Pablo's Armchair Treasure Hunt

About the Armchair Treasure Hunt

What is it?

Pablo's Armchair Treasure Hunt takes place every year around Christmas. It consists of a large collection of linked puzzles, published on this website. When you have solved them, they will somehow lead to a hidden 'treasure' box. This is usually somewhere in the south of England within about 100 miles of London.

Take part!

All you need to take part is some free time and access to this website to download a Hunt. You don't need to register: all you have to do is submit a solution by the closing deadline.

Solvers usually work in teams. Families may wish to solve as a team: there should be something for everyone to do. Almost all the work can be done from your armchair (hence the name!), but actually finding the treasure will involve going to the treasure location. Even if you can't do this, you can still compete, and may still win a prize. 'Virtual' finds are also allowed in some circumstances (see below).

We recommend that you register your team, by choosing a team name and contacting the setters. This will allow them to send you updates if there are important announcements (for example, if errors are found in the Hunt, or extra clues are released). It also helps them to have an idea of how many teams are taking part.

If your team uses an online collaborative document such as a wiki or Google Doc, please ensure it is not public (see below). However, it is helpful to the setters if you allow them to watch your progress, by sending them a read-only link to the document. This will help them to see if unexpected problems are arising or if, for example, some puzzles are too difficult and extra hints should be published. This is entirely voluntary and does not affect your score. Any extra hints are published to all teams, of course.

The latest information about the hunt will always be published first on this web site. Setters may occasionally provide updates via Facebook and Twitter. Setters may also advise hunters when information on the web site has been updated (e.g. release date published) by sending emails to Pablo's ATH mailing list. Hunters can join this list, or maintain their entry, here.


Please avoid discussing the Hunt with anyone outside your team before the closing date. In particular, do not put any information, hints or on public websites, forums, etc.


When you find the treasure box, it will contain instructions on how to register your find. Please make sure you put the box back where you found it for other teams to find, and leave the site as you found it (for example, disguised with earth or leaves), minimising the possibility of someone finding the box by accident. If there are people around, try to be discreet when unearthing the box.

If you believe you have fully identified the treasure site but find that the treasure box (or its contents) are missing, please contact the setters.

Virtual finds

The setters accept 'virtual' finds if there is a very good reason why a team cannot visit the treasure site. This may apply, for example, if no team member lives within 100 miles of the site. Team members being very busy, having a cold, or not having a car will not be accepted as sufficient reasons! Contact the setters explaining why you are unable to go, and giving as complete a description as possible of how you would find the treasure. The setters' decision on the validity of such a 'virtual find' is final. Teams with incomplete information about the treasure location will not be given the benefit of the doubt!

Sending an e-mail is a lot quicker, easier, and less fraught with possible mishaps, than making a real expedition. Accordingly, a virtual find will be subject to a 24-hour penalty (that is, it will rank with a physical find made 24 hours later). Similarly, any virtual claim prevents the team making it from making another within 24 hours (because they are too busy virtually travelling, virtually digging/snorkelling/incanting, battling virtual guard dogs, and so forth).


Each team should submit their solution to the setters. Marks are based solely on your submitted solution, so make sure all the answers you have are included. The setters read all the submissions, and always look forward to seeing what teams have made of the Hunt.

Your team's final solution document is likely to be quite long: it's not unusual for there to be hundreds of different scorable components. It's therefore advisable to keep a "clean" solution document running from the beginning of the Hunt - don't leave it to the end!

If you have interesting, amusing or intrepid stories or photographs from your efforts to find the treasure, please include them in your solution. Many tales from past years can be found in the Archive section, under the "Tales" heading for each year.


The setters will publish the solution and a marking scheme after the closing deadline.

Points will be awarded for (parts of) puzzles solved, messages found, and thematic links identified, in the main Hunt and in the poster. A few additional points will be available for alternative solutions that are as good as the intended one, and for thematic links which we hadn't spotted ourselves. You can only get points for information in your solution, not other linked pages or documents.

Points will not normally be lost for wrong solutions or guesses. However, we reserve the right to deduct points in cases of excessively prolix solutions with a large amount of irrelevant material or scatter-gun guessing.

Marking decisions by the setters are final.


Two trophies are awarded each year, at a social gathering after marking is completed: the Pablo Memorial Trophy for the first team to find the treasure, and the Dave Harding Trophy for the best submitted solution (the same team cannot win both). The trophies are kept for a year by the winning teams.

Other prizes are awarded at the whim of the setters, usually including a prize for the best 'Virgin' entry (from newcomers to the ATH) and for the best hunting tale.


A poster is generally published on this website, in advance of the main Hunt each year. This may contain minor puzzles to be solved, and hints about Hunt themes. Usually the poster does not have any important information about the treasure, but teams may wish to study it before the Hunt is released for clues about possible themes or ideas.


Please help to publicise the hunt! You can help by printing and displaying posters wherever it may help recruit more teams (workplaces, colleges, libraries, etc). You can also follow the Facebook page, tell all your friends, and sing / dance / tweet about the Hunt.


The ATH is difficult! To redress the balance a little, it is a 'no holds barred' competition: any tools are fair game, including your favourite Internet search engines. Some notes on other tools you might find helpful can be found under the Resources tab.

The Setters

The setting teams vary in size, a handful of members is typical although one or two is not unknown. What is common in all cases is the amount of time that setters devote to setting and running a hunt. Often several years elapse between getting the idea for a hunt and bringing it to fruition. Many setters spend a year or more preparing their hunts. We are fortunate to have their commitment. Setters expect those attempting their hunts to be enthusiastic and passionate. If you do need to contact the setting team during a hunt please don't go beyond enthusiastic and passionate.