Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Friday 21 December 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Treasure Island

Game: Treasure Island

Publisher: Matagot

Designer: Marc Paquien

Year: 2018

Matagot, as a publisher, seem to really enjoy publishing games with dry erase boards and markers! Captain Sonar certainly made a big splash, with real-time submarine hunting a la Battleship. However, we preferred the slightly more sedate pace of Sonar - the family edition, which we were able to play with 2 players.

With their latest release, Treasure Island, you can certainly see some similarities with the style of game. With the pirate theme, and beautiful artwork of Vincent Dutrait, Treasure Island delivers a treasure hunt that you will seek to solve with geometry and coloured pens!


In Treasure Island players are split into 2 teams. 1 player is the dreaded pirate captain Long John Silver, who has buried is treasure somewhere on the island, while the rest of the players are part of his mutinous crew who have overthrown their captain and are interrogating him for the location of the fabled treasure. The first pirate to reach the treasure is the winner.

At the start of the game each player will be handed a dry erase map of the island, a pen in their colour and a miniature representing their pirate for the main board. The board itself also happens to be a dry-erase map of treasure island and it's on this that most of the clues will appear. The player playing as Long John Silver will secretly make an x on his small map representing his treasure. The other players will take turns to choose from a a number of actions to perform. The main actions are simply moving and searching for treasure. As an action you can either move 6 miles (using the included ruler), move 3 miles then perform a small search, or stay still and do a large search. Searches are done by placing the relevant circular search marker around your pirate and drawing around the inside. If the treasure is inside your search then you win the game, otherwise the game continues with the next player's turn.

On certain days on the tracker, the pirates will have successfully gleaned some information from their captain. At these points, Long John Silver must play one of 3 of the clue cards in his hand. These are all unique and they give a variety of information; confirming that the treasure is within a certain range of someone; or pointing out the two closest pirates, for example. These clues can then be drawn on the game map using the included compass. The key thing is that twice during the game the captain will gain a token that allows them to lie! Players can spend one of their precious actions to probe and find out if you used that token, but just because you could lie doesn't mean you did! A good amount of bluffing is needed to do well as Long John Silver, but should you confuse your crew for long enough then you can break free and join the hunt for the treasure. With only the minor advantage of knowing exactly where it is!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Treasure Island is an incredibly thematic deduction game that pits player against player. While enough information is revealed to give the pirates a really good chance to beat their captain, you still need to be able to follow the clues and decipher when the captain is lying to you. Playing as Long John Silver is filled with hard decisions, as many of the clues you give cut out whole swathes of the map as potential locations. But when you do manage to pull the wool over their eyes it feels great! Just don't go in expecting to win. There can be a touch of frustration if the pirates simply get a lucky guess to find the treasure early on, but even when that happens it's quick enough to reset the game.

Unfortunately some of this is lost in a 2-player game. With 2 players the solitary crew player has 3 miniatures to use giving them great board coverage, but with no compulsion to alternate which miniature to use. Once they start narrowing down on the treasure you can expect a rapid grid search as one pirate is activated again and again until no stone is left un-turned. I think it's fair to say that 2-player was an afterthought as the instructions barely even mention how to play with only 2. Saying that, despite the near impossible task ahead of Long John Silver, it is to the game's great credit that it's still fun!

There is some incredible joy in taking a 6-inch tall compass with a plunger on one end and using it to draw a 8-mile wide circle on the map. There is equal joy in marking off areas that the treasure can't be in on your personal map as more clues appear. And finally there is the huge feeling of suspense felt by the captain player whenever someone gets close to the treasure. Treasure Island isn't a hugely complex game, but the graphical design, high production value and general quality of the components are what take it from an average game to one that truly draws you in. I'd highly recommend giving Treasure Island a go!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

I've been highly anticipating Treasure Island. I love deduction games and the way this game looks with all its templates, colourful markers and eye-catching board just calls me to play it. I have not been disappointed by the experience that Treasure Island delivers.

The game is completely asymmetric and, as is traditional in our house, I play the 'many' every time - I'm never the bad guy! I really like how each player character has different special abilities that all feel really powerful, as well as the one-off actions on your player board that can really give you the edge in a tricky situation or when you want to maximise some information you've just been given.

Most of the deduction in the game is pretty simple, but it's really interesting how Long John Silver has to decide what information to give away at the right moment and also has the opportunity to lie to you or double bluff. Some of the best deduction moments in the game come from trying to figure out which clues are true or false - it's a lovely way to mix social deduction with true logic.

As a game there are undoubtedly a few flaws; You could get super lucky and find the treasure on the first turn; Long John Silver appears to have the odds stacked against him; It can feel like stabbing around in the dark in the early turns; and worst of all, your multi-coloured pens (though fantastic quality) might run out one day! But, what Treasure Island lacks in perfect deduction game design it makes up for with theme and the shear joy of playing around in this dry erase world.

If you're looking for a fun experience to bring new friends to the gaming table, or simply want some light relief between intense games, then I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Treasure Island. If you want a serious, puzzly and challenging deduction experience, then maybe there's a different game for you.

You Might Like...
  • Treasure Island is a 1 vs. many deduction game without an ever moving target!
  • Drawing on the board and using all the components is a complete joy.
  • The thrill of the chase is great, as you are slowly drip fed more information and deduce whether you're being told the whole truth.
You Might Not Like...
  • The two player variant doesn't seem to capture all of the hidden information of a higher player count game.
  • It seems almost impossible for Long John Silver to win, which may be frustrating for that player.

The Verdict

7/10 Treasure Island is imaginative, thematic and simply fun! The game has such a creative approach to deduction and it's wonderful to look back at the board you have created together. It might not be the most perfect game, with the most puzzling of things to solve, but it's an experience that should fully engage a table of friends with joy and laughter.

Treasure Island was a review copy kindly provided to us by Matagot.

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