18 November 2019
The head, the tail, the whole damn thing
Part of the genius of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is the way it holds back on showing the shark. Despite its monstrous girth, Amity Island’s subaquatic stalker largely goes unseen. So it makes perfect sense that this officially licensed, Ravensburger tabletop take on the movie should place hidden movement at the core of its play. Far more appropriate, surely, than the 1975 game of the same name, which was just a fishy remix of Buckaroo!
Jaws: The Game’s fidelity to Jaws: The Movie is impressively implemented. The double-sided board allows for two acts, which closely echo the film’s genre-flip from suspense thriller to men-on-a-mission action. Act One presents a map of Amity Island, around which one player must secretly swim in the role of the shark (call him Bruce if you like, but never “Jaws”), tracking their moves and three-actions-per-turn on a pad, only revealing the results when it involves triggering a motion sensor on a floating barrel or eating a swimmer.
The other players each take the role of Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw), who co-ordinate their actions and special abilities to try and foil the shark by attaching two barrels to the beast. Brody can close beaches and use his binoculars to spy the big fish; Hooper can use his ‘Fish Finder’ to force the shark to reveal their rough proximity; Quint can launch barrels into the water – if he dumps one where the shark is, then the monster is revealed and the barrel is attached. But if the shark chomps down nine swimmers before those two barrels are attached, then it prevails.
Either way, the board is then flipped to Act Two, where all three crew members are placed aboard the Orca, represented by eight precarious tiles. (It’s not the biggest of boats.) The game now becomes a straight-up battle, with the shark launching surprise attacks out of the water by secretly choosing one of three ‘resurface’ points, determined by a trio of played cards. The crew, meanwhile, have to anticipate where their finny foe will appear, and each targets what they think is the right tile. If they guess correctly, they roll dice to attack. Then the shark lays into the boat, either damaging a section (flipping the tile to its damaged side) or destroying it (removing the tile completely), depending on the roll. If the shark destroys the Orca, or eats all the crew, it wins.
It’s hard to imagine any fans of the film not enjoying all this – especially when the drama deviates so entertainingly from the original. In one of our games, Brody was killed (no Jaws 2!) and Hooper finished the shark o with a hammer. It’s not exactly a deep, crunchy game, but it is hugely accessible, super easy to learn, beautifully presented (right down to the ’70s-style fonts) and with the blockbuster hook provides an ideal gateway title: to games in general and to the hidden movement genre in particular. In short, it’s pretty damn Jawsome.
PLAY IT? YES
Designer: Prospero Hall
Time: 60 minutes
Purchase the game here
This review originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products