Welcome to an expedition into the jungles of South America (or somewhere). You’ve hired some expert guides, and you easily going to find the lost city of Z, It can’t be that difficult, can it? You have some food and bullets now, you just need to take a nice easy walk in the jungle.
In The Lost Expedition, you are trying to traverse of a number of land cards, number depends on difficulty, while keeping your guides alive and not being killed by a venomous spider or fall into a ravine. Your travel is split into two phases, morning and evening. Each player is given a handful of cards, in depends on number of players, but generally four. During the morning phase, you go around playing cards from your hands and placing these cards in numerical order. While the game is cooperative, you can’t talk about the cards you have in your hand, you can however, talk about the cards you are traveling on during the day. This allows for some strategy and planning but doesn’t let a single player drive the game. Then, as a group, you discuss your options and work your way down the path of cards played. You do the same thing in the evening, but instead of the cards being played in numerical order, you traverse them in the order that they are laid down.
These cards are the way that you win the game. However, you always are trying to balance the resources on the cards, so that you don’t use up the health on your guides. When a guide dies, they are gone, and when all of the guides die, you lose the game. The cards give you a few different resources, like shelter, bullets, food, directions, and jungle knowledge, as well as advance you. But these cards are generally a lot worse than they are good. Most of the time you are spending a resource that you want to keep for later in the days travels, but it’s better to do that then to spend the health and exert a guide. But it could be more than that, some of the cards give you an option to just kill off a guide, maybe to advance on the track to the lost city of Z.
The cards have some other interesting mechanics as well. They might add random cards to the end of the half days travel, but they might also remove a card, allow you to reorder a couple of cards, or even skip over a card. But will they be in the right spot that you need them? Or maybe you end up having to add two cards to the line because you need the good affect the card offers, or because it isn’t optional.
That’s the other fun mechanic in the game. There are three different sets of instructions on the cards. The yellow boxes are always required (with one exception, but for the swap ability, it is never required to be done). There are red boxes on cards, and whenever there are red boxes, there are multiple red boxes. These you pick one to do and you don’t do the others. Which is good, because if you had to do all of them you would die. Finally, there are the blue boxes. Blue boxes are completely optional, so you have to determine if you spend a resource, is it worth it for what you’ll likely be getting back from a blue box?
Finally about the game itself. It is a fun game to look at. The art style on the cards is reminiscent of the Tintin comics and has an older feel to it. The components have also been done really well in this game. Which is nice, because beyond the cards, there isn’t much to this game. A few cardboard pieces to keep track of resources, the bullets, health, and food and a couple of meeples to mark your progress on the daily trekking and your progress in the game.
So, is this a good game or not?
The Lost Expedition is a fairly simple game with nice mechanics behind it. Easy mode for this game is actually quite easy, so I don’t recommend it on easy besides for learning the game. While the concepts are tricky, the game has a nice light weight puzzle like aspect to it. It also allows each person to have to puzzle everything out themselves, there can’t be an alpha gamer running the show for everyone. That is really nice as well, because that can ruin the cooperative experience of some games. And a final thing that I like about the game is the speed that the game plays. Because the rules are light and simple, it’s quick for people to pick up, and while you do have some choices to make in the game, generally you have a good idea of what you are going to do, and there isn’t much downtime between playing cards. Then working your way through the days travels is also a group puzzle activity.
Overall, I think this a good game, and very good game for the mixed level of gamers. It allows, during the travel phase, a chance for the more logic focused players to really be able to puzzle out how to get through the whole track without spending resources too poorly. But at the same time, the playing the cards and the concepts of the game are simple enough that people can pick up quickly. The artwork is also huge in this game, it can also pull people in a whole lot more that might not be big gamers.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: C+
Casual Grade: A