Accessibility TL;DR. I was unable to play Deep Dive without modifications due to the color combinations (pink and green for me) and lack of double-coding, though other colorblind players did not experience these issues. A few simple markups solved the problem for me.

Introduction and Gameplay Overview

Deep Dive is a push-your-luck set collection game designed by Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, and Shawn Stankewich, with graphic design by Dylan Mangini and Shawn Stankewich. It is co-published by Flatout Games and AEG, and 1 to 6 players can complete the game in 15-20 minutes.

Players use their three penguins to dive into the ocean, collecting food for their waddle (yes, it’s called a waddle, I looked it up). The five ocean levels provide increasingly valuable food (represented by points), but also a greater risk of predators. To gain maximum points, players need to collect color sets – pink, green, and yellow.

Deep Dive Setup

Deep Dive’s hook is the “I’ll dive one level deeper” decision, as players push their luck to seek higher-value food. Encountering a predator (seal, orca, shark) stops progress, as that penguin remains in the ocean to distract the would-be assassin while others continue searching. Also, rock tiles can be collected and used on future turns to dive into any ocean depth, adding a strategic element.

Looks like crabmeat’s back on the menu, boys

Solo Mode. The prototype version of solitaire play involved a player taking normal turns and a single AI penguin drawing random tiles each turn, one depth at a time. Because there was no interaction between the players, I found the AI score for comparison was random. The designers shared with me that the production copy solo rules will be changed as follows:

“The AI will take a face-up tile if you leave it behind and they hit an enemy. It makes it a lot more challenging and it also makes it so that you do need to care about where they are in their dive so that you don’t leave any juicy food for them to snap up.”

Alongside this updated rule set, which makes a big difference, I think there is room for some additional AI options:

  • Hungry Hungry Penguin AI always takes the highest-point food showing (if any).
  • Follow the Leader AI chases my penguins through the ocean, picking up everything we leave behind.

Accessibility Review: Color Vision Barriers

Flatout Games has a track record of excellence in colorblind-friendly and low vision-friendly games. Unfortunately, Deep Dive did not meet this standard. I struggled mightily with the colors in this game, rendering it unplayable until I made post-production markups to my review copy.

Kudos: Ocean Depth Tiles

Starting with the positive, the ocean tiles showing five different depths were handled well. I found the different shades of blue easy to distinguish from one another, and each tile included a number of dots (1-5) corresponding to its depth. This made resetting the game and cleaning up easy, which can sometimes be an additional hurdle for colorblind gamers.

Back of ocean tiles

Accessibility Barrier: Player Colors

Any game that plays up to six and uses a full-color palette will struggle to identify six separate colors that are distinguishable by color-deficient players. I found the Deep Dive player colors to be pretty good in general, though I had minor confusion with the Green/Red and Blue/Purple/Pink combinations.

Deep Dive player colors

Accessibility Barrier: Fish Colors

Unfortunately, I just could not distinguish the pink and green tiles from each other in real-world conditions. I had the most trouble with the crab, school of small fish, and squid, though I mixed up all types of tiles at some point. As shown in the image below, this resulted in a mid-game error during solo play, when I placed a green squid in the pink column of my collection.

Pink (with a rogue green squid – oops), yellow, and green columns

It’s important to note that I am an individual with a particular type and level of color vision deficiency (moderate deuteranopia), as is each colorblind person. For example, I spoke with game designer Peter McPherson (mild protanopia) about his experience playing an early version of Deep Dive as a colorblind gamer, which differed from mine.

“I played a prototype a while ago and didn’t have issues, but that was a different version, and you and I have different color deficiencies.”

I first played Deep Dive in person with co-designer and co-publisher Shawn Stankewich, and we discussed my color vision concerns in person at the table, and later via email. Shawn was quick to take responsibility for the unintentional barriers, and he provided important context about the publishing process.

“As you know, we certainly do our best to make our games as accessible as possible and realize we missed an opportunity on this one. We did not take the extra step to run the final components by people with different colorblindness issues.

One of the unfortunate things was that the color palette appeared more differentiated before it was finalized into the artwork with effects and slight changes made as part of illustration. It’s an important lesson that graphic design elements like double-coding with icons are always better to rely on than the illustrations themselves, because your illustrator will be making changes to the palette by using different strokes/effects, etc.

The greatest challenge was that we were trying to do a lot in a short period of time, but that is not an excuse to fall short on accessibility. We can always do better.”

Color Vision Modifications

To overcome the color vision barriers I experienced in Deep Dive, I modified some of the tile and meeple components.

Player Colors. For my personal play experience, focused on the colors I was most likely to confuse. For example, I could see the red and yellow meeples clearly, but I sometimes confused green/red and yellow/green. So by adding a small vertical line to the green penguins, it was easier for me to compare green to either the red or yellow pieces. This also reduces the potential distraction for other players who don’t need these modifications.

Similarly, since purple in this palette was a darker tone than blue, I was able to distinguish those in most lighting conditions. But the pink (they look dark pink to me) and purple penguins looked close to each other on the table. So I added a small dot to each pink penguin (evocative of an eye, matching the game box art) to help.

Marked up pink and green penguins

Deep Dive designed three different penguin meeples per color, which reminded me of the excellent Isle of Cats (CBG review) approach to double-coding its meeowples (yes, cat meeples are called meeowples, I looked it up). A future accessibility upgrade could include distinguishing the penguins by both color and design (all green penguins slide on their belly, all red penguins stand upright, etc.).

Food Tiles. Similarly, I did not have trouble with the yellow food tiles, so I left those alone. I asked a family member to separate the tiles into matching color piles, and then I added markings to the pink, green, and wild (multi-color) tiles.

  • The dot for pink and line for green matched the same “language” I used on the penguins, making it easy for me to remember the markings and call them pink and green during play, not dot and line.
  • Putting the markings in different places (dots are top-middle, lines are top-left corner) provided another easy code. This might also help low vision players who are also colorblind; the small dots and lines could be hard to distinguish.
  • The darkest depth was too dark for the black sharpie to show, so I marked on the squid itself, which was not ideal but got the job done.
  • Since the wild food already has a “P” (as a crowdfunding promo) it technically did not need to be marked up now. But if future, different promos are added with the same indicator, I want to be sure these are clearly distinguishable as wild tokens.
Modifications for pink, green, and wild tiles

Playing Deep Dive after the mods was an entirely new experience. Without squinting, asking for help, or using a smart phone assistance tool, I was able to just play the game as designed with no unintentional barriers. I focused on my own gameplay decisions and had a great time collecting fish from the ocean!


Deep Dive is a fun, quick, push-your-luck set collection game that teaches and plays quickly, and I can recommend it as both a family game and a quick filler for beginning/end of a game night. I also see hints of some next-level strategies that are likely to keep the game fresh for a long time.

Color vision accessibility was a miss for me, unfortunately, but you will want to review the components yourself before making a purchasing decision. Your experience could be different than mine, even if you’re also a colorblind game, but you should be prepared to modify your game before playing.

Deep Dive will be available as a crowdfunding campaign in March 2023. You can follow its progress at

Disclaimers and Image Credits

  • Colorblind Games received a pre-press prototype copy of this game from the publisher for this review. It is very close to final, but the published version may included a few edits and changes.
  • Brian has served as a volunteer playtester and rules editor for several Flatout Games titles, including this one (see About Me for game credits).
  • Image Credits: Box Art, second and last photos: Flatout Games. All others: Brian Chandler

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