Expeditions board game review

Expeditions board gameWhen I heard Stonemaier Games was publishing a sequel to Scythe, my interest jumped into overdrive.

After all, if you’ve seen my video review “17 Things I Love About Scythe” then you know how much I enjoy the original board game. And even while I write this, I realize my original review was over 7 years ago in July 2016!

Wow, how time flies.

Anyway, earlier this year, Stonemaier Games released Expeditions to the delight of many.

I was fortunate enough to get a review copy and now I’m eager to share my thoughts after diving into the game wholeheartedly.


How to play Expeditions

As with my review of Scythe, I’m not going to explain every element of how to play Expeditions. After all, it has a 16-page rule book. Instead, I’ll cover enough key elements to give you a feel for what the game play is like.

While the game theme, awesome artwork, and mechs tie in very well to Scythe, the game play itself isn’t like Scythe at all. It’s completely it’s own game.

Expeditions board game
All set up and ready to play. It takes a full table.

Expeditions is a “competitive, card-driven, engine-building game of exploration” set in Siberia where a massive meteorite crashed near the Tunguska River, releasing ancient corruption. Players set out with their mechs to use power and guile to rid the land of corruption and gain glory.

In essence, players move their mechs around the tile-driven board and take actions that let them gain cards that grant additional actions to take on their turns. Using their cards in unison with others will help build up to achieving certain accomplishments and claim Glory.

Set up

To begin, players randomly draw a Mech mat which will have a unique ability. They’ll attach a colored based to the corresponding mech miniature and place the related tokens on their mat (glory stars and action cube). They’ll also set their power and guile tokens on the bottom space of their personal track.

Expeditions board game
Grab your mech and let’s play.

Each player also randomly gets a Character card and its matching Companion. These have unique abilities the player may use throughout the game.

Then the game board is randomly set up using the location tiles by region. The Southern tiles are face up and the Central and Northern regions are face down with a map token placed on each. Then 5 cards are drawn and randomly placed face up in the open spaces between location tiles.

Player Turns

On a player’s turn, they start by shifting their action cube in the right corner of their board to select their actions. There are 3 main spaces where a player can place their cube: Move, Play, and Gather. The catch is that they must move their token each time. And the actions they take will be those that are not covered by the cube. So if they move their cube to cover “Play”, then they must take the Move and Gather actions on their turn.

Expeditions board game
There’s always a trade off with which actions you take on your turns.

The other option is to move their cube to the Refresh space. If they do this, they’ll take all their played cards and workers back in hand.

The heart of the game is in these actions. But rather than explain the many options that surface, I’ll just list the basics.

Move: The player moves their mech to another unoccupied location tile within range (typically 1-3 adjoining tiles). They may move through locations with other mechs, but can not end there. If a players moves their mech to a face down location, they must end their movement and reveal the location. They gain the map token on that location and then draw corruption tokens from the bag until the value meets or exceeds the indicated amount on the tile. They place those tokens at the bottom of the tile. Until that corruption is removed (by other actions), the covered action of that tile may not be used.

Expeditions board game
You can move through locations with other mechs but you can’t end there.

Play: The player chooses 1 card from their hand and plays it. A player’s “hand” are all the face up cards to the left of their Mech mat and they “play” their cards face up to the right of their mat. In playing a card, the player may gain the card’s core value (upper left corner of the card) and may place a corresponding colored worker from their personal supply on the card to activate its ability (written at the bottom of the card). Some abilities on cards are ongoing and may trigger later when a certain condition is met. If a player doesn’t have that type of worker, they won’t get to use that ability.

Expeditions board game
Adding a worker to a card when you play it grants you an additional ability.

The cards comes in 3 different varieties: Item, Quest, and Meteorite. Items can be upgraded to gain permanent abilities. Quests can be “solved” to gain special benefits. And Meteorites can be “melded” to gain bonuses. But these special actions can only be taken when a player triggers that action through card play or the Gather action.

Expeditions board game
2 cards left in hand 9left) and 4 cards played (right).

