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Tobago

Posted by admin On May - 3 - 2012

by Bopper Scott Linde

Pass me the coconut water and start the Land Rover!  The others have a day’s head start, but I think I have the missing clue to the next treasure… They know that it’s in the mountains overlooking the largest lake, but I know its also near that landmark tree.  We can be there within the hour and stake our claim, but keep that strange amulet ready.  We may need it…

Treasure hunting! That’s the focus of Tobago, a neat little deductive reasoning game by Rio Grande Games.  I haven’t played many deductive reasoning games, but I know it took a creative game designer to make a game using a deduction mechanic that’s still this fun the play.

I don’t know why the game is named Tobago.  The island is random, so it’s not the map, and according to Wikipedia, Tobago wasn’t really at the center of piracy in the Caribbean.  This, of course, has no real bearing on the game, but it did puzzle me a bit.

Each player is a treasure hunter in an all-terrain vehicle.  At any one time, four treasures are up for grabs, with their size and location determined by the number of clue cards used to find them.  Each player may choose to either move their vehicle or play a clue card on one of the treasures.   If a player chooses to move, they may also pick up amulets and/or dig for treasure at their destination.

Clue cards must always reduce (deduct) the number of possible locations and not contradict previous clue cards.  Cards can require or eliminate certain terrain types and also can require or eliminate nearby landmarks.  There are sufficient map pieces and landmarks (huts, trees, and statues) to ensure a different play experience each game.  Each clue played on a particular treasure rewards the player with one share of the final haul and treasure distribution is in reverse clue order, the person who digs it up gets first dibs on the treasure excavated!  Digging up treasures and playing later clues is therefore very advantageous.

Pressing your luck is also an important feature of this game.  Two curse cards are mixed into the later stage of the deck.  After the first two or three treasures are found, there is an increasing chance of a curse showing up in a dig.  Curses stop the current distribution of treasure, and anyone still involved in the dig must give up the highest treasure card from their stash.  The only way to avoid this additional penalty is to sacrifice an amulet.

Amulets can be used in a couple of other ways too.  They can allow an additional movement phase or reduce a treasure location area by one.  Any number of amulets may be used by a player on their turn, with the only limit being how many they have picked up.  You don’t start with any amulets and they are only spawned as treasures are found.

Having 3+ amulets set aside is a good way to generate a surprise win, but if you are spending actions picking up amulets, you are not treasure hunting, so there is some tension as to when it is more or less beneficial.  Prior positioning on the board can make this easier, and using clue cards to make sure treasures are nearby helps minimize moving as well.

I really enjoy playing this game, it has that fun factor that’s lost in some of the more complicated games.  Players have a variety of decisions to make each turn, and planning future movement is typically rewarded.  Cards may be played on treasures not only to find them for yourself, but also to make them more difficult to find for a closer opponent.

Downtime is minimal.

An excellent game design.

FInal Final Thoughts:
Overall:  8.5

medium-simple not too hard to learn, simple to play

Quality
Fun
Replayability