This water may look pretty, but the lagoon is filled with shipwrecks and the beach is littered with skulls. Send your divers after valuable cargo to fill your vault or create exhibits for collectors!
What Is Wreck Raiders?
Wreck Raiders is a dice-drafting, treasure-collecting game for 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 45 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of CA$38 (about $29 USD) for a copy of the game. It’s published by Kids Table BG, which was also behind Problem Picnic and Haunt the House.
Wreck Raiders Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
- Game board
- Dice pool
- 4 player mats
- 52 Exhibit cards
- 31 Aquarium pieces (10 bottoms, 12 middles, 9 tops)
- 45 Baubles (15 each of skulls, seashells, and starfish)
- 84 Treasure tiles (21 each of gems, gold, art, and relics)
- 5 dice
- 24 Diver meeples (6 per player color)
- 4 Scoring tokens (1 per player color)
The illustration on the board is a lot of fun to look at. There are little details like the various treasure items scattered amongst the wrecked ships. The “baubles” are somewhat strange to me, particularly the skulls, but I guess that’s what you get on a beach next to a bunch of shipwrecks.
The treasure tiles have detailed illustrations on their faces, with three unique items in each of the four types (gems, gold, art, and relics). The aquarium tiles are filled with colorful sea creatures (not to scale). The artwork for Wreck Raiders is by Apolline Etienne and it’s light and family-friendly, but with a touch of realism. Overall, the game looks great on the table.
The box lid doubles as a dice tray, illustrated to look like a shallow pool. The scoring tracker goes around the edge of the pool and it is only used at the end of the game. However, I found it was hard to see the scoring track and would have preferred it to be on the game board itself.
I don’t know if the player colors are final, but players did sometimes find it confusing because three of the player colors match treasure colors.
How to Play Wreck Raiders
The goal of the game is to score the most points by filling your vault, selling exhibits, and designing aquariums.
Set the game board in the center of the table, with the baubles in a supply near the beach side of the board. Place the treasure tiles face down near the corresponding wrecks on the board. Shuffle the aquarium pieces by type, and reveal three of each type. Shuffle the exhibit cards and reveal one more than the player count. Set the dice pool nearby.
Give each player a player mat, a scoring token, and diver meeples. The number of meeples and dice used depends on the player count—return unused meeples and dice to the box.
On your turn, you do these steps in order:
- Take a die from the pool.
- Move a diver and collect rewards.
- Claim any number of exhibits.
- Buy one aquarium piece.
Here’s a closer look at each step.
1. Take a die
If there aren’t any dice in the pool, collect all the dice and re-roll them into the pool. Take any die from the pool. If any portion of the chosen die was overlapping one of the bauble squares printed in the pool, then you also get that bauble from the supply. Note: You may spend any number of skulls to increase or decrease the value of your die, 1 pip per skull.
2. Move a diver and collect rewards
Place one of your divers on a space on the game board matching your die number, either on the beach or on one of the wrecks. You may not move a diver from a wreck to a different space on the same wreck, but otherwise you may move from any location to another location (including from a beach spot to another beach spot). If a beach space is occupied, you bump it back to the owner’s supply. If a wreck space is occupied by another player, you may bump that diver to the same number slot on the beach (which will bump anyone there back to its owner’s supply). You may never bump your own divers.
If you place your diver on the beach (or one of your divers gets bumped to the beach), you take the baubles printed on that space. If you place your diver on a wreck, you get a random treasure of that type, and if there are any divers in either of the spaces adjacent to your diver, those divers also get treasures of that type. (If you place next to your own divers, you also get this bonus.) Note: You may spend any number of shells to take additional treasures of the same type, 1 treasure per shell.
When you gain a treasure, you must place it in a display or in your vault.
You have three displays, and they must be filled from left to right, but you may work on all three displays at the same time. For displays, you are trying to match the same treasure types shown on the exhibit cards, preferably in the same order. Treasures in exhibits should be placed face down because only the type matters, not the specific treasure items.
You have 12 vault spaces—the vault must be filled from the bottom up, so you may stack up without filling a row completely, but you may never have any “floating” treasures. For the vault, place treasures face up because the number of unique items will matter.
3. Claim any number of exhibits
If the treasures in any of your displays matches the treasure types on an exhibit card, you may claim that card. If the card has skull or shell crests in the top corner, you may also decorate the exhibit: a skull may be placed on an exhibit card to increase its value by 2 points, and a shell may be discarded to allow you to draw one extra treasure of any type. This must be done before taking exhibit rewards; you may not add decorations later. You must have the right number of items—you may not have extra leftover items in your display. Note: You may put starfish on any of the treasures in your display to make those treasures wild for the purpose of claiming exhibit cards.
If the treasures in your display match the exact order of the treasures on the exhibit card, you also get the bonus shown in the bottom right portion of the card—usually a bauble or two, but sometimes you can even gain an aquarium piece.
The display used for the exhibit is then cleared and those treasures are returned to the supply.
You may claim any number of exhibits in a single turn; the exhibits are only refilled after you are done claiming cards, not each time you claim one.
