If you thought this was another Jaws-themed game, think again. There are no carnivorous fish in Shark: it's a stock market game where the 2-6 players are buying and selling shares in four companies and profiting by manipulating the share prices. It was originally published in 1987 but the edition we're featuring here on Board's Eye View was published in 2022 by Korea Boardgames.
This edition of Shark is played using a board divided into four numbered segments plus an unnumbered area in the middle (some previous editions - for example, from Ravensburger - had a board divided into six segments). The game uses two custom six-sided dice. One of these shows a colour corresponding to one of the four companies in which you'll be speculating and the other shows the number corresponding to one of the four segments of the board or a shark, which corresponds to the area in the middle of the board. On your turn, you roll the dice and place out a plastic skyscraper marker on any square with the indicated number.
The first single marker placed out sets the value of a company's shares to $1000 but the share price will increase to represent the total of all the groups of connected company markers; so, for example, if on the board there's a group of five yellow markers, the yellow company's shares will be worth $5000. You add each company's groups of buildings, so if there are four red markers together on one part of the board and three together on another part of the board, the red company's shares will be worth $7000. At the end of each turn, you can buy and sell up to five shares in any company. When a company's shares rise, you get paid out a bonus equal to the company's new share price but all the players with shares in that company get paid out the difference between the old share price and new. That means your marker placement could be enriching other players more than you...
Individual markers cannot be placed orthogonally adjacent to those of another company and groupings of equal size cannot abut each other. However, a group of markers can be extended to touch a smaller group from another company. When that happens, the smaller group is removed from the board and that company's share price is reduced accordingly. Everyone with shares in that company has to pay out the difference between the new price and the old, and if they don't have the cash then, Monopoly-style, they have to raise it by selling shares at half their value. That's the 'shark' element of the game, and when it kicks in, it turns an initially genteel feel-good game where everyone seems to be getting rich, into a ruthlessly cutthroat 'take that' contest. There's a marked arc to gameplay in Shark as the game switches between (if you'll forgive the mixed stock market animal references) a steadily rising bull market to a bear market where share prices can suddenly plummet.
With its abstract board and economic theme, Shark has some obvious similarities with Sid Sackson's classic 1964 game Acquire (3M/Avalon Hill/Hasbro) but the way stocks change in value when a group of markers is wiped out by a larger group makes Shark a much more volatile and aggressive game.