Legend of the Lost Dutchman Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s official web site or visit the Kickstarter project page to back it and get yourself a copy! Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
  • For 2 to 5 players
  • About 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Visuospatial Skills
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Tales of riches beyond anyone’s wildest dreams are said to exist in Superstition Mountains, but more than wealth awaits those who explore and risk it all for fortune and glory.

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geeks mixed?
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

He came down from the hills and carried with him the largest gold nugget anyone had ever seen. This reclusive man, by the name of Jacob Waltz, never told a soul where his treasure could be found. Oh, there are rumors, to be sure, but everyone who ever looked for the source of the gold failed, died trying, or simply disappeared. Stories became legend and legend into myth, but always there are those who are willing to risk it all for a chance to grasp wealth beyond imagination. The legend of the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine is the key and the goal, but will it also be your doom? Be smart, be daring, and above all, be careful.

Legend of the Lost Dutchman is a big game and is comprised of 1 Treasure Map, 15 Challenge tokens, 5 Player Boards, 20 Attribute tokens, 5 wooden Mining tokens, 5 wooden Prospectors (player’s pawns used on the Treasure Map), 1 wooden Dutchman’s Ghost, 10 Action die (2 per player in a single color), 1 six-sided Movement die , 1 Directional die (six-sided but with icons instead of numbers), 1 Mining Camp card, 120 Land cards, 1 Lost Dutchman creature card, 5 Water Level cards, 5 Character cards, and 10 Event cards. While we were only passed a final prototype of the game, the game felt “done”. The components were detailed, colorful, and complete.

Note: The game is summarized here, but not in its entirety. We will provide enough for you to get a good sense of the game and what is being offered initially. Remember, this game could change and grow based on the level of support it is given. We encourage you to read the rules (PDF) to get a more in-depth idea of the game mechanisms used in Legend of the Lost Dutchman.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first shuffle the 120 Land cards and deal, face down, 25 stacks of 5 cards. In the middle of the playing area, place the Mining Camp card. Around this card, build a 5×5 grid with the stacks of 5 cards each, always keeping them face down. This part of the game area is referred to as the “Land Grid” and is one of the two areas the players will be playing on in the game.

Next, take the Treasure Map and place it to the side of the Land Grid and within easy reach of all the players. Place the 15 Challenge tokens face-down and randomize them. Then place one on each of the spaces on the Treasure Map. Flip the 3 Challenge Tokens located on the A, B, and C spaces of the Treasure Map face-up so the number values are showing. The Treasure Map is one of the two areas the players will be playing on in the game.

To one side of the Land Grid, place the 5 Water Level cards in order from 1 to 5, face-up. Find and place the Dutchman’s Ghost and the Dutchman’s Ghost wooden meeple next to it. Shuffle the Event cards and place them, face-down, next to the Water Level cards.

The players should now either randomly select a Character card or randomly be dealt one. The player’s should then select a meeple color and take that colored Prospector meeple, Mining token, and 2 Action dice. The players take 1 Player Board and 5 Attribute tokens and places the Attribute tokens on the starting spot indicated on the Character card. If the character starts with a basic piece of equipment, the player takes that card and places it next to their Player Board. The players should then place their Prospector meeple on the Mining Camp space on the Treasure Map and their Mining token on the Mining Camp card located in the middle of the Land Grid.

The game is now ready to play!

Digging for Gooooooooold!

A player’s turn is very straight forward. They take the Movement and Directional dice and roll them together. The Movement die will present a value (1 through 6) and the Directional die will tell the player “how” their Mining token can be moved on the Land Grid. Specifically, the Directional die will tell the player if they can move their Mining token from one Land card to another orthogonally (up, down, left, or right), diagonally, any direction the player chooses, or any direction the player chooses with a special dynamic action.

When moving, a player can never move through a creature or disaster card and can never travel through the same Land card more than once on their turn. If the player should stop on a Land card that is occupied by another player, an Event card is drawn. A player must use all of their movement if possible unless they are blocked.

