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Corps of Discovery

Based on the Skybound comic Manifest Destiny, written by Chris Dingess and illustrated by Matthew Roberts, Corps of Discovery is a deduction and puzzle game of exploration that's playable solitaire or as a fully cooperative game for up to four players.

In this game, designed by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim, your explorer(s) will be moving between 'paths' to discover and satisfy the objectives of their mission. Along the way, you will face challenges; usually satisfied by trading in specific resources collected on your expedition and with a penalty if the challenge is not met within the time limits set out on the Challenge cards.

The game uses a clever design but our Board's Eye View 360 offers just a glimpse of it in order to avoid giving away any spoilers. The core game comes with two 'chapters' (Flora and Fauna) but there are further chapters in four expansions, including Insecta, which is the chapter we've mostly been playing. For each chapter, the game offers several different map sheets. To play, having first placed 'path tokens' covering all the spaces on the map board, you take one of the map sheets, cover it to keep its details concealed, and slide it into the map board. Exploring a path orthogonally adjacent to your explorer meeple means removing the path token to reveal what's shown underneath. If the reveal shows a resource, you add it to your supply. The path token is also used tho': it's placed on the row of Challenge cards where it functions as the game timer for the challenges.

Players have a key that shows them how the paths relate to each other; so, for example, you know that there is one tree only in each row and column, and you also know that trees are always adjacent to watering holes. As you explore and reveal paths then, you can make logical Sudoku-style deductions about what's on an unexplored path without having to explore it. Some paths will reveal as monsters' lairs, requiring you to draw a Threat card that can hamper your progress in a variety of ways...

Corps of Discovery is first and foremost a puzzle game. You have the immediate logic puzzle of deducing what paths are where but you also have the ongoing puzzle of optimising your resources: these are very finite because you can only hold up to six resources in your backpack, and you can easily become 'fatigued' which can reduce your capacity to four resources. You may well have to make judgement calls over whether to pass or fail a Challenge card: with limited resources, you might find it prudent to accept a fail so that you can hang on to the resources and use them to satisfy another Challenge card that threatens a tougher penalty for failure. At times, completing a Challenge may mean taking a push-your-luck gamble that you can somehow still collect the further resources needed to pass another Challenge with an imminent deadline.

Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of Corps of Discovery ahead of its launch on Kickstarter on 23 April. Off The Page Games are planning to include the option of a version with a wooden game board and components, and a version incorporating all four expansions. It's a game that's impressed us, both as a solo and cooperative game, and it's left us eager to try more of the different 'chapters'. Click here to check out the Corps of Discovery Kickstarter campaign.

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