A brilliant, brutal game in a neat and beautiful package, The Lost Expedition is a fantastically fun card layer that can be played co-operatively, competitively or solo. Inspired by 1930's explorer Percy Fawcett, who vanished into the South American rainforest while trying to find El Dorado, it provides a Boys Own Adventure in a box, complete with glorious artwork and some truly agonising decisions.
First, players must choose a group of three intrepid explorers, balancing jungle, navigation and camping skills, before picking up a number of tokens to represent their health, food and ammo. Between seven and nine expedition cards are then laid out, representing a route to the fabled Lost City of Z.
The players must try and keep their meeple moving, working to keep at least one of their explorers alive long enough to reach the city, where they can enjoy fame, glory and the untold riches of a vanished civilisation.
It's just waiting there in the jungle, waiting for… OH MY GOD! CÂNDIDO! HE’S COVERED IN LEECHES! THEY’VE BLED HIM DRY! OH, I CAN’T LOOK! IT’S HORRIBLE! HORRIBLE!
Playing The Lost Expedition Board Game (Credit: The Innocent BGG)
Lost Expedition Gameplay
Gameplay in Lost Expedition revolves around the party’s attempts to navigate through the jungle, undertaking two marches a day: one in the morning and the other in the evening. Each player must take it in turns to play one of the cards in their hand, combining them into a series of encounters and incidents that make up each march.
In the morning, cards are arranged in numerical order, in the evening they remain in the order they are played - such is the added confusion of a journey in the dark. Each card is resolved in turn, with coloured boxes to show…THERE’S A SPIDER ON MY NECK! IT’S THE SIZE OF A DINNER PLATE! FANGS SINKING INTO MY FLESH, OH SWEET BABY GROOT! THE PAIN!…to show whether players face a compulsory, must-play event; a choice between often unpleasant alternatives, or a play-if-you-want-to option.
To move along the path to victory in Lost Expedition, you must resolve a card with a progress icon on it. They can be hard to find, and when you do, there is rarely gain without a large dose of pain. An example? Here’s a rope bridge: You can now progress at the cost of a navigation point. Not got any? Well, Isabelle is your navigation expert, so you can take a health off her instead. She’s already dead? Well, you can still progress if you KILL ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE PARTY. No? Fine. You can choose not to progress and add an extra card to the march, which might be better - or might KILL SOMEONE.
The meat of the game is in the interaction between players: choosing the best (or least awful) order for the cards to be played in, making hard (often appalling) choices and husbanding health and resources. Is it fun? Oh, dear me, yes.
Ending the game
The game ends when all the cards have been played through twice (you lose), when someone staggers, half-mad and starving into the city, or - and this is most likely - they all die.
Final thoughts on Lost Expedition
What Lost Expedition does really well is… THE RIVER - IT’S BOILING! NO, WAIT, THERE’S SOMETHING COMING UP. CROCODILE! SHOOT IT! SHOOT IT! TOO LATE! ARRRRGH!…is to simulate the brutal hostility of the jungle and it’s unforgiving attitude towards anyone unschooled in its many hazards.
It prompts fevered debates, often hysterical laughter at the impossible choices and somehow keeps you coming back for more punishment. Whether you play solo, against an an opponent, or as a team, you’ll be lucky to win - but what a challenge. What a thrilling, atmospheric little game.