The winner is the pirate who first finds 2 diamonds and gets back to the ship.
The treasure island is constructed of tiles with paths and obstacles. The players take turns to move their pirate 1 tile at the time and there are 9 tiles at which they may dig for the treasure. The content of each spot is determined by a longi-tude card and a latitude card and whenever a pirate digs there, he or she looks at the 2 cards intersecting at that spot to see what lies beneath. Each white diamond counts as 1 but each black diamond counts as -2 so digging randomly is dangerous.
At the start of the game, each pirate may only look at 1 longitude or latitude card. To find out the exact location of the treasure, a pirate need to look at more cards and there are only 3 ways to do so:
Fight with and win over another pirate to look at his or her starting card
Fight and win over another pirate to steal 2 found cards with the risk of stealing a black diamond
Dig randomly with the risk of finding a black diamond
Once enough diamonds are found, the pirate must return to the ship to win the game before the others find out and try to steal it. The challenge of Find the Treasure! is not only to find the treasure but also to conceal the finding.
The most important parts of the game board are the 9 crosses where the treasure may be hidden and
obviously, those crosses must be accessible. A fixed game board would assure that but suffer from 2 risks.
Firstly, there would be a risk that the limited movement options would create too little variation. Secondly,
there is a risk that the game board does not get balanced enough and that some parts get better than others.
But a modular game board suffers from other risks. A completely random setup of tiles may result in tiles
without any connection and even crosses being inaccessible.
The solution was a middle way: a modular game board with a number of proposed setups to choose from, without
denying the players the option to spend time to create their own maps.
The cursed treasure
There is a fine balance in the game between gathering maps and risk digging at an unknown cross. Without any
risks at all, players would dig as much as possible and pure luck would determine the game (like in The Lost
Diamond). With too high risks, players would not dig until they had enough maps, meaning that as soon as a player
digs, all the other players will know what she has found and turn the game into a hunting game instead (which is
not very exciting when a player can only move 1 tile).
By introducing cursed black diamonds and giving them a negative score of 2, the following scenarios are possible:
A player may win by having maps that lead her to the 1 cross with 2 white diamonds
A player may win by having maps that help her avoid all black diamonds and find the 2 crosses with 1 white diamond each
A player may gamble and find 1 black diamond and 1 white diamond but still win by finding 3 more white diamonds (difficult but not impossible)
A player may gamble and find the 1 cross with 2 black diamonds but still win by finding 6 white diamonds (very difficult)
Those scenarios give a game where players have several options and will never be sure what the others really have found (
and thus not be sure whether to take the risk of stealing it from them). A perfect balance for the kind of cat-and-mouse game I want.
... and Rejected Rules
There are of course also ideas that did not make it and here I explain why.
Heavy loaded pirates
Games often need balancing mechanisms to slow down leaders so why not Find the Treasure! as well? A simple idea would be
to let pirates with less load (as measured by having several lids left on hand) move extra fast. However, at one point of another,
it will be obvious who has found the treasure and that pirate will find it impossible to escape several other players if they
are faster than her.
The ship is used to sail to any beach tile at the start of the game and in early versions, the ship could be used during the
game as well. However, as mentioned above, pirates will eventually find out who has the treasure. Why then chase that pirate
through the island if they can sit on their ships and wait to see which beach he will come out too. Realistic, yes, but fun, no!
Instead, I forced the pirates to leave the ship within 1 turn and only return if either injured or to leave with the treasure.
After all, the pirates cannot be expected to look to kindly to you if you return empty-handed, can they?