Do you want to go on an undersea adventure, but you’re stuck at home during quarantine? Fret not! The adventure of a lifetime is just 32 double sided black and white pages away. Bargain Basement Bathysphere (of Beachside Bay) is a free print and play roll and write game. When you print it out it looks like a graduate thesis, but it is actually a series of puzzles trying to do death defying dives into the ocean and make it back to the surface before you run out of air. All you need to do is print it out and start on page one.
Each page details the story so far, sets out any new rules or, in most cases, is the roll and write sheet where the game takes place. Players roll five dice and then use these numbers to skip forward or backwards that many spaces. The goal is to get to the ocean floor and make discoveries along the way by landing on certain spaces, while avoiding hazards the cause stress to your vessel or soak up your limited oxygen. If you land on a space you cross it off taking whatever points are associated with it, or more critically diffusing the penalty associated with it. However, if you pass by a space with a hazard without landing on it you must cross off the hazard and take the corresponding damage to your rather fragile bathysphere. In this way the game creates a lot of tension even though all you are doing is moving backwards and forwards crossing out boxes on a sheet of paper. Each time you roll the dice you must spend an oxygen, and there is always a temptation to roll again before you’ve used up your current five dice, to perhaps get better rolls and scoop up discoveries or disarm more hazards. There is very much a feeling of panic as you race back up to the surface, low on oxygen, and with each previously crossed off space acting as a new hazard. If you get exactly the right roll and chart it out, you feel like a genius. But if you plan poorly or misjudge when to turn around and get back to the surface, disaster is always around the corner.
While each sheet is an adventure of its own, the real pleasure here is the progression that waits on the next page. Early on the game introduces a sort of global game that you play based on your score with each dive. Every few dives new rules are introduced and new twists are added to the puzzle. The writing is charming and silly and it makes for a wonderful morning coffee activity. I have written about solo games before, how they are a kind of puzzle. Usually they are not for me, I have other things I want to do with my alone time, and usually find games to be a social activity. But during quarantine when my life is filled with screen constantly, it is incredibly refreshing to sit down with some dice and a pen and just noodle through a tricky puzzle. This game in particular is a great entry point to print and play because it is just that. You print it, and then you are ready to play it. No assembly required. I am looking forward to continuing to dive and what twists and turns are to come, but if you have a printer and want a nice leisurely activity I cannot recommend this game enough.