If the dynamic action is rolled on the Directional die, the player gets to take several actions on their turn, but in order without skipping a single step. First the player attempts to bury one of their treasure cards, then they place the Dutchman Ghost on an opponent’s unburied treasure card or move the Dutchman’s Ghost to the mine on the Treasure Map, and lastly they move across the Land Grid any direction they choose.

When a player stops on and Land Card, they reveal it and “encounter” whatever is on the card.

When the player is done with the encounter, their turn is over and the Movement and Directional dice are passed to the next player.

The Dangers of the Land

The land the players will explore is not a nice one. Dangers exist around every corner. Wild animals and even supernatural threats lurk about and will surprise even the most watchful of players. Luckily, the players have the option of making their characters stronger, faster, and wiser. By doing so, they can reduce the odds of ever encountering something that might be too tough to handle. But even careful planning can’t account for every possibility.

For one thing, there is the question of water. Everyone needs it and it can go fast. Once the players are out of water, it’s game over. The water level in the player’s canteens is represented by the Water Level cards. Scattered and randomized throughout the Land Grid are cards that will drop this water level, bit by bit, until everyone is out of H2O.

If the ghosts and animals don't get you, dehydration will!

If dehydration wasn’t bad enough, there are the wild animals to contend with. Boars, snakes, and a host of other things that bite and scratch are hiding under brush and around corners. But perhaps worst of all are the threats that are not of this world. The Superstition Mountains are well named as there are strange things that lurk about. Ghosts, spirits, and even the legendary Lost Dutchman reportedly dwell here. Then, just to add a bit more “fun”, there is always the natural dangers of the terrain that can make even the most well armed individual into a casualty thanks to a freak rock slide and the constant heat.

Don't fear the Reaper, but DO fear the Dutchman!

With all these dangers lurking about, one must ask the question, “why are you risking your life?” Simply put, the treasure. Every encounter will provide something to the player, be it possible points at end of the game, treasure, helpful equipment, followers that can be brought along to assist in the hunt, and even secret places that can give the player an opportunity to explore faster than their opponents. Plus, every encounter is a step closer to the lost mine. When a player successfully handles whatever the dangerous land throws at them, depending on that player’s current location on the Treasure Map, they can advance forward and get closer to their goal: the lost mine!

How is this achieved? There are “gates” on the Treasure Map that are invisible to the players at the start of the game except the first three. There are two numbers on these gates that represent the encounter’s challenge level. If the player successfully beats the challenge and the challenge level indicated on the encounter matches one of the two values, the player passes through the gate and must then choose which path to the mine they want to take. The smart money is on the “shortest path”, but there are unknown dangers in front of them that might make the “easy road” into the hardest one to travel. Recall that the Challenge tokens on the Treasure Map are hidden and only revealed to the players once a player walks that path and hits that particular gate! When they do, they now have two new challenge levels they must beat to continue. Sometimes these will be small, sometimes they will be huge!

The Treasure Map

Protecting Your Ass…sets

Adventuring comes at a cost and that is “dangerous risk”. A character can be overcome by the threats of the land and be forced to retreat back to camp to heal. This takes time and reduces the character to a weaker state. Luckily, the players can improve their character’s attributes (vigor, foresight, ingenuity, and health) by making frequent stops at the Mining Camp (located in the middle of the Land Grid) and by collecting equipment and helpful friends. All challenges will target one or more of the character’s attributes making it a worthwhile exercise to improve the character every chance the player gets.

As the game continues, the player will collect treasure. Until this treasure is buried in a secret location only known to the player, it is never safe or truly owned by the player. Treasure can be stolen and even cursed resulting in the Lost Dutchman’s ghost haunting the player’s treasure and making it worth zero points at the end of the game! In order for a player to ensure their hard-won treasure is truly theirs, they must bury it in the ground. This can only be done if the player rolls dynamic result on the Movement die or they discard an item card representing the right equipment for the job. Note that the only difference between buried treasure and the other treasure the player collects does not impact their points at the end of the game. Buried treasure is guaranteed points while unburied treasure is at risk of being lost until the game is done. All treasure in the player’s possession (buried and unburied) are counted for points in the end.

