Originally released in 1931 Battleship is a classic board game that most people have played at least once in their lives. Battleship deserves credit for being an original game for its time as there really weren’t any other games in the 1930s like Battleship. Battleship has some interesting mechanics but the game does rely heavily on luck. With how popular Battleship is it should come as no surprise that there have been games made that tried to cash in on its popularity. One of these games was the 1975 game Lost Gold produced by Parker Brothers. Lost Gold takes the Battleship mechanics and tweaks them to fit a treasure hunting theme. Lost Gold deserves some credit for creating a unique twist on Battleship but it suffers from the same high reliance on luck as its predecessor.
How to Play Lost Gold
Each player takes three of the treasures. Each player lifts up the cardboard cover on the side of the board in front of them. They will place their three treasures in different spots on the gameboard. After each player has placed all three of their treasures they set the cardboard cover down on the gameboard. The gameboard is rotated so each player is now sitting in front of the side of the board that the other player placed treasures under.
The players choose who will start the game.
Playing the Game
Each player begins their turn by placing the treasure detector into the mine shaft in the center of the gameboard. Open the window on the top of the detector to verify that the color inside is silver. Then shut the window.
The player then rolls the die. This number indicates the maximum number of spaces that the player can slide the detector. The player does not have to use all of the spaces that they rolled. The player chooses a starting space and places the detector on that space. The player then slowly pushes the detector to a neighboring space (vertically or horizontally) up to the number rolled.
When the player has finished moving the detector they slide open the window at the top of the detector. If the color is silver, the hidden treasure is not hidden under any of the spaces that the detector was pushed over.
The player should cross off all of these spaces on their treasure map.
If the color is red, the hidden treasure is located under at least one of the spaces that the treasure detector was on.
The spaces that could contain a treasure are indicated by placing a circle on your treasure map.
One time during the game each player can play their turn with the window on the treasure detector open. This will show the player the exact space where a treasure is detected if the treasure detector passes over one.
After a player marks off their treasure map, the other player takes their turn making sure that they reset the treasure detector in the mine shaft if the other player detected a treasure.
End of Game
When one of the players think they know the locations of the three treasures on their side of the board, they can use their turn to call out the locations they believe have treasures. The cardboard cover is removed from the board and the locations are verified. If the player correctly identifies the three treasure locations they win the game. If they miss one or more of the locations, the other player wins the game.
In the advanced game the die is not used. Players can move the treasure detector as many spaces as they want on their turn. This allows the player to automatically find a treasure on the turn where they leave the treasure window open since they can keep moving the treasure detector until they find a treasure.
My Thoughts on Lost Gold
When I first read the rules for Lost Gold I immediately thought of Battleship. It is hard not to notice the similarities between the two games. Both games have players secretly hiding their ships/gold on a grid gameboard and the other player is tasked with finding them. The first player to find all of the other player’s gold/ships wins the game. While playing Lost Gold it is obvious that the designers took inspiration from Battleship. If you have ever played Battleship before you will already have a good idea of what it is like playing Lost Gold.
While Lost Gold and Battleship share a lot in common, I was a little surprised that Lost Gold actually plays quite a bit differently than Battleship. Most of this comes from how the two games differ in giving you information and what you do with that information. In Battleship you get to pick one space and the other player tells you whether it is a hit or a miss. This makes it really easy to mark off which spaces contain ships and which have just open water. When a player finds a space that is a hit, they start searching neighboring spaces to find the rest of the spaces that the ship occupies.
Lost Gold on the other hand lets you check multiple spaces on your turn. You roll the die and get to check up to that many spaces. This lets you cover the gameboard pretty quickly. Unlike Battleship though once you find a hit you don’t know exactly which space was a hit unless you only checked one space. Instead of checking the neighboring spaces you need to check the spaces that contained a treasure to find the space(s) that actually has the treasure. This kind of feels like playing Battleship in reverse.
While I wouldn’t say that Lost Gold has a lot of strategy, I think there is an approach to the game that will improve your odds of winning. As the number of actions you can take on any turn are determined by a die roll, what you should do on each turn is dependent on what you roll. When you roll a high number you should use your turn to scope out as many spaces as possible if you haven’t already found the general area of the three treasures. By searching a large area you can either find one of the areas that contain a treasure or you can eliminate all of those spaces for the rest of the game. Then when you roll lower numbers you can narrow down the areas where you detected treasure. Probably the best way to narrow down areas where you detected treasure is to search as close to half of it as you can. This guarantees that you will eliminate at least half of the spaces on every turn. Checking one space could find you the treasure in one turn but if the treasure is not in that space you could end up spending more turns trying to find the treasure.
