Guns or Treasure Preview
Castillo Games knocked my socks off with their debut game, Rescuing Robin Hood. They’re back with a new game, moving away from the Lincoln green of Sherwood Forest, to the unmistakable monochrome menace of the Jolly Roger. Guns or Treasure is a quick card game which pitches rival players as pirates, aiming to take the most treasure, and with it, infamy!
Did I tell you about the porthole defoggers?
After the brain-chewing mathematic co-op efficiency of Rescuing Robin Hood, Guns or Treasure takes the difficulty down a notch or three. It’s a no-nonsense card game of pirate vs pirate vs pirate… you get the idea. In the first part of the game, each of you plays cards from your hand to create ships in front of you. A card can have treasure, guns, or a bomb on it. Pirates like to keep things close to their chest (pun not intended), so as you add cards to a ship, they’re played face-down.
It’s a really cute mechanism, as the backs of the cards have masts and sails on them. Each time you add a card to a ship, it’s splayed vertically, which makes it look like you’re creating long ships, covered in sails.
Or are you?
You see, there’s a lot of cunning to be employed when you construct your ships. You can either continue adding to a ship you’ve already started, creating a huge galleon, or you could choose to make a tiny little two-card ship, more akin to a pedalo. Why would you? Mind games, swabs. Mind games.
Look behind you, a three-headed monkey!
After your ships are christened with bottles of rum and pushed out of drydock, it’s time for some marauding. In turn, you and your fellow buccaneers choose one of your own ships, and one rival ship, to engage in maritime fisticuffs. Reveal the cards, count the guns, and the most heavily armed wins the treasure from both boats. After the first round of marauding, you can retreat a ship instead, pulling it out of the water and claiming any treasure that was on it.
The thing which elevates these battles to proper mind games, is the inclusion of bombs. If a fight reveals a bomb on either ship, both ships are blown to smithereens, and the treasure belongs to Davy Jones (i.e. it sinks). Without the bombs,. Guns or Treasure would have been okay, but a bit pedestrian. With the bombs though, it’s great. Double-, triple-, quadruple-bluffing are all commonplace.
Picture it: you’re about to engage in naval combat with your significant other. They have a really long ship, and two shorter ones. What’s so special about that long one? They’ve filled it with guns I bet, hoping I’d attack. Or maybe they just want me to think that, and in fact it’s full of treasure, and they’ll retreat it. No, no, no, it’s got a bomb, I know it. She’s still mad at me for not folding the washing. Think you can get one over on me eh? I’ll show you!
“Hah, I can read you like a book! I’m not falling for that. I attack that smaller boat instead, and… oh crap, it’s a bomb”
As I said at the outset, Guns or Treasure is a quick, light card game. It’s also a lot of fun. If you enjoy the sort of mind games that games like Sheriff of Nottingham conjure up, you’ll get a kick out of this. There are some really nice touches included, such as the optional Captain cards. Leave them out, and you have a nicely balanced game to introduce younger players to. Once you add them in, they bring asymmetric abilities into the game to make things more interesting. This is the way the game should be played. The captains are a diverse bunch too, which is nice to see, but you’ll have to take my Thunderbeard card from my cold, dead hands.
There are some great variants included in the rules, including a clever drafting mechanism, and another which sees captured treasure pass from ship to ship, which is chaos. The cards are gorgeous, with lovely clear iconography. Honestly, I’m struggling to find anything negative to say about it. If you’re anything like me, and pack small games in your bags and pockets anytime you go anywhere – just in case – Guns or Treasure is perfect. It’ll stay in my bag with The Resistance, 6 Nimmt!, and Yogi.
I’m a big proponent of games that don’t cost a fortune, with things the way they are in the world at the moment. 20$ (30$ if you include the expansion, which I haven’t played) is a bargain for a game that packs as much fun in a little box as Guns or Treasure does. I have a special category for games which people with kids under-10 will resonate with: “Games that fit on a small table while you’re waiting for overpriced rubbish food to arrive at chain restaurants and be over by the time it arrives.” Guns or Treasure fits very nicely into this category. Check out the campaign now by clicking here. Another winner here, Bryce & co, well done.
Preview copy kindly provided by Castillo Games. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Guns or Treasure (2022)
Designer: Bryce Brown
Publisher: Castillo Games
Art: Paul Vermeesch
Playing time: 15 mins