What is this game about?
The Lost Expedition is a game in which you control three intrepid explorers who are searching for El Dorado. Your overarching path is a line of nine cards, with your starting card at one end and El Dorado at the other. If one of your explorers reaches the Lost City alive, you win. But odds are, none of them are going to get there.
Although there is a lovely main path for your meeple to travel on, the real gameplay happens on the event cards you draw and arrange to order your days and nights. Your explorers must confront the obstacles on the cards by using precious resources: health, ammunition, and food. Almost every event card forces your beleaguered party to face yet another unpleasant decision. Which resources will you sacrifice? Will you try to advance along the path to El Dorado, or will you choose to replenish your food supply instead? The choices aren't easy, and sometimes it seems like there is no set of "correct" choices that would lead a team to victory.
How does it play solo?
Although The Lost Expedition has cooperative rules, I would say this is a game that is best played solo. You control three explorers, but that is more about resource management—you do not play separate turns for each of them.
Also, while The Lost Expedition involves some luck because you are drawing cards, everything else in the game is your decision beyond the hand you are dealt. Can you manipulate events skillfully? Can you make smart calls about which resources to use at what times? In some ways, it's better to make all of the choices yourself—there are few good ones to make, and that's easier to accept when they are all entirely your fault.
The Lost Expedition is a clever game that offers an interesting puzzle. Although you can't control the events you draw, you have some say about the order in which they occur, and those choices add tension. Another really nice touch is that the characters in the game—three male and three female—are based on real-life adventurers whose exploits you can read about in a history book. The art is striking, the components are quality, and it's clear the game was made with love.
That said, there's something about The Lost Expedition that just doesn't click for me. I don't find myself fully engaged in it. I also don't find myself finishing the game and immediately setting up to try again—something that I almost always end up doing with small, quick games that I enjoy.
I think part of the problem may be that the old-world adventurer theme is what attracts me, but I don't really feel that theme in the gameplay. The puzzle that The Lost Expedition presents feels just a little bit too mechanical for me to get engrossed in a story of survival. On top of that, I tend to prefer games in which you get stronger as you go and feel a real sense of progression. The Lost Expedition gives you little to start with, then takes it all from you as the game progresses. Seriously, who goes into the heart of the jungle with only three bullets?
Do I recommend it?
Not really. I love the theme of The Lost Expedition, but I don't actually have much fun with it. There are other games I'd rather be playing.
Overall Rating: 2 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.