Rules of OCEANS


The goal of Oceans is to thrive in an ever-changing ecosystem where food is scarce and predators lurk. The population of your species can grow by foraging from the Reef , attacking other species, or passively gaining from the Ocean . So evolve your species to best ensure their survival. At the end of the game, you will score 1 point for each population token you accumulated over the course of the game. The core rules of Oceans as explained here will get modified during the game.

• Scenario cards override the core rules and apply to every species in play.

• Trait cards override the core rules and the Scenario cards, but they only apply to the species on which they are played. Most traits have an understood “This species” at the start of the card textbox.


Players take turns in clockwise order, beginning with the start player. Each player’s turn consists of 4 phases:

1. Playing Cards – Play 1 card (or 2 cards)
2. Feeding – Feed 1 species
3. Aging – Score 1 (or 2) population from each of your species
4. Drawing Cards – Discard & draw back up to 6 cards


Play 1 Surface card during this phase if the Cambrian Explosion has not yet started. Once the Cambrian Explosion has started, you will play 2 cards (Surface and/or Deep). Cards may be played to evolve a species, or to migrate population. In addition, you may remove traits from your species anytime during this phase. Surface cards are placed face-up in the discard pile and Deep cards are removed from the game. Check for anything that needs to be reevaluated now that the trait is no longer in play (Overpopulation, maximum trait count, etc).

EVOLVE: Most of your cards will be played as traits to evolve one of your species. You may play a trait on a new species or on an existing species.

1. Take a free species board from the supply and place it so that the fish are facing away from you. A new species may be placed on either side of your existing species, or in between any two of your existing species.
2. Place the trait along the dark-blue border on the left of the species board. The species is now in play and the trait is now active.

1. Place the trait along the dark-blue border on the left of an existing species board. The trait is now active.
2. A species may have multiple copies of the same trait (trait effects are cumulative), but the maximum number of traits on any species is 3 unless a card explicitly allows for more.


Instead of using a card to evolve, you will sometimes use a card to migrate population. The number of population tokens you migrate is equal to the migrate number on the bottom left of the card you play, next to the migrate icon.
Discard a card from your hand to migrate population from one board location to another. First choose the location from which to migrate; either the Reef or an Ocean zone, and pick up the appropriate number of population. Then choose the location for the population to migrate to, and place the population in that location (either the Reef or an Ocean zone). If you migrate from the Reef and the migrate number is greater than the available population, only move what is available. If you migrate from the Ocean, you will always take the full amount. The Ocean never runs out of population. If the chosen Ocean zone runs out of population, take the remaining amount from the leftmost Ocean zone that has population.


Choose 1 of your species to feed. It may either forage to take population from the Reef , or attack to take population from another species.

Important Feeding Rules
• A species may not forage or attack unless it would take at least 1 population.
• A species may not forage or attack unless it has an open space on its species board.
• A species may not take more population than open spaces on its species board.
• You may never place a population token on the space with the fishbones unless it is the only available space on the species board.
• Whenever possible, a species must take its total forage or attack value. You may not choose to take less to avoid overpopulation.

FORAGE: Add up the green icons on the traits of the feeding species to get its forage value. Take that number of population from the Reef and move them to the forager’s species board. A species that does not have any green icons on any of its trait cards automatically gets a forage value of 1. A species may never forage if it has regardless of whether it has other forage icons.


If the Cambrian Explosion has not yet started, remove 1 population from each of your species and place it behind your player screen in your score pile. If the Cambrian Explosion has started, place 2 population from each of your species into your score pile. Score all of your population if you
cannot score the full amount. A species goes extinct if it is not able to age the full amount. When a species goes extinct, discard all of its traits and put the species board back into the communal supply.

• Although only 1 of your species will feed each turn, all of your species age!
• If your species is reduced to 0 population on another player’s turn, it does not go extinct.
You will have an opportunity to feed it during your next turn before your aging phase.


Go through each of the following steps:
1. You may draw 1 Deep card:

• Draw the top face-up card from a Gene Pool pile. If a Gene Pool pile is emptied, flip the top card of the Deep deck face-up to form a new pile.
– or –
• Draw 3 cards from the Deep deck. Choose 1 to keep in your hand, and place the others face-up on each Gene Pool pile.

2. You may discard any number of Surface cards from your hand. You may not discard Deep cards.
3. Draw from the Surface deck until you have a total of 6 cards in your hand (Surface and Deep). If the Surface deck runs out, shuffle the discard pile to form a new deck.
Your turn is now over, and play passes to the player to your left.


