"Hello? Is anyone out there? I appear to be lost. I… I fell through this portal and ended up in this terrible plane of fire. What's that? You want me to do what? DRAW A MAP?! Are you serious?!"
Yes, fictitious explorer, I DO want you to draw a map for me, specifically for your queen, Gimnax. And be quick about it! You only have a year to do it in!
If you're completely lost as to why I'm speaking to my own imaginary construct, you would not be alone. However, the game we're talking about is about not being lost. Or at the very least, creating a device to find your way home again. We're once again drawing maps as part of the Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale series by Thunderworks games. Recently, they held a Kickstarter campaign to bring a new expansion called Cartographers Heroes. As part of the campaign, they created three new map packs. Each of which offers unique new challenges to make your game of Cartographers completely different, and increase the already massive replay value of the base game. Today, we're talking about the first - Nebblis - Plane of Flame. If you don't mind, I'm just going to call it Nebblis going forward. If anything, it feels like I'm becoming a supervillain if I call it by the full name every time…
Gameplay is exactly the same as the base game, so if you want to see how that works, check out the Zatu review! Cartographers Heroes - Nebblis comes with 75 additional map sheets, double-sided as the usual standard, but it also comes with three additional explore cards. These cards are shuffled in with either the original explore cards from Cartographers or with the ones from Cartographers Heroes. These cards, when they come out of the explore deck, require players to destroy squares on their map. Why you might ask? BECAUSE THERE'S A VOLCANO, STEVE! MWAHAHAHAHA…. Maybe I am becoming a supervillain…
The destroyed tiles mechanic was introduced in Cartographers Heroes and counts as a filled-in tile for resolving monsters and edicts, but it does not have a type. Back to the explore cards. These bring a whole new tactical element to the game, as you have to ensure that the lava flow (which the cards represent) either connects to the volcano or previously destroyed tiles.
The two-sided maps have the volcano in different places, depending on the side you use, which makes the threat from the volcano potentially easier to mitigate on side B.
The premise behind Cartographers Heroes - Nebblis and the sister map packs is to give a new depth of lore to the Roll Player world, and I think it works as a premise. It's not a deep dive, you literally get a trio of sentences that give the story. But it doesn't really matter, it's not that sort of game. (Though it can be if you want it to be. One day I want to run a D&D campaign that runs through the maps of Cartographers and characters from Roll Player.)
I really liked the extra layer of puzzle the volcano gives. The explore cards came up half a dozen times, which meant the map filled up really quickly. A rapidly filling map makes fitting the edicts harder but that's part of the fun. I think these map packs really add to the Cartographers experience. The game is going to take a long time to get stale for me, but throwing in new maps every so often will keep it fresh and exciting each time. I guess my only complaint is that the map packs only have 75 maps as opposed to the 100 in the base game, but that's extremely minor. The only other thing that Thunderworks could have done is make the maps dry erase, but honestly, that's completely unnecessary. I'm a complete convert to play Cartographers with coloured pencils - it makes the game much nicer to look at and easier to score, so something to consider when you pick up your blank maps next time!