Are you the type of nice policeman, beardy navy veteran, cunning scientist or a real shark after all? In the new Jaws board game, players slip into the roles of the classic film of the same name and can experience it in a completely different way. Because the outcome remains uncertain…
Razor-sharp teeth in a huge mouth rising from the depths of the sea – everyone has probably seen this film poster. Jaws is one of those films that is still known almost half a century later and is considered by film experts to be the first blockbuster. Ravensburger Spiele have now helped to ensure that this film will remain in the collective memory with their board game.
Just like the gripping thriller, the Jaws board game is set on Amity Island, an island that is popular with holidaymakers mainly because of its bathing beaches. But one day it is beset by gruesome attacks from a man-eating great white shark. So far, so familiar. As big movie enthusiasts and huge board game fans, we were particularly curious to see what the Jaws board game had to offer.
How well has the blockbuster been converted into a board game?
Are the chances of the shark and the people fighting it balanced?.
For whom is the game worthwhile?
Find out this and more in our review.
Transparency note: The Ravensburger publishing house kindly provided us with a review copy of the game. However, this review of the game Jaws is not compensated and reflects our personal opinion.
This is a so-called asymmetrical game. This means: the starting position, the objectives and even the way of playing are not the same for all players, but depend strongly on the role taken. In this case, there are 2 teams fighting each other: on one side, Jaws; on the other, 3 people who oppose him together: Police Chief Martin Brody, professional shark hunter Quint and oceanographer Hooper.
These are also collectively called simply the “crew” in the game, as they form the crew of the Orca in the second act.
Another special feature of this play is that it is divided into 2 separate acts . This also corresponds very well to the two-act structure of the film Jaws. Each act has its own game board (front and back) and different rules. It is basically 2 games, with the outcome of the first act affecting the distribution of chances in the second.
Since the crew always plays together as a team, it can be played by 1, 2 or even 3 players, making the Jaws board game playable for 2-4 players.
“When you open the beaches on the 4th of July, it’s like ringing the dinner bell for him!” (Hooper in Jaws)
After you have determined who is playing which character(s) and have completed the game setup for Act 1, you are ready to go. The player playing the shark keeps a record of his actions on a separate pad. He also enters his starting position here – as he is invisible to the crew, his playing piece is not on the game board!
The goal of the shark is now to eat as many swimmers as possible. The goal of the crew is firstly to stop this and secondly to attach barrels to the shark. Act 1 ends either when the shark has eaten 9 swimmers or the crew has managed to attach 2 barrels to it.
Act 1 is played in rounds, with each round consisting of 3 phases.
The top event card is turned face up from the deck. The event cards indicate with the abbreviations N, S, E and W (cardinal directions) on which beaches how many swimmers are to be placed. In addition, there is also an instruction on each that determines certain actions or rules for that round, e.g.:
It is the white shark’s turn. It may now perform up to 3 actions and 1 additional ability. The standard actions are “Move through the water” (1 space) and “Eat 1 swimmer“.
In addition, the shark has 4 extra abilities: Feeding Frenzy, Evasive Manoeuvre, Out of Sight and Turbo. However, the restriction applies to these that each of them may only be used 1 time in the game and is then used up. As a shark, you should therefore think carefully about when to use them tactically.
The shark performs its actions in secret and keeps a record of them on its notepad.
It simply tells the crew:
From this information, the crew members now try to deduce where the shark might be. Each crew member may perform up to 4 actions. You can decide in which order the crew members take their turn, but they must not act in confusion.
The different characters all have the actions “Move” and “Rescue 1 swimmer“, but they also have different abilities. For example, only Brody can close a beach, only Quint can throw a barrel, and only Hooper can use the fish finder, etc. Therefore, it makes sense for the crew to first discuss and think together about which actions they want to perform and in what order.
Brody: “You want to get on the water?” Hooper: “If we’re looking for a shark, we’re unlikely to find it on land.” (Jaws)
It is not until Act 2 that the crew comes face to face with the shark. For this, both the game board and the character boards of all players are turned over. The result of Act 1 now directly affects the chances in Act 2: the more swimmers the shark was able to eat in Act 1, the more additional abilities it receives and the less equipment the crew members receive. Both are handed out in the form of certain cards.
