Normally, boardgames with a sufficiently wacky theme use humor to cover up lackluster and uninspired gameplay. Normally, games have to be at least halfway decent to make it into Fantasy Flight's "Silver Line" series. So, when I saw a Silver Line game about an experimental Russian Cold War submarine run by gnomes... well, I wasn't sure what to think. Since you're reading about it here, you can probably guess that it's more good than bad.
Forget about the theme for a moment. The game is a cooperative game for 2 to 8 players. On your turn, you can move (which takes time) and you can take one action (usually fixing something that's broken... which also takes time). A time track around the outer edge of the board lets you keep track of how much time you're spending this turn, and also how much time you have left. The object of the game, you see, is for all players to survive a full 60 minutes (after which, presumably, you're rescued by an American sub and you can all defect properly).
The problem is that for every 3 minutes you use on your turn, you have to flip over an event card after your turn ends. Most event cards cause things to break. So, you can fix one problem in the sub only to have three or four other problems take its place. As a result, the game tends to become more frantic as you approach the endgame, leading to nice pacing.
Turns are not performed in conventional around-the-table order. Rather, whoever has the most time remaining (that is, the person who has used the least amount of time so far) takes the next turn. This means a single player may take several turns in a row, and also that a player who uses a lot of time on a single turn may have to wait a while until their next turn. Thankfully, since this is a cooperative game, "whose turn it is" is less important, since everyone is constantly kibitzing on everyone else's turn. You're all in this together, after all.
Interestingly, most actions have a risk/reward choice to make. To fix something, you can spend anywhere between 1 and 10 minutes on the attempt. You then roll a 10-sided die, and if you roll less than or equal to the time you spent, you succeed. (If you fail, you don't do any further damage, but you have wasted a lot of time... which is often just as bad.) So, you can take 10 minutes and fix something for sure, only to flip 3 or 4 event cards to cause other things to go horribly wrong. Or, you can take less time and reduce the number of events... but then you might not fix it at all. It's all a question of choosing your battles: what NEEDS to get fixed, what's IMPORTANT to fix, and what would be NICE to fix if you've got nothing better to do. It's not unlike being a producer of a large videogame team, but I digress.
For most of the game, it's purely cooperative. You're all working to keep the sub from exploding, crashing, running out of oxygen, and so on, and usually you either all win or all lose together. However, the designers play with this a bit by adding one little rule that completely changes the nature of the endgame. Somewhere on board, there are some diving suit items that let you exit the sub for a single turn (sometimes you have to do this to stop everyone from dying). If your character has fewer than 10 minutes remaining -- you're almost there, but then this usually means you're all almost dead -- you can leave the sub and abandon your comrades if you have one of the diving suits. Doing this effectively reverses your victory condition: if everyone else survives, the yellow-bellied coward loses; if the sub dies, the coward wins a sole victory as the only survivor. Thus, near the end you have to decide whether you can trust the other players, or whether one of them is going to get too selfish for their own good. (The designers even include an optional rule to allow players to kill one another during this time as an action, effectively treating potential dissenters as problems that can be "fixed," which adds a tense dynamic to the end.)
All in all, the game does have a random feel to it due to the event cards and die rolls. But there are precious few cooperative games, and even fewer that play with the concept of cooperativity, so this is worth trying out for that aspect if nothing else. On the bright side, it scales well to any number of players; the number of events per player is constant, so more people means more opportunities to fix things... but also more things that get broken.