Ravensburger with license from Universal Pictures just released a new game based on the classic film JAWS. Since being introduced to the game back at the New York Toy Fair in February I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of it and I am happy to say I was lucky enough to be sent a copy by the people at Ravensburger to review because the game lived up to my expectations.
So before I get into a recap of the gameplay and overall thoughts I wanted to first take a look at the game packaging and design. The game which is now available uses the classic Jaws poster on the box cover was a no brainer as it has been the staple artwork for the movie for 45 years. However Ravensburger carried that theme throughout the box art including around the inner sides and even the interior of the box. The game board, swimmer tokens, and cards also have an art style that flows with the classic cover which to me created an overall pleasing aesthetic. Another unique feature of the game is the double sided game board used for playing each act of the game. These details create an authentic feel when playing the game and in my opinion enhance the gameplay.
So about the game play; without going into every minute detail of the rules JAWS plays out very similar to the movie. What makes this game unique from other games though is that the game is spread out over two acts with the shark first terrorizing Amity Island and feeding on swimmers and then moving to the Quint’s boat the Orca for the final confrontation with each act using a different side of the game board. Another feature of the game is the asymmetrical play with one player as the shark Pitted against the other players playing as the crew. While the game can be played by playing either act standalone game my feeling is that the game is not so long that you shouldn’t just play through both parts.
The first act is set on Amity Island and creates the basis for the second half of the game. Ultimately in this act the shark’s main goal is to eat as many swimmers as possible while avoiding detection; while the crew’s main task is to save as many swimmers as possible while finding and attaching barrels to the shark before too many swimmers are eaten. The quicker the crew is to saving swimmers and attaching barrels to the shark the weaker the shark is in act two while the more swimmers the shark eats the more powerful the shark is in the second act.
What makes this act fun for the shark is the hidden movement
element in this act. The shark while really only having two options in this act
(move around Amity Island or eat swimmers) can basically maneuver anywhere
around the island and with the added help of a few one and done special
abilities I found the shark has some serious advantages throughout the first
act. It also creates a great guessing game for the crew in trying to locate the
shark. As an added bonus after making my moves as the shark I found it really
fun announcing when swimmers were eaten.
However the crew are not entirely helpless in this act. Working together the crew can do a very good job of pinpointing where the shark is and getting barrels attached to the shark. The crew does this by using each of their unique abilities; such as moving around the island trying to spot the shark; shutting beaches down to reduce the number of places the shark can feed; or launching barrels trying to hit the shark. For the crew it was fun deducing where the shark might be based on what the shark did that particular round
Act one ends when either the shark has feasted on nine swimmers
or two barrels have been attached to the shark.
In act two the action moves from Amity Island to Quint’s
boat the Orca where the crew are desperately trying to eliminate the shark
before the shark either destroys the Orca completely or eliminates all the crew
members. This is also where a unique part of the game takes place in that you turn
the board over and now play on the other side of the game board. Based on how
well the shark did at eating swimmers or how quickly the crew attached barrels
to the shark in the first act players receive bonuses which determine how
strong either side is. If for example the crew did a good job in act one they
will enter act two with more supplies whereas if the shark ate a lot of
swimmers in the first act the shark will have become very strong and will gain
more abilities in the second act.
While both acts have unique styles of play they both share a sense of guess work by the members of the crew in order to figure out where the shark is. The second act however felt a little more limiting when playing as the shark since you can only choose to attack one of three specific spots on the boat in a round while in the first act the shark is free to maneuver anywhere around Amity Island.
In this act three cards get flipped over which indicate the
areas of the boat the shark can resurface at in that round. Each card though has
different conditions which may make it more appealing for the shark to
resurface at over the other two. Once the person playing the shark secretly
chooses one of the three spots to attack the crew begin to prepare by getting
weapons ready and choosing the spot where they think the shark will attack.
Once the crew has chosen their spots the shark resurfaces and any crew that
correctly guessed where the shark resurfaced gets to attack the shark. Once
done the shark then gets to attack the boat and crew. Attacking is done by
rolling dice and assessing damage with thresholds and number of dice rolled
based on which spot of the boat was chosen.
Act two ends with the crew winning once they deal enough damage to the shark without the boat being completely destroyed or with the shark winning if it completely destroys the boat or eliminates all of the crew.
Where the first act has a larger scope of what is happening on the island the second act is a bit more intimate as it condenses game play to just the boat. I would say having played as the shark I enjoyed act one a bit more as I felt I had more freedom to move around the island and keep the crew members guessing where I ended up. It could be a product of how poorly I was rolling the dice in act two but I found act two seemed to favor the crew a drop more since there really was only a choice of one of three possible locations I as the shark was able to surface to while in act one as the shark I could end up anywhere making that act more fun.
Picking up the rules wasn’t hard however because the game is played over the two acts there are two sets of rules players need to learn which for the first act isn’t that bad as you have not started the game however this does end up stopping the flow of the game as you have to stop gameplay to explain the act two rules. This won’t be as big an issue through subsequent gameplays but is something I noticed my first time through.
My overall impressions though was that I enjoyed playing the game and really enjoyed the secret movement dynamic in the first act as well the unique gameplay with flipping the board. Just like the movie where the shark terrorizes the island but ultimately ends up on the Orca I felt the two acts in the game had a really authentic feel to it. If you are a JAWS fan I highly recommend picking up this game as you can’t go wrong with the aesthetic or gameplay.
Time: 50 Minutes
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