This report covers my first play of Argonauts. I found the rules a bit unclear and ambiguous in places, so if you notice anything I might have played wrong, please let me know!
I played solo and on default difficulty, which is the hardest of the three difficulty levels outlined in the rulebook. Heroes were assigned to squads randomly, as per the rules.
Mopsus (mystic), Polydeuces (warrior), Tiphys (sailor), Zetes (warrior/scout)
Argos (sailor), Atalanta (warrior/scout), Castor (warrior), Echion (scout/diplomat)
Asclepius (diplomat/mystic), Hercules (warrior), Laertes (Jack of all Trades), Nauplius (sailor)
Calais (warrior/scout), Jason (warrior/diplomat), Lynceus (scout), Orpheus (diplomat)
At Lemnos – the Argo's first stop after setting sail at Iolkos – Mopsus went to the temple and gained a Favor of the Gods. The crew also visited a merchant, from whom they bought a ration and a ring that would bring its bearer prestige and help with diplomacy tasks.
At Kyzikos, Lynceus went exploring. Fortunately, he was less susceptible to seduction by wood nymphs than many a hero, and he decided to search the Lush Forest for nature's gifts. Unfortunately, his search yielded only mediocre results: a single pile of materials to repair the Argo, in case she should get damaged – which, given the dangerous journey she had set out on, was likely to happen sooner rather than later.
At Bithynia, the heroes were attacked by Harpies. Calais, Castor, Laertes and Zetes used their cunning to great effect, despite Artemis hindering Zetes, and their victory earned them a relic.
At Symplegades, the Argo was faced with Clashing Rocks that tried to crush the ship while she was passing through. Argos, Jason, Nauplius and Tiphys used a might approach and sailed on. Athena intervened, but since she favoured Argos and disliked Nauplius, she could have spared herself the trouble, for her intervention stayed ineffectual. The heroes gained a Favor of the Gods, but the Argo sustained one hull damage (it could have been a lot worse, though).
Then the Argo hit Shallow Waters. Since the clashing rocks had exhausted the best sailors, Polydeuces had to fill in, despite being considerably less experienced than Argos or Tiphys. He pinned his hopes on a relic that would enhance his nautical skills and he did okay, getting the Argo through Shallow Waters with just one additional damage.
At Synope, the crew spent two gold to acquire two rations, to supplement dwindling supplies. Mopsus went to a hearing, but due to his limited diplomatic skill, the Lord ignored his pleas and provided no additional rations.
(I used Mopsus mostly to move Tiphys and get more sailing skill back, but I also hoped for a better roll than the I got.)
Soon afterwards, the Argo faced a powerful Thunderstorm. With most of the sailors still recovering, it was decided to use a Favor of the Gods to safely get through the storm.
At the shipyard of Themiskyra, Tiphys made some repairs to the Argo (hull damage reduced to one). Orpheus tried his luck at a hearing, and was a little more successful than Mopsus had been: the Lord supported the crew with one ration.
Apparently, Poseidon still had an ax to grind with our heroes, and they faced a Rough Sea. Using up another Favor of the Gods let them pass it unharmed, but now they had run out of Favors.
At Aea, Hercules left the ship, and Medea joined the team. There was the obligatory merchant visit, but since the heroes were low on gold, they could only buy one ration. Being the son of Hermes, however, allowed Echion to get a free map. Lynceus went exploring again. He narrowly avoided an Ambush, but his endeavor turned out to be a waste of time.
(The other event card was Recruitment, which didn’t do anything since the crew token was still at maximum.)
As one of the tasks required to earn the Golden Fleece, Jason sowed the teeth of a dragon into a field, which sprouted into an army of warriors. With the help of Atalanta, Medea and Polydeuces, and using resting Mopsus' skills, he managed to defeat the army in a cunning approach, and a relic was gained.
More deadly dangers were lying in wait for our heroes, however: a mighty dragon guarded the Golden Fleece. Too mighty. Hoping against hope, Calais, Castor, Laertes and Zetes fought the beast with a might approach. They could have been victorious, had Hermes helped the Sons of Boreas, but he wasn’t interested in puny heroes' business that day, and so the heroes were defeated. Not all was lost, though: they escaped with the Golden Fleece, but two Argonauts died.
