Originally airing back in 2009 Shark Tank will be entering its eleventh season this fall. Known as Dragon’s Den in some countries, at its core Shark Tank is a business themed reality show. Each week four entrepreneurs come on the show to pitch their business as an investment opportunity for the five Sharks (business people) who then have an opportunity to make an investment in their company. While I am not as big of a fan of the show today as I was when it first came out, I still watch Shark Tank to this day as it is an interesting reality show that does a good job helping small businesses.
Despite liking the show that it is based off of, I can’t say that I had high expectations for Shark Tank The Game as it looked like a cheap attempt to cash-in on the show’s popularity. There were only two reasons why I checked out the game in the first place. First we took a look at the Storage Wars board game a while back and it was surprisingly good. I was hoping that Shark Tank could follow the same path and make for a surprisingly good board game. Otherwise I found the game for a $1 so I wasn’t risking much if it turned out to be the dud I expected it to be. Shark Tank The Game had the potential to be a good board game, but ends up as a cheap cash-in game that is one of the worst board games that I have played in quite some time.
How to Play Shark Tank The Game
- Each player is given one million dollars in cards in the following denominations:
- 4-$10 k
- 3-$20 k
- 2-$50 k
- 2-$75 k
- 3-$100 k
- 1-$150 k
- 1-$200 k
- The rest of the money cards are shuffled and placed in a face down pile within reach of all of the players.
- Each player chooses a Shark and takes the corresponding coaster and set of chips (red, green and blue). The Shark that a player chooses will determine which types of businesses that the player will receive a bonus from during the game.
- Mark Cuban – Sports and Media
- Kevin O’Leary – Software and Hard Goods
- Barbara Corcoran – Food and Children’s
- Daymond John – Fashion and Branding
- Robert Herjavec – Technology and Transportation
- Lori Greiner – Accessories and Gadgets
- All players also take one “I’m Out” card.
- Randomly draw six of the company cards and place them face down within range of all of the players. The rest of the deck is set aside for another game.
- The player who last had a birthday will be the first reader.
Playing the Game
The game will be played over six rounds. Each round begins with a company card being chosen. The reader will read the title and the description of the company. The reader will not read the company’s type or the values at the bottom of the card.
All of the players then have an opportunity to bid on the company card with their money cards. Bidding will take place over two rounds.
In the first round players will place their bids face up. Clockwise from the reader each player places cards face up on the table and tells the players how much they have bid on the company. During the first or second round of bidding the player can play their “I’m Out” card in order to not bid.
After everyone has had a chance to make their opening bid, each player has a chance to raise their bid. Clockwise from the reader each player can add additional money cards to their bid to raise it. During this round of bidding all money cards are played face down.
Valuing The Company
After the second round of bidding all of the players compare their bids. The player who bid the most will win the company card. Each player who played an “I’m Out” card will take it back. All money cards bid during the round (including from losing bidders) are placed on the bottom of the money deck.
The player who won the company will then roll the die which will determine the company’s value. The player will place their chip of the corresponding color on the card. If the company’s type matches their Shark’s expertise, the player will get to draw the top card from the money pile and add it to their hand. Players should not reveal the value of the company to the other players.
If the player rolls the “Blockbuster” side of the die, they will place a green chip on the card and get to draw the top card from the money deck.
End of Round
Between rounds players have the ability to trade or sell company cards to the other players. When a company changes ownership, the new player will roll the die to determine the card’s new value.
After the player has determined the value of their company, the next round will begin. The next player clockwise will read the card for the next round.
End of Game
The game ends after six companies have been bid on. Each player will add up the values of the companies they acquired. They will add half the value of all of their remaining cash cards. The player with the greatest wealth will win the game.
My Thoughts on Shark Tank The Game
I am not going to sugarcoat it. Shark Tank The Game is not a good board game. I have played over 700 different board games and it is one of the worst board games that I have ever played. I have played a few games that are worse because they were offensive or had even worse gameplay. Shark Tank The Game is still a terrible board game as it feels broken. This makes you question how much effort was actually put into designing the game. There are so many issues with Shark Tank The Game that it is hard to figure out where to begin.
