Legend: A Game of Maps Review

One thing I love about these immersive puzzle games is there is so much room for creativity. Just about everyone that has played these games has an idea brewing in their mind. I discovered one of the most brilliant and creative mystery games that I’ve played to date. Well-hidden amongst the arts and crafts of Etsy is an independent game called Legend: A Game of Maps. A true piece of art by its own right.

The game is beautiful and ingenious. The documents and maps you receive are made with great care and craftsmanship. They all look and feel hundreds of years old and possibly lead to some long-forgotten treasures. All the puzzles make it seem as though you’re the historian treasure hunter discovering hidden messages and codes in these old documents. Right now, there are two chapters of the game that can be purchased separately or as a bundle. Although, I can’t imagine just stopping at one.

Legend: A Game of Maps first game.

The first game came to me in a shiny red envelope with my name hand-written in cursive on the front. The personal touch is something you won’t find anywhere else. Opening the envelope revealed a letter from the Kettering Institute asking for my help with the following documents. Three pages written in a strange cipher and an accompanying clothe map. They believe the pages contain some clue in finding a buried treasure and naturally they heard I was good at this sort of thing. They must be fans of the blog.

This chapter of the game is enjoyable if you like cracking ciphers. It’s challenging because it uses symbols instead of letters. I spent a good hour or two doing frequency analysis before I realized there’s a hint in the Kettering Institute letter that saved me a bunch of time. Always read the directions people! After solving the message I was able to plot some locations on the map and sent in my findings to the Kettering Institute via email. After a couple of days I received the conclusion to the story.

The second game is where things get really exciting. The difficulty level also goes way up and it’s where we leave behind the amateurs. Once again I received a personalized envelope which contained a letter from the Kettering Institute asking that I take a look at the following documents; a large map of the Caribbean, a Mayan manuscript, a letter from a sailor to his wife and daughter, several cards with symbols and cutouts, and a paper artifact. The Kettering Institute thinks that the Caribbean map and Mayan manuscript are linked somehow. The other items are their own mystery which means we are getting two treasure hunts in one game.

Holy lifeboat, this game is amazing. I cannot believe the volume of puzzle that the creator managed to fit into these documents. Every time I solved a piece, I got an elated feeling of accomplishment. Imagine if you were Nicholas Cage in National Treasure and finding the Templar treasure. This game is more riddle based and you will have to go from riddle to riddle finding the clues. When I found the first hidden message in the sailor’s letter, I thought that was all there was to it. But as I pondered what it could mean I realized there was more. I was in shock when I found the next step and realized that this single letter contained an extremely sophisticated set of riddles that seemed to never end. With that much puzzle you would think the letter would be a jumbled mess of words, but it reads like a simple letter from a man to his wife, just describing some of his adventures. There’s even a part where you have to make a decision on which path you continue forward.

The Caribbean map and Mayan manuscript are their own incredible puzzle. Studying the map shows a lot hidden content, but where to start. From the title of the map of course. It’s hard to go into detail without spoiling anything, but you will go back and forth between the map and manuscript as it’s clear the Spanish explorers used the manuscript to create a treasure map. Eventually you will decipher some coordinates that will lead you to the buried treasure. X marks the spot! Once you are completed you will email the Kettering Institute with your findings they will explore those areas and report back what they’ve found.

Ron Francesangelo is the creator and I believe a one-man operation. I personally think he’s a genius as I’ve never seen this level of puzzle before. If you get stuck on any part and need a hint, you can email him with the address provided and he was happy to help. His hints are perfect as they give away nothing but help you on what you should be focusing on.

You need to buy this puzzle! There are two ways to buy, you can buy the first and second parts independently for $25 or $35 respectfully, or you can save $5 and buy the bundle for $55. At only $55 for both games, it’s a steal. I spent $50 in New Zealand on a map of Middle Earth, and that only gets me to the dumps of Mordor. This game is hand crafted and everything looks and feels like it’s hundreds of years old. The website claims that this is only the beginning in a whole series. I might be biased, but you need this game. I cannot wait any longer for the third installment to come out.


-J.C. Mystery Detective

The VOC Treasure – At Home Mystery

There’s a new mystery live now on Kickstarter and I’m excited to see this adventure come to fruition.  Growing up watching The Goonies and Indiana Jones, I’ve always been a huge fan of a treasure hunt.  Fortune and glory awaits!  The VOC Treasure puts you on the trail of the van Amstel family’s uncle.  An adventurer and treasure seeker who recently passed away.  Following clues and solving puzzles, you can help discover the mysteries of the Dutch East India Company’s lost voyage.   

Jachin Letwory is the creator of the project and he graciously answered a few questions I had for The VOC Treasure.  He told me that he is a teacher of both guitar and physical education in The Netherlands.  He has his own guitar school and likes to organize outdoor treasure hunts in his spare time.  The Dutch version of the game is already up and running and has raving reviews. 

JC: I am a big fan of mystery puzzle games and I always love seeing new and exciting mysteries to solve.  What made you decide that you wanted to create a mystery game?  

Jachin: Two years ago I had to organize a bachelor party for my best friend. Without any prior research I made an Jason Bourne/secret agent like scavenger hunt. I enjoyed the process so much that I decided to make some more.

JC: Most of these games tend to be murder mysteries so it’s refreshing to see one that’s about a buried treasure.  What inspired you to create this story and what makes this box unique?

Jachin: I was thinking of some original ideas an treasure hunts came to my mind. I did some research and came across some inspiring treasure hunts like The Golden Owl.

During the same period I was doing some family tree research and in on of the online archives I found some old Books. In one of those books I read a line “a ship wrecked”. I knew it was from the Dutch East India Company (VOC) during the period of the pirates. I used this story as a bases for The VOC Treasure. Most used materials in the box I’ve found in the archives such as an original page from the ships log dating around 1709. So what I did is make the story and all the puzzles to make it an At Home Mystery.

JC: You mentioned that this story is based on a true events.  Is this a well-known legend from the Netherlands that a U.S. audience has not heard before?

Jachin: The story isn’t well known to both the Dutch as the U.S. audience. But that a good thing. otherwise they would know some of the answers beforehand.

JC: Kickstarter seems to be a popular place for many of these games to get a start.  What made you choose Kickstarter? 

Jachin: I choose Kickstarter because a lot of creative projects use this platform and other mystery games and books have used Kickstarter in a successful way.

JC: Thank you for your time and I wish you all the luck!

I for one am sold and was able to snag one of the early bird packages.  Check out the The VOC Treasure page on Kickstarter or their webpage www.moderntreasurehunt.com to learn more and become a backer.  Don’t miss out on this great experience.