Some friends came to Kingston, Ontario this birthday weekend, and they went to the local game store (which is frikkin' HUGE) to buy me a new Reiner Knizia game - about which we knew nothing.
We gambled on the designer's name, and our love of the pirate theme. In my estimation we weren't let down. We learned the game almost instantly, my friends (all around 30) insisted on playing several times in a row, and we had fun. I'm happy to report that I got more than my money's worth.
Dead Man's Treasure is a very light game, rules-wise. Let me say that at the beginning for those of you looking for another Rheinlander or Tigris. It is a simple, easy-playing, ten minute long excuse to cry out any nautical cliché you want, you manky land-lubber, you. I haven't tried teaching this game to anyone under ten yet, but I'll wager an eight or nine-year-old could handle it.
Every player has an identical hand of pirate cards, ranked by number for their strength in capturing treasure. Your turn consists of placing one card face-down on one of six islands, each with several treasures to claim at game's end. Further pirates placed on an island reveal the previous one. At the end of the game, the tokens are doled out based on the point totals for each player at each island. There's not much more to it, barring the two "pirate tokens" of friendly Ben Gunn and evil Cap'n Flint's Ghost who hop from island to island as cards are placed. Ben acts as a 10 point treasure for the island he's on at game's end, while Cap'n Flint steals all the treasure from his final island destination. You can't claim Ben's treasure, only drive him to an island that (hopefully) you will control when he gets there. The game ends early (instead of by running out of cards) if Ben or the Cap'n make it back to their home island.
Given the three-page rules, there is a fair amount of strategy. Player interaction is high (especially using the cannon card, which eliminates the card that revealed your cannon - a good way to protect your high-point island). Several Knizia staples including the basic colour + number cards, and the players' ability to hasten the end of the game (before others have played all their cards) were not unwelcome.
The materials were standard for Playroom Entertainment, which is to say acceptable - I recall some of my friends made positive remarks about the artwork. The cardboard islands and treasures are quite thick, although I fancied the playing cards to be a little thin. For the price we paid, I certainly cannot complain about the materials.
My final score for Dead Man's Treasure: 8 out of 10.
It isn't as habit forming as a 9, nor as forgettable as a 5. For serious gamers it might be a 6, but for me, I love pirates (+1 point), and I had a lot of fun every time I played it (another bonus there).
What else can I say? To help you determine if you want this game, try this handy checklist.
1. Do you like the pirate theme?
2. Do you like games by Dr. Knizia?
3. Have a party or family event coming up?
4. Do you have $25 to spare?
5. Can you count up to seven, and distinguish red from green?
Answering "yes" to any of these: then consider it strongly.
Answering "yes" to all of them: Avast yerself, ye mangy cur, and hasten to yon friendly game store, a score of doubloons a-rattlin' in yer clenched fist. (I thought about writing this entire review in a font-heavy, colorful movie-pirate speak, but aren't we all tired of incomprehensible, heavily formatted posts?)
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Yes, I really am that awesome.
I haven't tried teaching this game to anyone under ten yet, but I'll wager an eight or nine-year-old could handle it.My 5-year-old can play. It's actually a good educational game for her, because in Kindergarten they are adding up single digit numbers right now, and guess what you need to do to play this game?
She's not super competitive yet, but she has fun. She has lots of fun (as in jumps out of her seat clapping and cheering) when she blows up my pirate with her cannon.