Avast, me hearties. The time has come to seek out the legendary Lost Treasure of Martinique. Make haste, don't ye tarry. We are not alone on this here island.
Martinique is a pirate themed, deduction and strategy game for two people.
The game has a simple mechanic and straightforward objective. Collect information about where the treasure is not in order to be the first to uncover the treasure's true location. Then, you must be the first one to arrive and dig it up.
On the surface, the game seems fairly shallow. Through the first segment of the game the pirates are seemingly moving haphazardly around the board collecting useless artifacts and the occasional bit of useful information. This doesn't make this portion of the game very engaging. I found my self getting bored with it during the first couple of times I played.
Each player chooses a color; red or black. He then collects all the pirate pawns of that color. The map tiles, consisting of 8 numbers and 8 letters, are divided into two separate tiles. The piles are shuffled separately. Then one letter and one number are drawn secretly and set aside. This letter and number combo reveals the location of the lost treasure. The remaining map tiles are mixed together and distributed to designated locations on the map. Two of the map tiles will be left at the bar as a prize for the first pirates to arrive.
Now the remainder of the spaces on the board are covered with tiles artifact tiles. These tiles serve as spaces for a pirate to walk on and indicate how many spaces he will be allowed to move.
Then some minor treasures are set up on the treasure chest and some joker tiles are placed with the map tiles in the bar.
The game is played by taking turns moving one of your four pirate pawns. Pirates move from one tile to the adjacent tile equal to the number on the current tile on which he started the turn. In other words, if the tile under your pirate is labeled with a two, you can move two spaces. Moves must be made to an adjacent tile, not diagonal, but are not constrained to a straight line. It is important to plan which tile you will land on as the value on that token determines how many spaces that pirate will be allowed to move on his next turn.
When you vacate a tile to move to another tile, that tile is removed from the board leaving the space empty. This tile is put into your ship to be used as trade for the minor treasures throughout the search phase of the game. As spaces disappear, your choices for which space you can land on become more sparse. You could always choose to land on an empty space, thus sending your pirate to the next available stool in the bar. But then you have one fewer pirates to search for clues. Near the end of this segment of the game this choice will be used to secure spots at the bar near the front of the queue.
While you are searching for clues yourself, you have to be aware of the presence of the rival crew of pirates on the island. If at any time your pirate travels over the space of a rival pirate, your opponent must turn one of his collected map clues face up where you can see it. This, of course, has no affect if he has yet to uncover any map clues or if he has already revealed all of his current map clues.
This collection phase continues until all pirates are waiting together at the bar. Then the digging begins.
There are two ways to send pirates to the bar. The first is to land on an empty space on the map. This instantly sends the pirate to the next available bar stool with no special bonus or benefit. If you end your turn on one of the center four squares (the Hook Bar) you also go directly to the next available bar stool. In this case, however, you have the opportunity to receive a bonus tile from the bar. When you land in the bar by landing in one of these four spaces, you get your choice of any one of the tiles that are left. This could mean a clue to the map.
Once all pirates are at the bar we are ready to dig for the treasure. All unused tiles will be cleared from the board. The first pirate, the one in the first chair who got to the bar first, will dig first. You use your knowledge of the map clues to eliminate rows and columns to narrow down the possible locations. Each pirate in the bar, in turn will be placed on a location to claim it for his crew. Once all pirates are placed to dig, the location of the treasure is revealed. The winner is the one who chose the correct location of the treasure. If nobody got the answer right, the person who collected the most minor treasures wins.
The level of strategy that is possible in this game may be difficult to grasp at first much like the strategic elements of Clue would be lost if you only used the "X/O" style deductions included in the detective's notebook. With the bright color of the minor treasures luring you to plan your moves around collecting specific artifacts, you will likely fall behind in the real goal of finding clues to the treasure. You will also lose track of your opponent closing in on your pawns for the chance to steal information.
The best strategy in this game is to disregard the minor treasures and aggressively pursue the map tiles in order to gain as much information as possible. As part of that overall strategy, the pursuit of rival pirates for the purpose of stealing information should be included. If you plan your moves to capitalize on the values of the different tiles, you will be able to quickly gain information without wasting time.
The next part of the strategy that actually gets a little tricky has to do with sending your pirates to the bar. If all of your opponents pirates go first, you will be able to deduce from his guesses what information he likely has. However, if he has too much information, this could result in him guessing correctly before you get the chance to guess yourself. There is also the possibility that he will try to obfuscate the data by intentionally making an incorrect guess. In short, the decision of racing to the bar or hanging in the wings will never be the same. The cost to benefit ratio is weighed heavily each game.
There is one possible other strategy, a veritable "shoot the moon" scenario. One could focus only on collecting enough map tiles to confound his opponent while avoiding him at all cost. Then, scramble for every minor treasure he could achieve. If he then made sure all of his pirates were in the bar first, he could intentionally fail his guesses and possibly lead his opponent astray. This would render the treasure lost and put the victory conditions of the game squarely on the quantity of minor treasures. I believe this strategy would be highly risky and would probably work only a limited number of times before your opponent would catch on.
The game is very vibrant with good quality game bits. The suspense builds nicely for a climactic finish. The game is simple to learn and easy to understand. The game is fairly short and can be a good filler game.
The minor treasures victory condition is rather weak. It could be done away with if there was a way to ensure that someone actually found the treasure. Maybe a sort of "who was closest" scenario. That would eliminate the desire to collect tiles of specific types when you should be more worried about planning your movements.
It can happen that you have spent the whole game aggressively searching for map tiles and revealing your opponents tiles to the point that you have the location narrowed down to four locations only to be beaten by a stroke of luck as your opponent pulls a random guess out of thin air. I am still upset about that one!
This is a good light to medium game for two players. It will never be the focus of game night but helps mix up the game play and try out new strategies.
Although I realize that this game will likely never be anyone's favorite, I still recommend it as a filler game or a gateway game for new gamers.
I turned Old & Chaotic Evil Bob to Lawful Good (for a day...)
Great review of a unique two-player game thst should get more attention than it seems to!