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Expedition: Northwest Passage» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Little-and-Often Review - Expedition: Northwest Passage rss

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Adam Taylor
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It is my intention to write a brief review (around 300 words) of every game that I play over the coming months. It won't quite be a random sample of games but there is likely to be quite a range; some will be games that I've played many times before, others will be first impressions of games new to me, some I will like, some I will hate, some I may be predisposed to like or hate before I even sit down to them. I make no apologies for this but I will lead with an estimated number of plays and my rating.

Plays: 1
My rating: 7

Northwest Passage is, to an extent, part of that group of tile laying games where "exploration" means choosing what you discover by where and how you place tiles. In fact, you have even more choice than in Carcassonne-type draw-a-tile / play-a-tile games because you choose tiles from an available display (having spent actions to do so). This, as other reviewers have pointed out, makes it thematically a little wonky but to my mind it also makes the game mechanically and strategically much more interesting.

If your idea of a good game is plenty of meaningful, engaging decisions - and sometimes agonising choices - then NP has a lot to offer. One of my favourite elements is being able to take an extra action by spending an additional crew member (crew represent your action points) - in this way you choose between taking fewer actions in a turn in order to go ahead of your opponents and maybe grab vital points or else hang back and hoover up what's left with loads of actions at the end of the turn. You also have to decide whether you want to stick close to other players in order to leech off of their tile placements to move further (and be more likely to get points for hitting the Northwest Passage) or else strike out on your own, having to place all of your own tiles but having less competition for point-scoring tokens and exploration. The mechanics are all familiar but they are well put together.

Many, many words have been written on BGG about what we mean when we say theme and what makes for a thematic game. Northwest Passage is a good example of why it's complicated: Many of the mechanics don't integrate with the theme - expanding the map by choosing tiles doesn't feel like discovery, the collection of sightings of Inuits and previous expeditions just feels like set collection, and yet the artwork is evocative of the period, the circling sun counter - that moves the ice-line (determining where ships and sleds can move) - is a brilliantly simple way to create shifting seasons and the use of crew as actions (and the movement of them between ship and sled) does suggest an expedition with limited manpower having to make tough decisions about how best to employ them. The theme isn't perfectly integrated with the mechanics but neither does it feel "pasted on". For me, it's a thematic game because it wouldn't be nearly as engaging as an abstract game.

In summary, it's good: The components are good, the mechanics are good, the decisions are interesting and the player interaction is pretty high (mostly in terms of blocking and racing for things). It's just not great. I'd be happy to play Northwest Passage again but I'm unlikely to seek it out. It does what it does perfectly well but there's nothing very new here and nothing to make it really stand out from a lot of other action-point / tile laying Euros.

In short; it's more Franklin than McClure.
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Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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I thematically look at the selection of tiles that I can choose from as what I can see from the boat. Do I want to go this way or that way based on what I can see?
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Phil Triest
Australia
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I enjoy it and find that it is the best tile laying game I have played. I think the whole seasonal thing with the ice melting is very thematic and an interesting mechanic I have not seen before.
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Kevin Garnica
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philtrees wrote:
I enjoy it and find that it is the best tile laying game I have played. I think the whole seasonal thing with the ice melting is very thematic and an interesting mechanic I have not seen before.


You're right, but the whole sun rotating mechanic has been done before, notably in Helios and Antarctica. What are the odds?!
 
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Phil Triest
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pacman88k wrote:
philtrees wrote:
I enjoy it and find that it is the best tile laying game I have played. I think the whole seasonal thing with the ice melting is very thematic and an interesting mechanic I have not seen before.


You're right, but the whole sun rotating mechanic has been done before, notably in Helios and Antarctica. What are the odds?!


Hmmm both of those games copied it from Expedition... This game was made way back in 2010.
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Kevin Garnica
United States
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philtrees wrote:
pacman88k wrote:
philtrees wrote:
I enjoy it and find that it is the best tile laying game I have played. I think the whole seasonal thing with the ice melting is very thematic and an interesting mechanic I have not seen before.


You're right, but the whole sun rotating mechanic has been done before, notably in Helios and Antarctica. What are the odds?!


Hmmm both of those games copied it from Expedition... This game was made way back in 2010.


Not saying you're wrong, it's just interesting that the same odd, unique mechanic has been utilized in more games recently. I know how old the game is...
 
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