You know, of all the movies I never thought I'd be playing a board game of as an adult, one based on the '70s blockbuster Jaws hadn't occurred to me. It's not like having a game based on Jaws is anything new. there was, in fact, a board game released in 1975 in time for the movie, but it mainly had you attacking junk at sea. Then there are the video games which should be avoided about as much as you should avoid Amity Island. But a couple of months ago it was announced that Ravensburger had created a new board game based on the iconic Steven Spielberg film. They sent us a copy to review, which I gladly took over to my local coffee shop, Watchtower Cafe, to give it a spin.
Jaws itself is divided into two acts and is treated like the second and third act of the actual film. These acts can be played together as one long game that takes about 45 minutes to play, or you can have some quick fun and do either act separately for a shorter game. The game is set for 2-4 players, one of whom takes on the role of the shark while the remaining players take on the three main stars of the movie. Those being police chief Martin Brody, the marine biologist Matt Hooper, and professional shark hunter Marion Quint. The first act takes place on Amity Island as the shark is killing people, while the second act takes place aboard Quint's boat as you hunt down the shark to keep the island safe.
Each side has its own tasks they need to complete in the game. The shark's tasks are pretty simple: move around without being detected and try to gobble up several swimmers. The three men all come with different abilities and tasks that they can do in order to stop the shark from eating people, or trying to detect it so they can move to the second act. If the shark eats a certain amount of people, it moves to the next phase regardless of progress made by the people. But, the people have a chance to move it onto the next phase as well by hooking two tracking barrels to the shark so they can trace it out to sea.
Coordinating the three characters is a lot harder than you might suspect, as Hooper and Quint have boats to get around and deploy barrels, as well as save swimmers and use tracking equipment to find the shark. Brody does all of his movement on the island, picking up new barrels for Hooper, using binoculars, and closing down different beaches. I found that when the three of them are coordinated and manage to work the beaches well, they can limit the shark's ability to do anything. However, if things are a mess or they slip up for a round, it's a buffet for the shark.
There's a fair amount of strategy in the first act on both sides as you're both tracking down an aquatic killer and trying to save as many people as possible. It almost seems pretty easy for the shark to get around, at least, that's how it was in our game as the shark comes with a few special ability cards that can help it get around or take huge amounts of people in a single bite. The first act was definitely the more challenging of the two as you're both racing to accomplish goals in order to build up to what happens in Act Two.
In Act 2, all bets are off as you're now directly fighting each other. As you can see from the card below, depending on how many people the shark ate, it gains abilities. Meanwhile, the more people eaten means the fewer resources the people have on The Orca. Essentially, each side is rewarded for what they manage to do. The shark gets abilities to use against the people on the Orca, as their objectives change and they try to sink the boat and east all three men. As for the people, they get random gear which includes guns, ammo, and chum, and some other surprises. All of which are used to attract the shark and eventually kill it. If you got the shark tracked early, you'll get extra gear. But if you let them eat all the people, you're left with the bare essentials.
The Second Act, as you can see below, puts all three men on the boat and the shark in the water. Using the cards along the base, the shark can choose which of the three options it wants to take a bite out of the ship. Each section basically has two health to it. If it gets hit once, it turns to floating wreckage. If it gets hit twice, it's now gone and is simply water. Meanwhile, the men on the top can move to almost any space and have bullseyes to point where they plan to attack if they think the shark is coming to that area. If they're correct, they can try to damage the shark until it dies. If they fail, they risk losing resources.
As you can see from this image, the shark basically decimated our team because we had few sources and they had a lot of cards to do damage with. Between the two acts, this one was definitely a blast, but it feels like it ends faster than it should. There are ways to balance it out and make it more of a challenge if you're doing just this part by itself. But no matter what, it's basically encouragement that if you're doing both acts in a single game, and you're one of the people, you need to tag that shark fast.
Overall, I loved Jaws. This is a board game with a ton of replay value, and if you're a fan of the original film, this is like reliving it on an interactive scale. I liken it to The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, where they took a frightening concept and managed to turn it into a challenging game. I highly recommend going out and getting it if you're looking for a cool party game for a small group. And hey, we're nearing the 4th of July weekend anyway, around the same time in the film, which seems like a perfect time to go get it and experience it near a pool.