Saturday, July 8, 2023

New English Rule Book for Indiana Jones and the Hidden Treasure of Pyramid

Get the Rule Book on

Indiana Jones and the Hidden Treasure of Pyramid contents and my rules translation

I've completed my English translation of the rules for Indiana Jones and the Hidden Treasure of Pyramid (Central Hobby, 1989) (インディ ジョーンズ ピラミッドの秘宝) and posted the rule book on

Get it here (may require site registration):

There was no record of this game on BoardGameGeek, so I also populated a new entry for it:

Team Up

The game is played by 2-4 players playing against each other, or 4-8 players playing in 2-person teams. Each team member takes a different role, either Indy or his female companion Heroine. Cards are dealt to the players (Power cards to track Indy's power level (health) to Indy players, Heroine cards to Heroine players) and the Indy and Heroine players of matching colors team up together.

The Heroines all look alike, but they are mechanically different. The top two affect movement and the bottom two affect combat.

Two of the Heroine characters (as noted on the Heroine cards) give a big +2 bonus to either movement or combat. That's great! The problem is that the other two Heroine cards give a big -2 penalty to either movement or combat, with nothing to counteract that penalty. That's not great! When playing an 8-player game, two of the players become pariahs that nobody wants to team up with. That is not fun. The only explanation I can think of is that some are adept, active partners (like Marion Ravenwood) and some are enemy agents trying to undermine Indy (like Elsa Schneider). Still, it is a poor design choice.

It gets weirder on the second floor of the pyramid, where "Heroine Contests" are permitted. When one player pawn lands on another, the moving player may choose to fight in order to force the other team to swap Heroines. If they win, the Heroine cards and players are traded between the two teams. The game story makes it clear that Indy and the Heroine are lovers, so this trading just seems wrong (Indy, you cad!).

How to Play

The team members take turns moving their team player pawn on the map board (first, the Indy players take their turns, then the Heroine players). A player selects and plays an Explore card from their team's hand of 2 cards to move. Their pawn may be moved in the directions shown on that card, a number of spaces (corridors and rooms) up to the Indy player's current power level.

Players use cards to track Indy's current power level

If the player pawn enters a room space, movement for the turn ends and the player follows the instructions for the type of room entered. Stairs lead up to the next level in the pyramid. Medicine rooms (which only the Heroine may enter) can heal Indy's power level or allow the player to harm another team's Indy. When entering an unlocked room, a card is drawn to determine the trap or monster (bat, mummy, snake, or spider) that is encountered. Monsters are fought by rolling one six-sided die and adding the result to Indy's power level (Indy always fights, even on the Heroine's turn) and adding any bonus or penalty. If the total exceeds the monster's power, the enemy is defeated and the player team gets to keep the equipment (medicine or a key) listed on the monster's card. If the total is equal to or less than the monster's power, Indy loses one power level in damage and the monster is discarded. Keys are used to enter locked rooms, where tougher monsters and stronger equipment (whip and gun to give bonuses in combat, mine cart to give bonus movement) await.

The end goal is the locked treasure room on the third level of the pyramid. A player team must be the first to defeat a power level 11 monster and seize the magic jewel in order to escape the pyramid as victors.

A Card Game? An RPG? A Board Game?

Indiana Jones and the Hidden Treasure of Pyramid bills itself as an "R.P.G. card game" (RPG カードゲーム), but this is a misnomer.

When a player enters an unlocked or locked room on the map board, the player to the right draws a card (from either the Unlocked Room or Locked Room deck) and describes the encounter to the active player (instead of saying "It is a bat with power level 6," say, "A creature pounces on you with a high-pitched cry!"). From this description, the active player decides whether they want to use a weapon or not, then rolls one die for combat, and presumably describes the actions taken. This is where the role playing comes in, but as a board game, it is unnecessary. Each player has a role to play (Indy or Heroine), but there is little of the standard traits we might identify from a role-playing game. RPGs were very popular in Japan in the mid to late 1980s, and this was likely a marketing move to capitalize on their popularity (much like how the board game Cloak & Dagger (Ideal, 1984) is touted as a "role-playing game" during the USA RPG boom of the early 1980s).

