Review: Wreck Raiders
Wreck Raiders is a next-step family game from Kids Table BG. In this game of dice drafting and set collection, players represent squads of divers, raiding shipwrecks in search of sunken treasure and combing the beach looking for valuable seashells. With a great look and play-style, it feels like the kind of game that could be nominated for the Spiel des Jahres.
I always enjoy underwater themes in games. I’m not really sure why – I have never been diving, and I’m not even that great a swimmer – but for some reason, marine themes always appeal to me. Thus, when I first saw Wreck Raiders, my interest was piqued.
In this family game, 1-5 players are divers searching for subaquatic treasures to showcase in a museum. To begin, each player receives a number of diver pieces in their color and a tableau board with spaces for the relics they will find.
Additionally, a central board is arranged with seashell tokens near the beach area and treasure tokens near each of the 4 shipwrecks.
Wreck Raiders uses a number of mechanisms, including dice drafting, worker placement, and set collection. At the start of the game, a number of dice are rolled inside the box lid.
Depending upon how they land, the dice are moved to a display board, from which players take turns drafting them. If a die is touching any of the 9 squares with a seashell icon, it is moved the corresponding section of the display, beneath the matching shell. Any dice that are “floating” (no pun intended) – that is, not touching a seashell square – are moved to the rightmost, “empty” section of the display. As an example:
If a player drafts a die from one of the areas with a seashell icon, he/she takes the appropriate token, along with the die. Whenever all the dice have been claimed from the display, this rolling-and-placing process is repeated. (In essence, it is just a randomizer mechanism, but the “action” element of it is really cool and creative.)
When a die is drafted, the active player places one of his/her diver meeples on a space of the matching number. For instance, if a “5” die is chosen, the player puts a diver on a “5” space, either on the beach or on a wreck. If another diver is there, it is displaced, either from the water to the beach, or from the beach back to its owner’s supply.
Wherever the diver is placed, the player takes the corresponding reward, either 2 seashell tokens or a treasure token. Treasures are placed on their owner’s tableau, as part of spatial “mini-game.” On the left side of their tableaus, players want to line up 5 treasures in a row, to match the images shown on cards in the middle.
If a player collects all 5 required tokens, he/she may claim a card for end-game scoring. The treasures need not be in the order shown, but if they are, the player earns a bonus, in addition to the normal points.
On the right side of the tableau, players try to stack treasures on top of each other, such that they make rows of like color. At the end of the game, each such row and each unique token icon on the right side of the tableau will score points.
As players collect seashells, they can use them to purchase aquariums. The play area contains a number of aquarium tiles, which come in bottom, middle, and top segments. The cost of each tile is shown on its right side (2 or 3 seashells).
Aquariums provide an additional scoring opportunity. Bottom and middle tiles bear flat point values on them, and top tiles score based on the traits of the aquarium itself (e.g. 2 points per tile in it, or 3 points for each pair of starfish and conch shells in it, etc.).
The game-end is triggered when a player reaches a certain number of exhibit cards. After all other players have had a final turn, points are tallied and the player with highest score is the winner!
Wreck Raiders does so many things well. It looks lovely, with attractive art and quality components, it plays well, with an intuitive ruleset, and it has some very unique ideas like the “dice-drop” randomizer system. If it is truly intended as a game for kids, as the publisher’s name implies, it has to be the meatiest kids’ game I have ever played. In my opinion, it falls more into the “family-plus” category, just the kind of game I like.
This game offers multiple, viable strategies. A player could all but ignore the shipwrecks, focusing instead on seashells and aquariums, and do just as well as an opponent who spent the majority of the game underwater. There is not necessarily a “best” way to play, which means there is room for strategic exploration, something not typically found in kids games.
At this time, I don’t believe Wreck Raiders has been released outside North America, but if and when it sees a wider release, I would not be surprised at all if it got a Spiel des Jahres recommendation. Fans of “next step” games will definitely want to check it out.
A review copy was provided by Kids Table BG.
The Bottom Line