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You are an adventurer, and have parachuted down somewhere on a lost island located deep in the South Seas to hunt for a fabulous treasure. Naturally, you are not alone on this island: you have an opponent, another adventurer who has also parachuted down. Like you, he has but one goal -- to find the legendary treasure.
Destination Trésor is an exciting game of deduction that is full of suspense. Careful thought and reasoning, or even bluffing will provide the participants with many hours of exciting fun. Only the first adventurer who discovers where the treasure is hidden will come out the winner of this hunt -- so look for clues and find your way to the legendary treasure before your opponent does!
Go to www.tactic.net and you'll see that they call themselves "Europe's Fastest Growing Game Brand." If they begin to publish more things like Discovery Island, then they deserve this moniker since this game is a hidden gem that works very well while incorporating many new ideas and excellent production value. Amazingly, the game is sold today in five different languages but not in English or German. With English rules now available, however, language poses no barrier to trying it out.
Discovery Island is a deduction and exploration game. Each player thematically begins the game by jumping out of airplane, armed only with a few chosen tools, to land on an unknown island in search of the treasure hidden there. The island is represented on a game board, and two boards are included so each player can use one. The island is divided into hundreds of small hexes, and five different terrain types are represented: plains, jungle, mountains, outback, and swamps. On the island are 28 treasure sites, only one of which actually holds the loot. These treasure sites are divided into four types of spaces: ruins, lakes, cave, and ocean. Also on the island are eight checkpoints, where clues can be gained helping to narrow the search of the treasure sites. But, when you land on the island you don't even know where you are, so finding this out is your first priority. To start the game, then, each player selects the starting spot for the other and notates this on their board while keeping it hidden.
The game includes a full set of hexagonal tiles that match to the land types on the island. There are more forest spaces on the island than plains, so there are more forest tiles as well. The tiles are sorted by terrain type, and the back of each tile shows a number from one to nine. This number represents the number of hours it takes to trek through the space. Each player's turn is 12 hours long, and this is tracked by turning up the tiles as you move. During a turn, one player calls out a direction to the other, such as "I'd like to move North". The other player then turns over a tile of the type of terrain encountered. By tracing movements on a transparent piece of plastic, one can begin to deduce location fairly quickly. These "locator guides" are simple but brilliant, since by marking my moves I can slide it around my map to see which spaces on the island match my moves. I know, for example, that moving north three times kept me in the forest, but my fourth move north put me in the mountains.
Once location is determined with certainty, movements can be drawn directly on the map board. As soon as this happens, make way toward a checkpoint to get some information about where the treasure is located. Seven of the eight checkpoints each contain a single clue, while the eighth is empty. The clues are features of the winning treasure site. One checkpoint shows the type of space and the other six each show one of the surrounding terrain types. For example, if I know only that that the winning space is surrounded by at least one outback and one forest space, I can already start to narrow the search considerably. Getting the clues and ultimately proving that you've found the correct treasure spot is accomplished using a terrific game piece called the "clue checker". This is a plastic device that shows a six by six set of windows, with sliders for each row and column. Sliding the "A" and "1" levers reveals the contents of cell A-1. Discovery Island includes a full set of treasure cards that slide into the clue checker, making each game new and providing a lot of replay value. This is an excellent design, and you can see pictures of the clue checker on the Tactic website as part of their photo of the game.
On its own, this would be enough to recommend the game but Discovery Island goes further to make it more unpredictable and more fun. First of all, the checkpoints close once they are visited so that only a single player can get each clue. This is not too penalizing since with just two or three clues you can often draw a good bead on where to search. Next is the fact that the backs of the tiles don't only include numbers. Some include events that must be dealt with or otherwise you lose turns or get lost again. At the beginning of the game, each player is given a set of equipment cards that show how the equipment can help them. For example, a flashlight will help in the forest but you may need a canteen in the plains. Each card is assigned a point value based on how many times it can be used and how flexible the tool is. Players can take up to 24 points worth of equipment cards, and leave behind the rest. When a tile is revealed that shows "you lose a turn if you don't have a knife", you can show that you have the knife, mark off its use, and proceed otherwise your turn ends and you lose the next turn.
The different terrain types also take different times to cross. Plains can be moved through quickly, meaning one to three hours each, while a single outback hex can take up to nine hours to cross. The fastest way between two points most often won't be a straight line because of this, and the tool selection can be meshed with this. If I take tools which help in all the mountain events, for example, I can more confidently trek through the mountains knowing that I am well prepared. Some of the events have you get lost, and this is a great feature of the game. When this happens, your opponent repositions you exactly four hexes away but doesn't tell you which direction (only the type of terrain you're on). So, you must again reach for the location finder (the plastic sheet) and do a little orienteering to get back on track. It also costs time to open the clue checker, so this must be considered in the efficient use of your limited time each day. A few of the tiles show a red arrow on their back, and this signifies a shortcut that makes the hex crossing take only one hour. This can be a godsend when slugging though the swamp enroute to the next checkpoint. The only modification I would consider to the game is the fact that one of the checkpoints contains no clue. The single clue identifying the type of space where the treasure lies is individually more valuable than other single clues, but since only one person gets each clue this gives an advantage to the person who stumbles on it first. It would have been easy to include this clue twice, rather than leave one checkpoint empty. If a single person got both, they would not be confused, but it also gives each player a chance to find out that information. Without it, you can still try to deduce the type of space based on where your opponent is checking.
Discovery Island is clearly one of the best exploration and orienteering games made. The game really feels like exploration, and the deductive aspects are consistent with the theme and fun to solve. The map boards are very well designed in that it never takes too long to figure out where you are and the clue system is ingenious in that it provides almost limitless flexibility but doesn't bog down the game play. The game comes in a "Kosmos big box" style container, and the components are top notch. This is a truly original game that has been well playtested and has surprisingly come from a family games producer. If this game had been published by one of the big German producers, it would have easily been a 2002 SdJ nominee. A friend very nicely sent me a copy of the French version of the game, and I brought this to the Gathering of Friends where a number of people tried it with overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Tactic is a Finnish company and the game is, I believe, published in Finland. The biggest exploration challenge now will be finding a copy if you're not in Scandinavia, at least until some of the more major distributors catch on and start to stock it.
I've always loved the excitement of exploration and the challenge of puzzle-solving, and this game combines both aspects in a very satisfying package for two players.
Despite solid mechanics and stunning graphics, many recent exploration-themed games have players actually building the landscape, rather than exploring it. Such games simply don't capture the excitement of discovery and the uncertainty of what may lie around the next corner.
Destination Tresor is a true exploration game, and really delivers on mood. Imagine being lost in the jungle of a mysterious island, armed with only a few tools and a desire to find an ancient treasure before your nemesis does. You have a map, but where on the map are you? You'll have to explore the island and find some landmarks or distinctive terrain features to find out.
But this is only the first step before the real adventure begins! Once a player is aware of his own location, he then visits archaeological sites which may contain clues to the location of the lost treasure -- the more clues collected, the more precise the treasure's location can be guessed. Once he thinks he has enough clues, he treks to the remote site in hopes of revealing the priceless amulet -- if his opponent hasn't found it first!