south america



Some animals just capture our imagination, or should I say, our fear.  Piranhas are one of those creatures that definitely fit into this category.  I cannot recall exactly when I first heard of piranhas, but had been told they were flesh eating fish that attacked in groups eating other fish, or whatever else is in the water, to the bone.  I think my oldest brother mentioned piranhas when I was young.  In Junior High I saw a movie at school about the Spanish explorers.  One of the men went swimming in the Amazon, and guess what?  Let’s just say I was convinced to never swim in the Amazon.

            I have always been fascinated with the diversity of animals on our planet and how each of the continents has its own unique, often strange, animals.  I love watching documentaries on wildlife, or shows such as River Monsters.  When I created the board game Treasure Trove, I wanted that sense of adventure and exploration to be evident as players travel the world in search of treasure.  I deliberately mentioned some of the exotic animals indigenous to the various continents.  Some of these I placed with drawings on the game board, while others I placed within the situation cards.  I placed the following card in the stack of cards for South America.


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Incan Treasure










           I enjoy watching movies involving a search for treasure.  One I caught on Netflix recently was a 1950’s movie about the search for an ancient Incan artifact high in the Andes Mountains.  The movie titled Secret of the Incas stared Charlton Heston.  This was before he became famous in movies such as The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur.  He portrayed an American, a rugged, independent type of individual living in South America looking for an easy dollar to be made, especially if it could be treasure.  He wore a fedora hat, was quick with his wit as well his fists, and in the context of the movie was needed to rescue a damsel in distress.  Seemed like a precursor to the Indiana Jones type of individua played by Harrison Ford.

            In this movie Charlton Heston was an adventurer but he was no archeologist.  That was played by Robert Young who was better known as Father Knows Best of the 1950s or Dr Marcus Welby of the 1970s.  It was not exactly a great movie but tried to expose archeology to the viewer.  You have to remember the movie was made in the early 1950s.  It also tried to show the viewer the fascinating history of the past Inca Empire that the Spanish explorer Pizarro had encountered during the early 16th century.

            I loved reading about past empires discovered by the conquistadors and Spanish explorers of the 16th century when I was in grade school.  It is always fun to relive that feeling when I read a National Geographic article or watch a movie about ancient civilizations.  When I designed the board game Treasure Trove I choose to place a treasure called “Pizarro’s Lost Fortune” that touched on the explorers as well as the Incan civilization.  The movie mentioned Incan treasure but implied that Pizarro had failed to take a large artifact sacred to the Incan people.  That artifact was undiscovered until the archeological expedition led by Robert Young high in the Andes.  His diggings were also unsuccessful in finding the artifact until the American adventurer played by Charlton Heston by chance comes across the expedition.  Then in the dark of night Heston with his flashlight happens to discover the ancient artifact.  Sounds like Indiana Jones doesn’t it?

            Treasure Trove is a game about searching for treasure as well as the adventure of learning about ancient civilizations.  Please visit our website at

Emerald Valley


Patricia Emerald

           The largest green diamonds to have been found have come from Columbia.  In the board game TreasureTrove lots of facts about treasure, gold, crowns, gems, pirates, sunken treasure and other topics related to the world’s fabled riches are revealed in the process of play.  The following is one of 72 situation cards within the game. 

           Also included with the game is a twenty page instructional booklet of which about 10 pages are factoids dealing with fun information about treasure discoveries, unique animals, shipwrecks, legends, lost civilizations and so forth.  The following is in the footnote section concerning emeralds.                                                                          


     1.  Duke of Devonshire:  1,383 carat Columbian emerald.

2.  Mogul Emerald:  One of the largest green gems in the world at 217 carats.  It   was found in the 17th century and inscribed with Islamic prayers.

3.  Patricia Emerald:  632 carat stone found in 1921 in Columbia named in honor of Saint Patrick.

Duke of Devonshire Emerald

Mogul Emerald

Emerald Valley on game board of TreasureTrove

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Colorful Maps

         I love maps.  I can look at a roadmap at length wondering what it would be like to live in this town or that one.  I have a good sense of recollection when I study a map, easily remembering the distances from one town to the next.  I have always enjoyed world maps.  I sometimes wonder if I would have enjoyed being a cartographer.  I think that is a cool word.  It comes from the Greeks: chartis=maps and graphein=write.

            When I was in the 8th grade my older brother returned from college one weekend with a friend who was majoring in cartography.  I asked him, “what is that?”  He responded, “someone who studies and makes maps.”  Over 40 years later I still have not met anyone else who makes a living making maps. 

            At the time I played a lot of the board game Risk and was intrigued with faraway places that had names such as Madagascar, Irkutsk, Siam, Argentina, and Northwest Territories.  It led me study the world map memorizing all the countries of the world.  Globes are also something I like.  My dad had one and I loved spinning it, placing my figure to stop it, and wondering what it would be like to live in that part of the world.  Or, what it would be like to be on the high seas.       

            I challenged my brother’s friend to a contest to see who could name most of the world’s countries.  He eagerly accepted asking, “do you what to name them in order?”  I quickly responded, “no, just name them.”

            I held my own through North and South America, Europe, Asia and most of Africa.  At that time a number of African countries were in the process of renaming themselves such as Congo to Zaire, so I had some trouble there.  It was in the South Pacific and the Caribbean that I was no match for him.  I had never heard of so many islands and unaware they were countries.  Places such as American Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Fuji, and so forth.  I sure enjoyed challenging him.  Whenever I’m in an office where there is a map hanging on the wall or a globe it is sure hard for me not to a moment looking, or take a spin.

            My favorite maps though are easy ones:  the ones that have a lot of pictures.  Like the ones you get when entering a theme park.  Some visitor maps to cities may have certain buildings highlighted, or the zoo, etc.  I have an historical map of Texas hanging on the wall of my office and I check it all the time.  I cannot tell you have many people also stop to study it.

San Antonio Zoo map

   When I created the board game TreasureTrove, I wanted to have a colorful map with lots of pictures.  As players travel the world collecting treasure it would create a sense of adventure.  It may look a little busy but I wanted the players to imagine all the exotic creatures, castles, temples, and fabled places our planet has to explore.


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View of Nazca drawing from the sky

            I had never heard of archaeoastronomy until I was researching something in South America called the Giants of Nazca.  It is an interesting word.  I also like the word giants.  Giants is something of interest to almost all kids as well as those of us who choose to remain children at heart.  I still love watching shows on the discovery channel about giant fish, giant snakes, and so forth.  Not to mention cheesy horror movies about giant anacondas, alligators, worms, etc.

     The Giants of Nazca are the large ground drawings in Peru that are visible from the sky.  It has long been speculated that the ancient drawings were landmarks for visiting beings in spacecraft.  The game board for TreasureTrove  includes a drawing in South America of one of the Giants of Nazca.

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View of Nazca astronaut from the sky

The game includes a booklet describing each of the treasure spaces on the board.  It reads as follows:

Giants of Nazca:  Your interest in archaeoastronomy takes you to Peru to study the giant pictures called the Nazca drawings.  (See Footnotes-Nazca Culture;  Archaeostronomy)

The booklet footnotes read as follows:

Archaeostronomy:  The study of how peoples of the past understood the phenomena of the sky and how it affected their culture.

Nazca Culture:  Advanced civilization that thrived about 2000 years ago in the Andes Mountains.  It predated the Incas who were conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century.

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