(BGG image by user Geosmores)
Lifeboats is a game for 3-6 players. The German version was originally published in 1993, designed by Ronald Wettering. Art is by Matthias Catrein, and the current US version is published by Z-Man. In the game, you run a group of sailors that are on the Santa Timea when it hits a reef. Everyone jumps in a lifeboat and sails for shore. Unfortunately, the lifeboats keep springing leaks, and people keep going overboard. Can you make it to land in time? Or will your opponents help send you to a watery grave?
(BGG image by user giochiusati - components from German version)
The game comes with a board that shows the route from the Santa Timea to one of three islands. There are seven wooden lifeboats included in the game, as well as five small pawns and one large pawn for each color (except black). There are 15 blue discs, representing leaks in the boars. A black disc is used as a first player marker. In addition, there are 60 cards - six sets of seven color cards, and six sets of three captain cards.
(BGG image by user giochiusati)
At the start of the game, each player will take one set of seven color cards and one set of three captain cards. Each color corresponds to one of the lifeboats, while the captain cards will help you overrule other players during the game.
(BGG image by user Firepigeon)
Each player will choose a color and take the corresponding sailor (small) and officer (large) pawns. You'll only be using four sailor pawns in a three or four player game, and five in a five or six player game. Starting with the start player (the one with the black disc), each player will place their boat on one of the seven starting spaces at the base of the board. Each player will place one boat in turn. Once all player boats have been placed, the start player places the black boat. Any unused boats are removed from the game.
Next, the start player will put one of his pawns in one of the lifeboats. In order, each player will place one pawn in a boat. Your pawn does not have to go in a matching boat - in fact, boat color will only be important as a tiebreaker. The placement continues until all of your people are in a boat. You're ready to begin.
(BGG images by user kevintlee - the board is not actually split, this is just the board image I could find)
The object of the game is to get as many people as possible from the shipwreck to the islands at the other side of the board. Each island is worth points for each of your pawns that makes it - 6-8 points for an officer, and 4-6 points for a sailor.
Each round goes in three phases: spring a leak, move a boat, panic.
(BGG image by user )
SPRING A LEAK - One of the boats springs a leak. Each player will vote on the boat they think should spring a leak. You may metagame the heck out of this part, and do whatever negotiating and allying you need to. When the vote finally happens, whichever boat gets the most votes springs a leak. The start player breaks any ties. One blue disc is placed in an empty space for the boat that sprung a leak.
If there are no empty spaces, the players on that boat must vote someone off. Each sailor on the boat gets one vote, while each officer gets two votes. Only the players on the boat are involved. If Alfred has two sailors on the boat, Billy has one sailor and one officer, Carl has one sailor, and Donny has one officer, then Alfred has two votes, Billy has three, Carl has one, and Donny has two. More negotiating ensues, and the vote is taken. If Alfred, Carl, and Donny all vote for Billy, he must remove one of his pawns from the game. Sailors are always elminated before officers. In case of a tie, the start player would break it, even if he wasn't involved in the original vote.
Note: if, at the end of a phase, there are ever more leaks than pawns on a boat (say, three leaks and two sailors), the boat sinks and everyone on board DIES.
MOVE A BOAT - Players vote to advance one lifeboat one space closer to the islands. Same rules apply as for the leak...sailors and officers only get counted separately when voting for their lives.
PANIC - One pawn belonging to each player will now panic and dive into the ocean, sure that their boat will be the next to sink. Beginning with the start player, take one pawn out of one lifeboat and place it behind that boat. No other pawn can abandon that ship now. Go until each player has removed one pawn from one ship - if you are unable to remove a pawn from any ship because other pawns have already jumped ship, you don't do anything.
Now, in REVERSE order, each player puts one pawn back in a different ship from the one they abandoned. If a pawn is unable to enter any ship, they drown and are removed from the game.
Once this phase is over, pass the start player marker and do it again.
I should mention Captain's Hat cards. If, during any vote, you play a Captain's Hat card, you get to decide the outcome of the vote. If more than one player played a Captain's Hat card, they cancel each other out.
(BGG image by user Geosmores)
When a boat arrives at an island, all pawns disembark and remain on that island until the end of the game. The boat then gets moved to the track on the side of the board to indicate which position it was in when it got to an island.
Once all pawns have reached safety (or died), the game ends. Count up points. The winner is the one with the most. Ties are broken by the order of boats - if your boat reached an island before another player's boat, you win ties over them. If all tied players have sunken boats, they all win.
Read more at BGG, and expect to pay $50 in an FLGS. Join me next time for more nautical adventures. Happy gaming!