The Cartaventura series of games are a one to six player cooperative narrative card game. The games consist of a small box of square cards, plus some additional tokens which are used to tell a story. Cards are revealed, flipped, removed and used in a variety of ways to tell a compelling and sometimes harrowing story. Some of the cards will be map cards in which you can travel to different locations, speak to different people and interact with the world in different ways. You can receive objects and items which may be needed to interact with people or events later on in the game. The players will make decisions, travel around the world and eventually come to one of several endings, all within a relatively short period of time. As there are multiple endings the games can be replayed and different choices made to see how that affects the end outcome.
Cartaventura: Lhassa is set in Ceylon and India as you travel in the footsteps of explorer and spiritualist Alexandra David-Neel. You will travel across the Himalayans to the forbidden city of Lhassa in Tibet on a spiritual journey. Uncover the adventure, explore locations and move forward to one of five possible endings, one if which will lead you to Alexandra David-Neel. What will your story be in Cartaventura: Lhassa.
The setting and story telling of Lhassa (and the Cartaventura games in general) is strong. Lhassa tells a story, a story that you unravel and explore as you play the game. The decisions you make will impact the ending and the journey that you take.
The core concept of the game is very interesting. From a simple deck of cards a story and narrative is told that makes you think and question what you should be doing. It gives you choices and options on how you want your story to pan out. I love the way the map expands and changes depending on your choices. Some routes may be cut off to you based on what you have done previously. This gives the game some replay-ability as you can take different paths over multiple games. You can gain items which you can use later on in the game when interacting with certain people and events. Lhassa also introduces currency, which you will need to manage by reporting on certain stories.
I love the choices that you have in the game and how your decisions will change what cards are put out and the eventual ending. There are not hundreds of different endings, but there is enough here to keep you coming back for several games.
All of the mechanisms in the game are very simple. The game is accessible and simple to play, yet is still very compelling and interesting. There is a very nice tutorial that explains all the cards/symbols etc and how to interact with them. There are no destructive elements in the game so you can simply reset it by placing all the cards in numerical order and try again. Overall game length states 60 minutes on the box but I have usually found that the games are a bit quicker, especially when you play solo. The player count does say up to six players but I feel that this is probably a bit too high. Although possible at the higher player counts, I have personally enjoyed this as a solo or two player game.