Ravensburger grabbed the license and launched a board game based on the classic Jaws. A licensed game?! Not again, some players doubt, finally shark horror, the others are happy. In the end, Jaws 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 have seen the film, which heralded the blockbuster era, that often to think: I could do it better. With the board game "Jaws" you finally have the chance to do so. The starting position in the mid-seventies was frightening. It all begins with a shark attack on a young woman - just in the holiday season. A deeply relaxed Roy Scheider wants – as police chief with sunny boy flair – to have the beaches closed. 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 shark hunting after being offered a hefty kill bounty. 

A warning call that even Ralf Moeller couldn't have shouted better. Photo: André Volkmann

A warning call that even Ralf Moeller couldn't have shouted better. Photo: André Volkmann

And this is exactly where the board game for Jaws comes in. In a board game in two acts, two to four players first go in search of the underwater monster. Because it has been 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 seaside resort of Amity. The players, on the road as Quint, Brody or Hooper, want to prevent exactly that, find the shark and - you know it - anchor barrels in its fishy leather. Pretty cool: One player directs 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.

Beach closed, Brody's special ability: the police chief laughs, the mayor cries - the shark is angry. Photo: André Volkmann

Beach closed, Brody's special ability: the police chief laughs, the mayor cries - the shark is angry. Photo: André Volkmann

The players, on the other hand, have access to various special abilities. In this way, Quint, marine biologist and captain of the "Orca", can rescue swimmers or throw barrels into or out of the sea. The barrels can hit the shark, hang two on him, the first act ends. Police Chief Brody, on the other hand, moves through Amity, rescues swimmers and goes on a shopping spree at the island's shop to buy new barrels. Even better, once per turn, he can use binoculars to coerce the shark into revealing whether it's 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 turn to gain clues to the shark's location. 

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.

Hooper drives barrels around, not entirely without ulterior motives: two of them have to be clamped to the shark's fins. Photo: André Volkmann

Hooper drives barrels around, not entirely without ulterior motives: two of them have to be clamped to the shark's fins. Photo: André Volkmann

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, "Jaws" was more convincing in the end than the classic board game. The setting, which is based on the horror flick, has been successfully implemented and pretty much matches the template.

Dum - dum, dum - dum, dum - dum ... Photo: André Volkmann

Dum - dum, dum - dum, dum - dum ... Photo: André Volkmann

Whether you like the basic premise and the rather shallow gameplay is a matter of taste. Anyone who likes such duel concepts, in which a location must be determined according to an exclusion principle, will experience exciting moments with "Jaws". Those who expect a strategic cracker should lower their expectations and simply have fun - or 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. 

Tile by tile, the shark bites its way through the boat - if it sinks, the crew loses. Photo: André Volkmann

Tile by tile, the shark bites its way through the boat - if it sinks, the crew loses. Photo: André Volkmann

After all: Due to the overall short playing time, a game doesn't get boring, even if the tactical options are rather limited. For fans of the film, the added value of this board game is much higher. The setting is cool, the mood from the horror classic is reflected on the gaming table. If you want, you can also tackle the two acts separately and then as separate short games. If we had to choose, we would suggest the "Ameritrash" experience in the second half of the game. It is striking that players in Jaws are not concerned with winning or losing a game, but rather with the interactions themselves: this board game lives from its atmosphere and can thus also conceal one or the other inadequacy in the game. By the way, the material cannot keep up: Such thin cardboard is only rarely found in modern board games. Cubes and wooden figures are successful. 

Infobox

Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: around 50 to 70 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: medium

Published by Ravensburger
Author: Prospero Hall
Year of publication: 2020
Language: German
Cost: 35 Euro

Summary

Ravensburger doesn't present itself as "family like" at all with the shark horror, although in contrast to the film, "Jaws" as a board game should also be fun for older children, at least in a playful way, because the basic theme remains: It's about eating or being eaten will. The rules of the board game don't quite fit into the image of the family game - here one could have described them a little more clearly and comprehensibly on an editorial level. So it's difficult to find your way into what's happening, especially since "Jaws" basically consists of two completely different board games. This trick, however, succeeded, especially because both acts build on each other - playfully and thematically - but without conditioning each other. If you have internalized the rules, you can - provided you are not a "thinker" - work through your moves in a short time, so that the net playing time is at least approximately within the range of the publisher's specification.

Not for the faint-hearted: In the first act, the shark is particularly hungry. Photo: André Volkmann

Not for the faint-hearted: In the first act, the shark is particularly hungry. Photo: André Volkmann

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. 

"Jaws" in board game form isn't a rip-off, it's a biter - you get used to 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.

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