Captain Sonar Review

Captain Sonar Review

Sometimes when you here about a game for the first time, you think that there can be no way it will succeed. Whether it’s a theme that doesn’t sound exciting at all, a mechanic that just sounds weird, or in this game’s case, a player count that seems too high to be feasible. 99% of the time, if you were to tell me that a game really needs 8 players to be it’s best, and that with any less it isn’t as good, I’d have said it won’t do well. Not that you can’t get groups of 8 together, but it’s such a niche in the market that I never thought it’d be successful. And that game is Captain Sonar.

Captain Sonar

Designers: Roberto Fraga, Yohan Lemonnier

Play time: 45 minutes

Player Count 2-8 Players


Captain Sonar is a 2-8 player team based, real time game published by Matagot. In Captain Sonar, players are divided into 2 teams, where each team will be operating a submarine, trying to sink the other team. The quick description is real time battleship. You can also play turn-by-turn, but that feels more like the tutorial version of the game. Each team is divided up into 4 different roles and each player will have their own player-board which is associated with their specific jobs.

The game set-up for 8 players

The first is the captain, who decides which direction the ship will travel with each movement and he’ll track the movement. The next is the first mate, whose job is to charge the different operating systems aboard the sub, including the radar, sonar, and weapons systems. With every movement, he gets to charge 1 system until they are ready for the captain to deploy. Next is the Engineer, who has to keep all the systems operational in order for the captain to use them. With each movement, he has to take a system offline, but can also bring them back online with cooperation of the captain.

The player boards for the Engineer and First Mate

And lastly and most importantly, there is the sonar operator. They have to listen to the opposing captain and try to figure out the other submarine’s location so that you can take them out. They do this by using a piece of clear plastic over a map of the board and drawing the associated movements. They can then move the plastic over the map until they have found out exactly where the other team is, at which point they can let the captain know so they can begin the attack. Play continues in real-time until one team has sunk the other submarine.

Things I like:

  • This game takes a little bit to get rolling, but once things get heated up, it’s crazy how immersive this game is. I never expected to get as into this game as I did. It really feels like you’re controlling a submarine and trying to hunt down your opponent. It feels great while you’re playing it.
  • The game comes with a variety of maps and a variety of scenarios. If you feel like things are getting too easy, you can always add in a new map that will make movement more difficult.
  • Real-time. There aren’t a lot of great games on the market that are real-time, but this is one that does it really well. Like I mentioned above, you can play turn-by-turn, but really should try to play real time if able.
  • When playing the role of the sonar operator, you have the most important job in the game. You listen to the other team, map their movements, and use your overlay to figure out where the other team is located. As your team also activates the sonar and radar, you get information about where the other submarine is. You take all this information in and then try to piece it all together to give your captain the other ship’s whereabouts. It’s really fun to play as the sonar operator, but also incredibly stressful.

One of the game maps, with the plastic overlay for the Sonar Operator
  • The pace in this game is great. It starts slowly as each team is gradually moving around the board trying to figure out where the other team is. As you continue to move, your opponents continue to gain information about your location, as you gain information about them. As the game progresses, it continues to heat up, until it reaches a fever pitch. The first time one team scores a hit with a torpedo, things change quickly. The pace starts to really quicken as you do all you can do to either get away or score the last hit to sink their sub. The excitement builds in this game better than most I’ve played.

Things I don’t like.

  • Player Count. I know I commented on this in the intro, but the game functions optimally with 2 teams of 4. It still works ok with 2 teams of 3, but I wouldn’t go any lower than that. This makes it a tough game to hit the table. It’s not quite a party game, because it’s a little more involved than that. However, if you hit that sweet spot, it really shines.

That’s it. That’s really the only complaint I have about this game. It’s such a fun game that I’m completely content to wait until I have a game group with 8 people to get to play it. It will always hold a space on my shelf. Additionally, this game has a significant distinction in my family that most never get. Not only was my mom willing to play this game, but when it got done, she said she’d be interested in playing it again. That is significant, because my mom doesn’t like games. Frequently we ask her to play and she just isn’t interested. She doesn’t like them. This one got the seal of approval. Which is yet another reason we love this game. If you haven’t had the chance, get out and check out Captain Sonar. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Dave’s GLG rating – 8/10

Let me just start by saying that this game is incredibly fun to play. I love the different roles that each player can have, how quick the games are, and how intense it can get. I also think it’s great because it’s so accessible to gamers and non-gamers because you can pretty much explain it as “battleship for adults.” With all of that said, I think Captain Sonar finds itself in a strange spot because it is really only great with 6-8 players, but it’s too heavy of a game to be a simple party game. Games like Wink, Happy Salmon, Duplik, etc. are more of your typical party games that are high-energy but easy to play. Captain Sonar requires people to be much more invested in the game itself than the party atmosphere, which means you typically need to have 6-8 relatively serious gamers to play with. Because of this limitation, from my experience, I don’t give it as high of a rating as Dave, but do highly recommend it. You absolutely will not be disappointed if you play it, but you may be a bit bummed by how little it finds the table after you buy it.

Cade’s GLG rating – 7.5/10


Check it out on Asmodee’s site here.

Check it out on BGG here.

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