Welcome to Table Top Terrors! In this monthly series, we’ll help you recreate some of the terror, tension, and fun of scary stories by examining what the world of tabletop gaming has to offer horror fans. We’ll look at board games, card games, pen and paper RPGs, and miniature war games. We’ll offer reviews, insights, and tips on how to create an immersive and awesome game night.
Summer is nearly here and all this month Nightmare on Film Street is headed to beach, lakes, and pools with a series of articles about the aquatic monsters that lurk in the depths of those bodies of water. Of course, no discussion of beachfront aquatic horror would be complete without a look at director Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic killer shark movie, Jaws. Part of the reason it’s so beloved is it features a number of great characters like Roy Scheider’s Police Chief Martin Brody, crusty old sea captain Quint (played by Robert Shaw), and Richard Dreyfuss’ marine biologist Matt Hooper. Watching these three eclectic personalities come together to end a great white shark’s bloody reign of terror is a lot of fun, and now thanks to game makers Prospero Hall and Ravensburger you and up to three other friends will get to step into the shoes of Quint, Brody, and Hooper. Best of all, one of you will actually become the Great White that’s out to devour Amity’s water faring residents.
“Part of what makes Ravensburger’s Jaws so much fun is it copies the structure of the film.”
Part of what makes Ravensburger’s Jaws so much fun is it copies the structure of the film. In Act I of the game the shark player is out to devour swimmers and evade the shark hunters. The hunters’ goal is to rescue those swimmers and tag the shark with two barrels fired from Quint’s boat. So, if you enjoy hidden movement games there’s a lot to love in Act I. If hidden movement games aren’t something you’re great at or enjoy don’t despair! Jaws becomes a whole new game in Act II which covers the epic battle on Quint’s ship, The Orca.
The action in Act I is played on a board that represents the beaches, docks, important buildings of, and water spaces surrounding Amity Island. It’s played in three phases. In the event phase, a card is drawn that tells you which beaches to place swimmer tokens and any special rules for the next two phases. The cards also feature fun images from the film and flavor text quotes. In phase two, the shark player goes to work moving and devouring swimmers. They can also play one of their four power tokens that allow them to do things like move faster, snack on more swimmers, and avoid the various detection abilities of the hunter characters. The shark player records their hidden positions, swimmers eaten, and power tokens spent in a secret tracking book. If at any point the shark player devours nine swimmers the act immediately ends.
Next comes the crew phase where the player(s) controlling Quint, Brody, and Hooper take their turns. There are common actions for all three characters like moving and rescuing swimmer, but each one also has specific maneuvers and limitations inspired by the film. For instance, in Act I Brody never sets foot in the water. He can also do things like use his authority to close a beach. He’s particularly useful in delivering sensor barrels at the docks to the Hooper and Quint characters who patrol the water spaces of Amity. Quint can fire those barrels into a water space he occupies or is adjacent to. If a barrel hits the shark’s actual location it’s placed on the shark player’s card. If it doesn’t, it becomes a floating obstacle that could potentially reveal their location. Two barrel hits by Quint is the other way to end Act I.
When Act II begins the board is flipped over to a side with open water and tile spaces to build Quint’s boat, the Orca. The number of swimmers the shark player devoured in Act I determines how many equipment cards the Orca crew starts with and the shark ability cards the shark player receives. So, if the shark player devours nine or just a few swimmers it might seem like one side will have an overwhelming advantage in Act II. That’s not necessarily the case though. I’ve played multiple games of Jaws and almost all of them have gone right down to the wire in Act II. That’s because Act II is where a lot of strategy and luck comes into play. The Orca crew wins by doing enough damage to kill the shark. The shark player wins by completely destroying the Orca or devouring all three of its crew.
Each round, three cards are flipped over representing possible resurface locations for the shark. These locations come with a defense number to nullify a specific number of hits from the Orca crew and a number of hit dice the shark will use in their attack. The shark secretly selects a resurface location and an ability card to modify their assault. Then the Orca crew members select equipment to make their attack, move about the boat, and choose a resurface area to target.
Next, the shark reveals its resurface location. If a crew member picked the right area to target they’ll roll dice to try and damage the shark. Then the shark makes its attack by rolling dice to damage the boat or crew members in the water. If a boat attack just does a little damage one of the tiles representing the Orca is flipped to its damaged side. If several hits are rolled that area is destroyed and the tile removed from the game. Act II goes back and forth like that until one side is victorious. It’s a great way to bring the game to a fun and satisfying conclusion.
Jaws is the second Prospero Hall/Ravensburger game I’ve played featuring a Universal horror property, the first being Horrified. Both that game and Jaws are incredibly fun. So, I’d love to see Prospero Hall and Ravensburger turn more Universal horror properties into games. For instance, what horror gamer wouldn’t want to play a board game inspired by the Tremors franchise of films?
Jaws can be a pretty quick game but protecting and ravaging Amity Island can make you both thirsty and hungry. To help with that we’ve got a themed drink and snack selection. Check out this Shark Bite: Blood in the Water cocktail courtesy of Mix That Drink, and Random Thoughts of a Supermom has a very easy recipe for some tasty and thematic Shark Week Waffles.
“There’s only one other element you need to make your Jaws game night truly immersive: John Williams Academy Award-winning score for the film.”
There’s only one other element you need to make your Jaws game night truly immersive: John Williams Academy Award-winning score for the film. Fortunately, it’s easily available through most digital music outlets. So when you’re all set up and ready to begin your game just hit play. When the iconic “Main Title” theme kicks in you and friends will suddenly find yourself in the waters around Amity Island and ready for a very fun game night.
Let us know all about your own immersive game night setups, and your favorite horror-based board games. Who knows, your recommendation might become our focus for next month’s installment of Table Top Terrors. Roll the dice and spill your guts over Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!