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frequently asked questions

What 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



How does 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 clue.

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.



Anything 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 there.

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 with BART.

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:





Important Info

Is there a theme?

Solve hint 2 to find out!

What else 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 the game.

Gameday Schedule

When is the Game?

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 in advance.

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 team leaves.

Where does 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.

Where does the game end?

The game will also end at the Peacock Meadow.




How much does it cost?

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 without pre-registering?

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!



Course map

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


Physical effort

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 designed.



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 become clear.

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 game?

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 an email).

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 pre-game play-test?

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 your team!

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 to secrecy!

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 dates above.



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 individuals

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!


In 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 for you.


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 to bring

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).

What equipment 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 this year:

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 game scored?

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 split up?

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 mechanical transportation?

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 pm deadline?

We'll post your score on the web site, but you will not be eligible for team prizes.

Anything else?

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
- lat/long
- 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.

Click here 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 party.

Your nametag is your ticket to the party/buffet. Please wear it!

Tell us about the party after the game.

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?

No, sorry.