Three decks of Explore, Unlocked Room, and Locked Room cards. Which deck is which?

It does use cards, but that doesn't necessarily make it a card game, either. There are three different types of cards drawn from different decks during the game: Explore, Unlocked Room, and Locked Room cards. Additionally, there are Heroine cards and different Indy Power cards that the players hold onto throughout the game. The problem is, all of the cards in the game have the same card backs! It is easy enough to organize the cards into different decks by looking at their card fronts, but it is easy to confuse them when they are flipped over.

Upgrading the Game Components

Original IJ: Treasure of Pyramid game pawns on the left, my Game of Life: IJ pawns on the right

Each player team is noted by a standard board game pawn GRYB color: green, red, yellow, or blue. However, the game includes colored metal pawns of gunmetal, bronze, silver, and gold (the pawns look like djed pillars 𓊽 to me, matching the Egyptian theme). This disconnect between the color on a player's cards and the color of the game pawn makes no sense to me. I replaced them with the Indy pawns (in standard GRYB colors) from my The Game of Life: Indiana Jones board game.

The game's map board is printed on a thin sheet of paper that has been kept folded in the game box for decades. The creases in the folds are hard to smooth out, so I placed a sheet of plexiglass over the map to help keep it flat and protect it while playing.

The Play's the Thing

I tested the game out to see how it plays. The Explore cards have a certain number of compass directions printed on them (from 1 to 4 different directions), and the player pawn can only be moved in those directions on your turn. This limits the player's choices, but only rarely did I find I could not move at all. You always have a choice from a hand of 2 different Explore cards, so there is usually at least one interesting destination that your pawn can move to.

Indy's power level is vital to both movement and combat, so it makes sense to keep him at 6 power whenever possible. Medicine can be found in medicine rooms and unlocked rooms, so it isn't hard to find enough healing to keep you topped off. You may lose precious time by healing, but a power 6 Indy can move twice as far and his 50% more effective in combat than a power 3 Indy.

Final battle with the treasure chamber monster, guns blazing and at full power. I still lost.

The treasure chamber fight is not easy, since you need to score an attack power total of 12 or more. If you are stuck with the -2 combat Heroine, this battle is impossible without using a pistol (even then, you only have a 1-in-6 chance of succeeding). In the example above, I used a key to enter the locked treasure chamber at full power (6) and used my pistol (+2), rolling a 3. My attack power of (6 + 2 + 3 = 11) tied with the monster's power, which means I was defeated. I had used up my key and pistol, lost 1 power level (down to 5), and had to return to the staircase at the start of the floor. Chances are, you will lose the treasure chamber combat unless you are the lucky player teamed up with the +2 combat Heroine and are wielding a weapon, too.


I already stated that the Heroine game mechanic is problematic but I'm not the only one. I've read a recent play report from a Japanese game club that played this game and complained about how the penalties are not fun (I lost the link to their post, though). An easy fix would be to make all Heroines give bonuses, either to combat or movement (though, I still think the combat bonus is more powerful since it is so important at the end of the game).

Now, if the game had some sort of hidden role mechanic where one Heroine is secretly working for Belloq and trying to win by betraying all the Indy players, that could be interesting. As this game is designed, there is just a 50% chance that any Heroine is an albatross around Indy's neck and nobody will want to play with them.

The end game can drag on too long, with several teams attempting to clear the treasure chamber but failing at the final combat. I suggest a variant where the final monster's power decreases by one level each time it is in combat. That way, the fight gets a little easier over time, guaranteeing that SOMEBODY will eventually win and bring the game to a conclusion.

I do like the map design and the overall concept of the game. It reminds me of Dungeon! (1975) and Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1988). The choices of monsters on the cards are strange. Bats, snakes, and spiders all make perfect sense in and IJ game. Mummy and ghost enemies make some sense, as both are hinted at in Raiders of the Lost Ark (mummies in the Well of Souls, ghosts emerging from the Ark of the Covenant). But the zombie, treasure keeper (axe-wielding hunchback), and haunted chest (an undead monster inside of a treasure chest) look like they are more appropriate in a Castlevania or Wizardry video game.

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