Gather: The player gains an exposed benefit at their mech’s location. There are a variety of icons at the bottom of the location tiles and players can use the provided reference cards to remember what actions each of the icons represent. These included things such as, gain a worker, gain guile, gain power, gain coin, draw cards, take face up cards from among the locations, play a card, gain a benefit from adjacent locations or cards, refresh cards, upgrade an item, meld a meteorite, replace all the face up cards, or boast.

Expeditions board game
When you Gather, gain the benefit shown at the bottom of the location tile.

As mentioned earlier however, when the Central and Northern tiles are revealed, part of their Gather action icons will first be covered with corruption tokens. To remove such tokens, players must use a Vanquish action (listed on some cards). In doing so, they must spend the associated element (either Power (orange) or Guile (teal)) that matches the top corruption tile at that location. They move their Power or Guild token down that amount on their tracker and then take that corruption token. Once all the corruption tokens are removed from a location, players may use that uncovered ability with the Gather action.

Expeditions board game
Let’s get rid of this corruption.

What players are ultimately trying to achieve is Glory.

They start the game with 4 Glory stars and work to place those stars on the Basecamp board depending on certain accomplishments. The accomplishments they can achieve include:

  • Solve 4 quests
  • Meld 4 meteorites
  • Upgrade 4 items
  • Vanquish the corruption from location 20
  • Have at least 7 corruption tokens
  • Have at least 8 cards in their control
  • Have at least 7 workers or at least 5 map tokens
Expeditions board game
Add your Glory to achievements when you Boast.

However, to place a Glory star, the player must first meet the requirements and then take the Boast action (using the Boast action on a location). When they Boast, they’ll place one of their stars on one of the accomplishments they’ve achieved.

Game End

Players continue taking turns in clockwise order until a player has placed their 4th Glory. Each player takes one more turn and then players total up their points.

Players get points from:

  • Coin – Total value of all coins gained.
  • Glory – Each glory token scores based on the quantity of Quests that player solved: $5 / $6 / $8 / $10 for  0 / 1 / 2 / 3+ solved.
  • Upgraded Items – Each upgraded item scores the coin amount printed on the item’s bottom right corner.
  • Corruption – Each corruption token scores $2.

The wealthiest player wins!

Expeditions board game
End scoring is a mix of things you’ve achieved.


Can the whole family enjoy Expeditions?

Expeditions is not for the faint of heart.

There’s a lot going on in Expeditions and it takes many steps and turns to achieve your goals. Players need to keep many things in mind with each of their turns. As such, Expeditions best appeals to players who like more complicated, strategic games.

Expeditions board game
The different types of workers.

It’s the type of game where you must plan many turns in advance to get what you need. For example, to Solve a quest, you must play a card with a “Solve” action on it. But your mech must also be on the location tile matching the quest card you control (each tile and quest card are numbered). And you must also be able to pay the Solve cost of power and/or guile (noted on the top right side of the quest card). Which all means that you’ll need to prep for those conditions on prior turns.

Expeditions board game
There are multiple steps to solving a quest.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. But rather, just know what type of game you and your friends and family enjoy playing.

Expeditions board game
There’s plenty to think about while you play.

As for me, I really enjoy many games that make me think continuously throughout the game. I like figuring out the multiple steps I need to take to reach my goals and when to best make my moves. And I like trying to do so amongst other players working through the same things. Expeditions does exactly that.

That being said, I also have mixed feelings about Expeditions.

As such, here’s the breakdown on what I like and what I don’t like.

Expeditions board game
Every card is unique.


What I like about Expeditions

For starters, I love the random location tile set up. While the map shape doesn’t change from game to game, the location of the tiles (and their associated Gather actions) are different every game. It’s enough of a change to make each game play out differently. In one game, some key actions will be right next to each other. While in other games you’ll have to move around more to get where you need for key elements.

