Your team of divers is busy bringing up treasures and seashells from a shallow lagoon filled with shipwrecks. Can you collect the most valuable treasures for your exhibit? Will you have enough seashells to display for your local museum’s aquarium? Or will your opponents sink your dreams of fortune and glory as they procure all of the good bits for their own exhibits and museums?
In Wreck Raiders your divers collect items from shipwrecks that go into your vault, exhibit, or aquarium. The player with the most valuable collections wins the game.
On your turn use one of the dice to place one of your divers onto a shipwreck site or the beach area associated with the die. Collect either the treasure (shipwreck) or seashells (beach) listed on the board.
If there are no dice remaining, then you’ll re-roll all of them into the game box lid, which indicates any bonuses players receive when choosing a die.
When you place your diver next to any players’ divers in a shipwreck (including your own), they also gain a treasure. Then you’ll place your treasure in either an exhibit or vault. If you place it in an exhibit and the exhibit contains the required treasures, you’ll gain that card for victory points; additionally, if your exhibit contains the treasures in the exact order listed on the card, you’ll receive an additional bonus.
Place a treasure in the vault to score end-game points based on two factors: how many rows of similar treasures you completed and how many unique treasures you collected. Finally, you may build your aquarium for end-game bonus points by turning in the required seashells.
When a player has claimed the required number of exhibits (for example, four in a four-player game), the game ends and all players receive one additional turn. Points are tallied and the most points wins.
Wreck Raiders will make any set-collection fan as happy as a clam. The rules are easy to learn, the artwork and components are fun and engaging, and plays in 45 minutes at the full five-player count. It’s a gateway game in terms of game play, but there’s a strategic depth that neatly unfolds as more divers are placed on the board. Since new gamers might feel overwhelmed by how many choices they have as the game progresses, I’m inclined to put this in the gateway-plus or next-step category.
There’s dice rolling involved, but the game is all about gathering the treasures you need to complete one or more sets on your player board. For instance, choosing which wreck to dive to might not seem complicated at first, but soon you’ll be giving other divers treasures as well and you’ll want to go to spots where only you benefit. Or you’ll select spots that only contain treasures that won’t immediately benefit your opponents.
These tactical choices give the game its tension, as you decide which of your sets to complete (display, vault, and/or aquarium). Depending on how your opponents leave the board, you may be diving for different types of treasures than you’d originally planned. You want to be efficient with your moves, hoping to gain additional treasures each turn, but you’re also attempting to collect certain treasures.
You might focus on your Exhibits, trying to earn those Exhibit cards while your opponents load up their aquariums. Or, you might want to fill up your vault with unique treasures; for every line of three similar treasure colors you’ll receive bonus points. You’re naturally included to collect everything, but you soon realize that it’s not possible.
With any modern dice-based game, people tend to worry about how they’re going to mitigate their rolls. In Wreck Raiders, instead of diving for treasures, you can go to the beach instead to gather shells. These shells can then be used to change pips on the dice or give you additional treasure when you go diving. It’s a good way to use dice rolls that aren’t to your liking.
For a game from a publisher called Kids Tabletop Board Games, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of Wreck Raiders. It’s a solid next-step game with a fun theme, excellent components, and smooth-playing mechanisms. There’s even an included set of solo rules that allows you to play by yourself, but no matter how many gamers at your tabletop, Wreck Raiders is worth diving into during your next gaming session.
Thanks to Kids Table BG for providing a review copy of Wreck Raiders.
Ruel Gaviola is a regular contributor to Geek & Sundry, The Five By, iSlaytheDragon, and other sites. His name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. You can find him talking about board games on Twitter or Instagram.