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The Sinking of the Titanic Board Game Review

How to Play | My Thoughts | Final Verdict | Comments

How to Play

The Sinking of the Titanic game is played in two distinct phases. Before the game begins every player picks a ship’s captain. The gameboard is prepared by turning the ship portion of the board so the white arrow is below the water. Lifeboats are placed on the corresponding ship spaces. The sea adventure, island adventure and passenger cards are shuffled separately. Each player is dealt one passenger card. Players then roll the dice to determine who plays first.

Escaping the Ship

In the first phase of the game players try to rescue passengers, gather supplies and escape the ship before it sinks. Each player’s turn begins with rolling the dice. The player can move any number of spaces up to the number they rolled. Players may not move diagonally, end up on a space occupied by another player, and may not move through bulkheads (the thicker lines on the board) unless they rolled doubles.

After every player has taken one turn, the Titanic begins to sink. For every one or six that is rolled, the ship portion of the gameboard is turned one mark (if there are only two players the ship is moved two marks). If a combination of two ones, two sixes, or a one and six are rolled, the ship is moved two notches. The ship is turned before the player makes their move. If they move their playing piece before turning the ship, they lose their turn and their piece moves back to the space they occupied at the beginning of their turn.

One of the objectives of this phase of the game is to rescue passengers. At the beginning of the game every player gets a passenger card. Each player than needs to start moving toward the corresponding spot on the board that matches the number on the back of their card. When a player ends their turn on that spot on the board they rescue that passenger and the player gets to keep the card. The player draws a new passenger card and tries to rescue that passenger. If the player draws a passenger card that is already under water or their current passenger card’s number goes under the water, the card is returned to the bottom of the deck and they draw a new card. If after saving a passenger, a player gets a card with the exact same number as the passenger they saved they must leave the room and come back on a future turn in order to save the new passenger.

Sinking of the Titanic Rescuing Passengers
In the above scenario the player with the #9 card has to reach the 9 space on the board in order to rescue their passenger.

While moving around the ship rescuing passengers, players can also collect food and water. If a player lands on a blue space they get to collect a food token. If they land on a green spot they get to collect a water token.

When the ship is close to sinking players will want to start thinking about abandoning ship. At any time a player may abandon their current passenger and head for the lifeboats. Players need to land on an unoccupied lifeboat in order to claim it. When they claim a lifeboat they put their captain marker inside it. While waiting in a lifeboat the player continues to roll the dice and their rolls affect the sinking of the Titanic. The player does not have to move though. Lifeboats stay on the boat until their space touches the water. If an empty lifeboat touches the water it is placed on island one. The second empty lifeboat is placed on island two and so on.

If either all of the lifeboats are off the ship or the player is stuck in a spot that fills up with the water, the player is removed from the Titanic without a lifeboat. The player leaves the ship but loses all of the passengers, food and water they had accumulated.

Exploring the Sea

The object of this phase of the game is to acquire and maintain at least two passengers, two food tokens, and two water tokens. In this phase the ship continues to sink one mark every time a one or six is rolled.

If the player was unable to get a lifeboat, they need to try to reach one of the islands that has a lifeboat on it. Due to swimming instead of having a boat, the player is only able to roll one of the two dice. The player can move vertical or horizontal the number of spaces that they rolled. The player does not draw any cards until they get a lifeboat. Whenever the player reaches an island with a lifeboat they put their playing piece inside it and then play the game under the rules with a lifeboat. The first player to a lifeboat claims it and no other players can take it.

If the player has a lifeboat they get to roll both dice. They designate one of the dice for their vertical movement while the other dice is used for horizontal movement. Players don’t need to use the full value of either die. Players with lifeboats cannot move onto spaces with either other lifeboats or swimmers. When a player reaches an island their turn ends, they draw an island adventure card and they follow the directions on the card. If a player with a lifeboat, while on the water, rolls a one they get to take a sea adventure card. If they roll two ones they get to draw two cards. The player can also chose to take a sea adventure card instead of rolling the dice. The player follows what is said on the card unless it instructs the player to get rid of something that they currently don’t have.

