Review: Abandon Ship

Posted by James (admin) on November 8th, 2009

Abandon ShipWhen I read the rules to this game some months ago, it sounded really fun.  So, Spiel was a great opportunity to grab a copy and I had underestimated just how funny it would be to play.

In Abandon Ship, the ship is sinking and the rats are fleeing up the decks to survive.  The rats are all different colours and each player is assigned three rats from which they will score points should those rats survive.  However, this information is secret and players don’t know which rats the other players will score from.  The first rat to the top deck gets squashed in the passenger panic (zero points), but the second, third and fourth rats to the top deck will score 5, 3 and 2 points accordingly.  There are a few pieces of cheese on specific decks which will earn players bonus points if they are the first to move any rat onto the corresponding level.  The player with the most points combined from all of their rats who survive and bonus cheese points wins the game.

There is a movement dice for each colour rat plus a white dice which can always be used for any rat.   On a player’s turn, they roll all the dice available, select any one result and move a rat in accordance with the result.  Most results are straightforwards, i.e. a 5 on the red dice means move the red rat 5 spaces upwards.  Two special results mean move the rat up, or down, to the nearest rat.  Some dice results also have extra markers that indicate special effects.  One special marker means the result can be used for any rat, not just the one of the matching colour.  Once a die is used it is removed from the pool and the remaining dice are passed to the next player for their turn, although one other special marker means that, if used, that dice is not removed from the pool.

When only one die remains, a sinking ship token is turned over and the water rises by the number of decks shown.  If any rats fall below the water level, they are eliminated and the water stops rising.  All the dice are then returned to the pool and play continues.  The game ends when four rats have reached the top deck, or only two are left below top deck, at which point players reveal their colours and add up their total points.

Sinking ShipAbandon Ship is hilarious.  The theme is great and the board looks superb with the ship moving down the board through a band showing the water level so it looks like it’s sinking.  The choices a player has each turn are really interesting, especially when you have a lot of dice to choose from.  You want your rats to move ahead so they don’t drown, but not too far because they’ll get squished if they’re first to the top deck.  In one game, I moved a rat I didn’t care about way up the ship tempting other players to do the same so it got killed off, and that worked really well.  The special markers on the dice offer some interesting decisions too especially when results can be used for any colour rat.  Sometimes you use specific results just to remove that dice from the pool; for example, the white dice has an 11 on it so I used a weak result on the white dice to remove it from the pool just so no-one else could roll an 11 and move one of my mice to the top deck first (it was 10 spaces away).

If you’ve played Top Secret Spies (Heimlich & Co.) then you’ll be familiar with the ‘move any piece and no-one knows which are yours’ gameplay but Abandon Ship is more about fun and less about accurate deduction.  Being interested in three rats and not just one means other players will also be interested in your rats doing well.  You try to move your rats upwards without giving away which are yours too much but it’s difficult to hide and not as important as scoring points.

Overall, Abandon Ship is hilarious.  You spend your time helping yourself and, just as importantly, hindering others.  It’s light but offers some fun, tactical choices.  Also, you don’t feel left out while others take their go as you’re watching to see what their move tells you about their colours and everyone discusses which colours they think other players are too.  Finally, it’s not over until it’s over too as you can’t see who’s winning or losing along the way.  One observation I made was that the bonus points for cheese seem very small but are critical – grab them if you can.


 [Played with 4 players and 5 players]

Second Opinion: Read the thoughts of the other player (my friend Rick) at:

7 Responses to “Review: Abandon Ship”

  1. Scoopex70 Says:

    like your reviews, more and more 🙂

  2. Eisley Says:

    Thanks, Scoopex70. I really appreciate it. And good feedback drives me on to do more too.

  3. Scoopex70 Says:

    I waiting your reviews for Savannah Tales and Bunny Bumny Moose Moose.
    Whatever i found you on Twitter, you were my first following target 🙂

  4. Eisley Says:

    I’ll be playing Bunny Bunny Moose Moose on Friday & should be playing Savannah Tails on Friday or Saturday. So, reviews of those should be soon.

  5. Jorg, netherlands Says:

    Just seen your site (through BGG), really like the way you review. Keep op the good work!

    About the game, is it a family friendly game… by the looks of it, it is right?

  6. Eisley Says:

    Thanks, Jorg. Always great to hear people’s views on the site.

    Yes, Abandon Ship is family friendly and it’s a game everyone can enjoy. The game says it’s suitable for ages 10+ which is probably about right but may be playable with younger players – the only tricky part is explaining what the different symbols on the dice mean but it’s not complex and I would have understood this game when I was a kid.

    If you play it, let me know what you think. I’m looking forwards to playing it again tonight.

  7. MetaGames » Blog Archive » Review: Viva Il Re (iPhone) Says:

    […] and tactical play but then that game lasts longer and players only own one character each.  Abandon Ship shares some similarities too and has a bit more […]

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