Lewis and Clark The Expedition has quickly become one of my favorite games.
This game has some very great game mechanics that lead to interesting and varied strategies. Plus the theme of the game fits the mechanics better than any other game I have ever played. On our road trip this summer, we listened to some audio histories, including some about Lewis and Clark. I was amazed because as I learned more about the expedition I kept calling out, “That is in the game too!”
The manufacturer says it is for ages 14 and up, but boardgamegeek.com recommends it for ages 12 and up. Elijah and Ruth (ages 8 and 9) like to play and can follow the rules well. It takes 2 hours to play according to the box, however I think it is usually a little shorter. It plays 2 to 5 people, but also has a great single player version.
The goal of the game is to move your expedition through the rivers and mountains to reach Fort Clatsop. In the beginning of the game your expedition consists of 6 character cards and one Indian meeple. (Meeple is a word used in board games to refer to small wooden figures.)
Each of your cards gives you a specific action when you play it. The abilities of the cards that you have at the start are: collect wood, collect fur, collect equipment, collect food, recruit Indians, and move your scout. You can also buy more cards throughout the game that give you different abilities.
Many of the cards, including your resource collecting cards, are affected by the cards that the other have played on the table. For example if I play my wood collecting card, I look at the circular symbols on the card that have been played in front of me, the player to the left, and the player to the right. I collect one wood for each brown circle symbol (if I powered up my card to level 2, then I get 2 wood per circle). This mechanic of the game forces you to pay attention to what your opponents are doing, and what symbols you are playing (because they might help others).
One of the really awesome things about this game is that each card represents a real person that was part of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, or someone they met along the way. Each card’s ability is related to how that person helped the expedition. In the back of the rule book there is a short paragraph about the history of each person.
When you play a card, it is never played by itself. Each card must have at least one helper. The helper can be an Indian or one of the other cards in your hand. If you use another card, you flip the card over and it will show how much help that person can provide. If there is one symbol filled in, then you can perform the action once. If 2 or 3 symbols are filled (or if you add Indians to help), you can perform the action 2 or 3 times. So if your action is “pay one wood for a canoe”, you can play a level 3 helper and pay 3 wood for 3 canoes.
When we were listening to the audio histories, it described the expeditions first encounter with a grizzly bear. I won’t retell the story here because I could not do it justice, but suffice it to say after this encounter Lewis and Clark gave the order that no one was ever to go do anything alone. When I heard this I immediately thought of the game and how you always have to have someone help your character. I had no idea that this was historically accurate!
You only play one card per turn. After you have had enough turns to play all of your cards (or as many was you want to play), you “make camp”. This is the phase of the game where, if you have no penalties, your camp moves all the way up to your scout. If you have penalties, then your scout moves backward first. Penaltes are given if you have too many Indians, too much cargo, or cards that you did not play.
You start with the long card that is in the middle, which has 3 boats for cargo and 2 boats for Indians. If your boats are overloaded when you make camp, you get penalized and your scout moves backwards before the camp catches up with it. This again is historically accurate; if you travel with too much stuff, it slows you down.
You can buy more boats to hold extra cargo or extra Indians so that you don’t have as many penalties. When you buy an extra cargo boat, you can choose which side of it to use. One side lets you hold 5 pieces of cargo with a small penalty. The other side only lets you hold 2 pieces of cargo, but you take no penalties. The Indian boats work in a similar manner.
When you play a card to move your scout, you must pay a resource to move him forward. The movement card that you have at the start of the game lets you pay 1 food to move 2 water spaces, 1 canoe to move 4 water spaces, or 1 horse to move 2 mountain spaces. You will notice that when you get to the mountains, travel is much slower (there is that historical accuracy again). You can also buy other cards that help you move different amounts and using different resources.
What I don’t like:
The only thing I don’t like about the game is that one of the places you can go to in the village is the shaman. We do not play witches or magic or shamans in our house because these things do not honor the Lord. (In the book of Acts, we read how the Christians in Ephesus burned all the books of magic.) So I used a brown Sharpie to turn his spear into a cross and we call him the Missionary. I actually think that the idea of him being a missionary fits the ability that he gives you nicely.
- Buy at least one card that helps you move. It is nice to be able to move multiple times before you camp.
- Buy cards that give 2 or 3 helps. Sometimes I purchase a 3 power card and never use the ability. It just powers up my other cards.
- Get something that helps in the mountains. This could be a card that gives mountain movement or something that helps you buy horses more easily.
- Don’t be afraid to go backwards. Sometimes you will take a lot of penalties but it will set you up for some big moves before your next camp.
- Ignore my tips and ask Becki because she beats me about 70% of the time.
Have fun playing Lewis and Clark The Expedition and I will see you in Fort Clatsop.
This post contains affiliate links.