Exploriana

In Exploriana, players are sending out their explorers on expeditions to Africa, South America and the Far East. You'll be collecting the strange flora and fauna you find there and you'll be braving the perils of the unknown.



Well, that's the theme at least. In actuality, this is a set collecting push-your-luck card game. You have two explorer pawns to place out on any of the three regions: they can both be in the same region or you can put them in two different regions. There will be two cards already face up in each region and, on your turn, you'll flip up to three further cards. Most cards have icons on them. If you've drawn three cards (making a display of five), you get to take two actions. If you stopped drawing sooner and have a display with fewer than five cards, you take just one action. An action can be to take all the cards with animal icons on them or take just one non-animal card, or you can pick up a lost explorer token in that region (Doctor Livingstone, I presume). The lost explorer tokens are worth 2, 3 or 4 points, but you won't know how much the token you pick up is worth until you take it, and your opponents won't know until the points are counted up at the end of the game... You'll have mission cards that will score you points for particular sets of icons and, each turn, you'll be able to recruit a specialist who can be used to help increase the productivity of your exploration and reduce the risk of calamity.


Cards may also have various hazard icons on them. This is where the push-your-luck dilemma kicks in: if you get three identical or three different hazard icons, your expedition fails and you don't get to collect any cards...



Exploriana is a game about taking and balancing risks. In addition to the set collection and individual points values of cards, you'll need to be picking up cards that give you cash so that you can pay the cost of deploying the specialists. You'll also want to collect renown, as progress on that track determines turn order as well as giving rank order victory points at the end of the game.


Tho' there is some subtlety to the choices players make, Exploriana is an exceedingly accessible game. The basic rules are simple enough to be readily picked up by children as well as adults, making this very playable as a family game. Turn order is important because the player who goes first in each of the three regions benefits from the open information about the first two cards: those cards may well have changed by the time the second explorer in that region takes their turn. Tho' you are certainly competing with other players, direct interaction is low: which makes Exploriana a good-natured game where players aren't ever at each other's throats.



And if you find the rules too simple and unchallenging, designer Miles Ratcliffe has incorporated the extra components and rules for several variants and advanced game options, as well as the very welcome option to play solitaire.


With art from Richard Dearing and Robin Elliott, Chaos Publishing, Triple Ace and Counters Out have put together an attractive 1–5 player game in a compact package. It's a game you should certainly explore.


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