Full disclosure: A review copy was kindly provided to me by Matt Worden Games.
What is Days of Discovery about?
Days of Discovery is a game in which you are a Portuguese explorer who is determined to reach the "Land of Danger." Your journey is completed in three acts, with the help of a deck of multi-use cards. In the solo game, these cards also act as your timer: If you run out of cards in the draw deck, you lose. Each card you encounter will have a person on it who has different connections to potential sponsors, a list of supplies that card can provide for your journey, and a cost that you must pay if that card is drawn as part of your journey to the Land of Danger. What role a card plays depends on when and how it appears in your game.
In Act 1 of the game, you must secure a sponsor for your journey. In the solo variant of Days of Discovery, you collect multiple sponsors—part of the challenge is seeing how many patrons you can win over, as well as trying to earn the support of the fanciest sponsor possible. In Act 2, you gather supplies for your journey—you will need to spend cards to complete segments of your trip to the Land of Danger, so it is wise to collect an array of resources. And in Act 3, you prepare and survive five segments of your journey to the Land of Danger. If you fail to do so, you are lost at sea and never heard from again. Each segment in Act 3 will have a difficulty level of 1, 2, or 3, which means you must draw a corresponding number of cards from the draw deck and pay their costs. Card management is key in Days of Discovery, and especially in the solo game.
What I like about Days of Discovery:
Days of Discovery is a small game, but an ambitious one. It attempts to combine many different gameplay elements into one single, quick gaming experience, and I would say that it largely succeeds. In the solo game, acquiring sponsors turns into a tense push-your-luck affair. You want the best sponsors possible, but you need to stop trying to collect them before your deck dwindles too low. When gathering supplies in Acts 2 and 3, you need to pay close attention to the cards you gather and spend. Cards act not only as resources, but as segments of your journey. You need to manage your hand as efficiently as possible to maximize your resources and try to ensure that you survive your trip to the Land of Danger. The game is definitely engaging, and I have played and enjoyed it several times since getting my hands on a prototype copy.
I am also curious about upcoming sequels to Days of Discovery. Matt Worden has stated that this game is the first in a series about finding and taming the Land of Danger, and I honestly want to see where it will go. Will the next game pick up where this one left off? Will it have a completely different feel to it? Will there be some new variations on the theme of multi-use cards? I like a large scale project, and I will be watching this one.
Possible Concerns about Days of Discovery
If you are considering becoming a backer of Days of Discovery, be aware that it is a small-budget project from a newer designer. The graphic design on the cards works, but it is not fancy. The cards look just a little busy, although this didn't bother me too much during actual gameplay.
Tweaks are still being made to Days of Discovery, and I'd like to see one specific change made to the solo version of the game: I want a clearer scoring system. It is a lot of fun to try to collect a bunch of sponsors before starting the journey, but there isn't quite enough incentive to go all the way. Matt Worden has provided a "bragging rights" way of scoring your performance at the end of the game, but I'd like to see it realized a bit more clearly. The current scores are based on two numbers: number of sponsors acquired, and the rank of the last sponsor to join you before setting out (lower is better). But what does it mean if you get five sponsors, but the third-ranked Bishop last? Or only three sponsors, but the King last? I'd like to have one number that defines my entire performance. It might also be interesting to limit sponsor acquisition by forcing you to gain them from lowest rank to highest—leaving you unable to go back and pick up sponsors you miss along the way.
Should I back Days of Discovery?
I am going to back Days of Discovery. It has an interesting premise, is both quick and entertaining, and will theoretically be the first part of a larger and more ambitious project. I do not expect it to become my go-to solo game, but I like it and would like to see it published. To me, Days of Discovery is the kind of game Kickstarter was actually made for. It's a game from a small company that might not exist without backers, that uses cards in creative ways, and that expresses the creative vision of a designer who wants to see his dream become a reality.
If you would like to see the solo version of Days of Discovery in action, I filmed a playthrough, linked here: