- Designer: Jason Lee
- Publisher: Korea Board Games
- Players: 1-4
- Age: 8+
- Time: 50 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Korea Board Games at SPIEL 2022
Expedition is the 7th game with this simple title in the BGG database, and I have really liked at least two of the same named predecessors, so I had high hopes for this one based on that alone… “This island holds ancient relics. It’s too hard to dig them out without an expedition. Luckily for you, there are many expedition members lined up in the south who are willing to aid your expedition…for a bit of coin of course. No coin? No problem. Just a little exploring can get you enough coins to hire expedition members. Direct your expedition north and dig out the hidden relic! But do it before your competition… In more detail, players will use the cards in their deck to move their meeples over a grid of tiles. When they move on a tile they flip it. There can be immediate rewards, dig sites which require additional cards or the relics needed to win. Players can choose to return to the base camp to buy more cards to add to their deck. Dig up the relics first to win!”
The goal of the game is simple. Be the first to dig up 2 of the 5 relics buried on the 3rd level terrains on the map. The map is made up of three different levels of tiles; each group is shuffled separately, and the map is built without anyone seeing the back of the tiles. The visible side tells you what level the tile is and the move requirement for that tile. Once the map is made, a few tiles are replaced by volcanoes. The explorer cards are shuffled and cards are revealed until there are 4 different types visible. The coins, Bratty Sister cards and the Happy Elephant cards are placed in a general supply. Each player takes a player board and takes the starting deck of matching color – this is shuffled and a hand of 5 cards is taken. A starting player is chosen and each player later in turn order gets a coin per player starting ahead of him.
On your turn, you can use as many cards and effects as you like, and in any order. When you use cards, the values on the cards are additive. Once used, a card goes into your discard space on your player board. If a card has multiple effects, you can only use one per turn.
- Move (boot) – move your meeple to an adjacent tile; the movement cost is printed on the bottom of the tile. If you are the first to land on it, flip it to the other side. If there is a treasure chest on the other side, the person to discover that tile first gets the bonus
- Dig (shovel) – some tiles have a shovel icon at the top – you need to use a dig action to get the benefit on the tile. You can only dig a tile once per turn. If you start a turn on a tile, you can dig there before you do anything else
- Coin – take coins from the supply
- Recruit (hat) – draw cards from your deck equal to the number of recruit points
- Remove (clipboard) – remove cards from your deck to make it more efficient
- Rest (tent) – take cards from your discard pile and place them face up on the bottom of your draw deck
Additionally, there are special cards for each terrain that essentially override the movement or dig numbers on a tile, but they can only be used on the terrain type specified.
If you find a relic token (which requires a Dig 3 action), you take the relic token and place it on your board. You also take 2 Happy Elephant cards and put it in your discard pile. These have no effect in play, and only serve as a balancing mechanism as they are essentially useless.
Whenever you are done doing things, you end your turn. You can keep any cards you like and you can discard any cards from your hand to your Discard area. Now, draw new cards from your hand to bring the hand up to 5 cards. If there are not enough cards in your draw deck, draw what is available.
Then decide if you are returning to base camp or not. If you do not return, your meeple stays in the current location. If you return, you put your meeple back on the Base Camp tile. You can purchase new explorer cards from the market using your coins. Then shuffle all your cards to make a new draw deck and get a new hand of 5 cards.
The next player then goes. The game continues until someone has discovered two relic tiles. That player wins.
My thoughts on the game
This Expedition is a fun game of exploration with a bit of deckbuilding thrown in. With your identical starting deck, you first work on getting enough coins to add cards to your deck. This takes at least the first half of the game, possibly more. The reason for this is that you need to get enough cards in your deck to give you enough movement potential to get to the final 2 or 3 rows of the pyramid – after all; the relics that you need to find to win are located at this far end of the display.
You don’t have to be super efficient to get there; you are welcome to stay at your current location at the end of any turn and continue your movement on your next turn – however, you do need to be able to get there without shuffling your deck; so adding cards to your deck is a must. And, of course, if you can do this more efficiently, you have a better chance of finding the relics first!
The game does present you with some interesting decisions on your deckbuilding. Do you focus on cards that allow you to move further with each particular card? Or do you draft a lot of cards with the Rest ability allowing you to use them again prior to shuffling? Recruit cards help you move further on a particular turn – this can be useful when the third level cards often require 5 or more movement points to enter…
The rules translation is decent; and we were able to get playing fairly quickly with the rules included in the box. The cards are not explained further – and we did have questions on some of the cards; having to make house rulings on some of them. One other issue we had with the game is that it was hard to remember how many points you had for the different actions. Essentially, you get to use all the points on all the cards you get in your hand – and we found that the game required tokens to remind you how many movement or dig points you had used thus far on your turn. In retrospect a d12 or d20 would have also worked nicely for this reminder.
The game has a nice arc to it. Initially, you just build your engine and hone your deck. The fact that cards can be dug on multiple turns allows you to stay close to home if you want – though eventually you’ll want to move further away as the rewards tend to be higher at the next level of cards. As with many deckbuilders, the question is when to transition from the building phase and move more into the endgame. Here, this is when you start making pushes to the end of the board trying to find the relics. Or… if you’re lucky, to be in the right position to make a mad dash for a relic which was exposed but not collected (note to self – don’t blindly explore a level 3 card without having 3 dig power at your disposal!).
The game does have a mild catch up mechanism as a player who finds their first relic must take on 2 Happy Elephant cards which cannot be discarded and only serve to gum up your hand with a useless card. However, as you generally only pick up these cards at a point when your deck is pretty powerful already; this doesn’t turn out to be a huge deterrent to exploration. In the end, this works out just fine as it keeps the game length short – almost always ending under an hour. If you’re looking for a deck building game with a different feel to it, Expedition is one to seek out.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale Y
- Not for me…