Review: Scavenger Hunt
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1983

The cover shows cartoon madness of people and objects

how we met

I found Scavenger Hunt this past summer on a typical weekend in an atypical location. We stumbled upon a thrift shop that we had never visited before or since. It’s one of those places where the entire store is half off all the time. They had a huge number of board games, and I found some great and rare stuff, including Scavenger Hunt. The cover is pretty cute, and I am more likely to take a chance on an old Milton Bradley game I don’t recognize than I am to leave it behind.

The friendly man working the cash register looked at me with some concern when he saw I was buying so many games, including Rich Little’s VCR Charades game. But he quickly pulled himself together and tried to sell me a VCR.

how it plays

The object of Scavenger Hunt is just as implied: you are supposed to find four objects hidden throughout a house. The catch is that these objects must be captured in a specific order and moves along the board are limited and, at times, tricky. 

Each player chooses a pawn and receives four random OBJECT DISCs and puts the discs face up in front of them. Each player will need paper and pen for this part, which is kind of annoying but also necessary. Here’s how you place your objects.

Choose a GARAGE, ATTIC, CLOSET and KITCHEN card out of the deck. Shuffle them together and then reveal them one by one and place whatever of your OBJECT DISCs you want into those spaces by looking for the room in your pawn’s color. But you need to track each item as you go. 

Overview of the board with objects placed
Here we are set up for play. If the illustrations look familiar, it’s because they were done by Jack Davis, an illustrator for Mad Magazine!

For example if I am the blue pawn and the first card is CLOSET then I may choose Dentures from my OBJECT DISCs, place it on the blue CLOSET space on the board and write down on my paper that my first object is Dentures in the CLOSET. This will randomize where you need to travel throughout play. 

My sticky note says 1. dentures - closet; 2. bongoes - garage. Etc
My poorly-written list to demonstrate

Now shuffle all of the cards together and deal 5 to each player. Players look at their hands but should not share with other players. 

On a player’s turn they draw a card from the deck. Then they roll the two dice. If they roll doubles then they draw an additional card from the deck. Players move along the white spaces by simply moving their pawns, but they can only move through rooms or the YARD by playing cards matching those spaces. The card showing FOUR ARROWS can be used to move into any room.

Example cards
The possible cards you may draw

Players must move their full dice roll with two exceptions:

  1. If you are able to get to the OBJECT DISC you need, you can claim it and your turn will end regardless of any movement left
  2. If you are in the garage it is possible that you can be stuck by not having a card matching any nearby rooms; all other spaces on the board have white spaces next to them and you will need to keep moving

There are a couple of challenges with moving. One is that pawns must move in the direction of the arrows, and that’s a long way around the board. The only time you can go backwards is if you bounce off a DOG pawn.

The game has two DOG pawns and cards to match them in the deck. You can play a DOG card at any point on your turn (beginning, middle or end) to control your movement, block another player, rest your eyes on a nearby dog, whatever. When a player pawn hits a DOG pawn then they bounce back and go backward along the track. But they don’t keep moving backward. On their next turn they will probably need to either move the DOG, enter the middle using cards or just bounce off the DOG again and hope for better cards. 

You can get trapped between two DOGs. The rulebook even has examples! 

If you have two cards in your hand that match, you can discard them at the end of your turn to take another turn. If you run out of cards, simply draw 5 new cards. They just can’t be played until your next turn. 

The first player to retrieve all of their OBJECT DISCs in the correct sequence and get back to their start space wins! 

Example discs include Wig, Plastic Flamingo, Moose Head, Hubcap, etc
These pepperoni-looking things are the OBJECT DISCs

how it went

[It turned out that my copy was not 100% complete and was missing the pawns and dice. Keri chose our pawns and dice from a bag of spare parts.]

We played this 3 player because Bill was out of town.

The rules for Scavenger Hunt are pretty extensive for what ends up being a simple game. But when I tried to explain how to play above, it took a lot of words. So it may look daunting but is very simple and just requires a bit of explanation. 

My pawn was a fly
Bzzzt, I was a fly!

The DOG pawns were a lot of fun. I was excited to learn that you can possibly get caught between two DOGs and hoped my terrible friends would make that happen. But the direction of the board makes the DOG pawns important to orchestrate your own movement too. They remind me a lot of the spy tiles in Spy vs Spy and work very similarly. And a player may learn the same lesson: blocking your opponents early on is fine, but you might need that card later in the game to help bounce yourself in a different direction.

Each turn is almost like a tiny little logic puzzle. Not a terribly difficult one, but you can think a turn or two ahead with the cards in your hand and try to plan your moves accordingly. 

Dentures, Bongoes and Indian Head sitting on my space
Here I have captured 3 of my 4 OBJECT DISCs

Toward the beginning of play Keri and I were doing well while John was falling behind. As play progressed, this caused Keri and I to focus our “take that” DOG bombs on each other. John ended up catching up to us with 3 OBJECT DISCs. Once we realized we needed to try and block him, he had the cards he needed to capture his last OBJECT DISC and get home safely. He moved the dogs first so they could participate in his victory. John was the winner of Scavenger Hunt! 

John's pawn was a bug on his start space to end the game
John’s win, flanked by DOGs

play or pass

Play. This is not my most enthusiastic play recommendation, but the scales definitely tip toward play. I liked the movement challenges in Scavenger Hunt, and I think it does a really nice job of balancing strategy and luck. If you happen upon it hidden away in an attic somewhere, blow off the dust and give it a whirl.