Treasure Island by Matagot – Review

Treasure Island by Matagot - Review 1

The art looks great, the gameplay is entertaining and the components are industry standard. That all equals a great gaming experience and a game that should have lots of staying power when it's time to choose a game off the shelf.

Treasure Island by Matagot - Review 2

Theme and What is it?

The rumors have persisted for years. Long John Silver plundered a magnificent treasure and has hidden it away on an island unknown to modern sailors. You are not sure of the truthfulness of these rumors, but the lure of the treasure is too strong to not act on them. 

Years ago, you became part of the crew of Captain Silver’s boat and have spent all of these years with the burning desire to have that treasure all to yourself. You are not the only crew member who feels this way. There are rumblings on deck that others are ready to stage a mutiny and demand to know where the treasure is hidden.

When it finally happens, you join in and take control of the ship. Long John Silver is now your prisoner and you have demanded to know where the treasure is hidden. He leads the mutineers to a small remote island, away from any trading routes anyone has heard about. Here on this island you will find the treasure. The Captain is willing to provide hints, but none of you are sure he is telling the truth. It almost seems like he is leading you on a wild goose chase while he bides his time looking for a way to escape and escape with his treasure.

Treasure Island is a semi-cooperative game for 2-5 players and typically plays in 45-60 minutes

Treasure Island by Matagot - Review 3

Gameplay Mechanics

In Treasure Island, one player takes on the roles of Long John and the rest of the players are pirates. Over the course of rounds, called days, the players acting as pirates hunt for the hidden treasure based on hints that are given by Long John. 

Each player has a mini map and a player screen. As Long John gives hints, the pirates mark their personal maps and narrow down where the treasure is hidden. Players are able to move, do searches and even check to see if the Captain was telling the truth when giving hints. The main map in the center of the table is used by all players to mark their current locations and to mark where they have been and where they have searched. Players are able to draw on the main game board with dry erase markers. This lets everyone know were searches have happened. I will speak about this more later in the review.

Each day (round) there is an event that happens. It can be a hint from Long John or it can be a new bluff token for the Captain. After this event is resolved, then whichever player’s turn it is will take either one or two actions, depending on the day. After a set number of days, Long John Silver is able to escape his prison tower and try to recover his treasure for himself. At this point it is a mad dash to find the treasure before Long John gets to it.

At any point if a pirate uses a search action and the treasure is inside their search radius, the player acting as Long John hands over a treasure chest with the gold token in it. This indicates that the searching player has discovered the treasure and is the winner. But if Long John can escape his prison and get to his treasure first, he is the winner.

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Initial Impressions

To be honest my initial impression was: wait…you draw right on the game board. No! You can’t do that and ruin it! But then I chilled out and really thought about it and thought: Hey that can be really cool. And it turns out that it was great. My initial fears were never realized. 

The game was pretty easy to figure out. It took some extra time explaining the game to the group because of all the components. There are rulers, a big one for the large map and two small ones for the individual mini player maps, and a compass (north-south-east-west type of compass) and a drafting compass (the tool that helps draw circles in engineering). 

The island is divided into sections and there are cards that Long John hands to each pirate player that shows a section where the treasure is NOT hidden. Each pirate player receives a different section card. So, there was some explaining to do to get everyone on the same page and understand how the game was going to flow.

My group’s first play through was very exciting. Everyone enjoyed the game and thought highly of it.

Treasure Island by Matagot - Review 5

Game Build Quality

Like I mentioned earlier, I was worried when I heard that players would be drawing right on the main game board. If the application is not done correctly, game pieces that use dry erase markers can start to look bad quickly. It seems like Treasure Island has a better surface because we played a few times and there was no residue build up. The components are all great and the publisher did a great job at having everything match the theme of the game. One person in my group said that they wished a pirate themed eraser was included with the game. But you will get by just fine without one.

Treasure Island by Matagot - Review 6

Artistic Direction

The artwork for Treasure Island is fantastic. I really loved how well it worked with the theme. Each pirate has its own character artwork. The island map is very detailed and looks very nice. The box is eye catching and the artwork on the components is just as cool. A big thumbs up to the art director on this project. 

Treasure Island by Matagot - Review 7

Fun Factor

What makes Treasure Island a fun game is the guessing game that takes place when Long John is giving clues. He could be telling the truth or bluffing. How sure are you about the information he is giving you? Playing as Long John is satisfying because it is always fun to provide misdirection. The fun part of being a pirate is the stress involved with making action decisions while trying to determine if you believe the hints that you have been given. All of this makes for a wonderful experience. 

Players should also enjoy the treasure hunt; running all over the island searching for buried treasure is engaging. There are special actions that each pirate can only do once or twice a game. This allows variety during player actions and also adds another stressful decision to players. Should they use a special action early or save it for later rounds? Just tons of satisfying stress.

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Age Range & Weight

Treasure Island is recommended for 10+. I started a game with my seven-year-old and my ten year old. My seven-year-old didn’t even make it through the explanation. My ten-year-old loved it and ended up winning her first game. From my experience 10+ is a good evaluation. For my kids it was right on.

The game can seem heavy when looking through everything and setting it up, but once a round or two is played, players can see how simple everything is and how all the drawing tools work. Since it can play up to 5 players this can work well as a party game and might even work well as a gateway game.

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Conclusions

There are some really great things going on with Treasure Island. It can be taught pretty quick and players can get comfortable with their roles after a couple of rounds and it is still early enough in the game to allow them to be competitive. You will want to have an experienced player play the role of Long John Silver since that role needs to keep everyone involved and guess about the whereabouts of the treasure.

The art looks great, the gameplay is entertaining and the components are industry standard. That all equals a great gaming experience and a game that should have lots of staying power when it’s time to choose a game off the shelf. Treasure Island is a great choice to add to your collection. The mystery and intrigue that Long John Silver brings when providing hints makes for a suspenseful and captivating game.

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