I also love the random mix of Characters and Mechs. Each Character and their Companion, as well as each Mech, has unique abilities. The random mix of these combinations totally play into which Glory I’ll go after each game. And that impacts what strategy I’ll need to employ to get there. So every game I have to think through new and slightly varied options.

Expeditions board game
Each player gets a Character and their Companion.

I really enjoy the action-selection mechanism each turn. Of the 3 main actions, I’ll get to take 2 of them every turn. In turn, that will dictate which options I’ll have to choose from next time. Because one of those 2 actions will be unavailable on my next turn, I won’t be able to do the same 2 actions in a row. For example, I can’t Move & Gather this turn and next. I’m going to have to Play a card next turn and then choose whether to combine that with Move or Gather. Or is it a good turn to Refresh everything? The game has a great balance of choices to make each turn.

Expeditions board game
I love the choice of which actions to take and which to cover each turn.

I also enjoy the engine-building aspect of the game through the cards and workers I collect along the way. As I get more workers and more cards, I’ll be able to combo more actions when I put them into play. And when I Upgrade items and Meld meteorites, those in turn will increase my abilities for future turns. I like that build up.

Expeditions board game
It’s good to get some permanent upgrades rolling.

And of course, I absolutely love the style of the mechs and artwork on all the tiles and cards. They’re very evocative and set a very cool vibe for the game.

Expeditions board game
I love the artwork!


What I don’t like about Expeditions

Unfortunately, as I’ve played Expeditions, I’ve realized that many of the things I like are tempered by the things I don’t like.

One of the biggest issues for me is the small text on the cards. I know they need to pack a lot of information on each card. But the size of the text is hard for me to read clearly – especially from a distance. Sure there are some icons mixed within the text which help know what element is involved, but that’s not enough to know what the card ability is when a worker is placed on it. To understand that, you need to look closely at the card.

Expeditions board game
It’s especially hard to read the cards between the location tiles across the table and from the side or upside down.

This issue isn’t as much of a problem once you have a card in your hand or play area, because they’re right there in front of you. However, good luck trying to read the cards amongst the location tiles from across the table. Because you really can’t.

One thing we’ve found that helps a bit is when a card is drawn to be placed on the table, the person drawing it reads it out loud. Then we just have to remember what it was. Which gives us a bit more to keep in our minds along the way. Or we can ask about it again and again or stand up and lean over the table to read it again. Sure, after many plays we’ll get more familiar with the cards, but we’re often introducing new players to games and it will continue to be a struggle for everyone – which also lessens their enjoyment of a game.

Expeditions board game
Some of the Item cards.

As a counterpoint, the icons on the location tiles are great. They’re large and are able to be seen clearly from across the table and even upside down. I just wish the same could be said for the cards because they’re a critical element of the game. So even though I love the artwork on all the cards, I wish more room was given to the actual actions of what each card does (because every single card is unique).

Expeditions board game
Some of the Meteorite cards.

Somewhat related to my first issue is that it’s hard to keep track of what cards come into play. I mentioned this a bit before, but we find ourselves frequently having to reread the cards among the location tiles to best plan our choices. Two elements that are very clear on the cards are the large icons in the upper corners. The icons on the left clearly show what you’ll gain when you play it and the icons on the right clearly indicate the type of card it is (item, quest, meteorite). Yes, those help in remembering the card after it comes into play, but the real goods of the card, that help you chain actions, are in the details.

Expeditions board game
Can you remind me what that card says over there?

Because there’s much to think about in planning your turns, it’s nice to get time to think while other players are taking their turns. The game feels too long with 5 players. Not only does that straight up mean more turns, but because the board gets more crowded with 5 mechs in play, it also means it will take each player longer to accomplish their goals. Which in turn means it will take additional turns for each player to make that happen.

We love finding games that play well with 5 players. Unfortunately, Expeditions isn’t one of those. We’ll stick with 3 or 4 players.