While in the water if a player lands by exact count on a space next to another player (horizontally or vertically), they can take one passenger, one food, or one water from that player. If a player lands next to two players they can take one from both players.

Sinking of the Titanic Sea Gameplay
In the above scenario the red player was unable to get a lifeboat. Therefore the red player must swim to either the #1 or #2 island to retrieve one of the lifeboats on those islands. Meanwhile if green moved into the spot that they currently occupy on this turn by exact count, they will be able to take one passenger, one water, or one food from both the yellow and blue player.

Once the Titanic has fully sunk, players are able to go for the rescue ship. The player needs to have two food, two passengers, and two water before they can head to the rescue ship. If they can land by exact count on any of the green rescue spaces and they meet the requirements, they win the game.

Sinking of the Titanic Winning Scenario
Assuming that the players have the necessary items to win the game, the players can win by landing in one of the twelve green spots by exact count.

My Thoughts

When I first found The Sinking of the Titanic game the first thought that came to my mind was what were they thinking. I don’t know who thought making a game about the sinking of the Titanic was a good idea. Not surprisingly people had issue with the game and Ideal recalled it. Therefore The Sinking of the Titanic game has become quite rare.

Ideal decided not to fully abandon the game so they decided that the game needed some tinkering. Ideal decided that the game only needed a slight face lift so they repackaged the game after removing all references to the Titanic. They ended up renaming the game Abandon Ship. I have not played Abandon Ship so I can not verify this but Abandon Ship appears to essentially be the exact game as Sinking of the Titanic with some artwork being slightly changed and all references to the Titanic being removed.

To get this out of the way, I think the idea of creating a game surrounding a human tragedy like the sinking of the Titanic is in poor taste. The game should not have been made especially since the game actually has very little to do with the Titanic. Outside of the design of the ship and the word Titanic being referenced in the game, the game really doesn’t have anything to do with the Titanic. No people that were on the Titanic are referenced. The game also for some reason has tropical islands which were definitely not around the area where the Titanic actually sank. I don’t know why Ideal didn’t just go with the Abandon Ship title to start with. I am guessing Ideal wanted to use the Titanic name in order to create buzz/controversy in order to sell more games.

Except for referencing the Titanic, I wouldn’t consider the game to be that offensive. As a matter of fact I bet the Abandon Ship version is not really that offensive at all. Some of the passenger cards are quite stereotypical/racist which is proven by the fact that the Asian passenger is called Long Fong. As far as people dying, the game seems to gloss over that fact and make it appear that all of the passengers somehow escape the ship. You will even run into them swimming in the water and hanging out on the islands. Overall I would say that Ideal made a poor choice referencing the Titanic and relied on stereotypes for the passengers but otherwise I really didn’t have an issue with the game.

Despite the fact that the game is poorly named, I was actually somewhat surprised by the game. The Sinking of the Titanic has some good game mechanics and is actually pretty fun to play. The game does have some faults though. Since the game has two phases, I might as well start with the first phase of the game.

The sinking of the ship portion of the game is actually a lot better than I was expecting. This portion of the game is essentially a roll and move game but the twist of the sinking ship is actually quite interesting. The sinking mechanic actually provides a lot of risk and reward. You need to decide whether you want to risk going after a passenger that is close to sinking or if you would like to wait a few turns and hope that your next passenger is easier to save. You also need to weigh the risk/reward when it comes to deciding when to go for the lifeboats. You don’t want to go for the lifeboats too early and end up missing out on additional passengers, food and water. As I will touch on later, you definitely don’t want to not get a lifeboat.

Roll and move games can sometimes be pretty boring. With adding in the sinking mechanic the game is still interesting. It does rely quite a bit on luck though like most roll and move games. You need to roll well (high numbers and doubles) in order to move quickly around the ship and you also need to be lucky and draw a lot of passengers that are close to one another and are in the section of the ship that sinks last. Luck plays a pretty significant role in the game but while playing the game you kind of forget about it.

I did have a couple issues with the first phase of the game though.

