French board game designer, Cédrick Chaboussit, with artist, Vincent Dutrait, have created two games based on the expeditions of Lewis & Clark. Their newest collaboration project, Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark features a more abstract game play then their earlier collaborative work, Lewis &Clark: The Expedition. L&C:TE, released in 2013, is a perfect hybrid of Euro and Ameritrash. The worker placement mechanics, harsh resource and card management, not a single die in sight, all scream dry, pure mechanically driven Euro, but the artwork and the integration of these mechanics creates an entirely thematic experience without the usual Ameritrash tropes.
Before you even open the beautiful box lid, the thin lined, naturalistic tone of Vincent’s box art encapsulates the period of early 1800’s. The lines and colors of the scene invites players to the adventures, trials and tribulations of exploring an unknown land. Once you pop open the lid, the artwork further draws players in as they uncover the bits and pieces, revealing a beautiful player board and main board. Even the rulebook is rich with history of side notes of the expedition members and facts. The whole game drips with early 1800’s setting and theme. Even though every player starts with the same card powers, each card has its own original and unique artwork showcasing historical members from the expedition.
Of course, artwork alone doesn’t make a game thematic. The integration of the mechanics also need to captivate its audience. The front of the dual sided cards allow you to take actions such as gather necessary resources, summon Indians to help your expedition out, recruit more personnel to make the traveling life easier, or start traveling up the river and across the mountains from St. Louis to your expeditions final destination, Fort Clatsop, Oregon. Depending on the cards strength the depiction of one to three Indian meeples is on the back of each action card. These are played along with the front face of the action card you want to use. These represent the Indians helping you accomplish your tasks during your travels. You can also call a pow wow and pick up little Indian meeples and place them in your canoe. They also can be used to help gather resources, boats, and or horses.
Each player has a scout meeple and a camp token that will travel the Columbia River towards victory. You will play cards and use the resources to move your scout as far up river as possible before having to activate the camp action. This action returns all your played cards in your tableau back to your hand. If you have too many resources or Indians in your boats, or any extra cards in your hand, you will have to move your scout backwards the necessary amount of spaces, than place your camp token there. If the detrimental effects are so costly that it sent your scout down the river instead of up the river, than your camp will stay in the same spot.
This forces you in a thematic way to really juggle the amount of cards in your hand and resources and Indians you need with the extremely limited space you have in the boats. If your boats are too full or too many cards in your hand when you take the camp action, than it slows down your ability to progress up river. I’m sure resource management was one of the many challenges Lewis & Clark’s expedition faced on a daily basis. The juggling act of taking the perfect amount of food, equipment, and trading goods that will last you a significant amount of time, but not slow you down.
If you are a Euro player that is tired of the same ole dry, Mediterranean trading, village/town building themed games or a Ameritrash player that is looking for a little bit of a brain burner that isn’t the atypical miniature battlin’, dice chuckin’, tactical thematic game, (not that there isn’t anything wrong with either of those style of games) than I would suggest you check out Lewis & Clark: The Expedition.
Written by Jason Hancock