Teaching Time: 10 mins
Playing Time: 30-50 mins
Setup Time: 10 mins
Value For Money: Mid
Solo Play Review
Osprey Games make editions of excellent quality and in most respects The Lost Expedition is no exception, the game's imagery recalls "boy's own adventures" and Tintin graphic novels and its icons are simple and clear. The over sized cards are satisfying and make a nice display on the table top. The one production issue is the inlay. It might seem petty, and it probably is, but the inlay just doesn't keep the components in place. If you store the game vertically the cards will not only slide out of place but they will gradually force the box open. This is particularly frustrating because the box itself is three times large enough to hold all the cards and components comfortably. As is so often the case I'm paying for an inlay that gets in the way of my using a box that I also paid for.
Game play consists of laying out a sequence of cards which the player then encounters one after another. Player agency comes from selecting both the card sequence and then choosing which events to activate on certain cards. If player's resources hold out across a sufficient number of cards they win the game, if not they fail.
Without using text of any kind in the main game The Lost Expedition does a very creditable job of creating a basic emergent narrative, a particularly tough thing to achieve in solo play mode. Its primary problem comes in its difficultly level or learning curve. The Lost Expedition's games often feel like a seesaw between brutal defeat and effortless victory at a 50% rate. It rarely feels like cunning game play snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, and although players making poor decisions will tend to lose those making every right choice will still fail half the time. This leaves a strong sense that the game lacks a learning process. The problem seems to stem from the fact that there's only one right way to play a game of The Lost Expedition and the abilities of characters selected during set up seem powerless to alter it. Since there are not true multiple paths to victory failure needs to come arbitrarily.
The Lost Expedition seems to have gained a reputation for excessive difficulty, which is largely undeserved. It simply has a ceiling of success which is a long way off of 100%, meaning any form of flawed play results in a win rate of well below 50% and so an elevated sense of difficulty. Unfortunately, it does have a high rate of unwinnable game states resulting in a strong sense of frustration. Depending on how long it takes to get from a 100% loss rate to a 50% or better win rate its possible to wring some fun out of it and in groups strongly given to creating emergent tales of jungle based derring do this could be a real favourite but for a solo player looking to master a game it feels like expeditions end will be forever out of reach.