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Subject: Unplugged Games reviews Treasure Hunter rss

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Owen Duffy
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For the original version of this review including images, please visit http://unpluggedgames.co.uk/reviews/review-treasure-hunter/

Richard Garfield is an undisputed legend of game design. His best-known creation, Magic: The Gathering, has been efficiently emptying players’ wallets for over two decades. His cyberpunk game Netrunner, resurrected in 2012 as part of Fantasy Flight’s dystopian Android universe, has also attracted a worldwide following, and between them the two titles have earned their creator a reputation for complex, immersive games offering an almost limitless range of strategic possibilities.

Treasure Hunter, Garfield’s latest release, is a completely different kettle of fish. A lightweight card game for ages eight and up, it’s pitched squarely at a family or casual audience.

This isn’t new territory for Garfield. His 2011 game of brawling, oversized monsters, King of Tokyo, found great success with a simple rules set based on the popular dice game Yahtzee. With its stand-up cardboard creatures, upgradeable special abilities and handfuls of satisfyingly chunky dice, it’s an ideal introduction to the hobby for new players.

Its creator has shown beyond a doubt that he’s capable of producing compelling lighter games. So it’s a shame to find that Treasure Hunter falls well short of the mark set by its city-smashing predecessor.

How so? Let’s start with theme. The game sees players assemble parties of adventurers in an effort to retrieve a selection of treasures from various locations. This dungeon-delving motif has been done to death, and even if none of the locales featured – mountain range, jungle, volcanic cave – technically constitutes a dungeon, it’s baffling that so many games continue to rely on this tired old trope in the year 2015.

If these warmed-over D&D stylings are a little grating, they’re at least expressed through some attractive, colourful cartoon artwork. But some of the same character designs have been copied and pasted onto different backgrounds – a move that seems like a pretty cheap bit of corner-cutting.

Mechanically, Treasure Hunter is straightforward. It’s a card drafting game, with each player beginning a round with a hand of nine cards – typically a mix of adventurers and various upgrades and special powers. You’ll choose a card from this selection and place it face down in front of you before passing your remaining cards to the player beside you, then repeat the process until all of the cards have been picked.

Your goal is to recruit a party of heroes for each of the three locations you hope to plunder. Each adventurer card has a power value, representing its strength in combat, and a colour, which denotes the area you’ll use them in – blue for mountains, green for jungle or red for caves.

Every location has two treasures on offer – one for the player with the highest total strength, and one for the lowest (since they’re more lightly-armed and can travel faster). Some of these are simple items of loot that gain you victory points at the end of the game. Others are enchanted items that grant you a bonus in subsequent rounds, for example, gaining you points for each card you draft in a certain colour.

To make things more interesting, you’ll also face threats in the form of cursed items that cost you points if you’re unlucky enough to acquire them, as well as roving bands of goblins who’ll pilfer some of your hard-earned loot unless you draft some guard dog cards to keep the little green buggers away.

None of this in itself is particularly terrible, and the game does offer some genuinely fun moments. You’ll bask in satisfaction as you draft a masterful combination of cards in one round before kicking yourself in the next as it becomes inescapably clear that you’ve assembled a hand of completely useless gumph.

But where Treasure Hunter fails and fails hard is in its repetitiveness. A game lasts five rounds, and each round sees the same process of drafting cards, working out who’s won in each of the three regions and conducting a bit of minor tidying up before the whole cycle begins again. The simple, sad truth is that there’s not enough meat to this game to sustain interest beyond round two or three.

You might try to fix this by just playing fewer rounds, but individual rounds can be quite swingy, and reducing the game’s length can mean that a player walks away with a win thanks to a single dominant hand of cards.

If you’re looking for a simple card drafting game that you can crack out with your non-gaming relatives, you’d be better off picking up a copy of Sushi Go. If you’re looking for something light, fast and fun that even has Richard Garfield’s name on the box, King of Tokyo or its slightly deeper sibling King of New York both fit the bill.

But while Treasure Hunter has its merits, there are plenty of shinier jewels out there to choose from.
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ys xxx
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My experience with Treasure Hunter is quite the opposite.
I like the theme. Yes, assambling a party of adventurers to gather treasure is nothing new, but it´s done in a nice and lighthearted way that I find very appealing.

Never had the feeling of repetitiveness either. Each of the 5 rounds usually is suspenseful and keeps everyone excited to see the outcome.

I would pick Treasure Hunter anytime over King of Tokyo. It´s a light, fast and fun game which so far has worked well with every group I have played it with. King of Tokyo at the other hand has fallen flat more often than not.
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Owen Duffy
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Hi yshild, thanks for the reply.

It's strange, I try not to watch/read other people's reviews until I've written my own, because I want to avoid being unconsciously influenced by consensus opinion. It seems I'm in the minority in not liking the game very much, but I've played it with three different groups, and none of them particularly enjoyed it. The nicest thing anyone had to say about it was: "I'd play it if someone else brought it out, but there's no way I'd buy it myself."
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Chris Bender
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osaekomi wrote:
It seems I'm in the minority in not liking the game very much, but I've played it with three different groups, and none of them particularly enjoyed it.


Some games just don't work for some groups. I tried to get Cosmic Encounter going with two different game groups, and each time it failed miserably. Yet I kept hearing how great it was from everyone else. Finally I tried it with a third group, and it went over great.
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