is the YABA Treasure Hunt?
Founded in 1999 as a coproduction
of YABA* and T-Hunts.com,
the YABA Treasure Hunt has grown from 85 players in its
first year, to 312 in 2003. After a hiatus of two years,
we're expecting "just" 200 people this year.
It remains the largest summer treasure hunt in the San
Francisco Bay Area.
We like to think of the YABA game as "the thinking
man's treasure hunt." If we say so ourselves, the
people who play in our games are a lot smarter than the
average person. Our Beginner clues are more mentally challenging
than the Masters level clues in many other games, but
we think our players are up to it. Beginner doesn't mean
stupid, it just means inexperienced. So while the clues
are challenging, we think we provide you with the tools
and hints you'll need to solve them.
Still, very few teams solve all of the clues in the YABA
game. And you don't need to solve them all to (a) win,
and (b) have a good time!
*the Young Alumni of the Bay Area
the game work?
The game is played in teams,
on foot, during the daytime, in a treasure hunt sector
that includes several square miles of San Francisco.
This year the game sector will include the Haight-Ashbury,
Cole Valley, Parnassus Heights, the inner Sunset (to
9th Avenue), and the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park
(from approximately 9th Avenue east).
Teams will receive 16 clues.
Each clue, when solved, will lead to a location within
the treasure hunt sector.
At each clue site your team will
be expected to write something down that can only be
found at the clue site. This will always be some information
found at the site, either something that was already
there, or something we have "planted" in keeping
with the game's theme. Write down the required information
on your answer sheet to prove your team has solved that
The clues are independent of
each other, so if you don't want to solve one, you can
just skip it and go on to the next one.
different this year?
This year we will have a fourth
division for alumni teams. When you register, select
one of the three traditional divisions (Beginner, Regular
or Masters), then check off the "We are an Alumni
Team" box to let us know you also want to enter
the Alumni competition, and enter the name of your school
on your registration form. The top-scoring Alumni team
(from any division) will win the Alumni division.
Another difference will be in
scoring. Some clues are more challenging and/or time-consuming
to solve, so we are assigning points values to clues
this year. There will be 16 clues worth a total of 100
points. The points values for the clues will range from
4to 8 points.
Also, every team will receive
the clues numbered in what we think is the most efficient
order to cover the ground.
There is parking available on the
roads in Golden Gate Park but there is a 4 hour time limit.
There is free street parking available in the residential
neighborhoods around the eastern end of Golden Gate Park
and the panhandle; however, good luck finding a space!
One option might be to park at Ocean Beach then take the
Fulton bus back to Arguello and walk into the park from
Please note that the newly-constructed
deYoung Museum is re-opening at 9 am on game day, after
being closed for several years. It is less than 1/2 mile
west of the starting location of our game, and is likely
to have quite an impact on the already limited parking
options in the area. Useful options for parking and shuttles
is available on their web site here:
DeYoung Museum Parking/Transit Info
Public transit is excellent and we strongly suggest that
you take advantage of it. Nearby routes include
the N-Judah Metro streetcar, the #5 along Fulton Street,
the #33 which goes along Stanyan, and the #44 which cuts
through Golden Gate Park. Several of these lines connect
A Muni route map in PDF format is here:
and a somehwat crappy (finicky and slow)
trip planner is here:
For your destination, cut and paste one
of the following, or use the interactive (and very annoying)
map feature to set a pushpin at the precise location of
the treasure hunt start in Golden Gate Park:
FULTON ST & ARGUELLO BLVD, SAN FRANCISCO
CARL STREET & ARGUELLO BLVD, SAN FRANCISCO
Solve hint 2 to find out!
should we know?
There are no tables or chairs
or benches or bathroom facilities at or near the start/finish.
10/12 update - we have
rented two porta-potties. And bring a
picnic blanket and warm jacket or sweater - for solving
at the start, and for partying at the finish. You can
leave them with us and we'll watch them for you during
When is the
Saturday, October 15, 2005.
