- Designer: Cedrick Chaboussit
- Publisher: Ludonaute
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 14+
- Time: ~60 minutes
- Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by Ludonaute / Asmodee
Discoveries is the followup game (or at least a game in the same setting) as last year’s Lewis & Clark. In this game, you take on the role of one of the principal explorers and you are trying to explore the wilderness, describe the new plants and animals that you find, and make contact with the Native Americans that you encounter.
The game board has areas for 3 exploration cards on the right and 3 Indian encounter cards on the left. The cards are double sided with an exploration map on one side and an Indian encounter on the other. The center of the board has two areas for played dice to play moved to. Speaking of the dice, there are a bunch of dice in the game that represent the different enlisted men of the expedition. Each player has 5 dice in his own color, and there are 10 neutral grey dice that start the game in a general supply. All the dice have the same faces: 2 Walks, 1 Ride, 1 Indian head and 2 Journals.
Each player gets a personal board which gives them a place to hold their dice. The current exploration card is placed in the upper right corner, and the Journal tile which covers all previously explored cards is just underneath it. The basic actions are summarized on this card, and there is room under the card for your collected Indian cards which will give you additional actions. Each player starts the game by rolling the five dice in their player color and placing them onto their player board – making sure not to change the face rolled.
The game is played over a number of rounds until the deck of exploration cards is exhausted (50 cards in a 4p game). On a turn, you have your choice of two broad actions: either doing something with the dice you have on your player board OR replenishing your personal dice supply.
If you choose to play dice, you can choose any one face to play. You must play at least one die, and you may play as many dice as you want as long as they have the same face. Over the course of the game, most of the dice in your area will be your own color. You will also have grey dice as well as your opponent’s colored dice at some point in the game. Some of the actions are completed in one turn while others take multiple steps to complete. You may only take any particular action once in a turn.
Simple (one-turn) actions
- Take a Wary Indian card – you must discard two Indian dice to the game board. You may then take a Wary Indian card from the display of 3 Indian cards found to the left of the game board. (You can tell Friendly and Wary Indian cards by the icon in the upper right of the card). This Indian card is then placed under your player board. There is an additional action found on the bottom of the card, you can use this in later turns. When you take an Indian card, you are also able to take a neutral Grey die from the supply. This die is rolled and may be used on a later turn.
- Take a Friendly Indian card – you must discard one Indian die to the game board. You may then take a Friendly Indian card from the display of 3 Indian cards found to the left of the game board. (You can tell Friendly and Wary Indian cards by the icon in the upper right of the card). This Indian card is then placed under your player board. There is an additional action found on the bottom of the card, you can use this in later turns. When you take an Indian card, you are also able to take a neutral Grey die from the supply. This die is rolled and may be used on a later turn.
- Altering your dice – if you discard any die (remember, must be whichever die face you had designated at the start of the turn), you may then change up to 2 dice in your area – if you change two dice, they must be changed to the same face.
- Change of plans – if you discard any die (remember, must be whichever die face you had designated at the start of the turn), you may exchange your current expedition card for any of the three available in the supply found to the right of the game board.
With each of these 4 actions – you discard the dice to the game board. There is a river in the middle of the board, the left side is for Journal and Indian dice faces and the right side is for Walk and Ride die faces. Put your played dice in the appropriate place.
Complex (multi turn) actions – these actions require multiple types of die faces, and since you are restricted to a single type of die each turn, you have to do these actions in parts. For the most part, these actions help you explore your map cards.
- Horse Ride – 1 Ride die to your board first, then a Journal action on a later turn. This gives you 2 River movement points
- Hike – 1 walk die to your board and 1 discarded to the game board, then a Journal action on a later turn. This gives you 3 River movement points.
- Mountain expedition – 3 matching dice (1 to your board, 2 discarded), then a Journal action on a later turn. This gives you 2 Mountain movement points.
- Actions on tribe cards – the prerequisites first, then a Journal action later. You get whatever the card says that you get.
When you complete any of these actions (by playing a Journal die), you will generate some River movement points or Mountain movement points or some combination of both. You will then use these movement points to traverse the paths on your current Expedition card. You cannot save the action – once you play the Journal die, you get the movement points and you must use them. You must be able to go from top to bottom of a single card on your turn; you cannot split up this Expedition card over two turns.