On the topic of strategy I want to quickly talk about the advanced game. The advanced game is the same as the basic game except you no longer roll the die so you can move the detector over as many spaces as you want. This doesn’t drastically change the game but I think it is an improvement over the basic game. The reason that I like the advanced game is that it gives players more choices. Players can check as many spaces as they want on any given turn as they don’t have to rely on the roll of a die. I am actually kind of interested in how it would work if you used your first couple of turns checking large sections of the map. This could be used to clear large sections of the gameboard at a time. The information you would gain from each find wouldn’t be super helpful though since you wouldn’t know how many treasures were in the area that you searched. In the advanced game I could see players devising a couple different strategies that would improve their odds of winning.
Lost Gold may have a little strategy but like Battleship it still relies pretty heavily on luck. Outside of using an educated guess of where the other player would place their treasures, you basically have to rely on luck to get a hit on the treasure detector. There is some strategy that you can implement once you find a treasure’s general area but there isn’t much you can do until you find the areas where the treasure is located. If one player finds these areas faster than the other player they are almost guaranteed to win the game.
I would say the biggest problem with Lost Gold though is that it is just kind of boring. Lost Gold’s issue is that there really isn’t a lot of do in between finding the general area of a treasure. This usually leads to quite a few turns where you are randomly selecting spaces on the grid. When you find a treasure you get a couple turns where you narrow down its exact location. Then you have to go back to randomly searching the rest of the map looking for another treasure. There is just too much downtime between finding treasures where it feels like you are wasting a lot of your time. I really think Lost Gold should have considered adding a couple more pieces of treasure which would have reduced the amount of time you spend randomly searching the map hoping to get a hit on the detector. I think Lost Gold deserves credit for doing something new but that doesn’t mean a lot when the final game is just kind of dull.
This is one of the reasons that I think Lost Gold is going to appeal more to children than adults. The game is simple enough that younger children shouldn’t have that much trouble playing the game. The theme of searching for buried treasure should also appeal to children. I don’t think children will be as turned off by the monotony either since they should be entertained by the search itself. Adults can have fun with Lost Gold (which is why I don’t understand the upper age limit) but after a while the game gets kind of repetitive.
As far as the components are concerned there are things that I like and things that could have been better. Before playing the game I was skeptical over how well the gameplay was actually going to work. The idea of using magnets with the indicator to reveal when it moves over the treasures is a clever idea. When you look at the detector though it feels finicky. You have to be careful when moving around the detector since if you make sudden moves with it, it can change the indicator to red even if you didn’t pass over a magnet. As long as you are careful with the detector though it works a lot better than I was expecting. In the game that I played it didn’t once indicate that there was a treasure somewhere there wasn’t one.
I also think Lost Gold deserves a lot of credit for its theme building with the components. I generally wouldn’t say that Parker Brothers games are known for their themes. While the plastic and cardboard pieces are pretty typical for a Parker Brothers game from this era, I give the game credit for using them to support the game’s theme. I think the most interesting thing is that the game put in the effort to create a small little comic in order to explain the game’s backstory as well as explain the game’s rules. The backstory is nothing special but I give the game credit for actually creating a backstory which is more than what most board games did in the 1970s.
I began this review comparing Lost Gold and Battleship. So which one is better? Honestly I wouldn’t say that either game is significantly better than the other. Both games have the same basic mechanics and yet they feel different because they both take different approaches to how you ultimately find the ships/gold. Battleship focuses on finding a hit and then searching the surrounding area. Lost Gold has you searching over an area and then narrowing down your search when you get a hit. I would probably say that Lost Gold has slightly more strategy than Battleship but both games rely pretty heavily on luck. While the two games are pretty similar I have to give Lost Gold some credit for trying to do something new when it could have just pasted a treasure hunting theme on Battleship and called it a day.
Should You Buy Lost Gold?
Lost Gold surprised me in some ways and disappointed me in others. At first sight Lost Gold might just look like another Battleship clone. While the two games share the same basic mechanics, they actually feel quite a bit different. I really give Lost Gold credit for not just taking Battleship and adding on a treasure hunting theme. While the mechanics are similar, Lost Gold does some unique things and deserves credit for trying something new. Lost Gold does a surprisingly good job using its components to support the game’s treasure hunting theme and while a little finicky they worked better than I was expecting. It might not have a lot of strategy but there are strategies you can use that will reduce the amount of time it takes to find a treasure. You do need to rely on luck to detect the treasure in the first place though. Probably the biggest problem with Lost Gold is that it is just kind of boring. Too much time is wasted trying to find the general area of a treasure. While Lost Gold is a decent game, it is more likely to appeal to children than adults.
If you have never really cared for Battleship’s gameplay, I don’t think things will be different with Lost Gold. If you already own Battleship and are not a huge fan of the gameplay, I don’t think it pays to also to pick up Lost Gold since the games share enough in common. If you really like Battleship though and want a new twist on the formula I think you may enjoy Lost Gold.