If you can't make it that day but would still like
to experience the clues, you might consider participating
in one of our playtests, in
which several teams run through the game a few weeks
How long does
the game last?
We'll open registration at
10:00 am (for people who haven't paid and/or haven't
formed teams). People who have paid and formed teams
should arrive by 10:30 am. The game will begin promptly
at 11:00 am. The finish/checkin desk will open at
3:00 pm, and close at 5:00 pm. The party will start
when the first team finishes, and go until the last
the game start?
The game starts in the Peacock
Meadow very close to Stanyan Street, just off JFK
Drive in Golden Gate Park. See the course
map for the precise location.
the game end?
The game will also end at the
How much does
The fee is $35 per person if
you pay before September 30th, $40 after that. If
you pay via PayPal, there's a $1 per person surcharge
to partially cover the fee PayPal charges us for each
transaction (2.9% + 30 cents per transaction).
Please note that the
amount you pay is not based on the date you register,
but on the date you pay.
How do I register?
Click on the "register"
link at left. Registering does not guarantee
you a spot in the game, however, if the game sells out.
You must pay to guarantee your place.
How do I pay?
Click on the "pay"
link at left for payment options. You can pay on-line
via PayPal, or send a check to us via US mail.
Can I play
Yes, although of course we'd
prefer that you pre-register. Registering in advance
will help us to plan how much food to bring.
What do I
get for my money?
Lots of fun!!! The best value
in treasure hunting in the Bay Area. We'll feed you
- twice (bagels, schmear and juice at the start,
a buffet at the party). We'll have a month-long pregame
on our web site, with hints that will help you solve
the clues on game day. Then during the game, you'll
get to run around, act like a kid for an afternoon,
exercise your brain and your body in competition with
hundreds of other gamesters...then you'll get to meet
them all at the party...and who knows...you might even
find romance. We know of at least two serious couples
who met at a t-hunts.com event!
The game will begin and end at the
Peacock Meadow in Golden Gate Park. This is off JFK Drive,
east of the Conservatory of Flowers, and west of Stanyan
(approximately in line with Arguello Boulevard).
Click here to view
a larger version of the map
Do we need to be physically fit?
You don't have to be "runner"
fit but you should be able to walk several miles.
Can we win if we don't run?
Definitely. Foot speed may be
an advantage, but it's only a slight one. The ability
to solve clues is much more important. For example,
there's a team of over-40's who regularly finish first
or second in the Master's division.
How much ground will we cover?
It will vary from team to team.
You may (for strategy or time reasons) choose
to skip clues. Expect to cover between three
and five miles during the course of the game,
depending on whether your team solves all of the clues
and visits every clue site.
Will we have to climb hills?
We're not going to make you climb
a hill just to be mean. But the treasure hunt sector,
being in San Francisco, has some hills in it. Having
said that, this is perhaps the flattest course we have
Tell me about
the pre-game activities.
Every year we provide pre-game
hints; when solved, they give juicy hints that will
be useful in the actual game. Watch the hints page on
this web site for details.
Sometimes when you solve a pre-game
clue, you won't know what it means. Just file the information
in the back of your mind until game day, when it will
Some pre-game hints are released
only to members of the yahoogroups list (see next item).
How do I get
notices about the game?
Join our yahoogroups list [YABATreasureHunters].
Click on "join lists" from the menu at left
to join. This is a low-traffic list, only Game Control
can post to it. You can set your list preferences to
receive individual emails, a daily digest, or just view
the messages on the web. As noted above, some pre-game
hints are released only to the yahoogroups list.
Do we need to know San Francisco
well to play?
Nope. In order to create a level
playing field and make the game fun for everybody, we've
designed the clues to minimize the advantage of local
knowledge. But, once you've solved a clue, you may learn
something you didn't know before!
What can I do to prepare before the
If you have time, try walking
around the treasure hunt area, making note of odd or
unusual places, stores, restaurants, etc.
