Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Board Game Review: Mini DiverCity

This year at GenCon I had the pleasure of meeting the team from Sphere Games as they were providing demonstrations of Mini DiverCity. In this cooperative game, players assume the role of divers attempting to save the diverse ecosystem of a coral reef (DiverCity is a wordplay on diversity) as exploitative corporations attempt to destroy it through actions that either move animals toward extinction or construct hotels that destroy undeveloped island habitat. I came away from the booth with a review copy of the game and the intention to introduce it to my kids (daughter 13, and twin boys both 9).

The husband and I finally had the chance to sit down and play a few games of Mini DiverCity this week with the children. They all had fun with it and the boys are head over heels in love with it. “It’s superfun!”, Max and Locke said. They really loved the idea of saving animals and they liked that you have to turn your hand of cards facing outward so that other players can see them while you cannot.

On each player’s turn they must select one of the three core actions to perform:

  • Use their walkie-talkie to tell another player the cards in that player’s hand so that the player can take that into consideration on their turn. This action does not require a discard.
  • Move an animal closer toward survival. If a player chooses to move an animal closer to survival they must pick one of the cards from their hand (each of which has an animal represented on it) and discard it to move that specific animal. Unless someone has used the walkie-talkie action with them, they don’t know what’s on the cards in their hand they have to select from. 
  • Close down a corporate hotel. If a player chooses to close down a corporate hotel, they must discard a card from their hand and then choose a hotel to flip over to undeveloped island habitat.

One of my sons kept asking each player excitedly, “Are you sure you don’t want to spend your turn action to walkie-talkie me?” He wanted desperately to know what was in his hand and also for his cards to be so useful to the rest of the team that they felt compelled to tell him. I appreciated his enthusiasm and engagement.

The game also includes special diver cards that can be used by the active player to alter the ecosystem in the favor of the animals. Using a diver card does not count as an action, but they are limited in number and each card can only be used once during the game so you’ve got to strategically choose when the best time to use a diver card might be. As always in limited resource games, my husband was averse to using the diver cards until he felt we absolutely needed them to win and I was adamant we should use them as often as possible to keep the edge over the corporations. We compromised somewhere in between and used about half of them during the game. We played using a house rule (a variant on the team rule listed in the rule sheet for beginners) to lay down all the diver cards out on the table for the active player to choose from (vs the standard option where each player is dealt a diver card and only has access to that one). 

Players win by saving the number of species required by the difficulty level they are playing on (min 5, max 9). Corporations win if they kill the number of species required by the difficulty level (min 3, max 5), they build all 6 hotels, or if the species deck runs out. 

The instructions for play are presented in an easy-to-follow format in the included fold out rule sheet and didn’t leave us with any unanswered questions.

The artwork is pleasant.

The components are simple – finished cardstock and species tokens. They should stand up to regular use but frequent players may want to sleeve the cards.  


Win Condition: save the requisite number of species

Inputs: species cards played, diver cards used, corporation cards played

Strategy Tip: Corporation cards that develop 2 hotels at once never develop the red+green, or purple+yellow, or blue+orange hotel combinations. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that one of these pairs are always safe on the undeveloped island habitat side to prevent a corporation card from developing the last 2 hotels in one turn.

We won the games we played and everyone felt good about it. The boys have already asked me when we can play again. Mini DiverCity is an engaging card game that focuses players on the importance of ecology and is small enough to take with you anywhere to keep the kids entertained on the go. It would make a great stocking stuffer for Christmas and has prompted me to also take a look at DiverCity (the full scale game Mini DiverCity is based on).


Publisher: Sphere Games
Players: 1-7 (We played with 5)
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 25 minutes
Game type: card game



Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.

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