Another issue I have with Expeditions is needing to take the Boast action to place a Glory. Because Boast is an action you can only take while on a location with the Boast icon when you “Gather”, if the location is taken by another player’s mech, you’re out of luck. And because you’re continually balancing between the 3 actions of Move, Play, and Gather, timing is critical. So it doesn’t matter if you’ve met all the conditions to reach that Glory, you’re going to have to add moving to the specific location and gathering at the right time to get Glory for it. It feels very cumbersome after you’ve done so much work to reach those goals. And it’s particularly frustrating with 5 mechs trying to reach the location or camping out on the location for a couple of turns.

Expeditions board game
There’s a lot to keep track of while playing. So hopefully your mech mat gets loaded.

The last issue I’ll mention about the game is that I have no idea what the other players are doing on their turns. Ok, that’s not completely true. I do have some idea because I can see their mech and what tokens they have on their mats and such. But because I’m spending so much time planning out my next turn, it’s hard to also pay attention to what they’re doing on their turns. And I’m really not going to keep track of the cards, and associated abilities, they’re building up. So it’s hard for me to also plan around what type of engine they’re building up and know how best to keep ahead of them. As such, I’m really left to my own devices and just hope I can reach my goals before they do.

And that’s too bad. Because when playing strategic games, it really helps to understand what the other players’ are up to in order to plan out my own strategy to counter them. Unfortunately, I don’t get a good grasp of that when playing Expeditions.

Expeditions board game
The reference cards are very handy.


How does Expeditions score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

Expeditions board gameAs you might guess from the breakdown, this is a tough question for me to answer. I really want to love Expeditions. But most members of my family aren’t interested in the level of strategy required when playing the game. So they’ll pass.

Which means I’ll only play Expeditions with my friends that enjoy “thinkier” games. The downside is that the best parts of Expeditions only come into play after multiple plays of the game – after becoming more familiar with the wide variety of card abilities to get your engines churning well.

So, unfortunately, for my gang, for the foreseeable future, Expeditions will likely not be getting many more plays.

However, I’m still going to hold on to my copy of the game because I anticipate the days ahead in a few years when all my friends are empty-nesters and we can play more often. Once we can get to a regular weekly game night, the winds may change and we’ll get to achieve the familiarity through repeated plays of Expeditions where it will shine.

For those that already have a weekly game group that enjoys playing strategic games, I’d still recommend playing Expeditions to see how it shakes out for your group. It’s definitely worth a try.


We’d like to thank Stonemaier Games for a review copy of Expeditions. 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com links.

4 thoughts on “Expeditions board game review

  • -you’ll be able to understand other peoples engines with more plays of the game.
    -mechs can’t camp out on the same location, they must move to a new spot
    -the text on cards is the same size as many other games
    -the fact that it requires a step or two of prep to do an action is a bother? That’s most medium to heavy games

    This review seems like you played it once with people who don’t like strategy games

    • Jon – Thanks for the input.
      That’s correct that mechs can’t camp out in a location forever. But they can for a couple of turns. Because if the player covers up the Move space on a turn, then they aren’t going to move. And on their next turn they could Reset. Which means they also aren’t going to move. The next time they’ll have to move.
      Actually, the friends I play with prefer strategy games. And we love Scythe – which also requires multiple steps to get to objectives. But just because you enjoy playing strategy games, doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy all strategy games. And some feel more fiddly than others.

  • I have really enjoyed the game and I agree with your assessment that the text on cards in the market are too small and that is an issue. In a 4-5 player game, those cards are moving in and out so fast, you really have to decide what you are after and just focus on those cards in your first few play throughs. “I will read the meteorite cards that come out, but ignore items and quests to some degree”
    Also, I think the game has an opening bottleneck. The alternative to making plays that gain you workers in the opening 1-5 turns is to just have a garbage engine. You NEED workers and they are not accessible enough. Our house rule was to give a worker to the 3rd, 4th (who would be crazy enough to play this with 5?!) players who are most likely to get shut out in their early turns. Also, why does the player who locked in the 4th star for Glory get another turn?

    • Donovan – Thanks for your feedback as well. I like hearing about your house rule regarding workers.


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