Doug's Dungeon - Treasure Hunter
Drafting has always been a fascinating game mechanic for me. The depth of each choice and the wealth of strategies that develop are staggering. To any who haven’t played games with drafting, each player of a game sits down with a bunch of cards, and chooses one to keep. They pass the remaining cards to their left, and pick from the new, smaller pile. This continues until all of the passing cards have been picked. This may seem like an unintuitive mechanic, but games that are built with drafting as their core mechanic are surprisingly complex in a satisfying way.
I was first introduced to card drafting when playing Magic: the Gathering. Each new set of cards that were released produced a new playing field. Players would try to build toward a deck archetype, while also sniffing out what cards they should take to hurt the players either side of them. Of course what generally followed the draft phase was constructing the deck, where i’d spend a few hours regretting my life decisions being beaten by kids. Despite my poor performances, I really enjoyed the card-picking aspect. What I really needed was a self-contained game that focussed on drafting, but didn’t cause me to lose hours of my life losing after failing so hard to pick the right cards. Enter Treasure Hunter:
Doggo - “Don’t grab it, Ivan”
“Oh my bork he’s gunna grab it isn’t he”
“THAT ABSOLUTE SON OF A BORK”
Treasure Hunter is a game all about drafting adventurers to go out and grab ancient and powerful treasures. Whoever gets the most treasure value after 5 rounds is declared the winner! Each round has players sending adventurers to three different locations (blue tundra, green jungle and red volcano). Each location has two treasures up for grabs. One is given to the player who drafted the highest total value of cards for that colour, while the other is given to the player who drafted the LEAST (but still drafted some). The treasures up for grabs can be worth straight-up points, yellow spells you can use mid-way through the game for points, or grey spells for the end of the game...these also give points.
In order to get these treasures, you’re going to have to draft the adventurers of the colour you want. Given you can win any given region, you may want to draft well on all three. There are adventurers with values between 1 and 12 and an animal companion per region; the companions doubling the score of your adventurers that match its colour. Shuffled in with them are some victory-point-granting money cards, some enhancers and reducers to use on your parties and best of all, DOGS.
You heard me! DOGGOS! PUPPERS! WOOFERS! BORKERS! Treasure Hunter always has a special place on my shelves almost exclusively because you can go the ‘dog strategy’. As much of a meme as it sounds, Picking these very very good boys is very very important. Because not only do you have to compete for the treasures in the 3 three regions each round, you also have to avoid having your gold (victory points) stolen by the three goblin tokens. Anyone who doesn’t get enough doggo power each round gives each goblin they didn’t ward off some gold (each goblin has a difficulty and steal amount). However, the player who has the HIGHEST doggo power kills the goblins and takes all the gold they stole that round! Very very good boys indeed.
The draft in each round is rather hectic. Everyone knows what treasures are up for grabs, and should attempt to make their hand suit the situation. Being able to judge what cards have been taken and what will be taken will help you avoid being ‘hate-drafted’ by your opponents. Though it will be hard to say what has been taken early on, as the card pool far exceeds the number of cards used in a round.
Going deep on a strategy (like doggos) can put everyone else at a huge disadvantage. It’s all about finding that balance between all facets of the game. Some of the treasures are cursed, giving NEGATIVE points, which adds even more stress to the draft. The excitement in the air is palpable as that 12 value green circles the table, threatening to be a player’s last card, sealing their fate with the cursed boot. You can, however, beat the drama by counting the cards in a pack and determining what you think the pick order will be. Then you simply say “Let’s plan around this awful card I’m getting”.
Once players start getting the gold and grey spells, your strategies begin to change. Do you take that high blue you wanted for the treasure? OR do you take the red card to stop the next player using their ‘victory points for every red i have this round’ card? Or do you deny the doggos from the player with the end-game spell that give more points for each slain goblin? These spells make every game and even every round a unique risk-assessment puzzle to solve.
Treasure Hunter is a reliable title that I can break out with any type of player and know they will enjoy it. There’s enough variety and depth through well crafted simplicity to satisfy almost any audience. Since it is a drafting game, I would recommend playing it with as many players as possible, and avoid playing with just 2. Expansions do exist, one of which adds more complex goblins with special abilities. The other powers up the goblins and some of the adventurers, and adds new spells to the game.
The only people who I imagine won’t like this game are non-dog people. And I’ll be frank with you.
I don’t rightly care for what non-doggo people are looking for in a board game.
I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D.
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