If there’s is somethin’ strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call? Whoever it is, be prepared for some hefty, long-distance charges. Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister! is a German tabletop game (translates to Ghost, Ghost, Master Treasure Hunter) that has garnished a ton of attention since winning the 2014 Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s game of the Year).
As a co-operative game for 2–4 players, the group takes on personas from a few of my favorite childhood movies—The Goonies (kid treasure hunters) and The Ghostbusters (aptly named, Ghostbusters). At least that’s how I like to think of it. Faced with an obligatory haunted house, our treasure hunters must explore room after room in search of eight “treasure jewels” while fighting off an ever growing population of ghosts that can appear in any room at any time.
The gameplay is very simple, but don’t let that scare you away. The haunted house has several rooms, labelled alphabetically A through L. Treasure markers are placed in designated rooms face-down, each numbered 1 through 8. In the advanced version of the game (essentially the non-children’s version), the goal of the game is to collect the treasures and remove them from the house in chronological order. In the basic game, the numbers don’t matter, players just need to get all eight out of the house. A 6-sided movement die is rolled. A resulting 1–5 roll will force the player to draw a card that might spawn ghosts in specific rooms. In the advanced version, the deck of cards contains cards that might also lock some of the doors in the house and cause players to spawn even more ghosts than usual. The 6 result is not only the highest movement roll but also gives players a little break and won’t force them to draw a card.
Encountering a ghost in a room is pretty cut and dry. If a player ends their movement in a room with a ghost they must fight it. A 6-sided fighting die is rolled and a resulting green ghost icon will remove a ghost from the room. Each room has enough space for two green ghosts. Once a card is drawn that might put a third ghost in a room, all ghosts are removed and a “haunt” ghost is added. The main lose condition of Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister! is to have six of the haunt ghosts on the board at one time. The haunt ghosts are significantly tougher to remove. Two players are required to be in the same room at the same time in order to fight the haunt. Two fighting dice are rolled, if one of the resulting rolls is a red haunt ghost icon then the haunt is removed.
Looking at this game from the mindset of a child gamer, I assume this game would be challenging and the co-op experience would be pretty engaging. As an adult, the advanced version of this game seems so easy at first, but believe me when I say things get pretty hard, pretty fast. I’m not embarrassed to say my treasure hunting team has lost this game multiple times—if and when we win, it’s always a nail-biter.
The game mechanics are just a notch above roll-and-move, and for the first time I don’t say that in a derogatory way. The great addition to the co-op style is that certain elements of the game can only happen when multiple players work together. Requiring two players in a room to fight the haunt is a great way to “force” cooperation. The incentive of getting more fighting dice for removing ghosts by having more people in a room is another genius way of pushing the co-op gameplay.
The immediate sellers for this game are the figures and artwork. The ghosts are absolutely awesome. The artwork is the perfect balance of the ghostly theme and an adorable “friendly-ghost” style. The four treasure hunter figures are all different sculpts and different colors, adding more to the engaging experience than a simple pawn or meeple might have.
I hate to do it but I have to knock the rating down a bit for the dice. The dice are a good size, with rounded-ish corners—no problem there. Where I take issue with them is that they are simple plastic dice with stickers for result sides. The production really missed the mark on choosing not to go with engraved dice or at least printed dice. The stickers really knockdown the visuals of the game and cheapens the overall feel.
Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister! is an absolutely wonderful game. The wide appeal of the game might surpass some of the old standbys because it’s taughted as a children’s game and remains challenging for adults with its advanced rules. The theme is timeless. The components are top-notch. The time commitment comes in at around 30 minutes per play which seems to be the perfect amount of non-gamers, children with low attention spans, and hardcore gamers in need of a semi-meatier filler game.
As far as availability goes, the game is still only available in German. One might think as a major award winner we will see a US release, but as of now I haven’t heard of any plans for that to happen. Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister! could easily be re-skinned for a US release as a Ghostbusters or Scooby-Doo game. Part of me thinks that would be awesome, another part of me appreciates the game’s originality as is and would fear any licensing pressures.
How much translation is required to play this game?
Aside from grabbing an English PDF of the rules online, the components themselves are very visual. The deck only contains five different cards with text. Two of the cards are “Green Doors Lock” and “Blue Doors Lock” which can be easily understood by the artwork. The other three cards are simply “Shuffle”, “Draw 2 and Shuffle”, and “Draw 3 and Shuffle”.