4. Buy one aquarium piece
You may spend baubles to buy an aquarium piece—the cost is shown on the right side of the piece. You must start with a bottom piece, which can then have any number of middle pieces (including none), and then is completed with a single top piece. You may also have multiple aquariums in progress at the same time. After you’re finished buying, refill the empty space.
When any player has reached the exhibit card threshold (6 in a 2-player game, 5 in a 3-player game, and 4 in a 4-player game), each of the other players gets one more turn, and then the game ends.
Here’s how scoring works:
Each exhibit card you have is worth the points shown on the card, plus 2 points if you decorated it with a skull at the time you claimed it.
Your vault scores 1 point for each unique treasure in it, up to 12 if you stashed exactly one of every type of treasure in the game. In addition, for each row that is filled with three of the same type of treasure, you get the bonus score printed next to that row.
Aquarium bottom and middle pieces are worth their printed values. The aquarium top awards points based on the number of bauble symbols in the entire aquarium.
The highest score wins, with ties going to the most leftover treasures in your display, then leftover baubles.
Why You Should Play Wreck Raiders
Kids Table Board Gaming calls its games “kids’ games for adults,” and their previous titles have been fairly light games that fit that descriptor. The games are kid-friendly, but not so simplistic that parents can’t stand them; in fact, if you enjoy casual games, you may enjoy them even if your gaming group is entirely adults. Wreck Raiders is their heaviest title so far, offering the player more choices to make each turn and a bit more complexity, which broadens the scope of Kids Table BG a little.
The dice-drafting aspect adds a bit of luck to the worker placement: you can’t choose just anywhere on the board, but rather are restricted to the numbers available. You’re still allowed to visit any wreck regardless of the number—the only real limitations are based on where your divers start, since you can’t bump your own divers and you can’t move a diver to its current wreck. This can allow for some tactical placement if you know what other players are interested in collecting, and you can position yourself adjacent to the spots they’re likely to take. So I like that the available dice (and thus slots) are randomized, but if you really need a gem, you can almost guarantee that you’ll get one as long as you aren’t already hogging most of the gem wreck spaces.
The scoring is mostly based on set collections, but there are various sets to collect: exhibits, your vault, and the aquariums all have different requirements for scoring. All of that adds up to some tricky choices on your turn: do you pick up some treasures, or go to the beach so you’ll have those extra baubles? Is it worth taking treasures if your opponents will also get treasures? Which space is most likely to get bumped so that you can get sent to the beach?
Then, once you pick up a treasure: will it be more valuable in your vault, or in an exhibit? Should you take the easiest exhibit before somebody else does, or do you have time to keep building up for that expensive one? And for the baubles, a whole other set of questions arises: Do you spend your baubles for their special abilities, to decorate exhibits, or to buy aquariums?
The aquariums—aside from being really fun to look at—can be a huge source of points, if you get the right combinations. The top pieces offer set collection points based on the bauble icons shown in the entire aquarium, so if you bought several aquarium pieces using starfish, you might want to look for a top that awards bonus points for starfish. On the other hand, using the skulls to manipulate dice, the shells to get extra treasure, and the starfish to help sell exhibits may be too good to pass up.
If you like hate-drafting (choosing something that another player wants), there are some opportunities for that, but it’s a little limited. Depending on the dice roll, you could keep somebody from getting a more advantageous number, though if they have skulls they can manipulate the dice. More common is finishing and claiming an exhibit before somebody else does, or else buying an aquarium piece (particularly a top) that would be valuable—though both of those require some amount of planning on your own part.
There’s some luck involved in the treasure items you collect, which really only matters for the vault. We’ve had instances where players were trying to find the third unique item for a space in the vault, and just kept getting the same things over and over. Since it’s only one lost point if you get the same item, but it’s more lost points if you don’t fill the row with the right type, it’s generally better to take duplicates, but that urge to collect ’em all can be pretty hard to overcome.
Thematically, there’s some weird stuff going on, aside from picking up human skulls along the beach and keeping them in your basket for use as decorations. For instance, it’s not clear why divers can move from wreck to wreck, but can’t stick around at the same wreck and grab more stuff, or why divers grab treasures when somebody shows up next to them. My favorite is using starfish to change a treasure type: “I know this looks like a bar of gold with starfish stuck to it, but trust me—it’s actually a sword, just like you wanted.” I mean, there are always things that don’t line up once you abstract something to a board game, so it doesn’t bother me too much, but it makes for some amusing results.
Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun with Wreck Raiders, even though I don’t seem to be very good at it. I usually fall somewhere in the middle, score-wise, though I’ve come in dead last at least once. I’m still working when to go after baubles for the aquariums, when to put treasures in my vault, and when to build exhibits. I think one of my mistakes is taking low-value exhibit cards and ending the game even though I’m not ahead in points. I’ve played with both adults and kids (as young as 11), and everyone has been able to pick up the core of the game fairly easily, with some help remembering the various details of scoring or special powers for baubles.
I think Wreck Raiders will be a good, solid addition to the Kids Table BG lineup. For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Wreck Raiders Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.