Jaws: The Board Game is a fun strategy game that captures the spirit of the classic blockbuster film. Back in 1975, Jaws captivated filmgoers around the world with its tale of a mega-shark who enjoyed the taste of human flesh. While it’s been nearly 45 years since the movie’s release, Jaws and its iconic soundtrack still has a place in pop culture, as evidenced by the recent release of Jaws: The Board Game. Published by Ravensburger, Jaws: The Board Game is a 2-4 player game in which one player assumes the identity of the shark, while the other players control Quint, Hooper, and Brody – the three main human characters of the movie.

Jaws: The Board Game is split into two acts. Act 1 is set on Amity Island, with the shark secretly prowling the water attempting to eat civilians, while the rest of the players try to capture it. Swimmers spawn randomly at one of four beaches at the top of the round, giving the shark a continuous stream of meals. After the shark secretly moves across the board, recording its moves with a Shark Tracker pad, the other players use their special abilities to try to track and corner the shark. Each player has their own special ability – Police chief Hooper can close down beaches, preventing swimmers from appearing there. Marine biologist Hooper can track the shark with his Fish Finder, forcing the shark to reveal its location. Finally, shark hunter Quint can fire off barrels that either attach themselves to the shark or serve as motion detectors, alerting the players to where the shark has been.

jaws 1
(Photo: Ravensburger)

Once the shark has either eaten 9 swimmers or the shark hunters have attached two barrels to the shark, Jaws: The Board Game pivots to Act 2, which takes place on Quint’s boat, the Orca. In the climactic portion of the game, the shark attempts to destroy the Orca and knock players into the water, while players attempt to wound the shark with a variety of weapons. Either the shark or the players gain advantages depending on the results from Act 1 – the Shark gains abilities for each swimmer it ate in Act 1, while players gain extra gear if they prevented the shark from eating the maximum amount of swimmers.

During Act 2, the shark will display three potential “Resurface” cards that list the location the shark may appear, along with the number of hit dice it rolls and its base evasion stat, which negates hits against it. After the shark player secretly picks which Resurface card they’ll use, the other players take guesses at where the shark will appear. Players who correctly guess can attack the shark, but usually leave themselves vulnerable to a counter attack. The shark also gets a free bonus attack on any player whose in the water, which incentivizes the shark to aggressively damage the boat and eventually corner players in the water.

Jaws: The Board Game is surprisingly easy to learn and places an emphasis on deduction and strategy. In order to win, the humans need to work together and get into the shark’s head. In our test playthrough, the human team incorrectly guessed that the shark was lurking on the wrong side of the island, which gave the shark easy access to plenty of swimmers to fill its body. But, the humans turned things around in Act 2, helped along by the shark’s overconfidence in its huge health counter and a few unlucky Resurface cards that reduced the number of potential spots the shark could appear by 1. Once we turned on the Jaws soundtrack, players really got into the spirit of the game, even though none of us had watched the movie in years. Plus, players got a huge blast out of the shark mover, a wooden meeple shaped like the shark’s head as seen on the iconic movie poster.

Jaws: The Board Game is a wonderful game, capturing the tension and spirit of the movie while building a unique strategy game that can be re-played multiple times. Players should enjoy taking turns as the shark, gobbling up swimmers and daring opponents to attack them with their puny human weapons. Just be sure to turn on the movie soundtrack while playing, or at least hum a few bars when the shark pops up to attack.

Jaws: The Board Game is available at Target for $29.99.

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