English language edition
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Cash or Crash--that's the world of Shark! The players are managers of international corporations who speculate with their own and their competitors' stocks. As Managers, the players found new subsidiaries and get commissions. By speculating, they invest in different corporations and hope for big profits. The player who ends up with the most money is the winner.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Market...
The earlier reviews listed here are quite right. Shark adds some 'bite' that Acquire lacks, although I don't think it makes Acquire obsolete.
The random die-roll element might give the impression that there is some chaos to the game, but this isn't so. Players can clearly see when a chain in a company they're heavily invested in is at risk, and hedge their investments.
Do you sell now and play it safe by avoiding the penalty for losing in a merger? - or -
Do you hold all your shares on the speculation that the chain will survive and the company grow, increasing your holdings? - or -
Do you sell some and retain the rest?
Play your investments too cautiously, and your chances grow slim. Play them too aggressively, and you can lose your shirt. Players will often find themselves shifting between 'cautious' and 'aggressive' play throughout the game.
While I highly recommend both games, Shark encourages players to take greater risks than in Acquire, and therefore seems more challenging. The rules are simple enough, and the components are outstanding.
All in all, Shark is a great game, particularly for those 'great whites' among us.
We've had an enormous amount of fun playing Shark in the last few weeks! Without ever having played the old version, I think the new version is top notch in the way it stimulates interaction among the companies, because interaction is what this game is all about! Companies can have different branches scattered all around the board, and when a branch of one company meets a smaller branch of another company, the smaller one is wiped off the board! The stock price goes down and everybody loses who owned that company. This is what we call one company 'sharking' another company, and if 'shark' was never a verb before... it is now.
The swings of fortune are radical in Shark, and we old Acquire players have gotten a big kick out of learning how very different Shark is in the way it makes companies get bigger and smaller. The roll of the dice tells you which company you're going to place a building for, and which section of the board you're going to place it in. This can create some tantalizing opportunities, and it is up to you to grab them with both hands.
I even recommend Shark with just two players. The flavor of the game is still there, even with just one opponent. With six, it can seem a while before your turn comes around again, but in my opinion it's worth waiting for. So, this is a game that actually plays well at every possible number of players.
Eventually the shine may wear off and I'll have to admit this is merely a four-star game. However, it's unique, and right now we're finding it terrifically entertaining, so I'm going to go ahead and give it all five stars.
I have played Shark now for about 20 or more times, always with at least 5 people each session. I like to think of Shark as Acquire's evil twin brother. It can be fun, it can be nasty, it can bite you in the pants.
Whenever I play I always ask myself, 'which stock is going to become the hottest property?'. More importantly, will I be able to buy it? Will this stock become the next Cisco, or turn out to be the next Enron? Those are the questions that drive my strategy, for it is the player with the most valuable stocks who will win the game.
Being an old Acquire gamer, comparisons to that game are unavoidable. I like the fact that in Shark, the creation of hotel chains is driven randomly, through the use of special dice. There are no hotel tiles layed out in front of you, as in Acquire, that dictate your course of action. In Shark, the decision on hotel placement can only be made after the die roll. This gives you a feeling of suspense, because fortunes can be made or lost on a single roll of the dice. It also focuses everyone's attention on the game, since players are always looking to determine which will become the dominant stocks, and which will become the losers. (Here's a free tip: Always buy BEFORE the die roll.)
The other key difference between Acquire and Shark pertains to the way mergers are acomplished. In Acquire, the bigger chain takes over the smaller one, and grows larger. In Shark, the bigger chain destroys the smaller one, removing it from the board. If you hold stock in the smaller chain when it gets destroyed, you are required to pay a cash penalty for each share you hold. A large, seemingly profitable investment, can suddenly become a major detriment in an instant.
Additional nastiness: Your opponents can also use a die roll that is favorable to you (in your color) to do damage to your chain and your stock holdings. They might do this by placing one of your hotels next to a much larger chain, in the hopes it will be taken over, causing you to pay a penalty in cash. This can be especially tough when you are trying to build up a stock from nothing. Before you know it, your investment has become dangerously untenable.
It can sometimes be evident also, that if you are last, or second to last in the turn order in games with 5 or more people, you will most certainly lose and finish toward the bottom a majority of the time. Why? Because experienced players who are ahead of you in the turn order tend to exploit a hot stock, by buying it up, and building it up so that it is too expensive for you to buy in when it is your turn. If you have not initially selected this stock at the start of the game, then you are out of luck because you wont be generating dividends. No dividends, no cash. No cash, no stock. Get it?
You might think that diversity in stock holdings is the best strategy. (At least thats what your broker tells you). Not necessarily in Shark. We have noticed that each time we play, there are always one or two stocks (out of a total of four) which always tend to dominate the game. (perhaps this is a function of the number of players?) These stocks climb so high that only the richest players can afford them. You might think that a strategy which focuses on buying the cheaper stocks in an effort to build them up would work, but not so either. The problem with buying the cheaper stocks is that they take too much time to get going. They are also at the mercy of the stronger chains that are on the board, and can be quickly destroyed.
Bottom Line: Shark is a fun, but unforgiving game. Sometimes it can be nasty. Be prepared to be eaten once in a while.