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Kristen McCarty
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Creeping through the jungle you clench the tattered scraps of a treasure map in your hands, just a few more clues and you will find the treasure. But you know others are out there, trying to find the very treasures you seek. There aide may be welcome, as they can help you narrow down the clues. But the more they help the more treasure they demand. And they are not the only dangers awaiting on this island. Legend has it that some of the treasure is cursed! Seek the amulets and you will be safe, without them the curse is your destiny.



Object of the Game

Tobago is a treasuring hunting game where players use their and their opponents clues to find a treasures exact location. Then the must race to be the first to find it. Some of treasures are cursed and only the help of the Amulets will protect them. But these amulets have other magical powers as well. The player with the most gold will win the game!

Components / Set-up

I was immediately drawn to Tobago because of the components. Beautiful! I know I say this about a lot of the games I review, but everything, I mean every last component of Tobago, is just amazing.

The first component is the modular game board. There are three double sided sections to the game board. The three front sides (a, b, c) show fewer island spaces than the reverse side (A, B, C). These boards may be combined into 32 different islands. There are also three clamps that lock the board into place. These clamps are also the spaces for the amulets, clue cards, and treasure cards. Players simply decide which island they want, clamp it together and place it on the table.



The island is made up of hexagonal spaces of various terrain types: beach, jungle, river, scrubland, lake, and mountain. No matter how the board is set up there will be exactly one largest area of each terrain type.



Next to the board, the coolest game pieces are the 4 huts, 3 palm trees, and 3 statues. These are placed on the island next, according to a few rules. The first is that only one object may be placed in each space. Each similar object must be placed at least four spaces apart. Be sure to check that you do this, especially on the smaller boards. The last rule is that the Statues can not be placed next to the ocean. Each statue must directly face one of the six surrounding spaces.



The component every player is vying for are the treasure cards. There are 39 total treasure cards, and two curse cards. The deck is formed by first shuffling all the treasure cards, removing the first 12 and then reshuffling the lower 27 with the two curse cards. The cards are then placed on their space.



There is a mistake in the rulebook. It says the game comes with 21 amulet tokens. In fact, it only comes with 20 These tokens are not placed on the board yet. The are set aside, on their clamp space, and will come out later in the game.

The players then take one ATV of their choice and the corresponding colored compass rose tokens (15 each player) . Players chose the starting location of their ATV on the island.



Next, create four treasure map areas near the game board. Sort the four colored treasure cubes. There are 17 total cubes in each of the four colors (grey, brown, black, and white).

Now, players draw one of the 52 clue cards and place it face up on an empty treasure map. Each player marks the placed card with one of their compass rose tokens. Players receive four clue cards (6 in a two player game). The others form the clue card deck.

Each clue card shows the landmark the clue refers to: scrubland, jungle, river, mountain, lake, beach, hut, palm tree, statue, or ocean. If the clue card has two red parenthesis above and below the symbol it refers to the largest area. The two cards below marked with red and green compass rose thus refer to the largest jungle and the largest mountain.



There are six different types of clue cards. Card type one means within the landmark and shows the landmark within the hexagon. Card type two means next to the landmark, this show the landmark next to an empty hex. See the example marked with the yellow compass rose. Card type three means in sight of a landmark: exactly one or two spaces from the landmark and shows the landmark beside two hexagons. The example is marked with the red compass rose.



Card type four means not within a landmark and shows the landmark in the hexagon crossed out. (marked with green). Card type five means not next to the landmark and is marked with the landmark beside a crossed out hexagon. Card type six means not in sight of the landmark (not within 1 or 2 spaces of the landmark). the treasure must farther than two spaces away. The picture show the landmark besides two crossed out hexagons.



Game Play

Players take turns in clockwise order. They may play a clue card or move their ATV during their turn. They may also retrieve treasures and use one or more amulets during their turn

1. Play a Clue Card


First, players chose one hand card and place it face up, below the last clue card played,on one of the treasure maps. They mark the card with their compass roses. Then they draw a new card.



"Rules for adding clues: a new clue added to the treasure map must not contradict any clue already present in the map; it must reduce the possible sites where the treasure could be by at least one space; and it must allow at least one site where the treasure can still be hidden."



It is helpful, to visualize where the treasure is, by adding cubes to the board as spaces are eliminated. When there are few enough spaces where the treasure could be, add cubes to the possible spaces. New clues will eliminate more cubes. Only when one cube remains is the treasures location determined. The first player to reach it may retrieve it. Cubes from different treasures may share the same hex.

