The Lost Expedition, a 2017 release from Osprey Games, is a game for one to five players set in the Amazon—or, at least, the Amazon of the imagination of pulp adventure writers. Players represent a storied adventurer, seeking to find the lost city of Z, or die trying.
There are several remarkable elements of the game. The first is the adventurers the players might portray. There are six to choose from, each inspired by real-life figures. Best known (to Americans) is Teddy Roosevelt, joined by Bessie Coleman (the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license), Ynes Mexia (a Mexican-American botanist), Ray Chapman-Andrews (onetime director of the American Museum of Natural History), Isabelle Eberhardt (a Swiss explorer of Africa with an incredible story you should research), and Candido Rondon (legendary Brazilian explorer of the Amazon). This is a particularly diverse set of characters for games like this, and introduce curious players to some tremendous personalities.
The explorers begin the game at their base camp with a full set of supplies, and on their turn play a card to the table. Each card represents an encounter, usually presenting a difficult choice the explorer has to make. For instance, when playing the River Crossing card, the expedition has to choose whether to gain a “navigation point,” to spend such a point in order to move on to another card or to move on at the cost of taking an injury.
Hazards on the journey are ever-present and avoiding them will cot precious resources. If an explorer runs out of food or takes too many injuries, they might even be removed from the game. To win, an adventurer must reach the Lost City of Z.
Another remarkable aspect of the game is that there are several ways to play. Players can cooperate (like Pandemic, another popular cooperative game), and all players win even if just one explorer makes it. Two players can go head-to-head, competing to be the first to the fabled city. It is also a very good solitaire game. Allowing all three styles of play is rare.
The art is another striking aspect of the game. It is original work by Garen Ewing, an English comics artist working in the “ligne claire” style, best known from the Tintin stories. The look of adventure is very strong!
Like many cooperative games, this is a difficult game to win. Success might take several tries, although there are suggestions on how to make the game easier which new players should use.
The players, through this game, tell a terrific story, and the narrative is rewarding, win or lose. Some of the themes might be difficult for some players—such as death, and the whole history of western exploration of the Amazon in general. Osprey does not recommend the game for kids or pre-teens. The game has garnered critical acclaim, and has spawned an expansion, adding new cards and adventures, and even a Judge Dredd version!