“The game you play as the ship goes down … then face the peril of the open sea!”
In 1975, Ideal controversially released The Sinking of the Titanic, a board game that re-framed the real-world disaster as a roll-and-move fight for survival between players.
The game was played in two phases. Phase 1 challenged players to rescue passengers, gather food and water, and board a lifeboat before the Titanic sank. Once the ship was beneath the surface, Phase 2 began with players racing to win the game by being the first to board a rescue ship with their passengers and rations fully intact.
Two to four players assumed the role of Ship’s Officer aboard the ill-fated luxury cruise liner. In each turn, players moved through the ship, attempting to gather food and water tokens and rescue passengers from their staterooms.
As the game progressed, the ship slowly moved into the lower portion of the unique two-part game board, mimicking a sinking action and submerging deeper into the ocean’s depths with each turn. When players had secured the required passengers and cargo or had been thwarted in their attempts by the capsized ship, they could head for the lifeboats.
Lifeboats stayed on the boat until their space touched the water, with or without occupants. Once launched, a lifeboat was automatically placed on one of the numbered islands on the gameboard. Players who did not make it to a boat on time were forced to abandon their supplies and rescued passengers and jump into the ocean to fend for themselves.
Once all players had escaped the ship, they could then begin their competitive journeys to the rescue ship. Before boarding the boat, each player had to meet the rule of two by acquiring two rescued passengers, two food tokens, and two water tokens. Players could steal rations and rescued passengers from other players.
The first player to fend off all other players and board the rescue ship was declared the winner, and all the other lifeboats and their passengers were considered lost at sea.
Ideal was quickly criticized for gamifying a tragedy that had resulted in the loss of more than 1,500 lives. The game was pulled from the market and re-released under a new name, Abandon Ship, with all references to the Titanic removed. Despite the macabre subject matter, both games remain popular with collectors, with a complete set generating high prices on auction sites.
IN THE BOX
A complete Sinking of the Titanic game includes a game board with 2 clips that hold it together, 6 lifeboats, 5 multi-coloured player pawns, 5 food and water tokens in each colour, Island and Sea adventure cards, and a pair of dice. Instructions were printed separately and included in the box.