A week or so ago we featured a nifty looking game in a Kickstarter Weekly piece called Relic Expedition, by Foxtrot Games. We contacted them and they were gracious enough to send us a print-and-play version of the game, as well as take some time to sit down and give us an interview, which we ran yesterday.
Today I (Jeremiah) will give you my review of the game, and then in the near future we will post a definitive Double Take review of the game once Firestone has played it.
Again I need to stress the version I played was not a finished product, so I won't be able to comment on the final quality of the components and artwork, so I'll focus mostly on the game itself.
When the game is completed here is what will be in the box:
- 4 pawns
- 16 animal meeples
- 3 dice (two custom, one standard)
- 36 relic tokens
- 70 supply tokens
- 112 hexagon tiles
- 4 large tile boards
- 4 backpack trays
- 1 cloth bag
This again was a print and play prototype of the game; yes, that means we sat around for about an hour and cut out 112 hex tiles, as well as all the supply and treasure tokens. (It's really hard to cut out circles!)
Setup - The game is setup by taking the base camp feature piece, and placing it on the table. Each player then places their pawn at one of the starting hexes on the base camp, and then you place one starting tile in each adjacent space to each of the pawns. A bunch of supply tokens (except vines, bananas, and four panther traps) are tossed into the bag, and the treasure tokens are turned face down in a pile. The remaining tiles are stacked face down (there are even more if you are playing the advanced version with banana, and vine tiles). Each player is given a tray that acts as a backpack to hold supplies and treasures and a d8 is rolled to determine the first player.
Gameplay - The gameplay is pretty easy to learn quickly with just a few tweaky rules on movement to be aware of. On their turn players roll two custom d6's, one with numbers ranging from 2-4 on it, the other with one of four animal icons on it and two blank sides. If there are no animals in play (and there aren't at the beginning of the game) ignore the result of the animal die (or just don't roll it). The result of the numbered die is the number of actions a player can take that turn.
Actions include moving one hex, or drawing supplies from the supply bag. And a few other special things we'll talk about in a minute. As the players move their pawns, more of the jungle is revealed by taking one of the stacked jungle tiles and flipping it over in all of the adjacent open spaces next to the location where there pawn just moved. Do this for every space that is empty and adjacent to the pawn's new location. As you flip these new tiles into place you begin to discover new areas of the jungle—you may find treasure, or quicksand, or animals that will attack you when they get the chance.
There will also be starting points for feature pieces like the river, the cave, and the mountain, which all require special gear to navigate (head lamps, rafts, and climbing gear), and are packed with 4-6 treasure tokens each. There are also helicopter clearings that are discovered and allow players to travel from one clearing to another by spending 3 actions.
As players move throughout the jungle discovering animals and treasures, they can pick up treasure (and don't forget they can always grab gear from the supplies bag) and drop items out of their backpack to be picked up later by other players, in order to make room for more treasure—but you better hope you have that tranquilizer dart when a panther comes running for you!
Animal encounters - As animals are revealed in the jungle, players will get the chance to move them and send them to visit their opponents whenever the corresponding symbol is rolled on the animal die. Once an animal has been rolled, each player takes turns controlling one of the animals in the jungle (if there are more than one of that specific type) starting with the player whose turn it is. They can move the animal 1 or 2 spaces in hopes of attacking another player, or sending it away from themselves! Each animal can only be moved once per turn, so other players cannot control the same one you just moved away from yourself.
If they do enter the same space as the player, the player is either poisoned (by the snake), knocked unconscious (by the boar) or hospitalized and knocked out of the game completely (by the panther). Or if you're playing the advanced game the monkey can come and steal an item from your backpack! Each of these attacks has different results, but most of them mean you lose your next turn, and the worst of them removes your pawn from the game board, and leaves all of your supplies on the space where you were attacked! After your skipped turn you return to the game at the base camp and can make a mad dash for your dropped supplies, or move on and try to recover.
End game - The game ends when one player collects a set of 4 treasure tokens; the set can either be all of the same color, or all of the same type. Once they've collected their set, they then need to head back to any helicopter clearing and use 3 actions to be picked up and carried safely out of the jungle to win.
My thoughts -
Components - I'm commenting here on what is pictured on the Kickstarter page. The only down side of the components is that the animals get these really cool looking meeples and the players get your basic "Pandemic" looking pawns. Would love to see an Indy'ish type of meeple for the players. I loved the artwork—the jungle pieces and feature pieces look great! I can't wait to see them on real tiles and not just card stock!
Gameplay - The game plays fairly quickly, and was really quite easy to learn and teach; a few turns in and you find your strategy unfolding as the jungle is revealed. We had one player off on his own on the other side of the jungle, which didn't bode well for him when animals starting popping up left and right, with no one else for them to go after in the area.
I really enjoy the variance of having a board that is never the same, it simulates very well the feeling of exploring a jungle and not knowing what is more than just a few steps ahead of you. A lot of folks are comparing it to Carcassonne because of the way the board takes shape sort of organically. I think that's a fair comparison and a great compliment to the game. Carcassonne is a perennial favorite in the gaming community, and when a game can hearken back to a great game and put a fresh spin on the concept, it's a cool thing that adds to the gaming culture.
Like I said earlier, there are a few tweaky type of rules to be aware of, such as dense jungle on certain edges of certain tiles, and ways to swing across quicksand. As well as the different "states" that animals are in after they encounter a player. But they aren't terribly difficult to grasp, and they don't slow the game down. The dense jungle works well with the supply concept and makes it worth grabbing some tokens in hopes of finding a machete.
Casual and Non-gamers
Family and Kids Game night
Seasoned Veteran Gamers
Overall - We had a lot of fun with this one. Relic Expedition blends its theme into gameplay mechanics extremely well, I can see my boys really enjoying this game, as well as serious gamers. There are plenty of decisions and hand-management choices to make, as well as a high replay value due to the ever-changing landscape from game to game, and even turn to turn. I'd love to see this expanded into 5-6 players; it seems to lend itself easily into that, but it needs funded first!
We would like to thank Randy and Tyler of Foxtrot Games for setting us up with the prototype of the game to give a test drive! There's still time to fund the project on Kickstarter as well.
And as always thanks so much for reading!