Lewis & Clark: The Expedition – A Unique Racing Game with Resource Management
Lewis & Clark: The Expedition is a unique racing game utilizing resource management and an interactive mechanic for acquiring those resources. As explorers, players race up the Missouri river, through the Rocky Mountains, and on westward to Fort Clatsop on the Pacific Coast. The first player to set up camp at or beyond Fort Clatsop, wins the game.
Of course, the journey itself is all the fun as players each find their own way to travel. One might focus on building canoes, another acquiring wood for a makeshift raft, while still another tames horses for the journey. You can recruit specialists and acquire Indian companions to assist you on your trek.
When you reach the Rockies, you’ll likely have to find another means of travel for a bit if you’ve been relying on canoes or rafts. Then you’re back on the river, followed by another short trek through the mountains and finally the home stretch. But if you’re carrying too heavy a load or have too many Indians traveling with you, you may have to bypass your goal before you make camp: all those friends and baggage cost you time.
All players start with a similar hand of Starting Character Cards including: a fur trader, hunter, blacksmith and lumberjack which each provide an action for acquiring the resources of fur, meat, tools and wood respectively; a captain to move your Scout forward; and an interpreter to call a powwow so you can acquire more Indian friends. Everyone begins the game with one Indian friend, as well as, a few resources.
Play is pretty simple. However, developing a good engine, timing everything just right, and balancing the needs for resources and traveling light, altogether make Lewis & Clark an engaging and challenging game.
On your turn, you can perform one action: either play an action card, powering it with the Indian(s) on the back of another card and/or one or more Indian meeples, or visit the Indian village and take an action. In addition to taking one action on your turn, you can also optionally recruit a new character encountered on your journey and/or set up camp. Encountered Characters are additional action cards you add to your hand. A few are enhanced versions of the cards in your initial hand, while most others provide unique abilities. When you make camp, you get to completely refresh your hand and may get to move your camp marker up the river. However, you’ll also have to make an accounting of any unplayed cards in your hand, your baggage (resources) and any Indian companions on your cards or expedition board. The result may cause you to lose a few days of travel denoted by moving your scout downriver, perhaps even behind your camp.
The resource acquisition mechanic of Lewis & Clark and need for good timing is quite unique. In the tradition of 7 Wonders, the cards that your neighbors have played, influence the type and number of resources you can acquire. For example, when you play a resource gathering card, you not only count the number of medallions of that resource type on the cards you’ve already played, but also those played by your neighbors. The total is the maximum number of that type of resource you can acquire with the action card you played. The Shamanism village action is also influenced by cards in play: allowing you to activate a face-up Character Action anywhere on the table, whether it’s in your playing area or that of an opponent. So, timing is everything in Lewis & Clark. When a neighbor makes camp, all the cards he played return to his hand, thus limiting the number of resources you can acquire and actions you can take.
Another way to acquire resources and perform other actions, is to visit the Indian village. You’ll need Indian meeples to visit the village. The action spaces in the village generally provide less productive resource sources than your cards. Two of the spaces provide a combination of goods, which can be handy when you need to acquire two different resources quickly: cards only provide one type of resource at a time. Other actions available in the Indian village include: the aforementioned ability (Shamanism) which copies the action of any card you or another player has played, Horse Trading, Canoe Manufacturing, Expedition Upgrades which provide boats for carrying more Indians or goods, and Farewell which allows you to discard 0 to 3 cards from your hand and clear and refill the Journal of Encounters (the 5 face up Encountered Character cards from which you can recruit).
The assortment of cards in the Journal of Encounters, the numerous means of travel, and the diversity of players’ decisions during the game, make Lewis & Clark extremely replayable. To further improve on this, the game includes 10 route-change tokens so you can design your own route. With different distributions of River and Mountain spaces, you can try even more new strategies. If you like to practice or simply play solitaire, you’ll appreciate the extra components and rules for a solo variant of Lewis & Clark: The Expedition as well.
Lewis & Clark: The Expedition is simple and quick to learn and teach. Mastery, however, will take a little longer as its very tactical (utilizing what others play), while strategic at the same time (planning and executing an overall goal between camps). The iconography on the cards and board is clear and easy to interpret. You can quickly look up any cards you’re not certain of in the rulebook’s character reference using the card’s number. History buffs, teachers and students alike will appreciate the historical information provided for each of the 84 characters featured in the game who played a part in the success of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Each card’s effect relates to the historical role of its character. Page 10 of the rulebook describes The History Behind the Game and makes interesting reading.
Lewis & Clark: The Expedition supports 1 to 5 players and ages 14 and up. It can be played by younger people, if they’re good at strategy. Play time is about 30 minutes per person.
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