Wreck Raiders Review, A kids’ game that adults will also love

Wreck Raiders from KTBG is an engaging, family weight board game that’s just as much fun for adults as it is for kids.

In this dice-driven, worker placement game you will dive for sunken treasure, fulfill museum contracts, build aquariums, collect shells, and stash some of the best bits in your own personal vault.

Disclosure: Thanks to KTBG for providing us with a review copy of this game. Links below may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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Learn about Wreck Raiders

The box for Wreck Raiders from Kids Table Board Gaming.

Wreck Raiders is the result of a collaboration between Tim W. K. Brown, and Josh Cappel. It features artwork from Apoline Etienne and was published back in 2019 by Kids Table Board Gaming

Kids Table Board Gaming or KTBG is a company that was created specifically to develop, create, and publish family games for serious gamers. The company was formed after the founders found it difficult to find kids’ games that were also engaging and deep enough for adult gamers to enjoy. Did they succeed with Wreck Raiders? Read on to find out.

Wreck Raiders plays one to five players with a sweet spot at four. While the game lists the playtime as forty-five minutes, and we have played games that quick, playtime here is very dependent on the thinking time of the players. I have one kid who loves to analyse every single option before making a move in any game she plays and when we play with her our games top an hour. 

KTBG lists this game as ages 10 plus but I could totally see younger kids being able to play this one as well. While they may not grasp everything going on, and may need some help, I can see younger kids having fun just rolling the dice and diving for treasures.

In Wreck Raiders, you control a team of treasure hunters who are exploring four pirate shipwrecks in a shallow lagoon. Your divers will recover sunken treasure and shiny seashells which you will use to create displays and stunning aquariums for the local museum, as well as keeping a few key items for your own personal vault as well. All of this starts with a fun die drop table using the top of the box, and a dice drafting, worker placement system where every time you dive you bring any divers next to you at the same wreck down with you, so you have to watch to not help out your opponents more than you help yourself. 

A three player game of Wreck Raiders

You can see the die drop tables and the other high end components in this kids’ game in our Wreck Raiders Unboxing Video on YouTube!

One thing that confused me a bit, in that video, is that the die drop table also had a way to track your score. It ends up that you don’t use that during play, only at the end of the game when everyone is totalling their points.

As you can see in the video, the component quality in Wreck Raiders is great. In the box, you will find cute crabs, cool looking diver minis, thick cardboard player boards (with some great reminder iconography on them), thick aquarium piece tiles in three different shapes, very clear cards, and a slew of treasure tiles with some very pretty artwork on them.

The rulebook is excellent and thin enough that you can probably get it read and be ready to play in the time it takes the other players to punch the components. This is actually what we did with my copy of Wreck Raiders and it worked well. 

Wreck Raiders Overview of Play

The initial set up at the start of a game of Wreck Raiders

Start a game of Wreck Raiders by setting up the playing area as described in the rulebook. This involves sorting the treasure tiles by type, randomizing them and placing them face down by the board. You will also need to create a market of random aquarium tiles, with three of each type on display, and create a pool of shells to the side of the board. Finally, you shuffle the exhibit cards and reveal a number equal to the player count plus one.

Each player takes a player mat, a crab marker and a number of divers. This number is based on the player count with players getting less divers when more people are playing. If you are playing with less than the full amount of players, you place some of the yellow D6 dice back into the box.

At the start of each round of Wreck Raiders the yellow D6 dice are tossed into the box top by the active player. They then transfer the dice to the reef board without changing their values. Where each die is placed is based on where it landed in the box top, either on or touching one of the three seashell types or out in the open sea. Dice touching a shell are placed under the appropriate shell on the reef board and all remaining dice go in the open sea space.

The die drop table and reef board from Wreck Raiders

Starting with the player who rolled the dice (which passes clockwise after each round) each player will draft one die and then use it to place or move one of their divers. Divers can be placed at one of the four shipwrecks or on the beach. Each of these spaces is numbered and where you place must match the die used.

If the numbered space you want is already taken but an opponent’s diver is there you can bump them. Divers bumped from a wreck move to the beach space of the same number and collect the shells shown for that spot. Divers bumped from the beach return to their owning player.

Once any bumping is done players collect their treasure. Divers placed on the beach collect the two seashells shown on their spot and divers on a wreck get to collect one treasure token. The type of token is based on which wreck they were placed at. In addition, any divers, of any player, your own or your opponent’s, that are next to the just placed diver also get to dive at that wreck and collect treasure tile(s). 

