16 July 2021
Even Lara needs a travel agent
A New World has been discovered! Unfortunately, not by you, but you are keen to find it too. So, you launch your expedition, collecting clues all around the world that will hopefully lead you to the secret entrance to the New World. Of course, you are not the only person looking for the entrance, so you will need to be fast and efficient to collect the four clues needed to decode the coordinates first.
This is The Lost Explorers, a game where you are less Indiana Jones or Lara Croft, exploring secret temples and uncovering ancient artifacts, but more of a route planner. It may be less heroic, you don’t get a fancy title like ‘Tomb Raider’, but at least there are a lot less deadly spikey traps in your way. You plan the course from your base in Venice to other major cities around the world, enjoying the comforts of modern technology by travelling by car, train, boat or airships to different locations. Transport is your key resource – you won’t be able to get to your destination unless you have the correct number and types of transport tokens.
Whenever members of your expedition are present in the cities that correspond to mission locations, you get to score that mission and progress your leader along one of the game’s discovery tracks. Get further along both tracks and you can earn the clues. Sounds simple enough, except your opponent is trying to do the same thing and they can even ‘displace’ you from the city on their turn, preventing you from scoring the mission. This is where careful planning and strategy become important. For example, it might be worth obtaining missions with shared cities so you could complete them efficiently. Or positioning meeples on the map so you could score several missions at the same time. Or make sure you progress equally along both discovery tracks, to receive a bonus transport token each time you score a mission. The Lost Explorers is an efficiency puzzle: planning the best route to earn the most points in each given turn.
There is also a little surprise at the end of the game: you can scan the QR code that corresponds to the value of clues collected to reveal the real-world location of the New World entrance on your phone’s map app! Although slightly gimmicky, this adds a satisfying ending note to the game: you won and you get to see the location you have been searching for throughout the whole game!
Despite its quite ambitious scope, The Lost Explorers is a compact game, where all gameplay takes place inside its own box. The discovery track and transport tokens are arranged in the main part of the box, whereas the reverse of the box cover contains the world map along which all players travel to complete missions. While some elements of this design are fiddly, this is still a neat and practical arrangement, allowing to enjoy the game even in places where there might not be a proper playing space.
The Lost Explorers is slightly let down by the high expectation set by its own theme. When you first encounter the game, you imagine yourself being a trailblazer, navigating rarely explored terrains and solving ancient puzzles. Yet when you play the game, it is more akin to compiling a really good travel itinerary. It is still engaging and competitive, but also a little dry and overly functional, never quite reaching the heights that the potential of its theme offers.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
The Lost Explorers puts more emphasise on the practicalities of exploration, rather the excitement of discoveries, however it still makes the journey fun, leading to a delightful surprise right at the destination.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED LEWIS & CLARK
If your taste for adventure and discovery has only grown after Cédrick Chaboussit’s Lewis & Clark, then his latest game, The Lost Explorers, will happily offer more, in a more compact package and with a family-friendly gameplay.
Designer: Cédrick Chaboussit
Time: 40 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 64 Vehicle/Mission tokens
- 16 Vehicle/Mission starting tokens
- 4 Expedition members per player
- 2 Expedition leaders per player
- 4 Validated location markers
- 13 Clue tiles
- 1 World Map board/box
This feature originally appeared in Issue 57 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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