The game board now shows Quint’s boat, the Orca and below it 3 squares marked A, B and C for the so-called emergence cards. These indicate possibilities where the shark may surface.
Act 2 also proceeds in rounds. At the beginning of a round, the shark is under water and emerges in one of the 8 zones around the Orca. The crew tries to guess where the shark will do this and then attack it. Eventually the shark attacks the boat or crew members before finally diving back down.
Each round is divided into 6 phases:
In phase 1 and 2, the decision is made where the shark will surface. 3 new emergence cards are placed from the deck on spaces A, B and C and the shark makes a secret choice by placing one of 3 letter chips face down in front of it. In addition, since the emergence cards affect the shark’s chances in the round through certain values, they have varying degrees of attractiveness for the shark.
Accordingly, the crew now has a good basis in phase 3 to speculate which field the shark might have chosen and to make preparations based on this. Each crew member can move up to 2 spaces on the boat, choose a weapon and place his target chip on the space where the shark is expected to appear.
Then the shark appears (phase 4): if necessary, a special ability of the shark is now used. In phase 5, the crew goes on the attack. There are melee, shooting and catching weapons with different characteristics. In each case, special hit dice are rolled and then a comparison with the shark’s current evasion value is used to determine whether and how badly the shark has been wounded.
Finally, in phase 6, the shark may go on the attack and either attack the boat or attack a crew member. However, the latter is only possible if a crew member is already in the water. Under certain circumstances, even certain additional attacks are possible.
The Jaws board game has 3 possible game endings:
The concept of the Jaws board game is original in that it is based on a classic film, but you go from being a passive spectator to an active participant. The game’s author Prospero Hall has also succeeded in translating the film’s plot into a board game, which is reflected in the two-act structure, among other things. The richness of detail in the game concept and the design of the game material suggest that truly passionate fans of the film were at work here.
The price/performance ratio is difficult to assess, as the Jaws board game is currently (September 2020) available for order at very different prices. The lowest price is currently offered by amazon* at € 19.81, which is a very good price for a High Concept board game with this amount of material.
We had fun playing it because we love cooperative, story-heavy games and the Jaws board game is very successful in that regard. Plus, we all knew the original film so we were able to empathise with the plot and celebrate the references to the film. However, the instructions are quite long, but there is also an easy-to-understand explanatory version as a YouTube video, which, however, also lasts a whopping 30 min.
So a quick start is not given here, especially since both acts of the game are played quite differently.
Ravensburger’s own description of the game as a “strategy game with suspense” should also be critically questioned. Yes, strategy is very important for the game and especially with the crew team it makes a great appeal of the game to discuss and consider the best course of action. But chance or luck also plays a big role, especially in the second act where a lot depends on which cards are on the table and whether the dice are lucky. In this respect, fans of pure strategy games may find fault with the fact that the player does not have everything in his hands.
Also, in Act 2, the shark seemed to us to be in a much weaker position than the crew (although it had eaten quite well in Act 1) and consequently lost relatively quickly. Whether card and dice luck were decisive for this outcome will be put through its paces in the next rounds of play. Of course, the tension was no longer really great. We are curious to see whether the next games will show that the chances for shark and crew are balanced. Or is it perhaps even intentional that the shark loses more often in order to come close to the happy ending of the film?
Fans of the film and friends of cooperative games that are primarily about a shared experience and a cool story will get their money’s worth here!
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a sophisticated strategy game with even odds, or if you can’t do anything with the film at all, you are better off with other games.
Shark vs. Crew in 2 entertaining acts that provide a dramaturgical boost. The Jaws board game is an original take on the classic film, well worth playing for fans of the film and friends of cooperative games.
Fancy some more tips for cooperative games? Maybe The Legends of Andor or the Forbidden Island board game are exactly what you are looking for!
Here at Abenteuer Freundschaft, you can find reviews as well as complete instructions for free games such as the dice game Macke in our game tips. In addition, you can discover many more leisure ideas for activities with friends, with children and for couples on our blog!
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