Overview: Sometime in the late 19th century, a German named Jacob Waltz claimed he had found a gold mine in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, and started showing up in town with large gold nuggets to cash in. He died, only revealing the location upon his deathbed to his caretaker — who never found the mine. Years later Adolph Ruth went looking for the mine, and turned up dead — missing his head — but with a note claiming he had found the mine. In Legend of the Lost Dutchman, you are explorers searching for this hidden cache of gold.
The project just launched their Kickstarter page and is seeking funding until July 23.
Ages: 13 and up (though it may work for younger players too)
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
Retail: $35 on Kickstarter; $40 planned MSRP
Rating: Good — a fun treasure-hunting game with a lot of different elements to it.
Who Will Like It? Players who like the late-1800s gold-hunting theme with a good dose of luck will enjoy this one. It’s light- to medium-weight strategy with some interesting mechanics, but may not satisfy those looking for a heavy-duty Eurogame.
The theme is nicely done: you explore the land grid to see if you find treasure, fellow treasure hunters, or run into creatures or disasters. Crevices will allow you to quickly move to another location, and Thief cards let you attempt to steal treasure from another player. Sometimes the water level drops — and if the water runs out, the game is over. But what you really want is to reach the lost mine, where you might have to face the ghost of the Dutchman before you can get his gold.
There’s a lot of luck involved in the game — both die rolling and card draws — but the various types of cards in the land grid support the theme: you’ll encounter flash floods, dust storms, javelinas, and jumping cholla cacti. You have to overcome them with your Vigor, Foresight, and Ingenuity. Fail, and you might get exhausted and head back to the mining camp.
(Note: these are the current set of components for the prototype; things may change slightly in the final version.)
- treasure map
- 15 challenge tokens
- 5 player boards
- 20 attribute tokens
- 5 wooden mining tokens
- 5 wooden prospector tokens
- 1 wooden Dutchman ghost
- 10 action dice (5 per player)
- 1 movement die
- 1 directional die
- 1 mining camp card
- 5 water level cards
- 5 character cards
- 10 event cards
- 120 land cards:
- 30 treasure cards
- 24 creature cards
- 12 water level drop cards
- 12 item cards
- 6 treasure hunter cards
- 6 thief cards
- 6 crevice cards
As you can see, there’s a lot of cards and quite a few different bits included. Since my version is a prototype, I can’t say as much specifically about the quality of the components, but the artwork on the game (done by Ian Rosenthaler) is nice. It reminds me a little of the artwork for Bang!, and evokes the Old West.
The action dice and movement die are all standard six-sided dice (in different colors), and the movement die is a custom one that has orthogonal, diagonal, any direction, and “dynamic” (represented by a shovel in the prototype version).
The land cards are laid out face-down in a 5×5 land grid surrounding the Mining Camp card: each stack is five cards deep. At the beginning of the game, each player turns up three of the top land cards so there are some showing. The water level cards are placed in a stack in order (with “5” on the top), the Dutchman Ghost token is placed on the mine on the treasure map, and the event cards are shuffled and placed face-down.
The challenge tokens are mixed up and placed face-down on the treasure map, and then the first three (on spots A, B, and C) are turned face up. Each player puts their prospector on the treasure map at the mining camp (in the bottom right hand corner). The challenge tokens each show two numbers: to move past that token a player must successfully defeat a creature or disaster that matches one of the two challenge ratings, with the goal of reaching the Dutchman’s mine in the top left corner.
Each player also gets a player board, two action dice of their color, and a character card. The character card shows what items the player starts with (if any) as well as the initial settings of various attributes on the player board: Health, Vigor, Foresight, and Ingenuity. These are marked with the attribute tokens. The mining tokens are all placed on the mining camp card in the center of the land grid.
Each turn consists of four phases: Roll dice, move mining token (on land grid), resolve land card, move prospector (on treasure map).
You roll two dice: the movement die is a regular six-sided die, and the directional die has a couple of different faces: 2 orthogonal arrows, 2 diagonal arrows, 1 any direction arrows, and 1 “dynamic” side (the shovel). The movement die indicates how many spaces the player will move, and the directional die indicates what directions the player may move.
For the dynamic side, the player does the following three actions in order:
- Attempt to bury a treasure card, making it safe.
- Move the Dutchman ghost either onto an opponent’s unburied treasure card or onto the mine on the treasure map.
- Move on the land grid in any direction.
To bury a treasure, you simply roll both action dice, and you can bury one card of equal or lesser value by tucking it under your player board. Buried treasures cannot be stolen or haunted by the ghost. Any treasure that has the ghost on it at the end of the game is worth zero points.
You must move your mining token as many spaces as possible, up to the amount rolled. You cannot move through creature cards or disaster cards, and you cannot step on the same space twice. These rules may restrict your movement to less than the number rolled, but you have to move as far as possible. If you end movement on the same space as another player, then an event card is drawn and resolved before play continues. Event cards vary, but can do things like let somebody take a card from the discard pile, allow players to trade creatures, steal gold, and other (sometimes nasty) effects.
