BrettSpiel is a blog about board game design, written by game designer Brett J. Gilbert.


Game Preview: Tobago

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while now, and yesterday I was alerted by the ever-vigilant gamers on BGG to the fact that Zoch have now posted more details on their website, including full rules in English, German and French. Before that all I had seen were a few shots of the board, which had been enough to pique my interest.

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The game is, it turns out, a rather clever treasure hunt set on a jungle-bound island. The modular board looks amazing, as do all the 3D elements — the huts, statues, palm trees and player vehicles.

Image: Look at all those lovely bits! The board comes in three double-sided panels that lock together to make 32 possible configurations. Cunning!

I am, it must be said, something of a sucker for such richly illustrated games, but a thorough reading of the rules reveals that the game offers a thoroughly new twist on the notion of treasure hunting.

The game has two core mechanisms, both of which appear innovative to me. First there is a collaborative deduction engine that means that the players together progressively narrow down the possible treasure locations. And second there’s a neat little push-your-luck procedure for deciding who gets the loot when the mysterious — and possibly cursed! — treasure is finally dug up.

Image: Each clue card represents a scrap of a treasure map that helps to locate each treasure. These cards specify a location that is in the river, not by the ocean, next to palm tree and not within sight of a statue. If that means the treasure can only be in one place, go get it!

The only slightly jarring part of the rules was the bit that described how the statues, from time to time, miraculously scatter the coastline with magical amulets, which of course have a variety of possible power-plays associated with them. However, this mechanism does give the players other targets to aim at on the island, other than the treasures themselves that is, and doubtless helps to add variety to the game, as well as speed things up.

Overall though the game looks and feels like a very solid, family-friendly strategy game that has a lot to offer. If I ever get a chance to try it out I’ll let you know!

Brett, in case you haven't seen it already, posted a video demonstration of Tobago a few weeks ago:

The dialogue is in French, but you get the gist of what everyone is doing. Now that the rules are available, the video will make far more sense to us non-Frenchies!

****!! I've visited Tobago several times as a child (it remains, to this day, my father's ideal idea of a holiday to the extent that he doesn't consider himself to have been on "a holiday" if it has been to anywhere else) and throughout this summer I'd been developing, in my head and sketches, a game to be called simply Tobago – the first of the several game ideas I've thought of that I believe has real promise. So far (which is that I need to decide on the values of and number of cards so that I can make a prototype and then see how it goes with those) it has ended up being a card game (with a scoring track and a few wooden bits) about running a hotel which is inspired as much by secondary school geography as by my experiences of the island. But though the subject and, most likely, the mechanics of this game are quite different, I can't help but sit here fuming at Zoch for "stealing" my name! The designer of this game may have thought of it before me but the game, regardless of how fun it is to play, and it's illustration are of a generic "treasure island" that to me has nothing in particular to do with Tobago and could have been called any number of things; my game, on the other had, makes reference to, for example, specific folkloric creatures of the island (they are used to represent the natural environment that players need to keep their impact on in check to be successful) and what I'm frustrated with is that this game uses that same name without, relatively, making any use of it. Though, on yet another hand, that does still leave the market open for a game actually about Tobago, and it's not as if Ralf zur Linde and Wolfgang Sentker's Mallorca-set game (also inspired by a childhood holiday location, as I learnt after conceiving my Tobago) is simply named after the island. What to name it instead isn't the easiest of questions to answer, however… Something else may come up during the play-testing but I'm at a loss as to what to refer to it as in the meantime, in order avoid confusion with this Tobago (which I may end up getting anyway, perhaps as a birthday present for my dad). (n_-)

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