Defensive Traits
Traits with black textboxes are defensive traits that may prevent a species from attacking it. Some defensive traits have a shell icon. Each shell icon reduces the number of population taken from an attack by the number in the shell icon. Shell icons don’t reduce the attack value of the attacking species, just the number of population it takes.

Adjacency Arrows
Every species in Oceans lives in the same environment: the left-most species of each player is adjacent to the right-most species of the next player. Many traits trigger based on the feeding of an adjacent species. The arrow icon at the bottom of a trait refers to the species immediately adjacent to that side

Feeding may trigger a gains icon on another species, including a species belonging to another player. When a species gains population, it takes the number of population in the blue gains icon from the 1st Ocean zone. If the 1st Ocean zone is empty (or becomes empty), continue taking population from the 2nd Ocean zone, and from the 3rd Ocean zone if the 2nd becomes empty. If the 3rd Ocean zone becomes empty, place the 60 “reserve” population into the 3rd Ocean zone so that every triggered trait is able to take the proper amount of population.

After each feeding, resolve everything that was triggered from the feeding, then check for overpopulation. Overpopulation occurs if any species has a population token on the space with the fishbones. Each species that overpopulates loses population until only 5 population remain on the species board. The owner of the species may put the lost population in the Reef or in any one Ocean zone. If a species overpopulates when resolving its own feeding, it may not feed again this turn even if it has a trait such as Tentacled that would normally allow it to feed again. Triggering another species to overpopulate does not end your feeding.


There are 2 types of Scenario cards. Blue Scenario cards have ongoing effects, and Purple Scenario cards have events that get triggered. Blue Scenario cards are active
whenever there is no population in its Ocean zone. Purple Scenario cards get triggered each time the Ocean zone is emptied. This might happen multiple times during a game if population is migrated (or moved because of a Deep card cost) back onto its Ocean zone. Scenario cards activate when the last population is removed from its Ocean zone. Make sure to resolve everything triggered (like gains and overpopulating) before activating the Scenario card.

Scenario Card Icons:
Scenario cards with the teeth icon create a more aggressive environment.
Scenario cards with the diamond icon are more complex.
Scenario cards with the lightning icon are events.


The Cambrian Explosion is a period in Earth’s history when a proliferation of new species came into existence. It took place over 500 million years ago and lasted for about 25 million years. Scientists don’t know what caused the Cambrian Explosion but it was likely due to an increase in oceanic oxygen levels.

The Cambrian Explosion starts when the 1st Ocean zone becomes empty, and continues until the end of the game. Remove the Cambrian Explosion card from the 1st Ocean zone as a reminder that it will never be deactivated. If the Cambrian Explosion begins during a player’s playing cards phase, they may immediately play a second card (Surface or Deep). If it begins afterwards, they may not return to their playing cards phase to play a second card.

During the Cambrian Explosion:

• You play 2 cards per turn instead of 1.
• You score 2 population during aging instead of 1.
• You may play Deep cards as well as Surface cards.  Deep cards have an extra cost


Lurking deep below the surface lie mysteries so bizarre they seem unnatural when first discovered: massive predators, glowing horrors, and beautiful luminescent creatures. These species hardly seem possible in the realm of biology, and yet they turn out to be real. The Deep represents the wonder of scientific discovery, with traits ranging from actual marine biology to the fantastic. Venture into the deep at your own risk!

Every card in the Deep is unique, powerful, and has a cost if you use it to evolve a species! They may be played to evolve a species or to migrate population.

To evolve a species:

1) Pay the cost of the Deep card you are about to play by moving population equal to its
migrate number from your score pile to the Reef or any one Ocean zone.
2) Place the Deep trait on a new or existing species.

To migrate population:

You do not need to pay a cost when using a Deep card to migrate population. Remove the
card from the game after playing it.


The last round of the game is triggered immediately when every Ocean zone is completely empty of population. Place the 60 population tokens from the “reserve” zip-lock bag into the 3rd Ocean zone and continue playing as normal. The game ends when the final player in the turn order completes their turn, even if there is still population in the Reef.

Players score:

• 1 point for each population in their score pile.
• 1 point for each population on their surviving species.
• the points listed on their Bonus Token.

The player with the highest score wins. In case of a tie, the tied player with the most trait cards on their species wins. If there is still a tie, the first person to get a job on a fishing boat in Alaska is the winner!