When I was younger, I was aware of a game called Talisman. It seemed like a great game but I never actually played it. The basic idea was the translation of a role-playing game into a board game. As an adult, it came to my attention that they were re-releasing Talisman. I almost bought it. Then I did a little research and discovered it isn't actually a very good game. First of all there is the length -Talisman just takes too long to play. Then there is the balancing -Talisman just isn't very well balanced.
I imagine Talisman is one of those games that nerds love, with lots of rules to sift through in order to master the game. I decided that I would design my own version of Talisman targeted towards everyone else. This would be a tricky undertaking as I would have to keep things simple yet preserve the sense of 'leveling up', swapping equipment, etc.
The second game on my mind, while writing Treasure Quest, was Munchkin. Munchkin was a preexisting attempt at my very objective -simplify the fun of role-playing games down to a casual level. Munchkin fails; the only people that play Munchkin are, once again, the gaming nerds. Munchkin takes too long to play and, trust me, if everyone is drunk, it is impossible to keep track of what's going on; simple as it is, Munchin is still too complex.
Treasure Quest: There is a designation in the world of boardgame design known as 'Ameritrash'. Ostensibly, Treasure Quest was to be a celebration of Ameritrash. Ridiculous cheesy name and premise: check. Lots and lots of dice being rolled in quantity: check. Cliche characters: check; but I already knew I had to include the choice of Barbarian, Elf, Wizard and Dwarf, as a nod to Hero Quest, along with every other fantasy-themed piece of fiction or gaming since Tolkien and Conan made an unholy union in the collective consciousness of nerds everywhere.
So, returning to the premise: Players enter a dungeon in search of a dark relic -a treasure of magnificent power.
Just to keep things interesting, I wanted to theme my game around the choice between cooperation and antagonism; like with Munchkin, I wanted players to weigh the benefits of working together or working apart and even allow for forced cooperation as a kind of passive aggression. Players fight as a team if they are adjacent, therefore the game becomes a careful contest of positioning, limited to a circular, but linear playing area.
Eventually one player grows strong enough to find the hidden treasure, but doing so makes him even stronger and turns him against the other players. The others can gauge when one of their own is getting close and shift gears to be in the best position possible to stop him. Once a player turns, it is a fight for survival -the others will have to work together to have any hope of winning, but keep in mind that, in the end, only one can leave with the treasure.
I think Treasure Quest turned out very well. It is casual enough that I was able to get people to play it with me and, through play-testing, I was able to hone it down to a rather tight experience. There is enough luck that no outcome is guaranteed; there is bartering to ensure that no player is left completely out of luck, teamwork to slow down an early lead and lots of fights with wandering monsters.