Let me preface this, by saying that I may have screwed up. Actually, I’m quite sure of it. Basically, this whole site has been a lie. And as one should do with any big lie, I’m going to stick with it until the bitter end.
While I was cataloguing my designs over the past couple of years, I somehow missed this gem which had the working title: Expeditions. The ambitious goal of this design was to have expeditionary maps as the game boards and tell the story, through the medium of game, of an expedtion to… anywhere.
I wanted to design a game system. I didn’t know that, though. At the time, I just wanted to make Arkham Horror with expeditions and modular stories.
So how does a game system work? Basically, you create a core mechanical structure that allows for adaptation and you find ways to include thematic tie-ins to the system so that each game feels different yet familiar. This is comparable to the game engine in video games.
One of the best examples of a game system is Poker. How many variants of Poker are there? More than I care to know. More modern examples would include the COIN system by Volko Ruhnke or the Command & Colors system by Richard Borg
I couldn’t have spent more than a week on this design before I knew I was in over my head. It’s likely I only spent a coupe days. I don’t even have any card mockups or images.
So, yeah… that’s Expeditions. Good bye, everyone.
What’s that? You want more? Well, look there isn’t much more to say about it. It was rubbish.
Alright, come on then.
How about a game that does expeditions right. It’s Expedition: Northwest Passage.
From the box art to the board, every component is absolutely stunning. But the art is only one thing which makes this game so amazing.
The board is basically a giant grid with Greenland on one end and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Ostensibly, your goal is to find the Northwest Passage and get back to Greenland before everyone aboard dies of starvation or exposure.
But there are some complications.
That board is blank and you build it using rectangular tiles. The tiles can be used to make a clear path for you to sail. They can be used to map out islands, earning you victory points. They can be used to block your opponents path, earning you an enemy for life.
There is much more to do in Expedition: Northwest Passage than just race across the board. But everything you do is tempered by the fact that, at some point, where you’re at on the board will be frozen and your ship will be completely unable to move.
That’s where my favorite bit about the game comes in. There is a chunky, wooden disc painted half yellow and half blue. Each round it moves around the outside edge of the board. Anything under it is completely frozen over and players must disembark on their sledges in order to move.
The board starts with the top row frozen and half way through the game everything but the bottom row is frozen over. Your sledges can go over anything while the board is frozen but you have to be able to get back to the ship.
I can imagine Expedition becoming a fantastic series of boardgames which could include a multitude of interesting locations and one or two interesting new mechanics for each game. Designing a game engine that people find interesting is a dream. It means a great deal less work to put out more games that people will enjoy.
I don’t intend to turn this place into a review site, but Expedition: Northwest Passage deserves much more press than it’s received. So go buy it.
Thanks for reading.