Expeditions

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The standalone sequel to Scythe sends players on a new adventure into Siberia, where a massive meteorite crashed near the Tunguska River, awakening ancient corruption. An expedition led by Dr. Tarkovsky ventures into the taiga to learn about the meteorite and its impact on the land. Itching for adventure, heroes from the war privately fund their own expeditions to Siberia, hoping to…
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-STM660 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Highly thematic
  • Integration of a range of popular mechanics
  • Beautiful table presence
  • Surprisingly fast for a heavier weight game

Might Not Like

  • Limited Direct Interaction
  • Doesn't necessarily do anything new
  • Can be frustrating initially
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Description

The standalone sequel to Scythe sends players on a new adventure into Siberia, where a massive meteorite crashed near the Tunguska River, awakening ancient corruption. An expedition led by Dr. Tarkovsky ventures into the taiga to learn about the meteorite and its impact on the land. Itching for adventure, heroes from the war privately fund their own expeditions to Siberia, hoping to find artifacts, overcome challenges, and ultimately achieve glory.

Expeditions is a competitive, card-driven, engine-building game of exploration. It is designed to evoke similar feelings to Scythe even though the mechanisms are different: Play cards to gain power, guile, and unique worker abilities; move your mech to mysterious locations and gain cards found among the tiles; use workers, items, meteorites, and quests to enhance your mech; and use power and guile to vanquish corruption.

Components

Expeditions includes 5 large mech miniatures (>50mm) and mech mats, 20 location tiles, over 100 uniquely illustrated cards (63x88mm), 50 worker meeples, a bag filled with 36 silkscreen printed corruption tiles, a robust Automa solo mode, and much more. The box is 390x321x84mm, and the game takes up around 99x90cm on the table (3 feet squared).

Expeditions is a stand-alone sequel to Scythe. It has the same alternate history setting of 1920’s eastern Europe, with enormous mechs to do your bidding. Moreover, the game includes the same amazing artwork by Jacob Rozalski that was introduced in the elder sibling.

Theme

In Expeditions you will need to explore the regions of Siberia where a meteorite has landed; unearthing ancient corruption. The hexagonal game tiles and game cards really depict a dark and portentous environment. As you travel across the map hexagons you need to vanquish corruption and thereby improve the functions of each of these tiles. This allows you to complete your other objectives.

Rules

The rulebook for Expeditions is quite wordy but very clear. There are detailed diagrams and examples to iron out any wrinkles in your understanding. The game is fairly icon-heavy so I appreciate the back cover of the rulebook having an icon glossary. If you aren’t fond of reading a full set of rules you can find teaching and play-throughs on Youtube.

This is not a game that you can play straight from the box. One of your games group will need to invest the time in learning the rules and teaching everyone else.

Components

In my opinion the tiles, cards and mechs in Expeditions are artistically and stylistically brilliant. You will find yourself picking up the mechs and cards and just staring at their details. The five types of worker meeples all come in different sculps. This is a nice touch, which isn’t really needed but is appreciated.

The game tiles are quite big, and you always play the game with all of them, irrespective of player count. This means that you will need quite a substantial table for even a two-player game. The artwork on the game cards is quite dominant and so the text is quite small. With the physical span being substantial you will often find yourself out of your chair to read the text on a card across the playing area.

Gameplay

You start Expeditions with two cards, which are your starting character and companion. As you progress through the locations of Siberia you will accumulate more cards that will offer additional abilities to help you fulfil your mission. Essentially you only have three possible actions: move, play and gather. On most turns you can only do two of these, unless you take a refresh turn, which returns all your played cards to your hand and collects all your accumulated workers. There are five types of workers; soldiers, explorers, merchants etc in five different colours. However, you will probably find yourself stating that you need a “red worker,” rather than a “soldier”. This is one aspect of the game where the theme is not so well realised.

Expeditions is an engine-building game and so your turns get more powerful as the game progresses. You will need to read your acquired cards carefully to ensure that you aren’t missing a benefit, especially when you have seven or eight cards in hand. You will need to evaluate which cards need to have their actions boosted by the addition of a worker. There are lots of nice decisions to make as the game progresses.