Even with the recent crew loss, there wasn't enough food and the supply of rations hit zero. It was starting to look bleak. While the heroes would be strong enough to survive without food for a while, they wouldn't last the long journey back to Iolkos unless more food was procured soon. Help came in an unexpected form: Pirates! Argos, Nauplius and Tiphys combined their sailing skill and used a map to great effect to outsmart the Pirates, which earned them two gold and a ration.
(They must have been n00b pirates – I rolled a for their strength.)
And for a change, even the weather was in favor of the Argonauts the following day – no thunderstorms, no rough sea, just Fine Weather, which allowed the exhausted heroes to recover more quickly than usual.
But the rations were depleted again, and the crew was reduced to six. Nevertheless, Castor, Jason, Laertes and Polydeuces managed to defeat another band of pirates in a might approach. Zeus meddled, but helped more than he hindered, and two more gold and one ration were earned.
At Istria, Echion visited a trader in hopes of buying food. Unfortunately, the trader didn't have any in stock, so Echion only bought a map, and was gifted a free helmet. Better than nothing, but he'd much rather have returned with something edible. Asclepius sacrificed two gold for a Favor of the Gods. He should probably have saved it to get rations later, but you know how those mystics are: always looking for an opportunity to perform some rites at a temple.
(Also, Stichades – the next stop where merchants could be found – was still a few days away, and if bad weather destroyed the ship or killed the remaining crew, nobody would need gold or food.)
Since the Argo was out of rations again, the crew dropped to five. To add insult to injury, hunters from Kolchis had caught up with her at last, and they weren't friendly at all. Argos, Nauplius, Orpheus and Zetes tried to tackle them with cunning. Since defeat would have been catastrophic (losing 3 Argonauts and Medea), they also used a ring and a map. Athena intervened, but couldn't make up her mind if she wanted to help or not, so her intervention stayed without effect. The hunters were defeated and the heroes received a relic for their trouble.
With only four crew left, the Argo arrived at Cynokefali. Unfortunately, an area ill-equipped for our heroes’ current needs: no healers, no traders. There was a shipyard, but with no materials, no repairs could be made. Lynceus decided to explore, but he must have angered the Gods somehow. Left or right, whichever path he chose, there was an Ambush waiting for him. Atalanta and Medea ran to help him, and together they were cunning enough to escape, and returned with one gold.
The crew decreased to three. At least the journey along the Istrus River led the Argo into Bountiful Waters. Unfortunately, they turned out to be less bountiful than reports had claimed them to be. Laertes and Tiphys did what they could, but luck wasn't on their side, and so only a single ration was won. (I rolled another .)
A Favor of the Gods propelled the Argo through a Dead Calm, and Fine Weather helped the heroes rest faster. One day away from Stichades, though, disaster struck: the last remaining crew member was killed.
Was it dragons, harpies, or other legendary creatures that ended the Argo's journey prematurely? No, the cause of death was much more mundane: a puny, entirely un-mythological sickness got them in the end. How un-heroic and anticlimactic!
(End of game: One spot before Stichades, the crew counter was at 1. I could have used the Golden Fleece to get it up to 2, and exhausted a mystic so that Sickness would only kill 1 crew instead of 2, but the remaining 1 would have dropped to 0 on the next turn, while traveling to Stichades. So technically, the final image could have shown the Argo at Stichades, but with everyone dead on arrival. Playing out the final turn was pointless because there was nothing I could have done to prevent the crew loss.)
While I had to look up rules questions a lot more often than I would have liked, and kept flipping through the rules and FAQ throughout the game and am still not sure about some points, I also had a lot of fun playing.
The art is great, the gameplay an interesting mix between puzzle solving and a luck-driven dice fest (well, die fest, since there is just one), and the game creates an interesting narrative with plenty of close escapes and almost-but-not escapes.
Default difficulty is challenging, which I like.
I'm definitely looking forward to the Argo's next journey!