Doug Adams writes:
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
Reach for your pith helmet, gamers, and grab your machete. It's time to head out and travel the world, visiting exotic places and furthering the cause of science. Are you up to the challenge?
Well, it's not quite like that, but this is a fine game. Initially published as Wildlife Adventure, republished as Terra X (with some substantial changes), and finally as Expedition which is reviewed here.
The players in this game represent scientists with a keen interest in specific areas of the globe. The object of the game is to guide three neutral and independent expeditions across the earth's surface so that they visit your research sites, while avoiding those of the other players. It sounds very straightforward, but there is hidden depth in this game.
What do we see when we open the box? First off is a standard sized game board, featuring a map of the earth (see image above). A fine network of dotted lines trace across the map, intersecting coloured spaces. These spaces are either research destinations, or special spaces allowing extra actions.
Each research destination on the map has a small diagram depicted with it. There are approximately 80 of these destinations, with each one having an associated playing card. These playing cards are colour coded to make locating the destinations on the map easier, but the initial reaction of players new to the game is total confusion! The playing cards are crammed with text about the featured destination, but it's totally in German. A pity for us English speakers, as it all looks very educational.
Three sets of plastic coloured arrows are also included in the game. These indicate the path and current destination of the three expeditions on the game board. A set of plastic coloured counters is handed out to each player, for use with the basic game or the variants that come with the game. Finally, a pad of travel vouchers is included, which can be used as a form of money to allow extra abilities in the game.
At the start of the game players are each dealt 9 research cards face down, which represent the destinations they want any expedition to reach, hopefully quickly! The players place four of their counters on the map in spaces matching four of their destinations. These are special research destinations that earn a bonus if an expedition reaches there - trouble is, the other players can see where they are!
The players are also given three travel vouchers as starting 'cash'. Finally, six more destinations are dealt face up off the deck so that everyone can see them. These are public research destinations that any player can claim on their turn. (Hint: we flag these on the map with a neutral coloured counter, typically white. It makes it much easier to spot where these things are during play).
The object of the game is to earn the most points. Points are scored for playing cards from your hand, or from the public research pool, into a pile in front of you representing destinations that have been reached. Counters from the special research destinations are also worth a point. Any cards in the hand, or counters on the map, at the end of the game are worth -1 each.
Play passes around the table. On your turn, you are allowed to place an expedition arrow on the map. The expeditions start from somewhere in Sweden, and snake their way across the map through placement of arrows along the dotted paths. The expedition is considered to be where the lead arrow head is at any one instance.
The basic turn is to place an arrow in any one of the three colours to move the expedition forwards. Any player may play a card from their hand if they notice any expedition currently at one of their research destinations, even if it isn't their turn - very handy!
When an arrow is placed, it may reach a special space. There are two special spaces, red dots and green dots:
These bonuses are cumulative. That is, several free arrows or vouchers may be earned in a single turn, making some of the potential moves quite intricate. Added to this is the ability to play up to two travel vouchers during a single turn. Travel vouchers allow one of three special actions to be taken:
With the aid of the bonus dots and vouchers, some clever moves open up, and destinations that look inaccessible are suddenly possible. The travel vouchers are gold in this game; players never have enough of them, and they are typically hoarded to ensure the special research destinations are reached.
The game ends when one player has reached all of their destinations. The current round is completed, and scores are totalled. The player with the highest total wins. Usually this will be the player who finished, but not always as the public research missions can swing the balance.
In closing, I can strongly recommend this game. It has a fine pedigree, a proven system that new players find addictive. It has no shortage of players when brought off the shelf at Billabong. Recommended.