2. Move an ATV


Players may move their ATV's up to 3 legs. One leg equals either moving within one terrain or changing a terrain. Players may move within the same terrain type, no matter how far, and it is one leg. When they move into another terrain type (moving from jungle to lake) that also counts as one leg.



If players retrieves a treasure they end their movement no matter what. If they collect an amulet one leg is ended. ATV's can go anywhere on the island, but they cannot go into the ocean.

Retrieving a Treasure

A player may retrieve a treasure if the exact location is know and it is their turn and their ATV reaches or already occupies the treasures space. They place a compass rose below the last clue card of that treasure's map and removes the site marker.



Now, players draw as many treasure cards as they have compass roses on the map. They secretly look at their treasure cards and hand them face down the the player who retrieve the treasure.

Distributing a Treasure

The player who will distribute the treasure cards draws one more treasure card from the stack and shuffles it and the other cards. They then show the top treasure card. All players, with compass roses on the map, are asked, in sequence order (from bottom up) if they wish to claim the treasure card or not. If the first player declines the next player is asked. If no one wants the card it goes into the discard pile.

If they claims a treasure card it is placed face down next to them. Then the process is continued until all the treasure cards offered or no compass roses remains on the board. Left over cards are discarded.

Cursed Treasure

If a curse card is turned up that treasure is cursed and it has two consequences. The remaining treasure cards are not distributed. Anyone with a compass rose on the map must discard one amulet. If they do not have it, they lose their most valuable treasure card. The curse is removed. If the discarded cards contained the second curse it has no effect and is removed. Players then take back the compass rose tokens.



Starting a New Treasure Hunt


All clue cards belonging to that treasure are discarded. The player who claimed the last treasure card starts a new treasure map by playing a clue face up from his hand.



The Mysterious Appearance of the Amulets

Every time a treasure is found, the statues release an amulet. Where their gaze strikes the coast a amulet is placed. After each treasure is retrieved take three amulets and place one each on the coast in the last island space lying in the direction of the view of each statue, unless this space is already occupied by a amulet. The, with a grinding noise, the statues turn to face where the next amulet will surface: rotate the each statue 60 degrees in a clockwise direction.




Picking up Amulets


A player may pick up an amulet during their turn. There are two ways. First at the beginning of the player's turn, if the ATV already occupies a space that contains an amulet, he may take the amulet. This does not count as an action. A player may also claim an amulet if their ATV moves into a space containing an amulet. To pick it up the player must complete one leg of their movement. So it is possible to collect more than one amulet during an action.

Amulet Powers

During a players turn they may play as many amulets as they wish. Amulets may be used in five different ways. It can be used to remove a site makers. The player may remove one cube. The last cube may not be removed. An amulet may also be used to play an extra clue card. If a player needs to make another ATV action, they may move the ATV one extra. Players may not pick up amulets while using htis power. An amulet may also be used to exchange clue cards. The player discards all their clue ards and redraw the same number. The last power of the amulet is to protect players from a cursed treasure.

Used amulets are placed back in the common pile.




Ending the Game


The game ends after the treasure deck runs out, but not before the treasure has been distributed. Discarded treasure cards (but not curses) are reshuffled so that each player with a compass rose gets a treasure card.

The player with the most gold wins!

My Thoughts

Tobago was a game I anticipated and wished for a long time. I watched for it on my favorite websites longed for it as I visited games stores, but it wasn't to be found. Then I saw it! I remember my joy and excitement as I quickly grabbed the box and was determined not to lose it.

Taking it out for the first time I was blown away by the components. They are gorgeous, sublime! Set up, the game just draws you towards it. Even the insert is amazing. Everything has a specific place and fits back in the box so wonderfully. Why can't every game do this?



Tobago is also simply a fun game. You hear the Indiana Jones theme song playing in the background as you hunt for treasure and try to beat your opponents. There is also a little bit of cooperation between players as you build the treasure map. You may have to rely on them to eliminate some possibilities. But you don't want to much cooperation. You may hold back from putting down a clue that would reveal the treasures location so you can get there before the others. I like this struggle in the game.

But I must admit the game has lost some of its luster. I can't exactly put my finger on it but it doesn't have the same draw for me these days. Its still fun, and I'll play it anytime. But, I don't actively seek it out as I did at first. This may be because it isn't the deepest of games. It's a longer lighter game great for families and people new to board games. I also think it is best with four players. Two players are okay, but the games shines brightest with more players.



