Ravensburger grabbed the license and launched a board game based on the classic “The White Shark”. A licensed game ?! Not again, some players think, but finally shark horror is something for others. In the end, “The White Shark” turns out to be a pretty successful board game, where you finally have the chance to do better than the overwhelmed film characters.
It was 1975, a time when shallow shark horror could scare the average movie-goer. The effect was probably even greater in those who lived directly or near the coast. Today, at the time of the 45th birthday of the Spielberg film, the great white shark is no longer the feared specter all over the world. One thing was true then and still applies today: If you have the giant fish with razor-sharp teeth hanging on your swimming trunks, you have a problem.
A shark. Two sides. Three hunters. Four players.
You don't have to see the film that played a decisive role in the blockbuster era to get the thought: I could do better. With the board game “The White Shark” you finally have the chance. The starting position in the mid-seventies was terrifying. It all begins with a shark attack on a young woman - of all times during the holiday season. A deeply relaxed Roy Scheider wants - as a police chief with a sunny boy flair - to close the beaches. A visibly overwhelmed mayor sees the dollar bills floating away. That could also happen in 2020, but it happened in 1975, purely fictitious. So the residents of Amity go on a shark hunt after offering a hefty killing bonus.
And this is exactly where the board game for “The White Shark” starts. Two to four players start out looking for the underwater monster in a two-act board game. Because one has known since Berthold Brecht that the shark has teeth and wants to use them, a hunter-hunted principle develops between the shark on the one hand and the group of players on the other. Undetected by the players, the shark tries to eat as many swimmers as possible in the bathing village of Amity. The players, on the way as Quint, Brody or Hooper, want to prevent exactly that, find the shark and - as you know it - anchor barrels in its fishy leather. Pretty cool about it: One player controls the fate of the sea monster.
Three phases are played in rounds: Reveal the event card, carry out a shark action with a maximum of three game actions, then the crew can play. The phases of the hunter and the hunted or the hunter and the hunted - it's a question of perspective - differ significantly and that is exactly what makes for fun. The shark is allowed to move around and devour swimmers, but it can actually eat its way into a frenzy. The highlight is the Mister X principle, because the shark moves undetected by the players. He only enters his moves on a movement sheet, but does not tell the players what exactly he has done. He only reveals information about his feed intake and the corresponding location, as well as whether motion detectors have been triggered and, if so, which ones. From this the group then has to determine where the shark could be.
The players, on the other hand, use various special skills. Quint, marine biologist and captain of the “Orca”, can rescue swimmers or throw barrels into the sea or get them out. The barrels can hit the shark, two hang on him, the first act ends. Police chief Brody, on the other hand, moves through Amity, saves swimmers and goes on a shopping spree in the island's shop to buy new barrels. Even better: once per lap he can use binoculars to force the shark to reveal whether he is in the water or on the beach. He can also close the beach if there are no swimmers there. In this way, areas can be narrowed down further. Hooper, on the other hand, delivers new barrels to Quint, has a movement bonus. His “special” is the fish finder, which can be used once per round to obtain clues about the position of the shark.
Ameritrash meets Mister X
The basically simple idea works and certainly creates tension, also because it is not possible to get into the blue forever. For each swimmer eaten, one shark marker moves up on a tableau, at nine it ends and the first act ends. The other triggering condition would be to attach two barrels to the shark's back. You can see: you definitely get into the second act. The prerequisites for the shark and the hunter depend on which party has acted more cleverly. The more swimmers the shark was able to destroy, the higher the number of special cards the player receives. This is directly linked to the number of equipment cards the crew has.
Now the second act continues on the open sea - with the fight to the death. While the shark has to try to wipe out all three crew members or sink the boat, the players have to wound the shark by blowing a marker on the injury bar. In this phase, too, the shark chooses its actions secretly, so selects one of three emergence cards and places the corresponding marker tokens in front of it. Each round consists of a total of six phases. This continues until one of the three victory conditions has occurred.
The similarities to “Scotland Yard - The Search for Mister X” are hard to deny. Due to the interaction with the theme, “The White Shark” was more convincing in the end than the classic board game. The setting based on the horror flick has been implemented successfully and meets the template pretty well.
Whether you like the basic premise, including the rather shallow gameplay, is a matter of taste. Anyone who likes such duel concepts, in which a place of residence must be inferred according to an exclusion principle, will experience exciting moments with “The White Shark”, those who expect a strategic blast should lower their expectations and simply have fun - or to a more complex one Grab title.
In any case, playing the board game with four people is hardly desirable. In terms of play, there is no difference, because even in a two-player game, one of the players takes over all crew members - anything else would make no sense with the game principle of the split special ability and with reference to the victory conditions. The moves take a comparatively long time, so the game principle is gathered in the classic 1-on-1. But then the licensed board game unfolds its charm. The hunting principle is popular, is picking up speed, but is sometimes unnecessarily complicated by the rules.
After all: Due to the overall short playing time, a game will not be boring, even if the tactical possibilities are rather limited. For fans of the film, the added value of this board game is much higher. The setting is cool, the atmosphere from the horror classic is reflected on the gaming table. If you want, you can tackle the two acts separately and then as separate short games. If we had to choose, we advised the “Ameritrash” experience in the second half of the game. It is noticeable that players in “The White Shark” are not concerned with winning or losing a game, but with the interactions themselves: this board game thrives on its atmosphere and can thus hide one or the other playful inadequacy. Incidentally, the material cannot keep up: Such thin cardboard is rarely found in modern board games. Cubes and wooden figures are successful for this.
Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: around 50 to 70 minutes
Long-term motivation: medium
Published by Ravensburger
Author: Prospero Hall
Year of publication: 2020
Cost: 35 Euro
Ravensburger is not at all “family-like” with the shark horror, although “The White Shark” as a board game should also be fun for older children in contrast to the film, at least in a playful way, because the basic theme remains: It's about eating or being eaten will. The set of rules of the board game does not quite fit into the image of the family game - here one could have described something more vividly and comprehensibly at the editorial level. So it is difficult to get into the action, especially since “The White Shark” basically consists of two completely different board games. This trick was successful, especially because both acts build on each other - playfully and thematically - but without being conditioned. Those who have internalized the rules can - provided they are not a “thinker” - work through their moves in a short time, so that the net playing time is at least roughly within the scope of the publisher's information.
In the end, there is less behind the board game in terms of play than you would initially assume after you have plowed through the rules. Part one relies on the tried and tested hunter-hunted concept, which is not new in the board game segment, but has been processed in a cool setting here. The second part exudes the charm of an Ameritrash game, in which you hit each other on the hat as regularly as possible after you have diligently stocked up with all kinds of weapons. In any case, it is exciting, even if tactically shallow. The different special cards provide a little strategy, but especially in the second part there is also luck with the dice. The dance on the sinking boat is not a playful revelation, but it is entertaining.
“The white shark” in the form of a board game is not a big hit, it's a bit - you find your way into it, accept a few flaws, but then you can enjoy the atmosphere. Therefore, the following applies to the moderate rating: fans of the film can definitely add a few rating points.