The Hunt Is On – A Kickstarter Quick-look at The Legend of the Lost Dutchman
We live in an age of the reborn gold rush. It’s happened many times through the course of history; whether it’s the search for spices in the Orient, the great American gold rush of the 1840s, or the race to build the best and brightest dot com in the 1990s. Now we have Kickstarter. And just like in those days of yore, many enterprising individuals have been frantically strapping on their digital boots and wading into the crowdfunding flood in search of the newest treasures.
I mention this analogy to make note of the meta when I talk of the theme of Legend of the Lost Dutchman. In the mid-1800s, Jacob Waltz is rumored to have discovered a vein of gold in the Superstition Mountains so large that it eclipsed the finds of many other treasure hunts, and he relayed the story of that lost mine to a man shortly before his death. The true facts of Jacob Waltz’s legendary treasure are still unknown, but it hasn’t prevented generations of treasure seekers from searching for him and his rich legacy. Now Crash Games has created a game based on Jacob’s legend and seeks a notably smaller sum for funding in the digital gold mine that is Kickstarter. But is there treasure for the seeker inside the Dutchman box, or will many players instead be lost and bewildered?
As mentioned above, the overall goal of Legend of the Lost Dutchman is to be the player who has found the greatest riches while on the hunt for the Lost Dutchman’s fabled mine. In order to do this, each player navigates two different but equally-important maps: The main game space comprised of a 5X5 grid of several cards representing gold, creatures, disasters and helpful items, and a smaller map of the area surrounding the spot of Jacob Waltz’s legendary goldmine. In order to move around and broaden the search on the smaller map, players must first explore the larger card grid, confronting the various critters and disasters that pop up.
The true heart of the game (and where players will spend the majority of their time) lies within the card grid. Each turn, players roll two dice – a movement die which specifies the type of movement allowed (diagonal, orthogonal, etc.) and a standard six-sided die that signifies the amount of cards the player is allowed to move across. After movement, the player may find gold or may have an encounter. Each creature or disaster card has a difficulty number which relates to one of three specific traits on every player’s character card – Vigor, Foresight and Ingenuity. During an encounter, the player rolls their two action dice and adds the sum to the value of the appropriate character trait. Win, and the player takes the card which is often worth end-game points, lose and the player must sacrifice a set number of points in one of their attributes or Health. When the player wins an encounter, he may also move past certain junctures on the smaller map, getting closer to the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.
As players explore the large grid, they may also uncover water cards which will hasten the endgame. The game may also draw to a close when one player reaches the Lost Dutchman’s mine and defeats the Dutchman’s Ghost. Naturally, that player gets a huge bonus in gold. Such are the spoils of victory against the living dead.
Most certainly, gamers must enter their search for riches knowing that Legend of the Lost Dutchman is a game with more than a fair share of luck. Players roll dice to move and dice to defeat gila monsters, wild boar and avoid falling rocks. Each spot in the 5×5 grid (except the center) is randomly seeded with 5 cards at the beginning of the game, so players can never be sure what they will encounter until a player starts digging in that spot. Also, because of the random card set-up, the water cards could be anywhere – meaning that they could all be at the bottom of the 120-card stack (making for a somewhat lackadaisical hunt) or all at the top (making it game over before anyone can even boot stomp their first Scorpion). Most games will fall somewhere between those two extremes, but it’s worth bearing in mind just in case you spend several minutes setting up to only play an occasional mini game.
Although many hardcore gamers may balk at the luck involved, without said luck the game would lack most of its heart and soul. The random card set-up makes searching the large grid a slightly tense affair, which often equals good-natured fun when someone unexpectedly finds a Rattlesnake in their boot. The theme and atmosphere of the game are greatly enhanced by the unpredictability of the whole thing – and it’s difficult to be upset with a game that is comfortable enough not to take itself too seriously.
In the end, while it can’t be said that Legend of the Lost Dutchman is pure solid gold, it is filled with rich theme and a deep vein of enjoyable gameplay. The variable set-up and elevated luck factor typically act to level the field for most any player, whether beginner or advanced. And there’s enough instant potential among the grit and ghost towns to make most casual gamers want to take up the search for Jacob Waltz’s treasure time after time.
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