How To Play: Abyss – Setup, rule summary and strategy

Abyss is a deep, strategic board game where mastering alliance/enemy selection, monster battles, and pearl economy is key. Our guide offers comprehensive insights into setup, gameplay, winning strategies, and managing resources effectively. With experience and clever gameplay, players can navigate the treacherous waters of Abyss to victory.

Hey fellow gamers, Jamie here! You know, playing Abyss has been an absolute blast with my crew. We’ve delved, we’ve laughed, and yes, we’ve screamed in defeat. I’m excited to share with you a guide that covers not just the basics on How To Play Abyss, but also dishes out the best strategies to claim victory. Whether you’re aiming to rule the underwater cities or just looking to have fun, I’ve got you covered.


What’s in the box

  • 1 game board
  • 71 Exploration cards
  • 35 Location tiles
  • 50 Ally cards
  • 20 Lord cards
  • 20 Monster tokens
  • 10 Key tokens
  • 1 Threat token
  • 125 Pearl tokens
  • 1 Abyss token
  • 5 Shell cups
  • 5 Score markers
  • 1 First Player marker

How To Play Abyss: Rules Summary


  1. Place the game board in the center of the table.
  2. Shuffle the Exploration, Ally, and Lord cards separately and place them in their designated spots on the board.
  3. Distribute pearls (the game currency) to each player. Starting pearls depend on player order.
  4. Each player picks a color and takes the corresponding council member, score marker, and shell cup.
  5. Place Monster tokens, Key tokens, and the Threat token on their respective places.


  1. Players take turns in clockwise order.
  2. On your turn, choose one of three actions: Explore the Depths, Request Support from the Council, or Recruit a Lord. You cannot do the same action twice in a row.
  3. Exploring the Depths involves revealing Exploration cards and deciding whether to keep or auction them.
  4. Requesting Support allows you to take all Ally cards of one type from the council.
  5. Recruiting a Lord requires you to spend Ally cards of matching colors. Lords grant you special abilities and keys.
  6. After performing an action, check if you can control a Location by spending keys. Locations provide additional points or benefits.


  1. The game ends when a player recruits their seventh Lord or any pile of Lord cards is depleted.
  2. Players then add up points from Lords, Locations, and any bonus achievements.
  3. The player with the most points wins. If there’s a tie, the player with the most pearls wins.

Special Rules & Conditions

  1. Monster battles occur when a Monster token is revealed during Exploration. You must choose to fight (spending Allies) or retreat (losing pearls).
  2. Some Lords have immediate effects when recruited, while others have abilities that can be used once each turn.
  3. Abyssal Council members can be used to recruit certain Lords at a reduced cost.
  4. Special Locations offer unique strategic advantages but are harder to control.

This guide serves as a quick overview designed to get new players up and playing in no time. A few games in, and you’ll start spotting deeper strategies and tactics to explore. Remember, the key to victory in Abyss lies in making smart decisions, managing resources wisely, and sometimes, a bit of luck. Happy gaming!

Best Abyss Strategies

Mastering the Depths: Alliance and Enemy Selection in Abyss

Choosing the right allies and enemies is crucial in Abyss. Follow these strategies to come out on top.

Navigating Alliances

  1. Always gauge the board. Look at who’s leading and consider aligning with those behind to curb their progress.
  2. Swap alliances strategically. Don’t stick with one partner; diversify your bonds to reap benefits from various sides.
  3. Use alliances as a bargaining chip. Offer your support in exchange for resources you need.

Choosing Your Battles

  1. Target enemies carefully. Don’t just attack the leader; sometimes, weakening a middle player can be more beneficial.
  2. Keep your enemies close. Knowing their strategies allows you to predict and counter their moves effectively.
  3. Utilize timing. Strike when your opponents least expect it to maximize the impact of your actions.

Managing Perceptions

  1. Project weakness when strong. Mislead competitors into underestimating you.
  2. Conversely, appear stronger when weak. Bluffing can deter others from attacking you.
  3. Always adapt. The key to winning is not just forming alliances but also knowing when to break them for your gain.

Mastering Monster Battles in Abyss

Facing monsters in Abyss isn’t just about luck; it’s about strategy. Here’s how to come out on top.

Know When to Fight

  1. Consider your current resources. If you’re rich in allies, it might be time.
  2. Look at the board. Sometimes, the right monsters give great rewards.

Maximize Your Allies

  1. Use allies that match the monster’s depth. This gives extra power.
  2. Save your strong allies for bigger fights. Don’t waste them on small monsters.

Plan Your Rewards

  1. Think ahead. Choose rewards that fit your game plan.
  2. Remember, pearls can buy victory points later. So, grabbing them from monsters can be a smart move.

Mastering the Pearl Economy: Your Path to Victory in Abyss

Managing your pearls in Abyss is like balancing a checkbook while riding a rollercoaster. It’s thrilling, a bit scary, but oh-so-rewarding when done right. Let’s break down the strategies for becoming a pearl mogul.

Accumulate Early

  1. Grab pearls whenever you can, even if it seems like a small gain. These early pearls add fuel for later moves.

Spend Wisely

  1. Don’t splurge on cards just because you can. Think of the future. Will this card benefit you more than a handful of pearls later?

Timing is Everything

  1. Wait for the right moment to spend your pearls. Sometimes, holding back a little longer can lead to a much more lucrative opportunity.

Remember, folks, managing your pearls in Abyss isn’t just about counting and spending. It’s about strategic planning, forecasting your needs, and sometimes, just going with your gut. Happy diving!

Mastering the Depths: Your Key to Victory

Well, there you have it. After countless hours with friends, dramatic comebacks, and some truly memorable monster bashes, we’ve surfaced from the Abyss with insights galore. Remember, balancing your pearl economy, choosing allies wisely, and knowing when to take on those sea monsters can turn the tide in your favor. Abyss is not just about the luck of the draw; it’s a test of strategy, negotiation, and timing. So, gather your courage, dive back into the deep, and let these strategies guide you to being the undisputed ruler of the Abyss. May your reign be long and your victories legendary!

Want to know what we think of Abyss? Read our detailed review of Abyss here

Jamie in his proper element: With all of his board games
Jamie Hopkins

With years of dice-rolling, card-flipping, and strategic planning under my belt, I've transformed my passion into expertise. I thrive on dissecting the mechanics and social dynamics of board games, sharing insights from countless game nights with friends. I dive deep into gameplay mechanics, while emphasizing the social joys of gaming. While I appreciate themes and visuals, it's the strategy and camaraderie that truly capture my heart.