Combat and Confrontation

Confronting challenges is a major part of the game. All encounters are hidden in the Land Grid and are only revealed once the player lands on them. Some encounters are helpful, but most are not. Those encounters that are not will require the player to essentially do battle, overcome the encounter by using the character’s attributes.

Every encounter has a challenge rating that shows a value and the associated attribute. The player rolls their dice and adds their character’s current attribute value to it. If the resulting value is higher than the challenge rating, the encounter has been won and the player collects the rewards listed. If the resulting value is equal to the challenge rating, the encounter is passed and trouble is avoided, but no rewards are offered. The encounter remains face up on the Land Grid for another player to attempt. If the resulting value is lower than the challenge rating, the player suffers the penalty listed on the card and the encounter remains!

Just two of the many encounters in the game

Note that some encounters have a challenge rating that also requires the player have a special item that is needed to successfully defeat the encounter. If the player does not yet have that item, then the best they can hope for is rolling higher than or equal to the challenge rating. Both will result in the player escaping the encounter but not winning the rewards.

When a character’s attributes drop to zero, they are in real danger. The character can continue to explore but at great risk. The very next encounter that penalizes the attribute that is already at zero knocks the character out! The player’s Mining token is removed from the Land card it is currently on and placed on the Mining Camp card. Here, the character will “wake up” on their next turn, weaker and a few items short of what they remember carrying on them before they passed out. While it might be a major blow to the character’s momentum, the penalty for waking up at camp is not detrimental enough to make the possibility of victory into an unreachable goal.

If two or more character’s should ever encounter each other on the Land Grid, strange events can occur. There is nothing stopping one player from visiting a Land card currently occupied by another. When they do, the Land card is encountered by the new visiting player, but an Event card is also drawn. The results are read out-loud to all the players and the effect of the card is immediate. Depending on the event, there could be cheers around the table or sullen faces as things go from bad to worse for some players.

Events are random which means they could hurt or help the players

Winning the Game

The game can end one of two different ways. If one of the players reaches the Lost Dutchman’s Mine on the Treasure Map and defeats the spirit of the Dutchman (if the spirit is present), the game ends. The other way is through dehydration which occurs when the Water Level cards are exhausted because of encounters found while exploring the Land Grid. When either of these conditions are met, the game immediately ends and the points are now scored.

Points are scored using buried and unburied treasure that are still in the player’s possession. Encounters also award treasure points and should be counted. The player who finds the lost mine (if applicable) is awarded bonus points, too.

The player with the most points wins the game!

To learn more about Legend of the Lost Dutchman, see the game’s official web site or visit the Kickstarter project page.

Prediction

Just by looking at all the bits this game comes with and the very detailed and well written rule book, this game is a tough one to call for my little geeks. Rule wise, there is a lot to absorb, but in practice, the game appears to play rather quickly with a streamlined player action order to follow. The character growth is nothing my little geeks are strangers to having played role-playing games and other games where one of their objectives is to improve their character’s attributes. Even the encounters and the way combat is handled is not terribly new or what I would consider difficult.

So what is causing me to pause and ponder this game’s end result?

I think it is the fact that the game feels “big”. Until I can actually play it, I can’t help shake the feeling that the game might be just too much for my little geeks to handle out of the box. Which seems like a funny statement to make when you consider the game publisher suggests the game takes less than an hour to play. This actually made me raise my eyebrows as I couldn’t imagine how a game that sounded so epic could be played in such little time.

Teaching the game to my little geeks took a bit. In total, I think I spent about 20 minutes explaining the rules, providing examples, and then answering questions. For the most part, my little geeks understood what the game was about (thanks to the theme), how the game was played (thanks to the straight forward rules) and how they could win. What perplexed them was the Treasure Map. They didn’t understand how you were supposed to play both boards at the same time. In fact, my 7-year-old suggested that the Treasure Map seemed unnecessary. I agreed with his comment as I did not yet understand how the Treasure Map was to be used other than as a mechanism to bring about the end game.

