Riddles & Riches

Designed by Frank DiLorenzo
Published by R&R Games (RNRGames@aol.com)
Photos by Jerome Crowder
Reviewed by Ken Tidwell

2-6 players
Ages 12 and up

Riddles & Riches is a unique new game that captures all the fun of a treasure hunt in a board game format. In a normal treasure hunt, the players are issued several clues as to the identity of the 'treasures' they are seeking. Along the way the players may either discover or be issued additional hints as to the identity or location of the treasures they seek. The first player to identify the treasures and their locations wins.

Riddles & Riches condenses all of that treasure hunt action, including a mansion filled with possible treasures, into a small board and a stack of photographs. The board represents the layout of the mansion where the treasure hunt will be staged. The photographs depict each room in the mansion. The photos were created using incredible miniatures, like those found in fine dollhouses, and are amazingly detailed.

At the start of the game, each player is issued one riddle which will lead them to one of the treasures, three hints that each apply to one of the riddles held by one of the players, and several tool cards that can be used to wrench riddles and hints from other players via various nefarious means. On each turn, the players move about the mansion looking at rooms and trading riddles and hints with other players (by agreement or by force - some of the players are armed and others have a kinky bondage streak!) while trying to be the first player to identify and name the locations of any three treasures.

The riddles range from the obvious ("It wouldn't take 80 days to go around this one!") to the fiendish. Therein lies the games weakest point. Given an easy riddle a player may solve it straightaway but still be faced with a slow slog around the mansion as they try to locate the object. Where would you keep a painting of a sad clown? In some ways, its even worse when both the solution and location are obvious as this gives the players that see that riddle a huge leg up over the other players. It is almost impossible to get hold of all of the riddles and all of the hints for those riddles because of the way the cards change hands. And the very difficult riddles really require all of the hints to be solved by anyone short of a world class riddle master.

Our play test groups were divided. Half of the groups liked the fiendishly difficult, lateral thinking riddles. The other half found the slow slogs around the mansion and the random exchange of riddle and hint cards to be frustrating.

The game might be improved by throwing away the die (I suspect it is only in there because people expect movement to be random) and allowing each player to move about a fixed number of spaces each turn. It also might be improved by organizing players into teams so that they could consult with one another and share riddles and hints.

I think Riddles & Riches is good fun and does an amazing job of capturing the feel of a treasure hunt. It is particularly impressive as it is the first game design from Frank DiLorenzo, a young man who is definitely thinking outside the box. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

Warning! Spoiler ahead! Here are a pair of sample riddles for any brave souls that might like to have a go at it.

The Game Cabinet - editor@gamecabinet.com - Ken Tidwell