The game Clue is one of those board games that almost everyone has played at some point in their lives. With the popularity of the game it should not come as a surprise that people have tried to make their own interpretations of Clue in order to make money off the game’s popularity. A while back we looked at Angel in the Attic, another one of these Clue knock-offs, which was not a good game. Today I am looking at another Clue knock-off, The Prospector. While The Prospector tries to improve Clue, it actually succeeds in making the game considerably worse.
How to Play The Prospector
Set the gameboard in the center of the table. Sort the supply cards and place them on the corresponding spaces on the gameboard. The extra food and water cards are placed underneath the food and water cards. Shuffle the Prospector and Strike Site cards. Take one card from each deck and place them underneath the gameboard without looking at them. Place the rest of the cards on the corresponding spaces on the gameboard. Each player chooses a playing piece and places it in the center of the board. Each player also takes a check-off sheet to keep track of prospectors and strike sites. The players roll the die and the player who rolls the lowest number gets to play first.
The Prospector is played in two different phases.
In the first phase players will move along the tracks leading out from the center of the board in order to collect supplies. Players can go down the tracks in any order but must acquire the map last. Before rolling the die though the player has to tell the other players which track they are going to go down. When a player reaches the question mark at the end of a track (by exact count) they take the corresponding supply card, they get to ask questions (see below), and then immediately move back to the center of the board to move down a different track. If at any time a player rolls a six, they get another turn.
While moving if a player lands on a space occupied by another player, the player who just moved to the space may not move from the space until the other player moves off the space.
While moving down the tracks players can land on a hat or gold nugget space. When a player lands on a prospector space they take a Prospector card from the board (if there are Prospector cards still available). If a player lands on a gold nugget space they take a Strike Site card (if there are still some available). When a player takes a card they keep it for the rest of the game and do not show it to the other players.
Questioning the Other Players
Whenever a player lands on a question mark space, they can begin asking questions to the other players. The player chooses one of the other players and asks them either about a prospector or a strike site. If the player who was asked has the card that was asked for, they must tell the player that they have the card. The current player can continue asking questions to any player until they receive a no answer. The current player can choose to stop asking questions at any point.
Discovering the Hidden Identities
After a player has acquired all six required supplies, they move onto the second phase of the game.When they reach the question mark for the map (the final supply), they stay on the question mark space instead of moving back to the center of the board. On future turns the player moves around the outer ring of the board (following the arrows on the board). While on the outer ring the player can acquire additional food and water as they try to figure out which Prospector card and Strike Site card are underneath the board.
When the player thinks they knows both cards underneath the board they can start moving back towards the center of the board. The player enters one of the strike trails and heads towards the center of the board. If the player loses all of their food or water while on the strike trail, they are sent back to the center of the board and are forced to acquire food or water (whichever they lost). Once the player has reacquired the lost supply they begin moving around the outer ring of the board and must re-enter the strike trail to head back to the center of the board.
Winning the Game
When a player returns to the center of the board by exact count, they can make a guess on what two cards are underneath the gameboard.
The player announces their guess out loud to the other players and then looks at the two cards (without showing them to the other players). If the player was correct they win the game and reveal the cards to the other players.
If the player was incorrect, they place the cards beneath the gameboard and they are eliminated from the game. The rest of the players continue playing the game with the eliminated player continuing to answer other player’s questions.
My Thoughts on The Prospector
With The Prospector essentially being Clue with a different theme pasted on it, I thought it would best to talk about The Prospector by comparing it to Clue. Opinions on Clue can vary pretty significantly with some people loving the game while others hate it. I personally find myself somewhere in the middle since Clue is a fun game but there are better deduction games out there. No matter what your thoughts are on Clue, I think everyone who has played The Prospector would agree with my opinion that The Prospector is significantly worse than Clue due to a couple poor mechanic choices.
The first poor mechanic choice pretty much destroys the possibility of The Prospector being a good deduction game. Basically the whole premise behind the deduction genre is the mechanic of trying to figure out the mystery before the other players. In Clue each player has secret information and when they share it they only share it with one player at at time so only that player receives the additional information. You can get some idea of what cards a player has based on when they pass cards to other players but you don’t ever know for certain unless the player eventually passes that card to you. Now what would you say if I told you to play Clue where cards were passed to other players face up?
That would ruin the game wouldn’t it? Well that is basically what happens in The Prospector. Clue works because every player has secret information and they have to figure out the other player’s secret information by themselves. Due to The Prospector having players answer questions out loud, all of the players gain the same information from every question that is asked. Unless the other players aren’t paying attention there is really no way to get ahead of the other players since they will learn everything that you do. You basically solve the mystery together in The Prospector.
The only way to get additional information that the other players don’t have is to get more of the Prospector and Strike Site Cards than they do. Unlike in Clue, the Prospector and Strike Site cards are not evenly distributed to all of the players so one player could end up getting more cards than another player because they got lucky and landed on more of the spaces that give them out. While everyone will quickly learn which cards each player has (due to the aforementioned problem), the only advantage a player can gain in the game is solely due to getting lucky.
The reliance on luck doesn’t end with just getting the most cards. Rolling well will likely determine who wins the game. In The Prospector there are plenty of situations where players need to roll the exact right number in order to proceed or avoid negative consequences. The most frustrating part of the game is when you get near the bottom of a track and then have to roll an exact number in order to collect the supply card. Players can get stuck for a long time hoping to just roll the right number. This can get even worse when you land on a space that another player is on since you then have to wait for them to roll the number to be able to move and then you have to roll it as well. The game has alternate rules where you can claim a supply item after a certain number of unsuccessful rolls which I would highly recommend using.
The player who rolls the best will likely win the game. Since everyone pretty much learns all of the information at the same time, the winner is going to be the first player to get all of their supplies and get up one of the strike tracks. A deduction game that relies more on rolling well than actually figuring out the mystery does not make for a good deduction game.
The second terrible mechanic is the whole idea behind the supplies. I am guessing that the supplies were added to make the game longer and add to the theme of the game but they feel like a waste of time. Going around picking up all of the supplies really adds nothing to the game other than making the game longer. Having to get all of the supplies also adds a lot of luck since one unlucky player hadn’t even collected all of the supplies by the time one player had finished the game. All of the players knew the solution and yet this player had no chance of winning because they couldn’t get all of the supplies that they needed.
Another problem with The Prospector are the components in general. Just by looking at the game’s components you could tell that this game was made by a small publisher. The cards are made out of thin cardboard. The artwork is not particularly good. The biggest problem with the components though is that the game decided to make the text black set against a dark background so it is really hard to read any of the text on the gameboard.
So I have pretty much spent this whole review talking about what is wrong with The Prospector. So what does The Prospector have going for it? While the game does have a lot of problems, the game is not broken. A lot of the rules don’t make for a good game but the game makes sense and there are no rules that break the game. The game is also far from offensive and the game could somewhat serve as an educational experience about the gold rush.
Should You Buy The Prospector?
The Prospector is just not a very good game. While I have played worse games, The Prospector has some mechanics that pretty much ruin the game. The key to a good deduction game is to have a mystery that you have to figure out. The Prospector has a mystery but everyone figures it out at the same time so there really is no actual deduction in the game. Unless a player doesn’t pay attention, the player who rolls the best is going to win the game.
I really have a hard time recommending The Prospector. If you like deduction games there are much better games out there. If you are looking for a really easy deduction game to play with children that have never played a deduction game before, The Prospector might have some value since players basically work together to solve the mystery. Otherwise if you really like the gold rush theme, you might get a little out of the theme. I personally wouldn’t recommend picking up the game though unless you find it for really cheap and want to experience a bad deduction game.