Monday, January 28, 2013

Tobago Written Review


Rio Grande Games, 2-4 Players,  Ages 10 and Up,  Play Time: 60 minutes

Piecing together long lost treasure maps has never been so much fun.

Tobago is a family game where players act as explorers on a deserted island.  It is “every man for himself” as each treasure seeker hops into his or her Jeep (or Land Rover, we here at Meeples on Meeples can’t seem to agree) and races for the gold.

The Board

Inside the box you will find three double-sided map pieces.  They interlock together, making it easy to set up and almost impossible to screw up.  Being as they are double sided, you have many different map possibilities and near infinite replayability.  The board also has clearly marked spaces showing where to put the draw piles for the various cards as well as all other tokens.  Overall, a great layout with fitting and colorful artwork.  They really went all out.

Besides the board, you will find two types of cards: the treasure cards and the clue cards.  They are smaller than your typical playing cards, but this helps them to take up less table space (which becomes important once the map “clue” cards start to spread out).  They are also very durable.

But I still haven’t gotten to the best part!  Your player tokens are pre-painted vehicles; windshields and all.  You also have great looking palm trees to spread out, mini huts, and even “stone” statues.  The components are amazing to look at and almost every player (especially kids) who has layed eyes on them immediately wanted to play.

The Game

Once the board is set up and the various pieces are layed out (you must spread out the huts, trees, statues, etc.), players each draw a clue card.  The clue cards are set down face up for all to see next to one of the four treasure colors (a brown cube for the “brown” treasure, black for black, etc.).  That card is the first clue as to where the corresponding treasure might be hidden on the island.

Example: I might draw a clue card stating that the treasure is NOT on a beach.  I then know that my treasure (let us say I am starting the brown clues) is not on a beach.

Players then fill their hands with 4 cards (6 in a two player game). 

On your turn you can either
A)    Lay down another clue on ANY of the treasure colors, thus further narrowing down where that treasure is
B)    Move your vehicle
If you choose to play a card it must make sense and not contradict any other cards for that particular treasure.

Example: We already know that the brown treasure in the above example is NOT on a beach.    Therefore, I can’t suddenly play a card saying it IS on a beach.  Instead, I must choose another clue from my hand, such as “the treasure is within one space of a hut”.  The person playing the clue puts a cardboard chit of his color (same as his vehicle) on the clue so that everyone knows who played which clue.

As more clues are played, you can mark the spaces where the treasure might possibly be with wooden cubes of the same color as the treasure.  This helps you to visualize where the treasure might be hidden as well as what cards you can play.  At some point a card will be played that pinpoints EXACTLY where the treasure is.  The first person to reach that spot digs up the treasure and gets first dibs!  You now draw as many treasure cards as clues played, plus one extra treasure card.  Each player who helped in the finding of that treasure (all who played a clue card) gets one treasure card for each clue he played.  You quickly look at your treasures, then mix yours and everyone else’s together so that no one player knows exactly what is in the treasure chest.

Example: I played two clues, so I get to peek at two treasure cards.  I have one for four gold coins and one for six gold coins. All other players see their treasure cards, and then we mix them all together with the one extra card which no one gets to see.  All I know is that there is a four and a six, there might be better or worse treasures (or even curses!) available.

Gold is distributed starting at the bottom of the clues played (with the person who reached the spot getting first choice).  So if I get first choice, and the first treasure revealed is a measly two, I would pass, knowing full well that there is a four and a six waiting to be grabbed!  Sometimes waiting is to your benefit, and sometimes passing on treasures can backfire on you.

A few other things come into play, such as mystical tokens which can be used to take extra turns and dodge curses, the curses themselves (two of the treasures in the game will come up with curse cards), etc.  The game ends when all of the treasure/gold cards are used up.  The winner is the player with the most gold.

The Verdict
I LOVE this game.  The rules make sense, and if you have a question the booklet is well layed out with helpful illustrations.  It is a game that I can play with my family, but at the same time I can bring it to a table full of hardcore gamers.  It has a nice mix of light strategy as well as a dash of luck.  I have yet for anyone to be disappointed.  The gameplay also fits the theme perfectly. 

The components are GORGEOUS!  Everything is colorful and durable.  Kids will love to play with the cars, trees, and ESPECIALLY the statues.  Simply outstanding.

The only cons I see are that it only plays up to four people (my family and gaming group both contain five) and that it might be a bit difficult for some people to look at the clues layed out and wrap their minds around which cards they can still play.  Having said that, it can also be a great game for developing children’s problem solving skills.

Final Score:  8 out of 10

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