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Expeditions

Jakub Rozalski's distinctive art on the box immediately shouts the connection between Expeditions and Scythe, but Jamey Stegmaier's Expeditions is not another Scythe expansion - it's a standalone game set in the same universe: a sequel to Stonemaier Games' modern classic.



The premise for Expeditions is that a massive meteorite has crashed in Siberia. In our own universe, this actually occurred at Tunguska in Siberia in 1908 - causing a 12-megaton explosion. In Expeditions, the players are adventurers - each with their own special abilities, and accompanied Scythe-style with an animal familiar. You'll find tho' that some of the special abilities are more useful than others. During the course of the game, you'll be moving an impressive individual mech around the modular board, exploring, and collecting tokens and cards that represent numerous artefacts, meteorites and quests. You'll also be accumulating 'power' and 'guile' on a track on your individual board, and you'll need to use this to meet some of the quest card requirements and to deal with 'corruption' that gets revealed as you explore. The 'corruption' sounds suspiciously Lovecraftian but, happily, Cthulhu has yet to invade the Scythe universe. In Expeditions, corruption is in the first instance an obstacle that needs to be tackled in order to unlock additional actions at a location, and it becomes one of the ways players have of scoring.


The game accommodates solitaire play (solo game designed by Morton Conrad Pedersen) but the competitive game is for 2-5 players. Turns are generally quite quick because you are mostly taking just two of the three possible actions: Move your mech up to three hexes; Play a card from your 'hand' (left side of your player board) to the right hand side; or Gather the resources indicated at the location you are on or the location you've moved to. The cards you collect all have a basic impact when Played (mostly adding to your 'power' or 'guile' but they have a much more powerful effect when you have a corresponding colour of worker meeple placed on them. That means then you're also looking to collect the various colours of worker meeples. When the right actions are triggered, cards can also be stashed under your board (quests on top, items to the right, and meteorites at the bottom). Here they'll earn you in-game or end-game benefits but, crucially, they can also give you something to 'Boast' about. Like Scythe, there are various achievements (for example, having four stashed meteorites, or having recruited seven workers) on which you can place out a star. Unlike Scythe tho', you can't just claim the achievement when you satisfy its requirement - you have to be able to take the action to Boast of an achievement - which generally means taking the Gather action at one of the hexes that show the Boast star icon.



It has to be said - Expeditions is a game where there's quite a lot of fiddly detail and an initially bewilderingly dense glossary of terminology for you to grasp. Even the way in which you collect cards and put them into your 'hand' and then activate them isn't immediately intuitive, and you'll frequently encounter multiple conditions which can prove confusing on a first or even second play. That said, however, it can be immensely satisfying when you can successfully pull off a daisy-chained series of actions, with cards triggering multiple benefits.


This is a game with a huge stack of cards, so that even if you burn through them, with players repeatedly wiping those on display (often to the frustration of their opponents), you're unlikely to see the same cards in consecutive games. The cards are all different - so plenty more of Jakub Rozalski's art - all with different special abilities. And therein lies the biggest hurdle to playing Expeditions: the all-important action text on the cards and the tiny icons can be hard to read even with the card in your 'hand'; they can be almost impossible to make out when the card is in one of the five between-the-location-hex positions on the far side of the board. And those cards are going to change a lot during the course of the game, so expect to spend quite a lot of playing time standing and leaning across the board rather than sitting at the table. Older players may need to bring their own magnifying glass!


In fact it's only the need to keep reading the changing cards that is a brake on an otherwise very swiftly paced game. Even with five players, you can expect to play Expeditions in the 60-90 minutes indicated on the box. There's no direct 'take that' player interaction but at higher player counts there's more prospect of a location you want to go to being blocked by an opponent or of the card you were hoping to pick up being wiped or swiped by another player, but there's almost always plenty to do in Expeditions so, even with five players, you're unlikely to find you end up with a 'wasted' turn.


The end-game is triggered as soon as a player places out their fourth Boasting star, at which point everyone gets one last turn, including the player who ended the game: a chance for other players to also try to place out their fourth star and so boost their end-game scoring and a reasonable reward for being the player who triggers the end, tho' it does mean that players won't necessarily all have the benefit of the same number of turns.


Expeditions is a very welcome addition to the Scythe universe and the Stonemaier range but we'd like to see the game made more accessible with a set of bigger print cards!


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