I wouldn't advise new players to read the rules and try to teach themselves the game. The rule books is okay but its layout can be a bit confusing.

Overall the game is simply fun. Don't expect deep thought but expect a few tough decisions. Enjoy yourself and find some treasure on a beautiful island.

Quick Stats:

Designer: Bruce Allen
Artists:Victor Boden
Publishers: Rio Grande Games, The Game Master BV, Gigamic, KADABRA, Mercurio, Piatnik, Stupor Mundi, Zoch Verlag
Number of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Awards: 2010 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee, 2010 Golden Geek Best Innovative Board GAme Nominee, 2010 Golden Geek Best Family Game, 2010 Kinderspielexperten "8-to-13-year-old" Nominee, 2010 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee, 2010 Spiel des Jahres Reccommended



Photo Credits: Raiko Puust(binraix), Mark Taylor(Tom Violence), Oliver Richtberg (olric), Svetlana(LanaDove), F. F.(Lord Warlock), Michael Collarin (MCOLL81), Antony Hemme(Toynan), F. F.(Lord Warlock), Antony Hemme(Toynan), Chris Norwood (kilroy_locke), Henk Rolleman (henk.rolleman), Flavio Jandorno(FlavioRJ), Colin Jennings(coljen), Javi Santos(barnyams36), Chris Funk(FunkyBlue), Antony Hemme(Toynan), Pedro Vaquero(Ikarus), Rick(RiffRaff14), Jon Enns(jayboy)

Thanks for taking such great pictures and sharing them with us!
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Andy Andersen
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Great review. My wife and I enjoy it 2P
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Brian Foster
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Yes, it's a great review. I have been wanting this game for a while and you gave lots of information to help me with my decision.

More reviews like this, please!
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Greg Taylor
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His summary is on target, it's a fantastic light game that I love whenever I pull it out. But I only like to pull it out once in a while, the game gets a bit samey if you play it too often.

Played occasionally, it shines every time. My wife & I love it.


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Kristen McCarty
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Thanks for reading, and I'm glad I helped you make a decision on the game. It is a beautiful addition to a game collection, but as Greg says you won't bring it out everyday.
 
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Dennis Shaper
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You wouldn't advise new players to read the rules and teach themselves how to play?
 
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Jonathan Powell
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Quote:
But I must admit the game has lost some of its luster. I can't exactly put my finger on it but it doesn't have the same draw for me these days. Its still fun, and I'll play it anytime. But, I don't actively seek it out as I did at first. This may be because it isn't the deepest of games. It's a longer lighter game great for families and people new to board games. I also think it is best with four players. Two players are okay, but the games shines brightest with more players.

Well done review of a good game. I agree with the above quote. I think I would enjoy teaching the game to a new player, because it is unique with cool bits, but after 11 plays I feel that I have explored it completely.

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Kristen McCarty
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I'm saying it is better for someone new to hobby style board games to learn from someone else how to play the game.

Players new to hobby style board games may have a difficult time with the rules layout, and reading rulebooks in general. I have found that for many people this is one of the big stumbling points for enjoying games. So, as I write my reviews I try to think about the rules and how easy or hard they may be to understand. I think the layout for Tobago's rules might be confusing to someone not used to reading rules and using icons. But, it's such an easy game to teach and play once you know the rules.
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ian o
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Wow, that was a lot of rules explanation. I also wish that this was a little deeper, which may make it easier to come back to. One problem perhaps is that its too short? But then again, maybe a longer game would be draining, not sure.
 
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Jeff Shoot
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xcrun55 wrote:
I'm saying it is better for someone new to hobby style board games to learn from someone else how to play the game.

Players new to hobby style board games may have a difficult time with the rules layout, and reading rulebooks in general. I have found that for many people this is one of the big stumbling points for enjoying games. So, as I write my reviews I try to think about the rules and how easy or hard they may be to understand. I think the layout for Tobago's rules might be confusing to someone not used to reading rules and using icons. But, it's such an easy game to teach and play once you know the rules.


Thanks for this review! This is EXACTLY my number one problem with getting new games! I am the only one who is going to read and figure out the rules... The way our social life is organized, it's just not possible for us to find an experienced player to teach us. That "experienced" player has to be me!

Up to now, I have tried reading the rules and "teaching" us all together. That has not worked out too well in some cases... So Kristen, I really appreciate this comment. And IF I decide to spring the money for this game, I'm going to have to take the time to watch the videos before trying to play it!

GREAT REVIEW!
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