Dale Yu: Review of Berried Treasure

Berried Treasure

  • Designer: Sid Sackson
  • Restorers: Rob Daviau, Brian Neff, Noah Cohen, Justin D. Jacobsen
  • Publisher: Restoration Games / Eagle-Gryphon Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 7+
  • Time: 10-20 minutes

berried treasure

Sid Sackson is one of the greatest designers of all time – His first game was called High Spirits with Calvin and the Colonel; based on an animated TV show in 1962 – published by Milton Bradley.  While the TV show ended, the game lived on, being reprinted in 1992 as Das Super-Blatt, now using tabloid journalism as the theme (Who has the biggest hits?).  Seven years later, the game was given a pirate theme and called Buried Treasure (It’s time to deal the cards and divvy up the loot).  Nearly 25 years after that, the game gets another makeover, now punnily called Berried Treasure (Swipe the sweets or get stuck with the crumbs), and you guessed it, the theme is about berries.

As the game has received the Restoration Games love, it has been changed a bit from its original version.  I’ll talk about the game first, and then a bit about the changes.  I now own three versions of this game (all but the original MB suitcase box version), so I’m pretty familiar with them all now.  [NB: The original is now on my thrift store quest list – according to fellow OG writer Joe Huber, there are at least 30K in circulation – https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1584253/sales-figures ]

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The components are simple, a deck of 60 cards, 15 each of 4 types of cake.  There are 4 scoring cards, and they are shuffled and one is revealed for this first round.  There are also a smattering of score tokens.  The 60 berried cards are shuffled and then a tableau is dealt out with 4, 5, 5 and 6 cards respectively (20 cards total).  Splay the cards so that all can be seen to some degree.  You will note that some of the cards say “Moar!” on them, and some have black grabby paws on them.

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On your turn, you will choose any card from the end of a row (that is, not covered by any other card) and add it to your area.  If that card says “Moar!” you can take another card of the same type from the tableau – though it must be free to take; that is, not covered by another card.  If the card has grabby paws on it, you may then take cards from an opponent – they must be of the same type as the card you took, and you may take cards up to the number of paws seen on the card.  Play continues around the table until all the cards on the table are taken.

Then, the round is scored, and players with the most, second most and third most of each type will score points – according to the scale on the scoring card drawn for the round.  Importantly – all players who have the same number of a type (i.e. John and Dale each have 2 lemon tarts), they are considered to have no cards of that type for this round of scoring.  Players collect scoring tokens to mark their score.

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At the end of the first and second rounds, if there is a player alone with the lowest total score, that player may take any one treasure card from any player and add it to their own area.  Unsurprisingly, if there is a tie, no one gets to steal anything.  For the next round, deal out 20 cards in the same pattern and repeat.  Flip over a new score card for that round.  At the end of the round, you now score based on the cards obtained to that point.  Do it all again a third time, and the player with the most points after the third scoring wins; ties broken in favor of the player with the most treasure cards in front of them.

My thoughts on the game

This game is a classic, and a version of it has been in my collection since nearly the time I entered the hobby in the late 1990s.  It clearly has staying power as the game(s) have remained in the collection and been played periodically since then. The rules are dead simple; draw cards, take one of the 2 special actions if they are on the card, score at the end of the round.  You can literally teach it in about 2 minutes with a sample tableau.  This is probably one of the main reasons the game has stuck in my collection; you can pull it out and teach it to anyone in no time at all.

The game itself is filled with some tense moments.  You are always looking to improve your own collection of cards, but there are times when you’ll have to choose wisely so that you don’t create a tie with another player (thus nullifying your own collection in that color).  You may also not want to choose a particular card as it will open up a juicy card for the next player.  On the other hand, when you get a Grabby Paws card, you might try to use it for yourself, to grab a few cards in a color to maximize your position.  Alternatively, and especially near the end of a round, you might focus instead on forcing a tie between two opponents to move up in rank that way – even if this means you don’t take the max number of cards you are allowed.

The scoring cards have the same values in the rows, but the order of the colors is changed on each card.  As you only use a card for one of the three rounds, this helps keep a runaway leader in a particular color from dominating the end scoring.  You’ll have to adapt to the scoring card revealed at the start of each round to plan your strategy.

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So, this is a Restoration Game – what are the changes?  Well, the card distribution is different.  In the new version, it’s 4 suits of 15 cards each.  The older games had a smaller deck, with 12-13-14-15 in the 4 suits.  Furthermore, the new version seems a bit less combative – there are fewer stealing cards per color, and there are no “steal 4” cards as would be found in Buried Treasure and Das Super-Blatt.  The game still has plenty of take-that in it; and there is still lots of targeted stealing and shenanigans; but it does seem slight more sedate and less swingy with the new deck composition.  The friendliness also is helped by the top 3 positions in each color getting points instead of just the top 2.   

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I think these changes are what allow the game to now play with 5 as opposed to a max of 4.  The extra 2 cards per round make it last just a touch longer, but having a game that can handle that extra person is nice too.  And… If you wanted to still play the original version, you could easily discard the extra 6 cards from the deck and simply score the top 2 positions in each color.  (Don’t let Daviau know I blew the secret).

Maybe I’m a old fogey, but I’ll admit that I like the Pirate theme a bit better as it makes more sense to steal treasure from your foes as opposed to succulent baked goods; but hey, I get the whole idea behind the pun of the new title and the requisite theme that would have to be installed.  In the end, the card game plays the same regardless of theme, and I’m glad that this version can introduce the game to the market for a fourth time – and hopefully it will be picked up by folks new to the hobby, and they can learn what a great game this is.

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I’m honestly not sure if my collection needs three different boxes with essentially the same game, but I think this will allow me to maybe pack one of the three sets into a small traveling pouch – the game doesn’t take up much space at all.  Honestly, you just need the cards; you could keep score on your phone – so it is eminently suited for travel.  Berried Treasure might be in the lead for sticking around though because the cards are in much better shape than either of my two older games.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Larry:  I played Buried Treasure a few times soon after it came out.  It was moderately entertaining and as elegant as you’d expect from Sackson.  It fell in that twilight zone of a game I wouldn’t veto, but also one I wouldn’t suggest to play.  It’s nice to see that a new version of it has been released (particularly since it’s on the 60th anniversary of the original game!), but It’s not something I’ll be rushing out to buy.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! 
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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