooked. The materials are first class…just beautiful. It was a blast watching the 4 v 4 action. One of the cornerstones of play is the yelling of orders and information. There are two modes of play: simultaneous or turn. Lots of fun.

My gaming group recently played Captain Sonar at a gaming bar/restaurant. Most people initially describe Captain Sonar as a new version of the classic Battleship. It is a good starting impression but the similarities quickly end. For example - there are no Battleships! Just two lonely submarines trying to track and sink each other.

Captain Sonar is played with a beautiful long divider separating the two teams. Each team has a number of laminated sheets for the different roles of Captain, Engineer, Chief Mate and Radio Operator. Each team can have 1 to 4 players and the roles are divided up between the players. Players use erasable markers to track ship routes, mark status, damage etc.

Each turn the Captain marks the submarine’s route on a map sheet. The Captain can either move, use Sonar, launch a Torpedo, set a mine, surface or run silent. Many more options than Battleship. When doing a standard move the Captain must yell out the direction (Right, Down, Left or Up) so the other team can hear.

And this is where Captain Sonar gets awesome...the opposing team’s radio operator creates a movement track based upon hearing the enemy submarine’s movements. This movement track is marked on a clear plastic sheet. The radio operator slides this track over a map and tries to find the possible valid routes - a submarine cannot hit land or an iceberg or cross its own path. To help the radio operator the Captain can use Sonar to gain possible location information on the enemy submarine.

Once the Radio Operator has an idea of the enemy’s location...the hunt is on! The submarines must close within torpedo range. Torpedoes can direct or indirect damage to a submarine.

Just a well made game...with almost no similarities to Battleship! We liked Captain Sonar.

And then Target had a clearance sale and for some reason Sonar was on sale for $17. I grabbed it. Played it and played it and played it and played it with our 10 and 13 year old grandkids and my wife. We loved it. The kids caught on in 5 minutes on how to play. And they kept asking to play it.

A quick contrast between Sonar and Captain Sonar. Sonar is for 2-4 players. There are only 2 roles per team - Captain and Radio Operator. Most of the mechanics in Captain Sonar exist in Sonar but are simpler and faster. Also Sonar is only played in Turn mode. We played our first game of Sonar in 15 minutes versus 40 minutes for Captain Sonar. Both games have the cool mechanic of the Radio Operator trying to track the enemy sub. It would be possible to ‘play Sonar’ using the Captain Sonar game and simplifying the rules.

And maybe the most important contrast...our gaming group ‘liked’ Captain Sonar and chose to only play it once versus our family ‘loved’ Sonar and played it four times the first day of owning it. If we had tried to play Captain Sonar with our family they would not have loved it...slower and more complex. opinion is Sonar is a superior fit with casual gamers and kids. And honestly...I think our gaming group would have enjoyed Sonar as much as Captain Sonar.

The Good: A beautiful fun game.

The Bad: We had some trouble getting the roles figured out in Captain Sonar.

The Dastardly: You sank my Battleship! battleships...but a lot more fun than Battleship...this from a huge Battleship fan!


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