‘Lifeboat’ board game review
By Ed Appleby, Illustrator
Sometimes life is not about the destination, but the journey. That and the incompetent morons that stand between you and loads of loot.
Lifeboat (2002) is a nautical-themed card game for four–six players designed by Jeff Siadek and published by Fat Messiah Games. The players are various passengers—from Captain to urchin stowaway—originally from a now-sunken cruise ship, stuck in a lifeboat together and trying to survive. Each player is given a random secret enemy and a secret love in the form of one of the other players at the table. The goal of the game is to ensure your survival as well as the survival of your friend and the doom of your enemy. This can be accomplished through rowing the boat to shore, being washed overboard, saving people who were washed overboard, and allocating food, water, and valuable objects. The winner is the player who survives to the end with the most points.
This game is a great and simple bluffing game. You try to keep your motives secret from the other players while also trying to survive this dangerous situation. You’re motivated by survival, greed, or loathing, but you choose your motivation, as opposed to a lot of traitor-style games like Battlestar Galactica (2008) or The Resistance (2009), or even games with varied hidden roles and motivations such as Werewolf (1986). This game is light fun and doesn’t take too long, making it a great party game.
The one downside of the game is the small player window. It is a game that is really at its best at full player count, meaning you need to have six people, but no more. This leads to it sitting on the shelf for smaller groups and other people having to sit the game out with larger groups.
The gameplay of Lifeboat is definitely worth the experience, and can be a fun distraction once in a while, but should probably be set aside in favour of other games unless there is the right number of players.