If I had to classify Shark Tank The Game I would say that it is a bidding game. Basically the players are given money at the beginning of the game which they use to bid on businesses. Players want to use their money wisely to find bargains that will earn them more than they bid. Players don’t want to spend too much on any business though as the ultimate goal is to try and have as much net worth as possible at the end of the game. While players can acquire any company they prefer, they are especially on the lookout for companies that match their Shark’s specialties as it will earn them more money. After a player acquires a company they roll a die which determines how much the company is worth. Players end up bidding on six companies and whoever has the most net worth at the end of the game wins.
Based on that description Shark Tank The Game probably sounds like basically every other bidding game. It should as that is basically what it is. Shark Tank The Game doesn’t even bother trying to be original. Outside a few mechanics that end up making the game worse, there is nothing new or unique in the game. For a bidding game to stand out it needs to do something unique. Unfortunately Shark Tank The Game doesn’t care about doing anything new or original. This leaves you with a pretty boring bidding game as you basically just bid on different businesses. Outside of being able to outbid/trick the other players there really isn’t any strategy to the game. Whoever is the luckiest or the best at bidding games is going to win. This all leads to Shark Tank The Game being quite boring.
If the game being boring wasn’t enough, the gameplay is broken as well. I don’t know what the designers were thinking when they came up with the mechanic where players loose all of the money they bid even if they don’t actually win the bid. This doesn’t follow the show or any business acquisition I have ever heard of. Where in the world are you forced to forfeit your offer/bid when you don’t end up getting what you bid on. It makes no sense and ruins what little the game had going for it. This mechanic adversely impacts the bidding mechanics. It makes some players hesitant to bid at all as you don’t want to bid a lot of money and then lose the business and the money you bid. Other players might fall into the sunk cost fallacy where since they have already bid so much that they feel the need to bid even more so they get something for their money. In either situation it impacts the bidding mechanics for the worse.
Another mechanic that ends up impacting the bidding are players trying to acquire cards that fit their Shark’s specialty. This mechanic had some potential but it is wasted in Shark Tank The Game. Prior to bidding on a company a player doesn’t know what company type it will be classified as. All the players can do is make an educated guess based on the description on the card. I actually thought this was kind of interesting even though it is usually pretty obvious what at least one of the two categories for the company would be. The problem is that getting a company that matches your specialty is not guaranteed to help you a lot. You draw a money card at random and add it to your cards. You could end up drawing a card as low as $10,000 or as high as $200,000. This could either be a huge help or be barely worth the effort.
This is one of the reasons why it is quite valuable to be the reader in the game. The role of reader rotates throughout the game. The benefit of being the reader is that you can see the categories that the company falls into. Even more valuable is being able to see the potential values at the bottom of the card. The reader will know how much the company will be worth even if they roll the lowest value. This gives you a lot of information while bidding that the other players don’t have access to. I wouldn’t have minded this if all of the players would have gotten the same number of rounds as the reader. Unfortunately the official rules only allow six rounds. The game should have just adjusted the rules so each player could have been the reader for two rounds.
The final mechanic in the game is rolling the die to determine the value of the companies you purchase. This might not seem like much but it can easily determine who will end up winning the game. The reason the die rolls play such an important role in the game is that the difference between rolling the highest and lowest value can be huge. Rolling the best color for the card is generally several times better than rolling the lowest valued color. If you roll the worst color you are basically guaranteed to lose money on the company that you invest in unless you get the company at a bargain. This along with the mechanics I mentioned earlier illustrate how much Shark Tank The Game relies on luck. Being good at bidding games should help you in the game but it will never be able to overcome bad luck.
With all of these mechanics there is a weird phenomenon in the game where you are basically guaranteed to lose money. Even if you don’t bid a single dollar in the game you will lose money as your left over cash is only worth half of its face value. This was likely done in order to encourage players to bid on cards. The problem is that bidding on companies is usually a losing proposition. If you fail to win the company you lose everything you bid. Even if you win the company you are unlikely to make more money than you bid unless you roll the highest value or no one else really bids on the company. Unless you are really lucky you will end the game with less than the $1 million you started the game with.