When my little geeks were ready to play, my 4-year-old wanted to go it alone (which really isn’t a problem as you can read the cards out-loud to all players without hurting the game experience) and we were ready to go for a 3-player game. While we set it up, I asked my little geeks what they thought of the game so far.

“Looks great! Really like the story of the game and the treasure hunting!” ~ Liam (age 7)

“I’m not afraid of no ghost!” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

Brought a tear to my eye to hear my 4-year-old quote Ghostbusters…man, I love that movie, but that’s not important to this review. What is important is how this game plays! Let’s get to it and see if this is a gem of a game or a dud in the sand.

Final Word

The Child Geeks loved this game. My two little geeks greatly enjoyed the exploration and the surprises that awaited them when they went to turn over a card. The destination is always the lost mine and the gold, but the journey itself is the real story and the adventure. This was not lost on them and they quickly took their turn to explore and then waiting impatiently while their father took his turn. The little geeks did not use much in the way of strategy or tactics, preferring to rush through and explore as much as they could as quickly as they could. This turned out to be, oddly enough, a good working strategy. The game is already relatively short and by collecting as much treasure as you can as fast as you can ended up giving them a lot of points. I, on the other hand, took my time, burying  my treasure and protecting myself from attacks by improving my character. This also worked and gave me the victory at the end of the game, but only slightly. My little geeks were only a few points behind me and I am certain they would have won if I had not protected myself as I did. Not that it mattered as they wanted to play another game right after we finished our first.

A little geek at 7-years-old had no problem playing this game, but keep in mind he has a good deal of game experience. He’s played a lot of games and might not represent the “average” 7-year-old. However, if you are a Parent or Gamer Geek, odds are you have raised your child or children on a solid diet of geeky awesomeness. My 4-year-old, despite his geeky upbringing, suffered a lot of vapor lock while playing solo and I spent a good deal of time helping him out. As such, we are suggesting the minimum age is 7 on this game.

Parent Geeks were enthralled by this game. The theme or narrative suggests adventure and a mystery, which of course hooked them like a hungry fish. From what they told me, they found the game to be one big adventure that never really felt like it was pushing you to do anything you didn’t want to. One Parent Geek didn’t care for the combat but they really loved how they could mold their character, making them stronger and better. This level of “growth” was not lost on the Parent Geeks and they found the game to be rewarding because of it. They weren’t just going through the motions to achieve and imaginary goal. No, they were planning, strategizing, changing their tactics, and searching for that which not only would lead them to victory, but also the upper edge.

The Gamer Geeks (as suggested by the endorsement summary at top) was a mixed bag. It all depended on where the Gamer Geek sat in the rather narrow spectrum of gamer elitists.

One one end of the spectrum, the hardcore players who scoff at the idea that a “game” be anything less than 3 hours long and have a rule book a 1/2 inch thick, thought the game to be a poor one. One Gamer Geek described it as “Candy Land in the desert”. For these Gamer Geeks, Legend of the Lost Dutchman was nothing more than a roll-n-move game with little in the way of choice or necessary brain power. The summarized their turn as: roll > move > flip card > roll again. The Treasure Map was all but despised by them, too, as they saw little use for it and seemed only make the game less interesting. Clearly, not a game that was meant for this group and it showed.

On the other end of the spectrum is the casual Gamer Geek who knows their stuff, but looks at each game experience as an opportunity to be challenged and to be social. To them, the game must be worth their time and provide enough “fun” to make it time well spent, but not terribly heavy. This group of gamer elitists praised Legend of the Lost Dutchman for its easy rules and light decision making that was wrapped up into an enjoyable theme. This group summarized their experience as “light to medium game play that provided meaningful choices with great reward and exploration without feeling kicked in the teeth or in the groin when things didn’t work out”. They liked the exploration, had little  issue with the roll-n-move mechanism, and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the game played on two different levels (the Land Grid and the Treasure Map). Clearly, a startling 180 from their more hardcore counterparts.