Shells you collect go into a pool to be spent later. Treasure that you collect has to be placed onto your player board. Each piece of treasure must go into one of two spots.

A look at a player board from a game of Wreck Raiders from KTBG

On the left of your board you have room for three museum displays. Treasures placed here must be placed left to right in the order acquired, but each treasure claimed could go into a different display. The goal with these displays is to try to make them match the face up exhibit cards. 

On the right side of your board you have your vault. Here treasure must be stacked, starting with a base on the bottom row and new treasures going next to or above ones already placed. The main goal when placing these is to make rows of the same treasure category (colour), with a bonus earned for all of the different treasure types (images) you collect by the end of the game. 

Once everyone has placed their newly gained treasure tokens, the active player can claim one or more exhibit cards. Each shows a complete museum display. A card can be claimed if you have a matching set of treasure tiles in the display on your board. You get a bonus if these tiles are in the exact same order as the card. 

Note that having the treasure in the exact order of the card is not required to claim the card, only to get the bonus. I’ve seen many players miss this rule or forget it mid-game.

Claiming an Exhibit card with a perfect match and a bonus decoration in a game of Wreck Raiders

Some exhibit cards also feature icons for decorations, if one of these is on the card you just claimed and you have the appropriate shell(s) on hand you can play them when you claim the card and get a bonus. Bonuses include getting to draw a free treasure tile from any wreck for scallop shells or a bonus two points at the end of the game for conch shells. 

The last thing the active player can do on their turn is to claim an aquarium piece by paying its cost in shells. Each tank must start with a bottom piece and you can have any number of bottoms going at once. Each bottom can have any number of middle tiles stacked on top of it, but each aquarium can only have one top. The bottom and middle aquarium pieces award a set number of points, shown on each tile at the end of the game. The tops on the other hand, award bonus points based on what is in that completed aquarium. Note you can only buy one aquarium piece per turn. 

Once the active player’s turn ends you check to see if the game ends. This is based on the player count and the amount of exhibits that have been completed. If the active player has met or exceeded this number, every OTHER player gets one more turn. 

Seashells from the awesome kids' game Wreck Raiders

Earlier I mentioned ways you can collect seashells. They come in three different types, starfish, conches and scallops. Besides being used to buy aquarium pieces and for bonuses when claiming some exhibits, each type of shell can also be spent to help mitigate some of the randomness in Wreck Raiders

When drafting a die from the reef, you can discard a conch to roll the die up or down by one pip. Note you can’t roll over from a 6 to a 1 or the other way around. When taking a treasure tile due to placing a diver on a wreck, you can spend a scallop to take a second treasure tile. This can be done after you’ve looked at your original tile. You can only do this if you are the active player.

When claiming an exhibit you can place a starfish on top of one of the treasures in your display to have it count as any type of treasure you wish. This can be great for getting that perfect order bonus. You can also discard a starfish to remove a treasure from the end of one of your displays. This is useful if you were aiming for an exhibit that ended up getting claimed by another player. 

At the end of the game, players get points for each of their exhibit cards, for the treasures in their vault, and for their aquariums. The player with the most points wins, with ties decided by most leftover treasures and then most leftover shells. 

You can also play Wreck Raiders solo

Wreck Raiders also includes a solo mode. This has you set up the game for two players, using all six dice and a set of eighteen rival divers. Each turn you take three actions and then the rivals take three actions. You can only place your divers on wrecks, never on the beach. 

Rival actions are based on the dice left after you have taken your three turns. Rivals are placed onto empty spaces on wrecks first, only bumping if they have to. If you get bumped to the beach you do get shells. Any treasures you collect on a rival turn must go to your vault, not your displays. Any treasure collected by a rival is discarded.

After the rival goes you get another chance to buy aquarium pieces, this time any number. The game ends when your vault is full, you have claimed six or more exhibits, a wreck runs out of treasure, all six beach spots are filled, or you run out of rivals. 

Solo scoring is the same as the core game and there’s a chart in the book so you can find out how well you did.

Wreck Raiders appeals to a wide range of gamers and is more than just a kid’s game.