The biggest problem with the first phase, although minor, is the fact that food spaces are blue while the water spaces are green. When people think of water they think of the color blue. I don’t know why the game decided to mess with that natural association. Many times during the game our group almost messed the two up.

I also wish the first phase of the game could have given you more choice in how to save passengers. In the current game it is just the luck of the draw which passengers you have to save. You can either get lucky and get a lot of passengers that are close to each other on the end of the ship that sinks last. You could just as easily keep getting passengers that are near the water which are too risky to go after. I don’t know exactly how they could have done it but it would have been nice to have a little more choice in which passengers you wanted to save. This would have also allowed you to more strategically move through the ship.

As we move into the second phase of the game I have to talk about the penalty for not getting a lifeboat in time. If the game I played was any indication, you do not under any circumstance want to miss getting a lifeboat if you can avoid it. While you are not out of the game, you might as well be. In the game I played everyone waited too long to get to the lifeboats and we ended up losing three of the six lifeboats to the sea. With four players playing, everyone then raced to the lifeboats and obviously one player was unable to get a lifeboat. When that happened, I honestly believe that player had essentially no way to win the game. Losing all of your passengers, food and water puts you at a huge disadvantage. Add in the fact that you move around the board slower until your are able to get a lifeboat. The rescue boat appears to arrive pretty quickly so I don’t think there is enough time to catch up.

While the first phase of the game pleasantly surprised me, the second half of the game disappointed me almost as much. The first phase of the game was pretty original and entertaining for a roll and move game. The second phase of the game essentially becomes your typical roll and move game. The game becomes quite reliant on luck. You have the luck of the draw with regards to the cards you have to draw and the luck of rolling the right numbers on the dice. In the first phase of the game you could use a little strategy but there is very little strategy in the second half of the game.

I would actually consider the second phase of the game to be a game of survival. Thematically that makes sense because you are likely to lose supplies and passengers while you are waiting for the rescue boat. It isn’t fun though. If you already have the objects you need to win the game you are best off trying to avoid drawing cards and hoping that the rescue ship arrives quickly. At one point I was sailing around in circles trying to avoid going to islands to avoid having to draw cards. Maybe our group was unlucky but it appears more of the cards take things away from you rather than giving you things. I know the cannibals loved me since they ended up taking two of my passengers.

As I already mentioned the second phase of the game appears to be pretty short. Unless my group ended up rolling a lot more ones and sixes than normal, each player probably only got 5-7 turns in the water. If you don’t have all of the necessary items to win the game once leaving the Titanic your work is cut out for you. For example one of the players was able to acquire eight passengers and ended up not being able to even compete for rescue ship because they quickly lost their food and water through cards and was unable to get it back. If you didn’t get a lifeboat you didn’t stand a chance.

In addition to not allowing players to catch up, the quick second phase didn’t allow anyone to even try the “looting” rule. No one was able to steal an item from another player before someone was able to escape. Due to the lack of time and the difficulty of rolling a set of numbers that place you directly next to another player, the “looting” mechanic will unlikely ever affect games.

As far as components, I would say they are pretty good. The components for my copy of the game were pretty rough but it is almost a 40 year old game at this point. The captains, ships, food, and water crates show some detail which is far from necessary but still nice. The spinning of the gameboard is pretty cool. The board spins well and adds to the theme. In addition the marks on the board help you determine how much longer it will take for the rescue ship to arrive.

Final Verdict

The Sinking of the Titanic has had some controversy surrounding it over the years. Ideal made a poor decision referencing the Titanic in the game but otherwise I think the game is pretty harmless. The game itself is a tale of two phases. The first phase of the game is surprisingly good and I had quite a bit of fun playing it. The second phase of the game is pretty disappointing.

Overall I thought the Sinking of the Titanic game was actually pretty good. If the topic of the game puts you off, I definitely understand. If you like roll and move games or can at least stand them, I think you would like the Sinking of the Titanic game. Unfortunately due to the recall, the game appears to be quite rare and valuable. I am guessing the Abandon Ship version is easier to find and therefore cheaper so you may want to consider going that route if the game sounds interesting.

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