From casual Gamer Geeks to Child Geeks, the game was enjoyed by all except for the hardcore Gamer Geeks

Gamer Geeks, this game might or might not be for you depending on where you sit in the gamer elitist spectrum. Legend of the Lost Dutchman is not an overly challenging game and can seem repetitive for those gamers who are looking for a game experience where every move must be scrutinized and every action considered. If this is what you like on your gaming table, then this game is not going to be much of a thrill. However, if you are the type of gamer who enjoys a very thematic game with exploration and rules that are streamlined to make turns quick and light, driving the game to a nail-biting finish, then Legend of the Lost Dutchman will be well received with much fanfare.

Parent Geeks, this is a wonderful game for the family. It provides fun, entertainment, and adventure (in board game terms). The game is light to medium in what it demands of the player making it a game that will engage all at the table but not needing constant attention. The casual level of game play makes it a fun experience and the risk vs. reward provides a feeling of little dread and much anticipation as each card in the Land Grid is flipped. Choices are always meaningful but never detrimental. There are many paths to take giving the player an opportunity to play the game on their own terms without any player ever getting lost since all roads will lead to the same end game. A wonderful experience for all but the non-gamers in your family who might find Legend of the Lost Dutchman slightly intimidating.

Child Geeks, this is a fun adventure game where you will get to hike out in the desert and search for treasure! There is much to look for and much to do! Will you search for the treasure quickly and risk the dangers of the desert so as to beat your opponents to the gold? Or, are you more of a strategic player who sees value in making sure your character is well stocked and prepared for any event that might occur in the Superstition Mountains? The choices are yours and you can always change your mind when you are playing! Take risk as the rewards are huge and never despair if you are returned to camp. Every setback is an opportunity to get the upper hand!

Who is Legend of the Lost Dutchman for? In my opinion, it is perfectly suited for casual Gamer Geeks, Parent Geeks, and Little Geeks (that meet the age and Geek Skill requirements). The game is very rich, thematically speaking, and provides just enough for the players to think about without feeling overwhelmed. Choices are important, but light and the consequences of bad die rolls and missed opportunities never are so extreme so as to set the player back beyond any hope of recovering. The game is also exceedingly well-balanced and every player, regardless of their selected Character card, ends up being the right “person for the job” and can handle themselves well enough to go exploring. But the game does reward the player by presenting equipment that can improve the character and the trips to the Mining Camp are a must for those players looking to improve their odds of victory.

Every roll of the dice is important, every exploration is worth undertaking, and the threat of the game ending before the players want it to make the game into an enjoyable “rush” that will keep them on their toes and pushing their luck to be the winner. Legend of the Lost Dutchman is going to be a wonderful game for families and the Gamer Geeks who are looking for a fun game that provides enough meat to chew but never enough to choke on. The suggested game bit quality the publishers are shooting for and the near endless replay value the game provides thanks to random Land Grid set up, truly makes Legend of the Lost Dutchman a treasure worth obtaining!

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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4 Responses to Legend of the Lost Dutchman Game Review (prepublished version)

  1. Cyrus says:

    …and I’m spent. Phew! I’m telling you folks, I need to find a way to write less. Father Geek has gone from “light reading material” to “holy cats, I need to schedule time to read a single review article!”

    • Peter S says:

      Definitely one of your longer reviews, but I appreciate it. That helped me get a good feel for the game. It would likely fit well with our normal group and you already noted that the little ones liked it for bonus points. We’re definitely not in the “3 hours plus an hour of reading rules” camp. I’ve got my eye on this as a possible support in Kickstarter and this convinced me that I should keep my eye on it rather than remove it from my list. (And yes, I did schedule time to read this review. 🙂 )

    • Cyrus says:

      Ha! 🙂

      Thanks!

  2. Cyrus says:

    Hmm…

    It would appear that they have (1) renamed the game to simply The Lost Dutchman and done a major overhaul to the game components! Take a look!

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