A couple months ago I had a chance to play the game Fae where you’re playing a fae creatures who are trying to get the most druids matching their color to complete successful rituals. It’s a fun pretty light weight game in terms of your […]
Tag: Gamer Grade
Time for some gaming fun, this time with the newest game that is a craze, the Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger game. Which is based off of the Choose Your Own Adventure book by the same name. House of Danger does what you’d […]
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
I was hoping to get it all in one part, but two parts are needed, because, man…it’s just a ton to talk about.
It’s a Classy Game
By that (as you’ll know if you’ve been following along with my D&D posts recently), I mean that you get to play a character class, and eventually you unlock so many more. We have a three-player game, and we got to pick the classes we wanted just based off their names. And while there are things that correlate to some standard classes — for example, the Brute is pretty obviously a fighter of some sort — they don’t follow typical fantasy naming conventions. For example, I’m playing a Tinkerer. That doesn’t really have a connection to any Dungeons & Dragons class, and while you certainly have an idea of what that character might do, it isn’t standard for your typical fantasy game tropes. What works even better for the classes is that each of them have multiple things that feel unique about them. As you level them up, you can modify your own unique attack modifier deck, so two people playing different classes can choose to modify theirs in different ways. Beyond that, your attack deck is uniquely yours. As the Tinkerer, a lot of my actions can be used at range, and I can create/summon a construct to help soak up damage. The Scoundrel, by comparison, has a deck that allows them to go much faster and to deal out large chunks of damage, up close and personal-like.
Gloomhaven is a game that has a number of secrets in it. Another thing that makes your character feel unique is that they have their own secrets. There are two areas that you have a secret, generally, the first being your character’s reason for adventuring. I’m not going to spoil any of those, but when you create your character, you draw two secret objectives and pick one. This really informs some of your decision-making in terms of what you might do in combat or how you might deal with a road encounter or city encounter. That is another way each character has a unique feel, and it’s also the timer for how long you’re going to play your character. Once they complete that secret objective, they retire when you go back to town, and you get to play another character and probably unlock yet another one. That way, you feel like your initial decision isn’t as tough, because it doesn’t lock you into being that single character for the whole game. It also means that as you grow attached to and familiar with your character, it’ll be sad when they retire. You also get a secret in each scenario. These are things you want to do (or don’t want to do) in combat that, if you can go the whole scenario without doing them, you get a reward for it, which is building toward upgrading your character. It might be that you want to collect as much loot as possible, which won’t help your party, but don’t worry — eventually someone else will have that card and look like the bad guy.
How Many is Too Many?
One thing I did want to address that is a bit of a negative is how the game scales with player count. The box says that a scenario probably can take 30 minutes per player in the game. So with 3 players, it should be about an hour and a half, and I think that’s pretty accurate. I’m also not sure that I’d want to try it with four players. Four players seems like it would be a bit longer per scenario, but there is a bigger reason, as well, which is that combat would become too random with four players. When you have four players, the person who is last in initiative order wouldn’t be able to plan anything. When you have three, the last person to go still has to change up their plans, but you don’t have to all the time. I think two players would be quite strategic and way less random, so I currently really like the three-player count, as it does make it not a completely strategic game. I do think that a lot of people might find that frustrating, but you can negate that, if you do find it frustrating, with a lower player count.
All the Things
This is a positive and a negative — or maybe it’s just something to be aware of. This game has all the pieces in the world, possibly literally. There are thousands of cards and thousands of cardboard pieces. And the box is huge! These things allows the game to be really diverse and feel epic, but at the same time, it’s a lot of moving/sorting/housekeeping. The design makes it pretty smooth, but without figuring out a way to organize everything, it would be a complete cluster. I’ve used envelopes to sort monsters out, large manila envelopes to sort the terrain, and a jewelry/bead case to sort even more of the tokens. And I’m hoping I’ve sorted the cards well enough, but I can’t sort them as finely as I’d like. There are certainly inserts that you could consider getting, but the cheapest I’ve found, after shipping, is $70. So if you’ve already spent $140 on the game (I got it through Kickstarter for $100), that takes the cost of the game over $200. Now, it is a game that can get you 100 hours or so of gameplay without really repeating anything or starting it over again, so if you have three players and you spend $200 on it, that’s not much per person per hour, but it is still a big investment, and I wish that it came with a way to sort it better. But for everything you’re getting and with the way it’s packed, I understand why not.
This isn’t my final review of the game; just my opening thoughts on it. Gloomhaven is a really fun game, and I don’t think it’s exceedingly hard to learn. However, there is a good amount to know and look up as you play. After playing it last night, we were already talking about finding a Saturday when we can play for hours instead of just getting through one scenario. This game, if you have a group, is worth the money for it — even if you’re a solo gamer, there are options for that that would probably be worth it. Just save up for it, and probably save up for an organizer to go with it.
Initial Grade: A+
Gamer Grade: A+
Casual Grade: B+ (I do think it would be probably too intimidating for a lot of casual gamers, but it isn’t too hard to wrap your head around)
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