As noted above, we have tried
to de-emphasize local knowledge as a requirement for
doing well in the game. You will learn something about
San Francisco trivia and history during the course of
the game, but you won't have to know a lot about San
Francisco in order to play. However, you may enjoy reading
up on San Francisco's history anyway.
I can't play,
but I'd like to volunteer.
Why bless your heart! We can
use people to
-work registration at the start
-plan the party
-help with food prep
-help with setup or cleanup at
the start or finish
-roam the course taking photographs
-sign people in at the finish
Interested? Write to us (click
here to send us
I have some
cool ideas and I'd like to write a clue.
We can't let you play and
write a clue. Save your ideas for the BATH game (the
third annual Bay Area Treasure Hunt, to be held - we
hope - in December 2005). Teams write their own
clues in BATH, which is played City-wide in cars.
Can I play
and also volunteer on game day?
Probably. Send us an email and
we'll try to work something out. You can work registration
on game day or, if your team guarantees to finish early
(or, if you promise to leave your team early), we can
put you to work after the game.
What do I
get for volunteering?
Players who volunteer get $10
off their admission this year, plus a voucher for $10
off their admission next year. Volunteers who don't
play get free admission to next year's game.
Plus, volunteers who work registration,
clue hubs, interactive clue sites, or check-in get to
meet all the players!
What is the
We are running two playtests
on each weekend day of October 1-2, 2005. A playtest
is a full run-through of the game with volunteer teams
(read: guinea pigs). We tweak the clues in response
to their feedback, to bring you the best possible experience
on game day. If you have a scheduling conflict and can't
play on game day, this is a chance to play anyway.
We are looking for two teams
in each of the three divisions, so this is less of a
group experience than on actual game day, when there
will be hundreds of other people on the course.
We may have a member of Game
Control accompany you to observe your team playing the
game. This person will maintain a poker face at all
times and will not provide any assistance to
The play test is free, and
we'll give you a nice picnic lunch at the start (to
eat there, or take with you). In return, we'll ask you
to fill out a detailed survey about the clues - what
you liked, what you didn't like, what confused you.
And, of course, you will be sworn
How do I sign
up to play-test?
Write to us (click here
to send us an email). Indicate the division in which
you want to play, and your availability on the two playtest
How many people
on a team?
There is no limit on team size,
although the average team has five people.
A very small team allows you
to be mobile, but you need several people to create
critical mass, and generate those "aha" moments
in solving clues.
On the other hand, a very
large team (say, eight or nine people) may give
you added brainpower but it will make it harder to keep
everybody together in the chaos of the game...and remember,
as we'll explain below, your team must stick together
at all times, so you'll be going at the pace of your
slowest team member.
What if I
don't have a team? Can I sign up solo?
Absolutely. People do every year.
Think of it as a blind date! To find a team before the
game, join our YABATeams list at yahoogroups. Click
on "join lists" at left to join the list.
Once you've joined, post a message
indicating you're looking for a team. In the message,
indicate your gender, experience with treasure hunts,
the division in which you want to play, and your intensity
level (varies from "let's stop for a beer"
to "go go go.") Add any information that you
think might help you find compatible teammates. You
might also post a photograph of yourself in the "Files"
section of the list, if you think that will help!
If you don't find a team through
the yahoogroups list, you can still pre-register, then
show up on the day of the game and we'll match you with
a team. Lots of people do this every year, and
nobody has ever been turned away.
Is there a
limit on the number of players?
No. We have a pretty good idea
of how many teams will play in each division, so we're
pretty sure we'll have enough materials for everybody
who wants to play. We're
planning for as many as 200 individuals, as follows:
Beginner - 20 teams or 75
Regular - 25
teams or 85 individuals
Masters - 10
teams or 40 individuals
This year, every player will
get his own set of the clues, with the exception of
physical clues that are expensive or time-consuming
to produce, in which case there will be one per team.
If there are more, we may ask a maximum of one individual
on each team to voluntarily give up his clues so a last-minute
team can have a set of clues; those individuals would
then share clues with their teammates.