So the question then becomes if it even pays to bid on any companies in the first place. I actually think it could be a legit strategy not to bid on any of the companies and just keep all of your money. I say this even with your money losing half of its value at the end of the game. Obviously if all but one of the players pursue this strategy the other player will win as they will get huge bargains on all of the companies. I could see one player by themselves being able to successfully win the game without doing anything though. This is not a good sign for a game where your best strategy might be to not play the game at all. Ultimately the goal in Shark Tank The Game is to lose the least amount of money. If you can purchase a company that will mitigate your 50% cash value loss at the end of the game, you should purchase it even if you end up paying more for it than it is worth.
With the terrible gameplay out of the way, it is time to move onto the components which aren’t much better. I do give the game some credit for the chips as they are of a pretty high quality. I also think the game deserves some credit as it comes with quite a few cards. Unfortunately there aren’t any other positive things to say about the components. The quality just feels kind of cheap. This is exemplified by the die which is one of the worst dice I have ever seen. The die honestly looks like the publisher took a wood/plastic cube and glued pieces of paper on each side. It looks horrible and feels cheap. On top of this the instructions are poorly written which includes at least one typo. It is pretty obvious that Cardinal tried to make the game for as cheap as possible in order to increase profit margins on the game.
So was there anything that I actually liked about Shark Tank The Game? It is a horrible game but it does do a couple things well.
While I did not like the bidding mechanic in the slightest, there was one thing I actually thought had a little potential. The first round of bidding in the game is your typical auction as players have open bids that everyone can see. After the first round of bidding all of the players know where they currently stand in the bidding for the company. This makes the second round of bidding interesting as all additional bids are placed in secret. This can be interesting as no one knows what the other players are adding to their bids. A player could be adding a low card(s) or they could be adding a card that is quite valuable. If you really want a card you don’t want to bid too low and lose the card. You also don’t want to bid too much though and waste your money. This adds the ability to bluff by playing low value cards face down in order to trick the other players to add more money to a bid than they need to.
The second thing I liked about the game was that it plays pretty quickly and it is easy to play. I would guess that it would take just a couple minutes to explain the game to new players. This is due to the mechanics being pretty straightforward. The game has a recommended age of 8+ but I could potentially see kids even younger being able to play the game. The game also plays pretty quickly. I would guess that most games will only take 20-30 minutes. With the game’s many issues it is a relief that it plays quickly.
The final positive for the game is that it does a decent job utilizing the Shark Tank theme. There are things that make absolutely no sense with the theme like losing the money bid in losing bids. The game does utilize the theme quite a bit though. The best use of the theme is that all of the companies in the game are companies that actually appeared on the show. Fans of the show might appreciate seeing some of the companies that they enjoyed on the show being represented in the game. The game just uses the companies for their name and general description though so they don’t play a huge role in the game.
Should You Buy Shark Tank The Game?
I generally like to see the positives in board games but it was genuinely difficult to do that in Shark Tank The Game. The game just has so many issues. On its surface the game is a pretty basic bidding game. Players bid on companies to try and get a bargain to increase their wealth. While I liked the idea of a secret round of bidding, the rest of the bidding mechanics are broken. For some reason you lose the money you bid even if you lose the bid. Unless you are really lucky it is also hard not to lose money as you will regularly lose money on any company you purchase. On top of all of this the game relies on a lot of luck based on what cards are drawn and what you roll on the die. I give the game a little credit for being simple and quick to play as well as doing a decent job utilizing the theme. Shark Tank The Game is still one of the worst board games that I have ever played as it is a broken mess that is just kind of dull.
I have a hard time recommending Shark Tank The Game. I honestly can only recommend the game if you can find it for really cheap and you are a big fan of bidding games and Shark Tank. Otherwise I would recommend staying far away from Shark Tank The Game.