Once you’ve landed, you resolve a card where you’ve landed. If the top card where you stopped is face-down, you “discover” it by flipping it over and then resolve it. If it’s face-up already, you just resolve it as follows:
Treasure cards: take the treasure, and then discover (but do not resolve) the next card
Creature cards and Disaster cards: each card has a challenge rating showing a number and then an attribute. You roll your action dice and add the value of the attribute shown. If your total is less than the challenge, you suffer the penalty on the card. If it’s equal, you escaped with no penalty and no reward. If it’s greater, than you defeated the challenge and claim the card (and any rewards shown). Rewards will let you increase an attribute, and the cards are also worth gold at the end of the game. Creature cards have multipliers, increasing the value of each card when you defeat the same type of creature.
Item cards: Take the item card, which can be played on a later turn as explained on each card.
Thief cards: Immediately use the thief — you pick an opponent’s treasure card, and then try to fight the player for it or steal it. To fight, you each roll action dice and add your highest attribute: higher total wins. To steal, you roll your action dice, and you must roll at least 2 higher than the gold value to steal it. The thief card is then discarded.
Treasure Hunter cards: These are special cards that grant you some ability, like doubling the value of one treasure card for scoring, or forcing other players to discard treasure cards.
Crevice cards: Discard the crevice card and move to any other land card and resolve it.
Water level drop cards: Discard the drop card and reduce the water supply by one. Then discover and resolve the next card in the stack.
If you land on the mining camp card, you can increase an attribute by two or regain two health. And if any of your attributes or health ever go below the lowest space, then you’re exhausted: you lose some treasure, reset some stats, and head back to camp for your next turn.
Finally, if you defeated a creature or disaster card equal to one of the numbers on a challenge token, you may now move your prospector on the treasure map past that token. Then reveal any other challenge tokens on connecting trails.
There are two ways the game can end: discovering the mine or running out of water.
If a player reaches the mine on the treasure map, they’ve found the mine, which is worth 15 gold. However, if the ghost is on the mine, then the player must first defeat the ghost, or else they have to move back a space on the treasure map. The ghost has a whopping 30 challenge level, but you get to add all three attributes (Vigor, Foresight, Ingenuity) to your roll. Defeat the ghost, and you win the gold and the game ends. (Or if the ghost is haunting somebody’s treasure card at the time, you just get the 15 gold for free!)
If the water level is reduced below 1, then that turn is concluded and the game is over.
Players add up the values of their treasure cards, creature cards, and disaster cards (plus the gold from the mine), and the player with the most gold wins. In case of a tie, the player who finds the mine wins. If none of the tied players found the mine, then there’s a roll-off (adding the highest attribute) and the highest sum wins.
Legend of the Lost Dutchman isn’t a deep strategy game — it’s more of a fun, luck-filled treasure hunt. So whether you enjoy it or not really depends on what you’re looking for. I think this one will be particularly fun for casual gamers and players who like the Old West theme. Going out and exploring, not knowing whether you’ll find gold in them thar hills or fall victim to a flash flood — that’s pretty fun. There is a little bit of strategy in figuring out where you can move so that you can avoid hitting that water level drop card, or get to that second javelina for the extra points. But there’s also a lot of die rolling and of course there’s the luck of the draw in the cards.
It’s pretty easy to pick up the concept of the game once you’ve got it set up — probably the trickiest part of the game is the movement, trying to get to the spot you want while following all the rules of movement. For the diagonal moves in particular, you’re restricted to only certain spaces because of the “no backtracking” rule. Setup can take a little while just dealing out the cards, but once you start playing the game actually goes fairly quickly.
There’s also an additional mini-game included, called Goldfield Gully. It’s a press-your-luck game, and just uses some dice, the back of the treasure map, and a few of the pawns. It’s fairly simple but can be fun: you can go to a location to try to get gold (roll dice), but the town marshal will also go to a building (roll a die) and if he winds up in your location he takes all of your unbanked gold. Instead, you can choose to bribe the town marshal by giving him half your gold, and then the other half is banked and won’t be confiscated. The game lasts ten rounds, and whoever has the most gold wins
I really like the look and theme of Lost Dutchman, and I think it would be a fun one to break out for newer gamers or as a lighter game between heavier stuff. There’s enough luck and a “take that” element in the game, so you can’t be entirely sure of the game’s outcome until the end — although if the player who already has the most gold manages to get to the mine first, then you can also lose by a landslide. Goldfield Gully is a cute press-your-luck game that I can see playing some more. (I’m a sucker for press-your-luck.)
If you like the Gold Rush and want a light game with some unpredictable exploration, check out the Lost Dutchman Kickstarter page. If you play exclusively medium- to heavy-weight strategy games, it may not satisfy your cravings.
Wired: Great artwork, Old West gold-digging theme, easy to learn.
Tired: Lots of setup, heavy luck factor.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.