If that happens, we promise to
mail any such volunteers a pristine, untouched, full
set of the clues after the game!
what division should I play?
There are three divisions:
If you've never played in a treasure
hunt before, or are completely unfamiliar with
San Francisco, this is the division for you. Beginner
doesn't mean stupid, just inexperienced, so you will
get mostly the same clues as the Regular and Masters
divisions. BUT, we will assume that you're not experienced
at finding the "tricks" for solving clues,
so we will provide a lot of guidance with each clue
to help you get started solving it.
If you have experience playing
in treasure hunts or solving puzzles, this is the division
If you are very experienced at
treasure hunts or very good at solving clues
of all types, this is the division for you.
This is not a separate division.
Teams from any of the three divisions above may register
as alumni teams. The alumni team from any division with
the most points, will win the alumni title.
What is required?
You'll need scissors and tape, and a calculator. The
San Francisco white pages are a good idea if you don't
want to use your cell phone to dial directory assistance
for business listings.
What is suggested?
Bring a picnic blanket and warm sweaters, and we'll
watch them for you while you're out on the course. The
picnic blanket is for solving on the grass at the start
(there are no tables or benches at the starting location)
- and for enjoying the party. The sweaters are because,
no matter how sunny the day, Golden Gate Park can get
cold and foggy in the late afternoon.
You should wear comfortable walking
shoes, and bring something to drink. You'll be on the
move for several hours, and you will get thirsty.
There will be plenty of places to stop and buy food
and drinks, but once you get into the thrill of the
chase, you may not want to take the time out.
Bring paper, pencils, and pens.
And we would never play a game without a clipboard,
they're incredibly handy.
You may bring any other equipment
you like, including two-way radios, web-enabled handheld
devices, and laptop computers. But we have designed
the game to minimize any advantage these gizmos might
confer on your team.
Bring a watch or other timepiece.
Before you show up on game day, set it to the official
time, which you can reach by calling POPCORN (in San
Francisco, that's what we call recorded time, although
you don't actually have to dial POP-CORN, you can dial
the 767 exchange followed by any four other digit).
is not allowed?
No equipment is off-limits.
If you can carry it, you can bring it.
Do we need to bring maps?
We'll give you a map of the course
but not a street index, so if you want the index, bring
your own map We like AAA maps, which are free if you're
a member, but any map will do.
How many clues will there be?
Do the clues in the three divisions
all lead to the same locations?
Will the clues be in geographic order?
Do we get all
the clues at the start?
You'll get half at the start,
and half at the mid-point.
Are the clues
independent of each other?
Yes. If you can't solve
a clue, skip it and go to the next one! You'll
never be unable to continue.
How do we prove
we solved a clue?
All of the clues require "environmental"
information that you will find at the clue site and
write down on your answer sheets.
The clues fall into two types
Type A - encrypted clues. You'll need to decode the
message to discover where to go.
Type B - "clue-y" clues. They're not encrypted,
but you'll have to figure out where to go based on trivia,
map-reading, or whatever.
Almost without exception, the
first part of each clue will direct you to a specific
location, such as a street intersection, business, park,
monument, or whatever. This is the "armchair"
part of the clue, which you can solve in advance.
The second part of each clue
may not - probably will not - make sense, or be solveable,
until you get to the location clued by the first part
of the clue.
Every clue will contain a question
which you must answer at the final clue site. This question
may be printed on the clue, or may be part of the message
you have to decrypt. If it's printed, it will be underlined,
with a question mark.
In both types of clues, you'll
go to the final clue site, and write down whatever information
is required, that you will find at that site. Et voila
- you've proved your team has solved the clue!
How is the
The system is very simple. Each
clue is worth a certain number of points. Team with
the most points wins. Finishing time breaks ties. Only
teams who finish before the 5:00 pm deadline will be
eligible for prizes and ranking, but all teams who turn
in their answer sheets will be listed on the results
page on the web site.
