"You don't get good ideas unless you get ideas."
- Steve

Most people enjoy games of one sort or another. What if you took a handful of them and made them into a competition? Well, as the hypothetical Manitoba Challenge concept was fleshed out, it turned out to be . . . different.
The treasure hunt/race, on the other hand, is unambiguously adorable, and I would love to see it on television.



The Amazing Race has reminded me of yet another fantasy of mine: teams competing by playing games, either a set of abstract strategy games or a much more diverse set of games and challenges. The Amazing Race is good at digging up obscure activities in diverse locales, but all those stressful taxi rides are a little ugly. What if the best of my ideas were combined with some good ideas from the Amazing Race? I don't want to emphasize the travel, but I don't want it to smell too Steve either. What about a challenge just in Manitoba? The Manitoba Challenge. With four teams of five you could have a diverse set of abilities, and use appropriate people as needed.

I'm just thinking out loud here. There would be four lumps, categories of activities

1 - Trivia

2 - Board game

3 - Athletic challenges

4 - Misc, surprise challenges, riddle, bluffing (e.g. poker), memory, dexterity, fear factor. "Treasure hunt" incorporating these.

Some activities would be known in advance, while some would be a surprise. Surprise challenges seem fair, as well as entertaining for the viewer. Get a diverse team and take it from there. I'm going to list a bunch of possible games and activities, but don't let that give you the wrong impression. Only a handful of games would be done. There would be a mix of mental and physical. There would be activities for an individual, activities for the whole team, and crafty combinations of the two. One person in each race team is the team leader, who officially makes decisions. I like the idea of a $25,000 $10,000 team prize, plus some trinkets ("here's $50 Canadian Tire money!"). It is a game, meant to be fun with no team eliminations, and I'd like to see this done the Manitoba way. Note the low-key, friendly hangout at a restaurant and the charity. When applying, people would list what they could do, so that there could be a surprise, e.g., badminton challenge.

The "participation problem" is this: Let's say you've got a soccer game. Great! But a soccer team requires 11 players, not including substitutes. A race team is composed of five people with different abilities, so the link between the soccer game and the race teams is tenuous.

1 - Trivia would be a team activity. Could move into game show territory.

2 - Boardgame. Abstract strategy of course. A chess competition would be the normal route here. I like the idea of a Konane tournament. Konane is very easy to learn. Fanorona would be a nice tournament game. Tablut is a simple game for low points.

3 - Athletic challenges. 2-4 including bowling. It would be nice to have a red meat athletic team sport. Hockey/soccer/one of the other team sports would be marvelous, but this suffers from the participation problem. The participation problem would not be a big issue if the teams came from organisations like schools, business, churches or government departments. It looks like the big team games (including dragon boat, excluding volleyball) are for lower points because of the participation problem. However, winning these "prestige games" means $1,000 goes to the charity of their choice, formally chosen by the race team leader.
Indoor soccer doesn't suffer so much from the participation problem. Curling is supposed to be a democratic sport. Volleyball is a great game for four players. Bowling would be a superb icebreaker intro for the whole show. Tennis has no participation problem.
Race event(s). Running, swimming laps, speedskating. I've heard of a snowshoe race. A given activity is done by whichever member of the team wants to. Dragon boat.
A variation of the race, Special Forces, would be kind of like those special forces training and selection videos I've seen. Did you remember to say "sir"?

4 - Miscellaneous Challenges. These might come in the form of a "Treasure hunt" (there is no treasure). Similar to The Amazing Race, the treasure hunt could swallow up some of the above challanges, anything that isn't A vs. B., so this mulifaceted event could be standalone for a smaller prize.

Other possibilities:


I've long liked the idea of ping pong being in a multigame competition like this.

I suppose darts and even pool are possibilities. Maybe one night could have a relaxed Friday night vibe.

I like the idea of hanging out at a restaurant after bowling as standard, because everyone gets to know each other. You could throw in a little fun surprise challenge. Here is where you could reveal and discuss, e.g. the surprise swimming race.

Bluffing game Perudo, a.k.a. Liar's Dice? At a restaurant? A couple of beers would be welcome.

