2013: The year a cultural sensation began. Sharknado hit the SyFy network and took the world by storm (sorry … I couldn’t resist). Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the entire film franchise. I love the absurdity and the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself – or anything – seriously. Since it’s release, it has spawned three sequels and a multitude of products (t-shirts, hats, bobbleheads, backpacks, etc.). But there has never been a Sharknado board game. Until now! Sharknado: The Board Game! is coming to Kickstarter on Saturday, August 13!
Designed by Eric Cesare and Anthony Rando, and published by Devious Devices, Sharknado is a cooperative board game for 1-4 players (ages 15 and up). Each player will take on the role of a citizen trying to survive – and ultimately overcome – the most lethal of animal-based weather phenomenon. You will have at your disposal various weapons and other items to aid you in your adventure. Let’s take a closer look at how it all works.
Each time you play the game, you will play a different scenario, which will determine the game setup, as well as the win condition. The game is played over a series of rounds, each broken into two phases: the player phase and the Sharknado phase. During the player phase, players will spend action points to move, siphon water from flooded tiles, and search the city for weapons and other items to help them complete the scenario objective. One of the things that makes this game different from other cooperative games is that there is no defined turn order. Instead, players take their turns in whatever order is best for their plans, and multiple actions could be happening at once in what designer Eric Cesare describes as “organized chaos that is intended to simulate several things happening at once.” As long as players have action points to spend, they can continue taking actions – even if those actions are interrupted by other players taking their own actions. For example, player 1 can siphon a flooded tile, allowing player 2 to move through the siphoned tile without spending extra action points. Player 1 can then spend more action points to search the city deck for weapons/items or move. When you search, you can also run across citizens who need your help thanks to Encounters that are shuffled into the city deck (and bad stuff happens to your group if you can’t help them). Once all players have spent their available action points (or have chosen to save some so they have more in the next player phase), the Sharknado phase begins.
During the Sharknado phase, the Sharknado will take multiple “turns” based on the number of players. The Sharknado is controlled by its own die and an AI deck. For each turn, you roll the die and move the Sharknado according to the movement chart on the board. Any sharks on the new tile get “sucked up” into the Sharknado (which is done by actually placing shark tokens into the Sharknado itself), and the tile is then flooded. After the Sharknado moves, you draw a card from the AI deck and follow its instructions. These cards will generally involve sharks being thrown out of the Sharknado. Some cards will have you add sharks to the Sharknado, others will have you disperse them around the board. And if you happen to be on one of the tiles that a shark lands on, you get thrown into a completely unavoidable fight.
Combat is designed to simulate sharks attacking you as you attack them. This means that you can take critical damage at the same time you kill a shark. Combat is resolved using three colors of d8’s – each representing a different aspect of combat. Yellow dice represent ranged combat, and are the first to be resolved. Green dice represent defense, and are the next to be resolved, determining how many shark bites you will take. Finally, the red dice are your melee dice, and are the last to be resolved (after damage has been done). When you take damage, it not just simply reducing your hit points. Oh, no. When fighting sharks, you can easily lose limbs! For each shark bite you take, you will roll two damage dice. The result of the roll determines what happens to you. Will you lose a leg? An arm? Your head? Only the dice know! Losing an arm inhibits your ability to carry items (if you don’t have two hands, you can’t use a two-handed weapon). Losing a leg slows your movement. Lose your head? You die, of course. You can also take torso wounds. Take three of them, and you also die.
There are numerous types of sharks – even boss sharks – included in the game. Each shark has its own ability, which alters the combat in a variety of ways. Some sharks will run away if you hit them a certain way or don’t kill them in a certain number of tries. Others will bring more sharks to the fight. And others will eat your weapons and other items, making the fight more difficult. Sharks can also target specific parts of your body (the Ankle Biter shark, for example, always bites your legs). And, the shark deck gets reshuffled at the end of every round, so you can see the same shark multiple times during the course of the game.
My initial thoughts
I had the privilege to demo Sharknado: The Board Game! at Gen Con this year with Eric and Anthony. In the scenario we played, we had to steal a dump truck, drive it to a lab, hack the lab’s security in order to steal the “secret substance” being developed inside, and one player had to sacrifice their character to drive the dump truck into the Sharknado to destroy it. The scenario felt very true to something you would see in a Sharknado movie – an absurd story that makes no logical sense, but fits into the Sharknado world perfectly. As I said earlier, I am a big fan of the Sharknado franchise, and all of the absurdity that comes along with it. So, naturally, I enjoyed the ridiculousness of the stories and items within the game. The character I played, Krieg, was running around the city in a cowboy hat, killing sharks with a submachine gun. I could picture him in a movie shouting “yee haw!” the entire time.
You might notice that Krieg isn’t a character from one of the four Sharknado movies. This is because the characters in the game are not characters from the movies – and by choice. This allows players who are not familiar the franchise to jump in and play and not feel lost by not knowing who characters like Finn, April, and Nova are. At first, I was not a fan of the idea. I wanted the ability to play as someone from the films that I enjoy. However, in practice, the decision to leave these people out of the game is a great one. The fact that I was playing as Krieg instead of Finn did not take away from my enjoyment of the game. The game does include weapons and other items that will be familiar to fans of the movies – chainsaws, bar stools, etc. – which helps immerse the players into the world. The immersion is also helped by the simultaneous player turns. You can have two people working on one section of the map, while the other players are working elsewhere to complete another portion of the scenario. The game does a solid job of making you feel like you are actually working together to achieve a common goal.
Since this post is a preview of a game coming soon to Kickstarter (again, it goes live on Saturday, August 13), I need to point out that much of the art seen in the pictures is not final and is subject to change. For example, the character pawns seen in the photos will be replaced with cardboard pieces that match the art of the player boards. Also, some of the things you see here could be stretch goal or expansion material that is being tested (and, therefore, may not be included in the base game).
You can take a look at the Kickstarter page now, and leave feedback for the designers prior to its launch this weekend. If you have any questions about the game, let me know in the comments below, and I will do my best to answer them for you. Then, when the Kickstarter launches in a couple of days, back the game because I want Zombie Sharks!