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Subject: MeepleTown Reviews: Discoveries rss

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Derek Thompson
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Asmodee has become a company of many small studios, each with their own flair. While Matagot and Repos have established themselves over years of experience, and Space Cowboys managed to define themselves very quickly, ludonaute is a more recent member of the family that seems to have decided 2015 is their year. In addition to winning the Spiel des Jahres for Colt Express, they’ve now followed up their advanced Eurogame Lewis & Clark with a dice game in the same setting, Discoveries. Designed by Cedrick Chaboussit and illustrated by Vincent Dutrait, Discoveries borrows some iconography and loose concepts from Lewis & Clark but is an entirely new game. In a year of many dice game iterations (Roll for the Galaxy, Nations: the Dice Game, Pandemic: the Cure), does Discoveries stand out? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:



Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?



Components: I love these components. They’re beautiful, simple, and elegant. The box is a bit smaller than the standard 12×12 size, and there’s not much in it – four player boards, a nearly superfluous (but beautiful) central board, 55 cards, and a bunch of dice. The artwork on the cards, boards, and box is truly breathtaking, and the dice are wonderful too. They’re wooden dice, which isn’t that uncommon, but I really noticed how nice they feel as soon as I picked them up on my first play. Vincent Dutrait (the artist) was in that game and he said pretty simply, “Wooden dice feel warm. Plastic dice feel cold. It’s a big difference.” I agree with him – wooden dice really do make this game feel much nicer. The box may seem a little empty when you open it, but for $40 MSRP and components this beautiful, I think you get your money’s worth.

Another big plus is the rulebook: lots of historical tidbits, which is just awesome. Furthermore, they did actual research and justify their use of “American Indian” over “Native American” in the rulebook (more modern American Indians prefer that term).



Accessibility: This is a tricky one. This game is sort of a middle-weight game – it’s not quite a simple family game like Ticket to Ride or Qwirkle, and it’s by no means a heavy game – but it’s a one-hour dice game, so it feels like it should be more in the former category, yet it’s a bit harder to explain than those and probably wouldn’t make a good gateway game. It reminds me of all the middleweight games that Days of Wonder has done that keep falling through the cracks, like Colosseum and Relic Runners. I guess most people don’t want games right in the middle, but I definitely do! I love this sweet spot of quick games that have a fair amount of meat, with no real difficulty for seasoned gamers.

To be more specific, while the general concept of the game is easy – allocate dice to score points from cards – there’s a lot of little rules that make the game more fun, but harder to learn. Some dice are lost when used, some aren’t; some actions take multiple steps, some don’t; doing a second card on a turn is awkward to explain. Another point of confusion is that you have to not be too attached to “your” dice, because all of the dice are just floating around everywhere. When you explain the game, it sounds like it will be mean, but it isn’t at all. I’ve not had anybody completely confused during the game, but I’ve also never had a learning game without a lot of questions along the way.

To the credit of the publisher, the iconography on this game is stellar. Once you internalize the rules, they’re easily remembered due to the clever layout of the player boards and the icons there. In addition, the other complex part of the game is all of the special cards and abilities on the Indian side of the cards, but the icons are very well-thought out and we didn’t always need to reference the (very useful) guide in the rulebook – and if we did, we could recall the ability again easily later.

So, altogether, the game is more of a middleweight game to learn, but for some of us, that’s the sweet spot, since it plays quickly and doesn’t completely fry your brain when you try to learn it. Playing, however…




Depth: A couple of things about this game may make you think there’s not much to it. First, you’re always just working on one card (think of it like a quest in Lords of Waterdeep or a ticket in Ticket to Ride), and you’re doing that slowly by just playing one dice face a time – turns are very quick. But, within those very simplistic turns, there’s a ton going on. You’re engine-building with the Indian cards, keeping an eye out for cards you might swap out for, and of course, waiting on those big piles of dice. This game is much more tactical than strategic, in my opinion – but it’s short enough (roughly 15 min/player) that those two terms start to converge anyway. You really have to keep an eye on what your opponents are doing, because they can really mess you up by taking a big pile of dice just before you do, or taking their dice back right after you took a big pile of theirs. And of course, there’s the classic: they might take that card you really wanted, or wanted to sit there for you so you could do two cards in a row.

I do think the game can verge on analysis paralysis a little, even for someone like me who usually plays quickly, mostly because those two-in-a-row turns are so powerful but so difficult to set up. There are turns where I have eight or ten dice and I know I should sit and optimize, but I feel like I’m boring the other players so I just do something else, and that’s kind of frustrating. Planning ahead is also made difficult by the fact that so much can change in a round before your turn comes back. That’s really my only complaint with the game, and quicker people than me won’t even notice that.



Theme: I love the theme of this game, because it’s an exciting part of our history and it’s relatively underutilized in board games. I think it came through more in Lewis & Clark since the actions were a bit more directly thematic as you moved along a path, but I still think the graphic design, and ability cards give you lots of flavor in this game. I don’t think that is is by any means a game you play to ‘feel like you’re adventuring like Lewis & Clark did’ (that’s what the original game tried to do more than this one), but it’s more than just a veneer, and I’m always happy to have a unique theme with great art.



Fun: I really enjoy this game, and those I’ve taught it to love it even more than I do. Like I mentioned above, my one holdback is that I do seem to get some brain-freeze moments where the game gives me too much freedom at times, but I can’t imagine many other people agreeing with me. It may just be my natural tendency for cards over dice that I have a hard time processing what to do in this game. And even with that caveat, the game is still pretty quick overall. If you play from the gut, or don’t mind chatting during other people’s turns, or think I’m crazy and the game isn’t that difficult anyway, then I highly, highly recommend this one.



Discoveries is a beautiful, interesting, quick-playing dice game, and it’s the best dice game iteration of a board game that I’ve played to date.
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Andrew MacLeod
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And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
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Excellent review, Derek! About the only thing I disagree with is on a point of "feeling" rather than "fact": I find Discoveries more thematic than L&C, due to the culturally accurate art on the tribal cards. Lewis&Clark is filled with all kinds of historical notes, but it felt more euroish to me.

And I should point out that you have one major typographical error in the third paragraph of the Accessibility section....whistle
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Derek Thompson
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amacleod wrote:
Excellent review, Derek! About the only thing I disagree with is on a point of "feeling" rather than "fact": I find Discoveries more thematic than L&C, due to the culturally accurate art on the tribal cards. Lewis&Clark is filled with all kinds of historical notes, but it felt more euroish to me.

And I should point out that you have one major typographical error in the third paragraph of the Accessibility section....whistle


Whoops! Thanks. That happens when I cut/paste from MeepleTown near the images. Thought I had caught them all. Fixed.
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