Restoration Games has a mission: take games from the distant past and turn them into updated productions that keep the soul of the originals wholly intact.
Many of these games are big-ticket blowout remakes; Return to Dark Tower and Thunder Road: Vendetta come to mind, the latter of which arrives next year. Both are based on games from the 1980s, which feels like the sweet spot for gamers of a certain age (i.e., me).
Restoration Games has also put out some small-box games to pair with its more expensive crowdfunding campaigns, such as a prologue for what I hope will be a remake of The Omega Virus. I briefly stopped by the Restoration booth at Gen Con 2022 to chat with Restoration’s president, Justin Jacobson, and he handed me one of Restoration’s small box productions, Berried Treasure.
Berried Treasure is based on a Sid Sackson design from 30 years ago called Buried Treasure. Sackson, who passed away 20 years ago, is known for games such as Acquire and Can’t Stop, so he’s certainly in the category of “OG” when it comes to legends in the tabletop space. Both Berried Treasure and Buried Treasure have the same idea in mind: take cards from face-up stacks to build sets with scoring goals that change each round.
Also in both games: you are going to be snatching cards from other players. In the case of my family, this was not “like” taking candy from a baby; in fact, I was taking cards with sweets on them from a child. That didn’t go so well.
Berried Treasure plays 2-5 players and you can knock out a 2- or 3-player game in 10 minutes. So, right off the bat, Berried Treasure landed well for me in one aspect: family games should be super quick.
Things devolved a bit from there, but I don’t think this was a design problem. This is a “don’t take my stuff” problem.
Let me explain. My five-year-old was one of the players who joined me at the table for a game of Berried Treasure. Kids, in my experience, don’t share well. If they do share well, they like having the choice of sharing with others.
In Berried Treasure, four racks of pies are splayed out in rows; each pie is a card, with each card coming in one of four flavors. Some cards are just plain ol’ pie. Some are pie, but also have the word “Moar!” printed on them, allowing a player who picks up that card to take a similar pie card on the same or a different shelf, assuming it is the top card in that row.
Other cards have “grabby paws” on them, representing the critters that are somehow invading your game. If a player takes a card with grabby paws on it, they may steal a number of cards equal to the number of paws from any other single player.
And, that’s where my five-year-old fell out of favor with Berried Treasure. You see, as each player draws cards, those cards remain face-up in front of that player, and the cards are available to be stolen by anyone else all game long. Knowing that he might lose the cards made my son, well, a tad bit upset.
How upset? On the second turn of his first game of Berried Treasure, my daughter took a card with three grabby paws on it. My son was the only player with that flavor of pie, so she began to reach towards my son’s pile of cards.
My son lost it. He took his cards away from the table altogether and stormed upstairs to his room. “I’m NOT giving you my cards!” he shouted back to the rest of us.
Berried Treasure is officially persona non grata in my son’s room. But, how about plays with adults?
No Thank You
I tried Berried Treasure with adults at 2- and 3-player counts, and in these cases, the experience was underwhelming. There are some strategic elements to the timing of when you will take cards, and the fun part of each round’s scoring (a different flavor of pie is worth the most each round) is that tied players won’t score if they tie for a scoring category of pie flavor. This always leads to turns where you would rather stab your neighbor and make sure they score zero than hand them 8 or 10 points.
But the fun wears out quickly, strange for a game that only lasts about 15 minutes. Even though I’m only a few plays in, players will always try to ensure they don’t set up another player by revealing a grabby paws card that could hurt themselves, or to take a card that will guarantee a scoring majority in a round.
And I was surprised to see that many adults also didn’t love the stabbery that games such as Berried Treasure provide. For games this short, I don’t mind if I get a rusty shiv to the gut from my neighbor; it’s just a game, right? But many people don’t like to have things taken from them, not just my five-year-old.
That means that Berried Treasure is a game that won’t get repeat plays in my household; Berried Treasure might have more life if you have a few roommates looking to get into it during halftime of a football game at your apartment, or a family truly open to having your pie snatched right out from under you.
Your call. I’m hungry.