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GEISTER, GEISTER, SCHATZSUCHMEISTER (translates as GHOSTS, SPIRITS, TREASURE SEARCH MASTERS via Google translate) is a boardgame designed by Brian Yu. It is published by MATTEL Games, takes about 30 minutes to play with 8 year olds and over numbering 2 - 4. It is bright and colourful, and thus immediately visually attractive to younger players, has nice durable playing figures (which apparently are either available in a later version of the game, available separately or can be painted to a high standard - there are pictures of coloured figures on BoardGameGeek.com) a bunch of fluorescent green ghosts, some heavy duty cards and 5 Haunt covers (hard red crystalline plastic moulded) which are hollow and look like they have been made to fit over (like a sheet) the ghost figures, but in fact they do not fit. It is important to note this right from the start otherwise your younger players will break the Haunts trying to fit them. Seeing as how the game has been specifically designed for younger players it is surprising that the Haunts are made so they can quite easily snap with very little force required. If they do break they will leave pieces that are sharp, jagged hard plastic and dangerous. I am only saying be careful.

  

At the time of writing the game came only with German language rules (this may have changed by the time you read this) though English rules can be found on BoardGameGeek.com. If you do need the English rules go to BGG and under files print the Word.doc from "dearolddad" ((29/10/2013) art east to begin with. They are just 4 pages of text and cover the Basic game and the Advanced game well enough so you can play and enjoy. I didn't see this file at first and I printed the rules designed to look like the German rules book that comes with the game. I printed in black & white and it took a whole load of toner (it would kill and inkjet's Black) as it  is six pages printed with white text on a full black background. There are also some issues with these rules, such as for the Basic Game it tells you to remove the 2 Green and 2 Red Door cards whereas the Door cards are Green and Blue. It also mentions the Dice with a Cross on yet none of the dice in this version have a Cross. In the components it says 5 Haunt figures when there are 6. None of this is me being critical, just, hopefully, being helpful so you don't fall into the same traps I did and that you can move on quickly without studying the dice or looking for things that aren't there.

We play several game experiences, the Basic game without the Door cards, the Basic game with the Door cards and the Advanced game, played with or without the Door cards.Personally I think that the full Advanced game is probably a little too complex for most 8 year olds. By complex I mean that younger players may not always appreciate the additional drama of having to collect/remove the jewels numerically, it could seem a little illogical, taking the fun out of the otherwise quite fast game play.

       

The board depicts a gloomy old house with 12 major rooms all steeped in eerie barely illuminated darkness. Several of the rooms can be entered by either a Blue or a Green Door which can be locked by the playing of the Blue/Green door cards, whilst others are Neutral coloured and open at all times. It is into this Haunted House on the Hill that the heroic Ghosthunters (that's you the players) venture.In the Basic game (with or without the Door cards) the players start outside the front door and move by die roll into the house and along the tile patterned stone floor. there are three dice in the game, one six sided numbered 1-6 and 2 other 6-sided that have 1 Blank side, 2 Red Haunts and 3 Green Ghosts each. On the numbered die the numbers 1 - 5 also have a Ghost icon, only the 6 is a plain number. When any number is rolled the player moves their figure that many spaces -  they may stop in a room if they wish to end their move prematurely. If the number isn't a 6 the top card of the deck is flipped over and this will generally reveal a room Letter; a ghost is then placed in that room. If the card shows  shuffled then the cards, including the discards, are all reshuffled. 

If a player stops in a room with a jewel (these are small card tiles with a number on their face-down side) then the player can collect it and place it in the slot in their backpack (only one jewel per backpack). If there is a Ghost in the room this must be fought and defeated before the jewel can be taken. To defeat a Ghost you roll one of the symbol dice and remove the Ghost if you roll the Ghost symbol on the die. If there is more than one Ghost in the room each has to be fought separately. If there is more than one Ghost Hunter in the room each of them may also roll a symbol die,  Ghosts are removed from rooms and returned to the pool so they can be brought into play later on.

  

As the game progresses the rooms will gain more Ghosts - the deck is perpetually being reshuffled - and each time there are 3 Ghosts in a room it becomes haunted and a Haunt figure is placed in the room (removing the Ghosts). If there are ever 6 Haunted rooms the players have lost. The idea is for the players to collect the jewels and run them out of the house - they drop them on the front porch where they are safe.

If you play the game using the Door cards then these are shuffled into the deck and when they appear they lock all doors of the colour shown on the card. If all Blue doors are locked and a Green door card is drawn then the Blue doors open and the Green doors all lock. There are two other special cards in the deck which require you to turn over more cards, activate them and then shuffle the deck.

The Advanced game is the same as the Basic game with just one change, the jewels have to be removed from the house in numerical order 1 - 8 (or if you feel devilish 8 - 1). You can play the Advanced game with or without the door cards - this isn't in the rules but it makes sense and it also makes the Advanced game a little more possible - it is very hard to complete in full format. The jewel tiles are always placed in specific rooms but always face down. Once you have entered one of these rooms you may flip the jewel over so all players can see its number - it remains flipped until collected. As the jewels are randomly placed at the start of the game the players do not know which rooms to search first, though obviously once they can see a jewel they know its number. Jewels can be collected in any order but can only lave the house in numerical number. So, for example, in a four player game if one player locates jewel 4 they can collect it and move towards the front door, but not out. They can still search rooms and fight Ghosts whilst carrying a jewel.

Children like Ghosties and hunting them Scooby-Doo style (pity one of the characters isn't a large dog) and that is why this is a good, fun game to play with youngsters. It also has an element of strategy play which makes it a good entry-level game for bringing younger players into the wonderful world of boardgaming.

I now know that there is a revised edition which does have painted player-figures and also hi-impact dice with the numbers and symbols already printed on - the original version that I have uses blank square blocks on which you have to put stickers (old style) and single coloured figures, what we used to call jelly mould pieces. Whatever version of the game you buy - you can find it online or in stores priced from £25-£35 you are almost certain to have a lot of family fun with it.  

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015