Jaws is a board game from Prospero Hall & Ravensburger (the same company behind Horrified) based on the 1975 classic film. Across two acts, up to three players control Quint, Hooper, and Chief Brody as they work to take down one other player- the one who controls the deadly shark.

The Jaws Board Game box
The Jaws Board Game box

Components

The Jaw's board game components laid out on a wooden table.
The various components

The game comes with a double sided game board, 4 decks of cards, 4 character boards, 4 board clips, 6 character movers, 3 dice, a pad of paper for the shark, 8 boat tiles, a rulebook, and 40 assorted tokens. Of the 40 tokens, 16 are swimmers, 8 are barrels, 6 are resurface tokens, 4 are shark power tokens, 3 are targets, 1 fish finder, 1 binoculars, and 1 beach closing token.  The four decks are Amity Event cards, Shark Ability cards, Crew Gear cards, and Resurface cards.

Two of the character movers are boats, one for Quint and one for Hooper. They are unnecessary but delightful.

The components inside of the box. The cards fit loosely in the bottom left compartments, everything else besides the character boards fits in the bottom right compartment, and the character boards sit alone in the large top compartment.
The components inside the box, without the board and rulebook
All of the components, including the board and rulebook, inside the box. There is a considerable gap between the edge of the board and the edge of the box.
All components, including rule book and game board, inside the box

I don’t fully understand the inside of the box. The insert is nice but the division of space is strange. There are three compartments, but aside from the cards and the character boards, everything can fit in one of the smaller compartments. Maybe they expect you to divide the tokens up more? The folded game board is just slightly smaller than the box, and it doesn’t look like the game needs that extra space. I think Ravensburger might just have a standard game box size that they use for all games, since my copies of other Ravensburger games are about the same size. Even so, it still feels like they didn’t use the space efficiently.

Act One Gameplay

In act one, the shark is roaming the waters of Amity Island, trying to eat as many swimmers as possible, while Quint, Hopper, and Chief Brody are trying to find the shark. The rounds move in phases. In phase 1, players draw a card from the Amity Event deck, which tells them how many swimmers to place and at which beaches, along with any other special effects. Phase 2 is the shark’s turn. The shark player may take up to three actions in secret, marking their movements from shore to shore on their notepad, and eating swimmers along the way. In phase 3, Quint, Hooper, and Brody go on the hunt. Each character plays differently. Chief Brody moves around on the island, closing beaches and using his binoculars to try and spot the shark. He also ferries barrels from the store to the docks, where they can be picked up by Quint and Hooper. Quint sails around the island in his boat, trying to launch barrels at the shark. If he guesses correctly and hits the shark, the barrel attaches. If he’s wrong, the barrel stays in the water as a motion detector. When the shark has two barrels attached to them, the game moves into act two. Hooper can’t use the barrels, but he can pass them off to Quint. He can use his fish finder to see if the shark is nearby, and his boat is faster than Quint’s so he can move two spaces for the price of one.

The Jaws board game ste up for act one.
Setup for Act One

Act Two Gameplay

In act two, Quint, Hooper, and Brody are on the boat fighting the shark. After flipping the board and setting it up for act two, the crew and the shark are given a number of gear and ability cards based on how well the shark did in act one. First, the players reveal three resurface cards, each with a possible location for the shark to strike. Then the shark chooses where to atack. Next, the crew members prepare to fight, choosing what to attack the shark with and where the shark might be. Then the shark reveals their choice and combat begins. The crew attacks first, then the shark. The shark can attack either the boat or a crew member who is in the water. Each boat space has a certain amount of damage it can take before it is damaged or destroyed. When it is damaged or destroyed, all crew members on that space are knocked off of the boat. The shark gets to roll a small bonus attack against any nearby crew members in the water, and then the next round begins. The game is over when either the shark is dead, all of the crew members are dead, or the boat is completely destroyed.

The Jaws board game set up for act two.
Setup for Act Two, except the shark’s board is flipped the wrong way and I didn’t notice until it was too late

Thoughts

The game is very well balanced, partly because there will always be three shark hunters versus one shark, whether you’re only playing with the minimum of two or maximum of four players. All the games we played felt very close. However, the game can feel overwhelming to new players, since there are a lot of steps and things to keep track of.

The theme is implemented very well; the mechanics reflect the film and the attention to detail is great. All of the Amity event cards have art of moments from the film, along with flavor text with quotes from the film. Even the game’s insert is themed; it’s the same pattern as the mayor’s suit in the scene where Brody and Hooper are trying to convince him to close the beaches for the fourth of July weekend.

The mayor of Amity angrily points at a billboard that has been vandalized with a drawing of a shark's fin. Brody and Hooper listen in exasperation.
Honestly, it’s a look. I’d wear it.

If you don’t have time to play both acts, or if the gameplay of one act is more fun to you than the other, the game includes rules for playing each act as a standalone game. These are less necessary for act one than act two. The rules for act one are just “end the game sooner,” but the rules for act two explain how to set it up without a previous act to work from.

Verdict

I give this game five out of five cthulhus. It’s a fun game that nails its theme perfectly. If you’re a fan of the film, and like board games, you should definitely give it a try. You can check it out at the Amazon links below, but remember that we are an Amazon affiliate and if you buy anything from those links we will get some $ back.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)