According to our 10 year old son, Relic Expedition is “awesome!”
We had a chance to play a prototype of the board game Relic Expedition this week and as you can tell from Caleb’s reaction, it was very well received!
Getting a prototype of a board game is something we typically don’t agree to do. There are so many great board games and card games already on the market, that we typically turn down opportunities to play games in the making.
But there was something about Relic Expedition that seemed like it might be a great family board game that we’d enjoy. So I decided to give it a try.
And I’m glad I did.
Since it was a prototype, all the shiny, cool artwork of a finished game was missing. And we’ll gladly admit that the way a game looks has a big impact on how it’s perceived – especially when you’re looking for family board games. The more appealing the design, artwork, and components, the more positively it will be received.
So lacking that immediate design appeal, I wasn’t surprised when I first ran into upturned noses at the game. But with the amount of tiles and other items in the game, I could tell that the designer, Randy Hoyt, has spent a lot of time working on the game and putting it together. So I wanted to give the game it’s just evaluation and talked Caleb into giving it a shot first in a two-player game so we could get a feel for it.
And he loved it so much, he was already asking to play again before we even finished the first game.
(Getting others to join in playing would now be much easier.)
How to Play Relic Expedition
The objective and rules of Relic Expedition were easy to understand and it didn’t take long to get started. The goal is to explore the expanding jungle and collect a set of 4 matching Relics – either by symbol or by color – and then get to a helicopter clearing and fly out of the jungle to win. Simple. But it’s the way the jungle is explored, the relics are collected, and the dangers are encountered that make the game fun.
On their turn, each player rolls two dice – an animal die and a number die. The animal die will determine which animals on the board are activated (snakes, boars, panthers, monkeys). Encounters with the different animals will affect players in different ways. For example snakes will cause you to lose a turn while panthers will knock you out, make you drop all your items, and send you back to a clearing to be revived. But if you have the right type of item in your backpack, then you could fend off the animal attack.
After the animal die is resolved, the number die determines how many actions the player can take (2, 3, or 4). And there are only two actions to choose from – 1. Draw from the supply bag or 2. Move to another tile. Having only two choices is nice and simple, but it can also be tough to decide what to do when.
Players will definitely want to get some supplies in their backpack because they’ll not only help defend against the animals, but certain items will also help in traversing different terrain such as the machete (jungle), pick (mountain), raft (river), or flashlight (cave). But players will also want to Explore for more relics to collect.
When players move to a tile that’s on the edge of the revealed jungle, they play new tiles next to their tile. If there are three open spaces next to their hex tile, then they’ll randomly select 3 new tiles and place them next to their tile. If the tile they place has an animal symbol, they also place that animal on the tile. If the tile has a relic symbol, then a relic is randomly selected from the pool and placed on the tile.
This is one of the things we really like about Relic Expedition – how quickly the jungle is revealed when exploring. For example, suppose you get 4 actions: With your first action, you move to an edge tile. Then place a few new tiles next to you. Use your second action to move to another, newly revealed, edge tile and place more new tiles. Then move a third time, place more tiles. And move one more time and place more new jungle tiles. Thus revealing a lot of tiles in one turn.
And if relics pop up along the way you can scoop them up and put them in your backpack – because picking up or dropping items doesn’t cost an action! And you will be dropping items because your backpack can only hold 8 items.
Which is another great thing we love about Relic Expedition. You can’t just roll through the jungle grabbing everything in you path. You have to be judicious in what you keep and what you leave behind. Knowing you need to collect 4 matching relics, means that half of your backpack in the end will need to be dedicated to those. But for the first half of the game you aren’t sure what relics you’ll be finding so you’ll grab anything you can. Then once you start getting some matches, you’ll start to zero in on certain types and move differently and with more purpose in the second half of the game.
But that’s also when more animals will be in the jungle so you’ll need to keep a range of supply items to defend from animal attacks. It makes for some great choices.
Relic Expedition is a board game for 2 to 4 players and we’ve found that it works equally well with 2, 3, or 4 players. There are some adjustments to make to the game with 2 players, like removing certain relics, but it still plays great. Adding more players creates even more choices throughout the game that we enjoyed a lot.
Balance of strategy and luck
There is a lot of luck in Relic Expedition – dice rolls, random tile selection, random relic selection, random supply item selection. But players also face numerous choices throughout the game that keep them thinking. Yes, a number die roll of only 2 seriously limits your actions that turn, but that just means you have to be even more thoughtful in what you decide to do.
And when certain animals are activated may have a serious impact on the game as well. If you’re near an boar and the boar shows up on the animal die roll, you might just be attacked. However, it’s possible that you could be by a lot of boars and they don’t come up on the die roll – so you’re safe.
But this also keeps everyone engaged in the game watching the die rolls even when it’s not their turn. Because what happens on other player’s turns will definitely impact your game.
And as we’ve already mentioned, choosing where to go, when to draw from the bag, and how to manage the items in your backpack are all choices that require a bit of strategy. Do you head off in the same direction as others? Do you venture off on your own? Do you stock up on supplies? Or do you just try to reveal as many new tiles and relics as possible?
We’ve found that the best family board games have a good mix of strategy and luck. Choices make the game invigorating and luck keeps the game interesting with the possibility of younger players toppling older players as well. A good balance keeps it fun for all. And Relic Expedition strikes a good balance.
We quickly found that the simple goal of collecting 4 matching relics wasn’t as simple as it seemed. And that’s a good thing. It was the drawn-out process that really got us immersed in the game. We found that exploring the entire jungle and the special areas (river, mountain, cave) were also necessary to finally get the relics needed to win. We also found that sending animals after other players was a lot of fun and kept us on our toes.
In the end, the kids were all thumbs-up with Relic Expedition. To think they loved it in prototype form clearly tells me that it’s a solid family board game.
When asked what they’d suggest for improvement it was simply to get the design finalized. They were fine with all of the elements of playing the game but were chomping at the bit to see it with stylized jungle tiles and representative animal figures.
Where to get Relic Expedition
Like we mentioned in the beginning, we played a prototype copy of Relic Expedition – which means there aren’t copies yet available to purchase. However, Relic Expedition is currently raising funds on Kickstarter. If this board game sounds like one you might like, then we’d highly recommend you make a pledge.
The way Kickstarter works is that when the project timeframe ends, if the total of the pledges is equal to or higher than the goal amount, the project is successful = the pledges are then realized, the project is funded and the game will be produced. This also means that if you pledge an amount and the project goal isn’t reached, and thus not funded to be produced, then you won’t be charged anything. Great deal.
The Relic Expedition Kickstarter project page also has a great overview video of the game that we’d recommend you check out: http://kck.st/112Mitt