Wax your moustache, sharpen your machete, and prepare for adventure!
Exploriana is a push-your-luck card collection game by the union of Triple-Ace Games, Counters Out and Chaos Publishing, for 2-5 players. The players are 19th Century Victorian patrons, financing expeditions to South America, Africa and the Far East, hoping to acquire great wealth and renown by discovering wild animals, ancient treasures, and the lost/abandoned previous expeditions. So, you’re not Indiana Jones, you’re the wealthy benefactor who hires people like him.
Each round, the players each fund two expeditions, choosing which of the three continents to send them to. Each continent has a deck of cards representing the local wonders, with the primary risk assessment difference being the number of cards which aren’t also hazards - beast attacks, winding roads and perilous rockslides. Two cards are dealt face-up by each continent, along with tokens for every party previously lost there, tempting the players in.
Then, continent by continent, the funded expeditions are resolved. The player may draw up to three more cards. If they complete a set of three hazards of the same type, or one of each type, the expedition fails and is lost in the wilderness. If the player doesn’t push their luck they can pick one of the cards, or all of the animal cards, or one of the previously lost expeditions, to send home. If they push their luck and successfully reveal a fifth card, they can take two rewards. The visible dangers are then reset to two face-up cards for the next attempt to find the frontier.
The players can improve their chances of success by employing experts - explorers, scouts, geographers, medics and the like - to look ahead in the deck or prevent the party getting lost, or guides who know how to circumnavigate a hazard. They can decrease their opponents’ chances of success by selecting non-hazardous cards as their rewards, removing them from the continent deck and making accidents more likely.
Players are further motivated by hidden objective cards, renown points (which determine turn order), and set collection bonuses (e.g. for gathering a great collection of maps, or gathering rare orchids from each continent).
For all that, the game is surprisingly lightweight, at 45-60 minutes per game. There’s a good balance between simply taking cards you need for points and taking cards to make your opponents’ efforts difficult that doesn’t make anyone feel directly targeted, and enough ways to score points that no-one feels short of options. There are enough reference cards to feel informed about the possible expeditions and technically enough information to card count, but by then the game will be unexpectedly over and you’ll want more lands to explore.
The rulebook and artwork (at least, of the prototype copy we played) is colourful, tropical, and clear. The proposed explorer miniatures and guide tokens look promising.
Exploriana is currently on Kickstarter. The campaign has met its backing goals and will end on December 6th, and more details can be found here.