Can our team
No. The basic rule of
thumb is, your team must be together at all times.
You may spread out only if everyone is working on
the same clue.
All members of your team must
visit all clue sites. In other words, no fair
leaving your slower teammates behind at a cafe to
solve clues while your faster members run up to Sutro
Tower with two-way radios or cell phones.
Can we use
You must stay on foot at all
times. No rollerblades, unicycles, bicycles, tricycles,
Radio Flyers, go-carts, SegWays, windsurfers, cabs,
pedicabs, buses, cable cars, horse-drawn carriages,
planes, trains or automobiles allowed.
Are phone-a-friends allowed?
Yes, but we don't think they
will help too much. We've designed the game to minimize
the advantages of "virtual" team members.
What if we finish after the 5:00
We'll post your score
on the web site, but you will not be eligible for
Yes, we're big on the spirit
of the game. Don't do anything you wouldn't want every
other team to know about. Your character is based
on what you do when no one else is looking.
What is the
best strategy for playing the game?
Every clue leads to a location
somewhere. There are only so many ways that a location
can be described. Among them are:
- intersection of two streets
- alley name (if it's a short alley)
- business establishment name
- street address
- landmark (statue, park, etc)
Don't be surprised if we use
any or all of the above...but don't get stuck on just
one type of clue. We're going to mix it up.
Note that in almost every clue
this year, you can divide the clue into two parts. Part
One will get you to a general location, and can be solved
on paper. Part Two will not be solveable on paper, and
may not - probably will not - make any sense at all
until you get to the location clued in Part One. Therefore,
DON'T try to solve every clue 100% at the start, it
won't be possible!
You will do much better in the
game if you aren't shy about asking strangers for help.
If you think you're looking for "something that
sounds like..." ask a local! If you don't know
some movie trivia that you need to solve a clue, ask
a passerby. They're usually glad to help, and often
have the answer.
In terms of scoring, our best
advice is - balance time versus points.
And in terms of points - note
that some clues are worth more than others. But if you
can confidently knock off two 4 point clues in less
time than it takes to solve an 8 point clue - you might
be better off going to the two clue lower-value sites.
The course is very tight this year, so transit
time should not be a huge factor.
If your team solves more clues than any other team
in your division, you're guaranteed to win, even if
you finish at the last minute, and a team with one fewer
clue solved finished two hours before your team.
But if you tie on points with another team who finishes
ahead of you, they beat you.
to take a look at the stats from YABA5 in
2003. Note the finishing times.
YABA5's deadline was 5:00 pm. Of 59 teams, 5 teams did
not submit answer sheets, and 7 teams were disqualified
for finishing after the deadline (rank "n/a");
of the remaining 47 teams, fully 46 teams finished between
4:30 and 5:00 pm and 43 of those finished in
the last 15 minutes. Only 1 team finished 30 or more
minutes before the deadline.
So, the best strategy is to solve the most clues that
you can, but try to maximize your chance of winning
a tiebreaker on time, by finishing at least 15
minutes before the deadline.
A final note about time: there
will be a deadline for teams to finish. Teams who finish
after the deadline will not be eligible for awards,
no matter how many clues they've solved.
Members of the first place teams
in the Beginner, Regular and Masters division will receive
free admission to their choice of either YABA7 or BATH3,
our next games, and a sheet cake. And of course, bragging
rights for a year!
The top three teams in each division
will receive certificates of achievement and a bottle
of champagne, as will the winning Alumni team.
Where is the check-in / finish line?
The check-in desk will be at
the Peacock Meadow, same as the start location. Every
team member must be present in order for your team to
finish. Once your team returns your completed answer
sheet, it will be time stamped and you can start to
Your nametag is your ticket to
the party/buffet. Please wear it!
Tell us about the party after the
The party starts when the first
team finishes. We'll have a buffet and soft drinks.
After the deadline to finish (5:00 pm), we'll score
all the answer sheets then announce the winners and
give out the prizes.
Can I have friends who don't play
come to the party?