Wednesday, 5 January 2011


Note: not to be confused with another game called Lifeboats. This one is a card game. No physical boat like the other one (which I have not played before).

The Game

Players are survivors of a shipwreck, stuck together in a lifeboat. They try to work together to find land, but then everyone has a secret agenda. Everyone secretly loves one character, and hates one character. So during the journey to find land, they try to get someone killed, and they also secretly hope someone will survive. The game ends when the lifeboat reaches land, and scores are then tallied. You earn points for having your character survive, having your loved one survive, having your hated one dead, and having in your possession certain objects. This means it is actually possible to win the game even if your character does not survive.

The characters sit in the lifeboat in a specific order. At the start of every round, the character in front takes a bunch of provisions (cards drawn from the provision deck) and picks one, then passes the rest to the next character to pick one. That means the nearer to the front the better chances of getting a card you want. Cards can be weapons (used during fighting), treasures worth victory points (if you still have them when and if you survive), water (you need it to prevent health loss when feeling thirsty), and other equipment of various uses. After picking provisions, each character can decide on an action to do. You can decide to help row the boat, which increases the chances of finding land, but you risk getting thirsty and losing health if you don't have water. You can start a fight with another character, in which other people can take sides. Losers get injured, and anyone involved risks getting thirsty. You can demand a provision from another player, or ask to swap places. Declining means starting a fight. You can decide to do nothing, which is sometimes the smart thing to do. After everyone has taken an action, the last character at the end of the boat picks one of the Navigation cards that have been added for the round. A Navigation card is added to the round when someone rows. Navigation cards determine whether and who slips and falls overboard, or gets thirsty. They also determine how near you are to reaching land. Navigation cards with a dove icon mean getting closer to land. The 4th dove card ends the game. If you fall overboard, you lose all possessions and one health. If you get thristy, you must have water to drink, or you lost one health. Losing all health means you're knocked out. Another health loss means you get killed.

My character, Frenchy. Medium built and strength, and worth 6pts if I survived. My special ability is I wouldn't get injured if I fell overboard.

My secret love was the First Mate. My secret hate was him too. I guess this was literally a love-hate relationship. The other two cards are provision cards - water. You can use it to for other characters, not just yourself.

So throughout the voyage, you try to survive, you try to save your secret love, you try to kill your secret enemy, and perhaps you can pick up some extra points from certain provisions. There can be a lot of negotiation when fights are about to start. There can be a lot of guessing about the secret loves / hates. Every character has different strengths (and initial health level), values if surviving (the weak kid is worth more points if he survives, but the strong first mate is not worth a lot if he does), and also unique abilities.

The Play

In our particular game with the full 6 players, I was quite the honest (OK, naive) guy, trying to row most of the time. My love and hate were both the first mate. I either gained 4pts if he lived, or 8pts if he died. Shan was the first mate, and during the game, whenever fights broke out, it tended to be the same winning 3 vs the other losing 3. Shan was on the winning team and I was on the losing team. It was rather difficult for me to try to get the first mate killed, so I soon gave up. The winning three were very lucky because Chee Wee who played Lady Lauren had obtained a gun early on. Him and Shan made an invincible team, because Shan being first mate was the strongest, and she had a weapon too.

Chong Sean, keen to stir up some fighting, was soon knocked out, and was eventually killed. He was the only casualty. The boat found land relatively quickly, and most people were not too badly injured. We later realised that we made a mistake. We needed the 4th dove card to reach land, not the third. If we had played right it would have been more interesting. More people would be closer to dying and there might be some more fighting because others would have more motivation to try to get their hated characters killed.

All the survivors sit in a neat row. Lady Lauren's side is the front, and the Kid is at the back. Purple tokens indicate injury. Sir Stephen (2nd from front), played by Chong Sean, was of size 5, so 5 purple tokens meant he was now unconscious. Another injury would kill him.

The Thoughts

Our particular game wasn't very eventful at all, because of the formation of lopsided competing teams, and the alliances didn't shift because there was no need to do so from the victors' perspective. So beware that, depending on the luck of the card draws, such uninteresting scenarios can arise. That said, players from the winning team probably should have started bickering among themselves, because afterall this is an every-man-for-himself game, not a team or cooperative game (well, I was the one guilty of thinking of this as a cooperative game, being so hardworking with the rowing and trying to save everyone - I got into the survival theme a bit too much when I should have paid more attention to the secret love/hate theme). The leading players should have been more aggressive in fighting for first place.

There can be a lot of guessing the secret cards of the other players. Who are they trying to protect or to kill? I have not quite reached that level of gameplay yet, this being my first game, but I can see this can be quite interesting. There certainly can be lots of temporary alliances and "betrayals". It's a game where you try to manipulate other players, where you need to wheel and deal. You need to act pitiful sometimes, you need to bluff sometimes (is that provision card in his hand a weapon?). It's not a game to be played with quiet, timid folks.


Anonymous said...

Hi u know if "lifeboat" is available locally ?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

not too sure. i played this at carcasean in kota kinabalu, sabah. i'll ask them whether they sell it.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

please contact sean by email. he has a gmail account and username is carcasean.

Anonymous said...

its very similar to CATCHEROO - the game of switch and snatch.
you should try it also

Anonymous said...

yeah i also hear of it. are you sure its called Catheroo? i heard its just "the game of switch and snatch"

Anonymous said...

yes. it says on the box: CATCHEROO
"the game of switch and snatch"

Anonymous said...

i also heard of Catcheroo - the game of switch and snatch

david said...

Catcheroo is a great game. i love snatching...