There is a variety of carnival type games. Challenging or childish? A consideration here is to make things television friendly. I like one where there is a big rotating corkscrew thing, and you have to move a wand with a ring from top to bottom without touching metal to metal. There's also the classic ball in a cup co-ordination challenge.

Surprise challenge. A puzzle, or limbo. The Amazing Race does endless suprise challenges, with an international cultural angle. A surprise challenge might be given to only one team, the one which is behind.

A Fear Factor challenge would be welcome. I like the idea of using tarantulas. An individual from the team has been chosen randomly. Amazing Race Canada had a polar bear dip in icy water.

Paintball! Great, but the devil is in the details. There is a pattern here. How would it be filmed, and how do you prevent cheating?

I like the idea of using laser tag as a bookend at the end of a Manitoba Challenge, another fun team activity like bowling, particularly for "Friday Night". Somebody at work has been excitedy yapping about laser tag. I played it once ten years ago, and it struck me as kind of pointless and childish, not helped by the fact that people wouldn't listen to me and I lost badly. Contrast this with paintball, particularly outdoor paintball, which strikes me as a more mature, rich game. However, people can and do cheat at paintball, while you can't cheat at laser tag. I could be wrong about these games.

Golf. Ultimate frisbee. Crokinole. Fussball. Horseshoes. A jigsaw puzzle is not out of the question - a family Manitoba Challenge?

That climbing thing. I don't think it's suitable for competition.

Here's something exotic: blind hockey, tennis, or soccer. What could possibly go wrong?

A trivia game involving identifying Manitoba birds (or reptiles or whatever. or grains).
Pictures of knots, which must be identified later.

The shell game? I've been flip flopping over that. One random player can guess by himself once, then the team gets two guesses. Could be some intrigue there.

skipping stones?

orienteering with a compass?

An Iron Chef challenge would be ambitious and shaky, but colourful and different.

Surprise fear factor with diving boards, with any number of people and a goal of x points. You get different points for the different heights and jump vs. diving.
surprise swimming race with multiple people

There are balance boardgames including the photogenic Canadian game Villa Paletti.

Einstein's fish riddle. Have you heard of the baseball and bat cost question?

Tetris. There is such a thing as competitive wikipedia searching - you can look up wiki wars - but this does not appeal to me. Could be a novel little challenge.


Cryptoquotes, like you see in newspapers. Other word games, e.g. Boggle.

limbo surprise challenge? Better in theory than in practise.

I mapped out some themed Manitoba Challenges scenarios. If that interests you, you can find them here.



When I was young I made a treasure hunt for a couple of friends. Go here to pick up a note telling you to go there which provides a new note. At the end it just ended. "There's no prize?". To me the prize was the treasure hunt.
In my teens I made a Christmas treasure hunt with cryptic clues, for example that religious figure in Turkey.

So let's figure out what a "Treasure Hunt" could be like in The Manitoba Challenge. "I don't want to emphasize the travel, but I don't want it to smell too Steve either". This could be made into something like The Amazing Race. Unlike TAR, racers would use their own cars.

At destinations there is a challenge before they get a clue. Some examples:
Physical tasks, particularly race type activities. Go from A to B using snowshoes. The clue is at the top of the Richardson building - take the stairs.
Clue is at the bottom of a 16-ft. deep pool, the one with the diving board.
Throwing horseshoes. Corkscrew dexterity challenge. That climbing thing? Too much learning time and not meant for speed.
Puzzles: getting a marble out of that little wood box, Soduku, a wire puzzle or jigsaw puzzle, cryptoquote (with clue), riddle. That traffic jam type puzzle with sliding wood blocks.
How about a challenge to figure out 5384 - 2789 on an abacus, with resources?

Spotting something. Could do some fossil hunting around the legislative building - "find the ammonite".
A karaoke fear factor challenge for at least one person. That would throw you off guard.
The use of smart phones and whatnot is the main reason why some challenges are "buggy".
There is at least one corn maze just outside of Winnipeg, but that seems buggy.
I'm warming to the idea of learning some sign language vocabulary at destination C, then using it at destination D for a friendly meeting with Ms. Smith. If the team blows it, they go back to destination C to learn different vocabulary. A prosocial memory game.

Simple instruction to go to another place.

Cryptic instruction to go to another place. "A hot dog ready to eat itself".