A completed card is placed under your Journal tile. Each map card has a Victory Point value in the corner or an expedition icon (plant, elk, bird or fish). The card may also have 1 or more tepee icons on it. These will all come into play in the endgame scoring. The dice which are on your board for the action are picked up, rerolled and placed back on your player board.
When you finish a card, you are allowed to take a second card from the supply and continue moving. If you manage to finish two map cards in a single turn, you are granted a bonus turn right at the completion of the current turn.
Once you have taken all of your actions, you replenish the game board so that there are 3 Indian cards on the left of the board and 3 Discovery cards to the right. If you are unable to replenish the board, the game end is triggered. Otherwise, the next player takes his turn.
Your other option on your turn is to replenish your supply of dice. You have 3 options here:
1) Take all the dice on the Right side of the river on the board – the color of the die does not matter. You take all of the dice on that side of the board, roll them and add them to your player mat.
2) Take all the dice on the Left side of the river on the board – the color of the die does not matter. You take all of the dice on that side of the board, roll them and add them to your player mat.
3) You take all of your color dice, regardless of where they are – game board, other player boards, on actions on other player boards, etc. You can leave any of your dice where they are, but that is your decision. Roll the collected dice and place them in your pool.
After you get more dice and roll them, your turn is over.
Again, the game continues until there are no more Discovery cards. At this time, you tally up the final score. There are three main ways to score points.
You look at all of your completed discovery cards and add up the VP totals on them.
You compare Tepee icons on all your Discovery cards and your Indian cards. You score 12/8/4/0 for having the most/2nd/3rd/4th most tepees.
You look at your Discovery cards with icons. You place them in groups where each card in the group has a different icon. You score 3/8/15/24 for sets of 1/2/3/4 different icons.
The player with the most points wins the game. Ties go to the player with the most dice left on their player board.
My thoughts on the game
This is a well designed game, and one that captures the sense of exploration as well as Lewis & Clark did. What interests me about Discoveries is that the game plays in under an hour – which is a much friendlier time frame for me and my regular group.
The movement of the dice around the board is a really nice mechanic. While you will most likely use your own color dice the most – there will definitely be times when the discarded dice on the board make it beneficial to pick up dice of your opponent’s colors. Once I get other colored dice, then I try to make a point of using them as soon as possible – as you never know when the other players will try to pull that die back. I’d be reticent to use an opponent’s die as a placeholder die on my board – because you will lose the whole action if the die is removed – but sometimes you just have to use the dice that you can.
The three main ways to score in the game seem to be well balanced, and this certainly allows you different approaches to try to win the game. The 24 points for a full set of 4 icon cards is a pretty good payoff for the Destination cards – though I’d guess you’d really need to get at least a set of three to make it more worthwhile than just getting regular scoring map cards.
In both of my games so far, the players that did better seemed to have chosen better Indian cards – while the Indian cards do not score any points directly, the special actions and combination movements offered can be very advantageous, especially if you’re able to get a few of them which dovetail nicely.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Jonathan F. – I enjoyed my one game of Discoveries. The boards are laid out well to basically explain the game once you understand them. The dice retrieval mechanism that Dale described works really well, adding a slight bit of tension when you are using too many of another player’s dice. For me, the exploration did not ring as true because it felt so abstracted – you could take paths that go through land or water, and possibly collect part of a set, but those icons are off to the side. I need to play Discoveries a few more times, but as someone who really liked the card play in Lewis & Clark, but felt it too too long to ramp up, Discoveries is a very good dice game that does not scratch the same itch.
Joe Huber (1 play) – I have to say – it’s really nice to see a designer take advantage of the research they did for one game to develop another, entirely different game. But – my hope, after playing Lewis & Clark, was for something as thematic and innovative; Discoveries doesn’t manage either. It’s a solid game, and I enjoyed it well enough; I’d happily play it again. But I wasn’t inspired to pick up a copy after my play, so it’s going to have to be someone else’s…
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. – Jonathan F., Dale Y.
- Neutral. – Joe H.
- Not for me…