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Treasure Island from Matagot is loosely based on one of my favourite stories from my childhood.  The game allows for 2 to 5 players to t...

Treasure Island Treasure Island

Treasure Island

Treasure Island


Treasure Island from Matagot is loosely based on one of my favourite stories from my childhood.  The game allows for 2 to 5 players to take on the role of a pirate hunting for Long John Silver’s treasure or Long John himself, giving out black spots and misdirecting the player pirates as much as possible.  It is a one-against-many game in the same vein as Whitechapel or Fury of Dracula but plays in a fraction of the time primarily due to the hidden treasure being in a fixed location; meaning the hunting pirates are able to quickly narrow down the possible areas each turn.

Gameplay

The game is played in a series of days in which the Long John player will manage the board upkeep and frequent daily events after which one of the hunting pirates will take one or two actions, normally consisting of moving and/or searching.  These actions are drawn on the map of the island which makes up the game board.  After a pirate has searched, the Long John player may give the searching player a hint token (!) or move the game into the next day.  
In full swing, Long John is about to escape...
It is bizarrely in Long John’s interest to give hint token to the hunting pirates as this will allow the play of some of their more helpful cards i.e. those that give less information to the other players.  Although the Long John player does have a miniature for their character it will only come into play near the end of the game and will mostly be locked in prison for most of the game.  The game for the Long John player is really one of Game Master and may not be as much fun for some players.

Only one player can win the game, which will be when the active pirate successfully searches for the treasure or the Long John player succeeds in getting to the treasure before any of the other pirates.  The focus of the players subtly changes depending on the phase of the game and is a nice mix of competition and cooperation.  Players are actively encouraged to lie about the hints that Long John has revealed to them, they’re pirates after all, but their actions on the board afterwards will probably betray them.
The hints quickly reduce the search areas
Long John also has a limited opportunity to lie to the players.  Whenever a hint card is played, Long John has to play an information token.  The information token will either indicate that the hint is genuine or a bluff which could mean the hint is false…but not always.  This is where the majority of the game is for the Long John Player – deciding which hints and information tokens to use.  However, they will only have access to two bluff tokens throughout the course of the game so must use them carefully.

Over the course of the game, Long John will give all players 7 hints, 2 of which will have bluff tokens.  However, the players can only see the information token if they use a once-per-game special action to reveal to themselves a single information token.  They are free to discuss it with the other players, they’re just not allowed to reveal it to anyone else.  This permits and encourages a bit of good-old-fashioned skulduggery between the players and will hopefully even things out, just a little bit, for the Long John player who in all likelihood will not often win this game.
Uh Oh, Long John loses again.
Instead of taking a normal action, (move and/or search) the players can also do a limited number of special and unique actions.  These are crossed off as they are used but they do enable private information to be collected by each pirate.  This information may never be shown to the other pirates but the players are free to lie about it.  This felt a bit redundant as a rule as any discussion by the active player was often assumed to be a lie.  In my game groups, we most often resorted to not revealing any private information as anything offered was considered a lie and only served to confuse the picture.  The only time this was not true was when a pirate looked at the information tokens – that often started some healthy debate around the table.  

A pirate’s private information is stored on a mini-map and mini is definitely the right name for it.  Visually impaired players, by any degree, beware.

Components

This game follows the modern trend of absolutely gorgeous components.  The protractors are a unique game accessory that often got passers-by commenting.  The game comes with a variety of Perspex markers to indicate distance and compass directions which all look great.
Thematic bling
The art throughout the game is sumptuous and this is shown on the player screens and on the board (I’m a sucker for any type of map).  You also get a little treasure chest in which Long John will pass the searching pirate a clue or treasure token.  After a while, we stopped using the treasure chest and just passed tokens in a closed fist as it was less faff but we definitely felt that a little bit of the fun was lost doing that.  
Beautiful
The box insert is almost a bog-standard cardboard trench but in this, you get a liftable flap.  I don’t know what they intend you to store in there but I find it very useful and wonder why more publishers don’t have nearly as simple, but far more functional box inserts like this.
Loving that flap!

Criticisms

A lot of the components use a thin (but glossy) card stock.  I presume there are challenges (and expense) with getting the glossy finish onto a thicker card stock but I would prefer the card to be thicker. However, I haven’t noticed any fraying or damage as yet after half a dozen plays or so.  I do have some concerns over replayability after a higher number of plays but at the moment I’m still enjoying it and I know everyone that’s tried has had a good time with it, especially the hunting pirates.
Endgame private pirate scribbles
I’m not sure this game is balanced fairly for Long John Silver.  It seems that it is quite hard for that player, albeit they’re usually more experienced, to win.  I think the next time this hits the table I will try different starting locations for the pirates, i.e. maybe all starting on the same beach or 3d print some slightly smaller templates to use in the game.  However, never winning as Long John Silver didn’t necessarily bother me and this is a fairly unique and fun game to both newcomers and experienced gamers.
The rulebook is fine, despite what some naysayers say

Conclusion

I love the theme of this game and although there is very little plot from its namesake (black spots aside) the pirate theme and buried treasure game all shine through the components and simple ruleset.  Set-up is fairly quick and if the pirates are lucky, i.e. find the treasure, a game can be finished well inside the 45’ minutes on the box.  If the game goes into the endgame and Long John is trying to dig up his treasure then those games will, obviously, go a bit longer but no more than an hour (ish). 
Long John loses again...
I would describe this as a long filler, it can be a bit of a brain burner for the Long John player, who may try to balance the hints given to each player and the additional hints revealed throughout the game but you shouldn’t really be playing this if you’re attempting to work out every permutation.  It was designed to be played quickly and for fun and it succeeds at both.  It’s not exactly in my wheelhouse, I would prefer something a bit heavier, but I know that it will hit the table regularly at one of my game groups and I will be happy to take part in it and try out my best pirate voice.

I would like to thank Asmodee for sending this review copy and if you’re interested in purchasing this game I would recommend supporting your local game stores or game cafes, you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest in the UK or support them using their online web stores if you can't make it in person. 

Publisher: Matagot
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/242639/treasure-island
Players: 2-5
Designers: Marc Paquien and Vincent Dutrait (Art)
Playing time: < 1 hour.

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