Treasures & Traps

Deep down I am an epic gamer.  The more intense, the more strategic, the more depth, the better.  I’m not opposed to sinking 3-4 hours into a D&D session or a game like Fury Of Dracula (Fantasy Flight Games).  And I’m dying to – one time even – play Twilight Imperium (Fantasy Flight Games).  But the reality is, even if I ever have that much time anymore, finding enough friends who also have that much time at the SAME time is near impossible.  So, while I shoot for the stars, I often have to cram my gaming into an hour or less.  Consequently, I am always on the lookout for games that pack a lot of epic feel in a small package.  (See my review of Eminent Domain Microcosm:

Enter Treasures & Traps. (Studio 9 Games, 2-6 Players, 45 minutes or less)
T&T plays up to 6, but I have only played it as a two player game.  The rules are super easy.  To win, you need to have one of each type of treasure (gold, silver, bronze) in your realm.  Each player starts with 5 cards in hand.  The player turns consist of taking two actions (only one on the first turn of the game) and replenishing your hand.  There are only three possible actions – Try to play a card, try to remove a card from play, or discard a card from your hand and draw another.  That’s it.  Any complexity in this game comes from card text and strategy.  Cards consist of creatures, items, places, and companions.   The card text tells you exactly what each card can do.   In order to help capture the table top RPG feel, the game has a pretty cool feature.  In order to play a card, you must roll its “entry” number on a 6-sided die.  If you don’t succeed, that card is discarded.  Similarly, to remove a card that is in play, you must roll that card’s “exit” number.  This luck factor actually adds immersion to the game.  What geek doesn’t love monsters, weapons, castles, treasure chests, princesses, AND chucking dice?
The game’s strategy involves which cards you attempt to play or remove (obviously). But this is compounded by trying to determine if you can make the roll necessary to get that card in or out.  For instance, you may have a gold item in your hand.  This item gets you one third of the way to victory, and has an ongoing bonus allowing you to have one extra card in your hand.  It would be great if you could get it into play right now. But since you have no other cards in play that add to your rolls, it requires an entry roll of a natural 6.  Unless you get that 6, the card will be discarded.  Hmmm.  Well, you also have a companion card in your hand, whose entry roll is only a 3.  That card would provide an ongoing effect of +1 to all entry rolls.  So, for your first action you take the safer route and play the companion card.  You roll your die and get a 5.  Boom.  Now for your second action you can play the gold item card, and because of the companion’s bonus, you “only” need a 5 to get that card in.  Still tough, but not as bad.  The strategy also gets a bit more intense when you consider your opponents’ cards.  If you let them get more cards into play, like maybe a castle that increases the exit rolls of their entire realm, you could be screwed.  So maybe you try to get a magic item in that has a one time use of destroying any card on the table.  Again, not too difficult to understand, but there is certainly enough tension and strategy to have you fist pumping when it works out, and groaning when it doesn’t.
The art in T&T also warrants mentioning.  It’s kind of old school, with pencil drawings, and has that cartoonish look similar to Steve Jackson’s Munchkin.  Truthfully, this game has a bit of the feel of Munchkin, with its theme, its art, and its “take that” kind of flow.  I found T&T to be easier to understand and more streamlined, honestly.  If given my druthers, I would play T&T instead, sacrilege as that might sound.  For its size, I think it would be hard to find a tighter card game in this theme, and still good for two players.  If you haven’t heard of Treasures & Traps, you should give it a look.  I’m very glad I did, and I can’t wait to play it again.