Designer: Oleta Forde, Molly Gardner, Aaron Grove, Alexander Lucas.
Publisher: Ocean City Games Ltd
The team over at Ocean City Games very kindly sent us as a prototype copy of their first game, Salvage Hidden Treasures which will set sail for Kickstarter in the imminent future.
Welcome to Salvage Hidden Treasures the board game where you take the helm as Salvage Ship Captains aboard the treacherous high seas. Throughout 16 rounds, you and your rivals will discover and salvage treasure from the depths of the ocean. When the game is up the captain with the biggest haul of treasure will claim victory.
Easy – except within the seven seas are pirates, sharks and other hazards lurking in the depths. A clever combination of strategy and good fortune will score you treasures that swing the odds in your favour and ruin the hopes of your rivals.
Dive into Salvage Hidden Treasures; there’s treasure waiting to be found!
An overview of the gameplay...
***Warning: Terrible nautical puns may lay ahead!***
In Salvage Hidden Treasures, players become Salvagers who take turns scouring the depths of the oceans for treasures and weighing up the decision of what to sell on for cold hard cash and what to keep a hold of for the end game scoring.
To begin each player takes a ship and turn guide in their chosen player colour and a starting fund of £1,500 from the bank (Yes pounds! Ocean City Games are based in Devon in the UK so this game uses English currency, a small observation that we noticed while playing, and a welcome change from the norm. Though we still accidentally kept referring to the currency as dollars because of how rare of occurrence this is). The game is then set up by creating a 4 x 4 grid on the table using the 80 Treasure cards.
The game is played over 16 rounds and on each round all players will take a turn consisting of a mixture of mandatory and voluntary actions. These are:
1. Income (Mandatory) - Collect £500 from the bank.
2. Market. (Voluntary) - Players make a choice whether to buy a new ship to add to their fleet of salvagers for £3,000 or to sell a single piece of treasure they control for its denoted value on the top left hand side of the card.
3. Navigation (Voluntary) – Players can move their ships one tile orthogonally on the grid (empty spaces in which all treasure cards have already been counted still count as a space that has to be moved through).
4. Action (Mandatory) - Next they must make a choice of one the following actions for each of the ships they have in their fleet:
Discover - Pay the discovery cost on the back of the tile to flip it over to its treasure side. Not all cards are treasures however but some may have events that can help or hinder players.
Salvage - Pay the salvage cost of a discovered treasure card along bearing in mind the weight of the specific treasure (will come onto weight in a minute).
Dredge - Pay £200 to put the top tile in the stack you are currently on to the bottom to show the next undiscovered treasure.
Drop - Drop a treasure you are carrying face up onto the stack you are currently on.
Pass - Do none of the above and stay bobbing on the ocean!
Players continue to move their ships, Salvage and Sell off treasures until the end of the game and the player with the highest valued salvage on their ships are the winner.
In Salvage Hidden Treasures, there are 2 main things to consider, The Weight and Value of your Haul.
Each ship only has a capacity for 10 weight, this can add up very quickly when hauling lots of loot! In the market phase, players have the option to buy additional boats which increases their weight capacity by 10. Forgivingly this weight capacity increase is shared amongst your fleet so you don’t have to worry about making sure each ship is under 10 but rather the total combined weight of all your salvage is under your combined threshold.
This leads us into considering the value of treasures. As discovering and salvaging treasures costs and purchasing a new ship in the market phase is expensive, players will have to choose carefully which treasures are worth selling to gain money. This can be a fine balance however, you don’t want to sell off too much of your Salvaged treasure as cash does not count in the end game scoring, only the treasure value of each of the items a player has salvaged.
Salvage Hidden Treasures has a lot of depth to be explored, the treasures in the game have varied in weights and values; some even have special abilities that activate once you get them aboard your ship.
Some of these powers are really good, for example the Pieces of Eight cards – of which there are (conveniently) eight of in the game, these increase in value the more of them a player holds in their ship; or the Fusion Reactor Core (Not all treasure is silver and gold mate!) which means the player holding it must move their ships 3 spaces on each turn and can zip across the ocean to swipe the valuable treasure their opponent has just discovered right from underneath them.
Some treasures however can be a hindrance, the Fools Gold for example, which is worth a whopping 3000 treasure when first salvaged it but decreases in value by 300 for every other piece of treasure that player holds, or the Ghost Crew Talisman which gives players the bonus of being able to carry more treasure (4 weight to be precise) but each treasure the player keeps is each worth 100 treasure points less at the end of the game.
It's not all plain sailing though, combined with treasures in each of the card stacks are a mixture of event cards, some which have good and some which have bad effects. The Unlike treasure cards, these are resolved immediately when they are discovered. The Shark attack card for example means that players have to pay £500 to the bank to make repairs to their ship (after paying the £200 they already paid to discover this card). Or for the same Discovery cost players might come across the ‘black market’ allowing them to double the value of any treasure that you decide to sell before the end of your turn. These event cards add another layer of unpredictability to the game.
So what do we think of the game?
Having more than one ship in your fleet can be invaluable as not only does it increase your overall weight limit, it also gives you the choice of either spreading out across the board and casting a wide net discovering treasures hoping to find the jackpot (and having to wait a turn to pick them up as each boat only has one action per turn). Or you can double up ships on a tile so one ship can discover the treasure and the other can immediately pick it up. Very useful as another player might take a fancy to a treasure you’ve just paid to discover and could come in and swipe it before you have the chance to salvage it.
We have mainly played Salvage Hidden Treasures as a 2-player game, the copy arrived with us at the end of May so due to the effects of Covid-19 we were unable to get together with our gaming group to play test as we were under quarantine. We put on our thinking caps and managed to devise a way to play Salvage Hidden Treasures as a 4 player group over zoom!
As a 4 player game, it didn’t take long before the ocean grid became crammed with ships, and oh buoy! This is where the player vs. player strategy really comes into play. You have to be adaptable to changes in the game, take opportunities that are presented to you and be prepared that opponents might even be willing to snatch your booty right from underneath your nose.
This game really drops its anchor in that it is an easy to pick up family game with a nice depth of strategy which will keep everyone hooked on the revealing, hauling, and hoarding of treasure.
We found as a group that the combination of simple actions along with the unpredictable nature of the treasure and event cards made the game super accessible and easy to learn.
It also has a decent range of tactics and an added unpredictability that comes with the flipping the treasure cards that will keep you coming back for more.
Salvage Hidden Treasures started off as a graphic design project with the aim of creating an elegant and minimalistic board game aesthetic that was both modern and competitive. This is evidently clear in the simple, yet bold artwork used on the cards and in the iconography which works really well in the game. We love the bright colours of the ships/ player cards as well as the playful illustrations on the money cards (especially the angry looking seagull), which perfectly contrast against the beautiful teal coloured backs of the treasure cards.
The real core of the strategy is in balancing the decisions of which treasures to keep for end game scoring and which you should sell off early on in the game, while also keeping in mind the total weight limits of your fleet. Selling off valuable treasures at the beginning of the game will enable you to expand on your taskforce. The players will also be forced to spend money to hunt for and salvage the more valuable treasures as each card has a discovery cost to flip the tile over and a Salvage cost to pick up. Balancing money between these things is very important.