The destination is a non-brand-name business where food or drink is picked up, e.g. the famous ice cream place in Winnipeg. Everybody is happy.

Here's where it gets interesting. A treasure hunt does not have to be a linear sequence. A destination branches off into two destinations. Remember that there are teams of five, and this is wired 2013.


I mapped out a scenario for a treasure hunt, but it's too dorky to present here. Route A splits into Route B and Route C, then Route C splits into Route D and Route E, and they all end up at the same final destination. Some lessons learned for the treasure hunt and the broader Manitoba Challenge:
- Shouldn't go too heavy on the puzzles. Or maybe that's perfectly fine. See below.
- People need a reason to go to a destination. You dive into a pool, do laps at an outdoor school track, look for fossils at the legislative building. Or it could be more a matter of theme, like doing a cryptoquote at a bookstore, throwing darts at a pub or doing a jigsaw puzzle at a pleasant lady's house. Part of it could be a decadent puzzle tour, doing a wire puzzle at the ice cream shop, soduku at the cheesecake shop, something else at the coffee shop.
- People, costume and behaviour can add some colour, for example the nim below. Ball in cup is presented and supervised by children. Go is preceded by a Japanese tea ritual and the champion is rewarded with origami. The Konane game, with its Hawaiian roots, has its champion rewarded with a shark tooth as a pendant necklace.

I think the treasure hunt with multiple routes is a fabulous and unique idea.



When I worked in the mailroom on Halloween there was a figure that came by who never made a sound and delivered candies with slow, steady movement. I can't remember what exactly the costume was, but it was simple like something out of Harry Potter and covered her body, face and hands. Spooky. I never did find out who it was.

One person is chosen randomly from each team for a surprise Nim challenge. The person is taken to a room where there is just the player and a silent spectre staring at them across a table. Creepy. The nim is a grid of stones or glass pieces, plus written instructions. After five minutes the player is given a note: "You can figure out how to win this. You will not get any more clues."

I could keep coming up with treasure hunt ideas all day long.
What about going to a math class where a teacher has them solve a problem by constructing and solving an algebra equation ("x marks the spot")? The ideal of the treasure hunt is that different people can each have their moment where they are useful. That's why I'm not entirely happy about too many puzzles. With the multiroute treasure hunt there are interesting decisions to be made about who goes where and who does what. Another advantage of the multiroute treasure hunt is, for example if that wire puzzle is impossible you can do ten laps instead and wind up at the same destination. Speaking of skills, don't forget the leader who organises things and also the drivers/navigators.
At a destination the clue for the next destination is delivered twelve times, a minute or so apart. It is given in Cree, Somali, Polish ... Tagalog, German, French and English in random order. Well, it sounded great when I first thought of it.
A crossword puzzle, with more white space than a newspaper crossword, where certain letters show the clue. The letters are NBODGYLOE, which show GOLDENBOY when unscrambled.
darts bullseye
Clue in a fortune cookie? Cute. I know one Chinese restaurant that has karaoke. Or you could have a "golden ticket" in a Morden's chocolate.
Laps at the pool. Upper body action.
Random, like roulette, or a more thoughtful push-your-luck game like Can't Stop. Doing this at the casino makes sense.
A strike in bowling
Identify three Manitoba birds based on audio or picture or video. Trivia, as opposed to memory.
A route just outside the city? Corn maze, could also be orienteering and spotting something.
Climbing a ladder at a high radio tower or something. My favourite challenge is the diving boards with various points.
I would start a treasure hunt at 9:00 a.m. with four different clues going to four different homes ("Good morning. Would you like some coffee?"), where the group does a 250-piece jigsaw puzzle. Then - an abrupt change of pace - they would do 20 laps at a high school track, using whatever combination of players they want. After that it splits into two routes.




One last thing: The treasure hunt can't have A vs. B games. Except at the very beginning. You could start off with a konane showdown, or surprise volleyball competition, and this affects when you can go to your next destination. Villa Paletti would have one loser while the other teams bolt. A vs. B games could not be played in the middle of the race, unless you find a creative way to do it. Tablut, a simple game where you have your king escape, seems appropriate.

The first place winner would get $10,000, while the second place winner could get a bunch of swag.

I have a neato idea involving twin girls and snakes ..