Family Fun: Card Drafting for Treasures
by Mindy Basi
Card drafting, where players pick a card from a hand and pass the rest along to make a final deck, has been popularized by games such as Sushi Go and 7 Wonders. A card drafting game that you might not know is Treasure Hunter, a title by Richard Garfield published by Queen games in 2015. As always with Queen titles, the production is lavish, with detailed artwork and nice finishing touches on the cards and game tiles. Despite the expensive production, this crowd-funded game currently can be found for under $20, quite a good value for this big box game.
Treasure Hunter is particularly suited for families and groups of casual gamers, with easy to understand rules and quick game play over five rounds, although the card iconography might need a bit of explanation for less experienced players. There is player interaction with some very mild attack cards. Although there is enough strategy to keep it interesting for gamers, it’s not a brain burner by any means. It plays in about an hour with up to five people.
The theme of treasure hunting in various environments and protecting that treasure from greedy goblins is well played out, with touches of fantasy elements throughout. Ultimately the theme is rather pasted on to the mechanics of the game play, but it’s pleasant and adds a good dimension to the game. The theme and art is very family friendly. Garfield is a well known, experienced designer and his effort for Queen is tight and streamlined.
During play, a game board is set up each round for adventures in the jungle, an ice world, or a fiery volcano with a random draw of two reward tokens for the highest and lowest card values of three colors, red, green and blue. Generally, reward tokens are positive (treasure, or point multipliers) and give victory points or award money (also VPs), but some are negative and take away points, adding some needed tension to the game. Additionally, there are attacking goblins that want to steal gold from players, so they must be defended against at the end of the round by using cards held by players.
A hand of cards consists of numeric cards in the three colors, card play modifiers, dog cards (and a couple of others) which defend against goblins, treasure cards, and some take-that cards to thwart other player plans. Players draft a hand of nine by choosing one card and passing the rest to the left or right, depending on the round. In the end, no one knows exactly what cards each player holds. The round then plays out by players laying down cards of the same color and adding their numeric values (and possibly using card play modifiers in their hands), with the lowest total card sum getting the minimum reward token and the highest card sum getting the maximum reward token. Players without the minimum or maximum number get no reward.
Once the adventures – the color rewards — have been resolved, players must defend against three goblins and pay a cost if they cannot ward off an attack. The person with the highest defense gets the goblins in their victory point pile, plus any money paid by other players as a penalty. Players then collect any monetary rewards from cards and a new round begins.
Casual gamers with less experience may have trouble with some of the modifier cards and the iconography on just a few cards, but the game play itself is easy to understand. There aren’t a great deal of rules exceptions and although there may be some lull in the game when deciding what cards to keep in the draft phase, the game moves at a brisk pace. There is a bit of arithmetic when adding up card values and applying modifiers, but nothing challenging.
This light weight family friendly game is a great alternative for casual gamers or as a slightly longer filler for game night. It’s pretty to look at, easy to explain, and no one has to work too hard to play it. There are enough decisions to make during the game to keep gamers paying attention but nothing will be too frustrating for the very casual gamer. The strategy in the game is fairly obvious and there are ways to even the playing field, which makes it fun and competitive for everyone. The current price point should make it tempting to grab if you are looking to add a casual game to your collection.
Decision making: moderate
Player Interaction: high
Math skills: minimal – you need to be able to add numbers.
Strategy (long term planning): minimal
Tactics (reacting to the game state): moderate