The Age-Long Pursuit Of The Unknown

Set in the alternate 1920s of Stonemaier’s SCYTHE (but no foreknowledge required), Expeditions moves the timeline on. Deep in Russia’s Yeniseysk, a mysterious object crashes in Tunguska, warping the land and producing countless mystic bounties. You and your animal companion must take trek with your Ironclad across swamps, forests and stranger lands besides to recover the unearthly treasures, using strength and guile to wipe out corruption, hiring soldiers, farmers and other citizens, choosing a path to glory and greatness.

As if you hadn’t deduced, Expeditions is a sort of late-Steampunk Mythos-infused worker placement game with deck-driven engine-building mechanics. That’s quite a mouthful, eh? As is increasingly the case, we’re seeing an uptick in game complexity derived from a number of different proven mechanics, and it’s how well those integrate – both as a ruleset and thematically – that makes or breaks so many games.

The Unexplored, The Unexpected

One of the best elements of the game is in its setup: you are assigned a random character (and companion) and a random Ironclad. Because they have distinct rules, benefits and preferred worker-engines, which not only guides you in the early game but also lends considerable replayability: even with the same character, the game plays very differently if you have the Ironclad that can take additional upgrades to the one that can move faster than any of the others.

At the start of the game all players begin the explored, uncorrupted south of the board. This leads to an initial tussle, and your first big strategic decision: do you try to generate a steady engine for growth, or strike out and open up hidden tiles with better potential and access to cards? This is paired with the game’s excellent action system, as indicated by the gearbox on your Ironclad’s card. There are 3 actions: Move, Play a card, or Harvest, and on the first turn you have access to all 3: however, you must then “move gears”, covering one option up. Each turn, you ordinarily only have 2 options available to you, therefore, unless you take a Recover action, which gives you all 3 BUT returns cards (and meeples) in play to your hand. It’s a very interesting decision mechanic, even more so because all players’ cards are face up at all times. For the first few plays, this can be a bit bewildering and lead to some action paralysis but fortunately, you soon get the hang of it, particularly with the game’s accessible iconography and clear reference sheets.

Expeditions an utterly beautiful product, especially with the playmat (though I know that some find it even more table-consuming). It openly wears its debt to Arnak, Dune Imperium et al on its sleeve, and that’s no bad thing. If you’re a fan of worker placement and engine generation this is absolutely the game for you – it takes many elements from others but still feels like something distinct and new. I am a big fan of the Mythos theme and there’s a bit of a dearth of Cthulhupunk out there – plenty of horror/mythos board games, but not so much the steampunk vibe. So it most definitely scratches that itch. Unusually, for a game of this weight, it’s not massively time-consuming to setup, play or tidy – massive thumbs-up there. And, as we’ve come to expect from Stonemaier, the solo Automa is fantastic, making for a very different play experience as the AI beetles about and is generally awkward.

Strange Aeons

Whilst you are competing for resources and spaces, at low player counts that doesn’t feel that restrictive. Equally, at high player counts, it is very much about blocking people, and it can feel a little frustrating at times; also, it take up a LOT of table, and mostly at one side thereof. Not deal-breakers, by any means, but may put some people off. I’d also like a quick start (which, say, Wingspan does so well) and clear explanation of victory conditions from the outset. But it is at the heavy end of things, so that’s not that surprising, really; also, it really is physically HEAVY – it’s a big old brick, which some folk love, but will take up a lot of shelf. And though I like the different coloured meeples, in this day of premium products, I wouldn’t say no to some printing on them (or even) different shaped meeples to indicate the different roles.

Accursed, Ultimate Abyss

Despite the fact that it’s undeniably great, I don’t… LOVE this game at 2 players, which is actually quite the niggle for us given that most gaming in our house is myself and the Elder Spawn. But the REASON I feel that way actually stems from other Stonemaier games. I love both Viticulture and Red Rising, and though I’m ambivalent about Scythe (feel a bit overwhelmed by it) My Little Scythe is a hit in our house. At times, though, Expeditions lacks the brutal cut and thrust interaction of (say) Red Rising. I’m not advocating direct combat, but some more overt interference would be good. Perhaps the answer would be to incorporate, to some extent, the excellent Automa at 2 players (as Dune imperium does).

Overall, though, Expeditions is a very solid and highly recommended game, which you’ll keep coming back to. It’s not bewilderingly complex, but it’s certainly demanding, in all the right ways.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Highly thematic
  • Integration of a range of popular mechanics
  • Beautiful table presence
  • Surprisingly fast for a heavier weight game

Might not like

  • Limited Direct Interaction
  • Doesn't necessarily do anything new
  • Can be frustrating initially