REVIEW: Ravensburger’s ‘JAWS’ Tabletop Game

Jaws Tabletop Game

Jaws and Independence Day… as Forrest Gump would put it, they go together like peas and carrots, which is why I was excited that Ravensburger sent me their new “Jaws” tabletop game ahead of the holiday to review. I had hoped to make an event of it and watch the film with the family and then we’d all plop down at the table and battle it out hunters vs shark in celebration of our nation’s independence. Sadly, it didn’t quite go as planned, but we still got around to watching the movie one evening and followed it up with a round of the tabletop game on another.

The game itself is broken out into two acts, which basically recreate the second and third acts of Jaws the movie. The core gameplay has you play the two acts combined, but there are shorter gameplay options that split up the acts individually.

The initial setup of Act 1, which included opening and popping out all the needed game pieces and going through the setup instructions took about 10 minutes. Act 1 is the more piece heavy stage of the game, so this wasn’t too bad and will likely take less time on the next play since all of the pieces are now popped out and sorted.

“Jaws” is designed for two to four players ages 12 and up, but I opted to give it a whirl playing with my wife and 11-year-old twins. In Act 1, one player controls the shark, which my son opted to play, while the other players control Brody, Hooper, and Quint, the core crew of characters from the Jaws film.

As the shark, your job is to move around the board undetected while eating as many swimmers as possible. Each turn has a basic set of actions, but you also have four power tokens, which give you special abilities that help you devour more swimmers or more easily evade being detected. The shark probably has the most complex set of actions, but my 11-year-old was able to navigate the actions and instructions with little to no extra help.

My wife, daughter, and I took on the remaining roles of the crew, where you make your way around Amity Island in an effort to save beachgoers and tag the bloodthirsty shark. Each of the three characters has a basic set of actions as well as character-specific actions. For instance, Brody can close a beach preventing swimmers from becoming a snack for the shark or Hooper can use a Fish Finder to determine if the shark is on his space or any adjacent spaces.

Act 1 setup of the Jaws tabletop game

This act definitely takes some strategy among the crew as the shark is literally invisible through most of the round and you must work together using your abilities to make the waters as dangerous as possible for the shark in order to gain some visibility into its whereabouts.

Act 1 is broken up into three phases – Event Phase, Shark Phase, and Crew Phase – at first go-round it took us about 20 minutes to get through, with subsequent rounds going much faster. In act 1 you repeat the three phases as rounds until the shark is tagged with two barrels or the shark devours nine swimmers.

Once complete you flip the gameboard and begin Act 2, which takes place aboard The Orca, Quint’s fishing vessel. Like in the film this act is all about the battle between the crew and the shark to see who will survive. As the shark, it’s your goal to either completely destroy the Orca, or eliminate all three crew members to win.

One interesting thing I discovered when moving into Act 2 is that the number of swimmers a shark eats in Act 1 greatly benefits the shark in Act 2 and actually handicaps the crew, so protect those swimmers people!

In this act, the shark continues to use the element of surprise to get the upper hand and gets to secretly choose from three “Resurface” locations, each with their own set of attack and defense ratings. Once locked in, a shark cannot change their chosen resurface location and it’s up to the crew to strategize how to defend The Orca.

Act 2 setup of the Jaws tabletop game

Each crew member has their own set of unique weapons and additional gear earned from Act 1 that they then use to target the various resurface locations. After locking in their strategy the shark’s location is revealed and whoever targeted that location gets to attack the shark before he counterattacks either the boat or a player in the water.

Each attack on the boat will leave a section of it damaged or destroyed making the crew’s movement more difficult as the act progresses. The game is over once the entire ship is destroyed, the crew is eaten, or the shark is eliminated.

I am happy to report that Brody, Hooper, and Quint all survived my first playthrough of “Jaws” despite a significant amount of damage being dealt to both The Orca and two of the three crew members. My entire first playthrough, with unboxing, setup and a couple of stops to clarify directions took about two hours, but Ravensburger lists the average play time at about 50 minutes.

Overall the game was a lot of fun and even though my kids were technically younger than the suggested age range they were able to grasp the overall gameplay without issue and my son loved the fact he could be the shark. The two-act structure of the game keeps the gameplay interesting and definitely adds to the game’s replay value. Another thing I really liked is that once you get the gist of the gameplay it’s foolproof because each character board features the basic phase instructions for each act. This prevents you from having to go back to the game instructions over and over to remember what to do during each phase. I also really liked the strategy and team play element of the game, as I felt it kept players more engaged, which is nice, especially if you’re trying to make the most of your time with family or friends. Finally, I can’t help but comment on the game’s artwork and design. What was really cool about all of the elements of the game is that in font choices, artwork style, and even game pieces it almost felt like you were playing a game out of the ’70s, but it’s done in a way where it doesn’t feel gimmicky or cheapen the experience.

If you’re a fan of Jaws and are looking for a fun new way to celebrate this cinematic classic, or a way to enhance your next July 4th Jaws viewing party, I highly recommend picking this game up. The game is available now and sold exclusively at Target for ~$29.99.

Jaws tabletop game
(Image: Zebra Partners/Ravensburger)
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