Deanna checking out the KTBG booth at Origins

Wreck Raiders is my first experience with Kids Table Board Gaming and I am very impressed. We met with them at Origins and they showed us a number of their games. They suggested we start with Wreck Raiders as they feel it is their biggest hidden gem, a great game that didn’t get a lot of hype due to when it was released (at the end of 2019). 

The goal of KTBG is to make games that are great for kids but also challenging enough to keep hobby gamers engaged and they nailed that with Wreck Raiders. Both of my girls enjoy this game, especially my youngest. She loves the theme and the fantastic artwork. My oldest is more about the strategy in the game and is (so far) the only one I’ve ever seen get a perfect score with their vault.

My wife and I both enjoy Wreck Raiders quite a bit and it’s worth noting my wife is usually into heavier games. I’ve even introduced Wreck Raiders to a few of the local heavy gamers and they enjoyed it just as much as my kids did.

The theme and artwork are part of what makes Wreck Raiders work. The iconography is excellent, very clear, and easy to see from across the table. Additional iconography showing what each shell type does is clearly shown on each player’s personal board. Even the way you remove the dice from the die drop table and place them on the reef board is designed with ease of use and visibility in mind.

Some of the Aquarium tiles from Wreck Raiders

Wreck Raiders features one of my favourite styles of game mechanics, a system where, when you do something, other players may benefit. I enjoy games where I have to weigh what I get for taking an action versus how much I may be helping my opponents.

I’m also a big fan of the die drop table used in Wreck Raiders. It adds a level of tension right at the start of each round. It gets everyone invested and paying attention, with everyone waiting to see what comes up on the dice so they can start planning their turn.

Another aspect of Wreck Raiders I appreciate is that it’s competitive and highly interactive without getting nasty. Yes, players can bump other players, but when that happens the bumped player usually gets something out of it. While it can stink if someone takes that one aquarium piece you really wanted or completes that exhibit you were planning to claim on your turn, there are always other exhibits and tiles to draft, and there’s always a valid option even if it may not be your first choice.

We did find that the more experienced the players were, the nastier Wreck Raiders can get. This happens when game play shifts from trying to get what you want to making sure someone else doesn’t get something that will score them a lot of points. “Don’t let mom get that aquarium top!” has been said more than once at my table. 

Playing Wreck Raiders with my family

One thing to watch for with Wreck Raiders, which may concern some players and groups, is the high level of randomness. There’s randomness in the dice, randomness in what treasure tiles you draw, randomness in what exhibit cards come up, and randomness in what aquarium pieces are available. While there are some ways to mitigate this randomness, mainly via the seashell abilities, this comes at the cost of spending those shells to help with randomness and thus not using them to buy more aquarium pieces or to claim exhibit bonuses.

On a positive note, the randomness is part of what can keep the game fun when you have players of different ages and experience levels at the same table. Randomness is something kids’ games have featured for years, for this reason.

Overall we were all very impressed by Wreck Raiders. Having played it a number of times with my kids, with adults, and with a mix of both kids and adults, I have a hard time thinking of it as a kids’ game at all now.

Diving for sunken treasure in Wreck Raiders from Kids Table Board Gaming

At this point, to me, Wreck Raiders is just a medium-light, dice drafting, worker placement game with a great theme and some cool mechanics. Wreck Raiders works excellently as a family game. It’s playful, colourful, and decorations like the aquariums are great to help keep kids interested in the game.

Before you rush out to pick up Wreck Raiders, do be aware that this is a competitive game. I know many families and some gaming groups that don’t like any direct competition in their games. Wreck Raiders has direct conflict as well as some indirect conflict in the form of taking things other players may want or need for their plans. While I personally don’t feel it ever gets nasty in this game, I fully understand groups who want to avoid any form of conflict, especially during a family game night.

With that we come to the end of my review of Wreck Raiders from KTBG, a game that perfectly fits the Kids Table Board Gaming mission of creating a competitive kids’ game that’s just as fun and engaging for adults as it is for kids.

Have you tried any of Kids Table Board Gaming’s games? What do you think we should check out next? Do you think an engine building worker placement game like Creature Comforts would be a good fit for us? Or how about Fossilis, a very toyetic game about digging for fossils? Or maybe something else? Let us know in the comments! 

Better yet, join us on the Tabletop Bellhop Discord and let us know there!

Wreck Raiders
  • Family game
  • Innovative dice drafting mechanism
  • Worker placement
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