Exploriana didn't quite make it on it's last run on Kickstarter, but the full version was released on Tabletopia. We take broke it out to see if this discovery game is worth a second look.
Exploriana is a game where you compete to score the most victory points by uncovering and discovering unexplored areas of the world. You'll venture into Africa, South America, and Asia, and score points for discover treasure, landmarks, orchids, discover lost maps, and animals. Each time you explore, you can push your luck to try to gain some bonus resources, but push too far and your explorer becomes lost, and you'll gain nothing.
Stand Out Features
Auctioneers: Each phase starts with players getting a couple of coins, and then bidding on items in the auction house. If players sacrificed some VP to score some coins (by taking treasure cards over a more VP-rich card), then the auction phase rewards them handsomely with a wide selection of useful & interesting cards that will make exploring easier or more rewarding.
Push Your Luck to Avoid Sets: Making sets of maps and Orchids in Exploriana is good, but making sets of hazards is much more common. Exploring entails flipping over a card in the continent (you always start with two out.) If the flipped over card is the third of one hazard type, or a third type of hazard, then your explorer becomes lost and your turn is wasted.
Quick Pace: for a game with the strategic depth Exploriana has, the pace is very quick. Games last about 20 minutes per player. This makes the game addictive, as you want to see what the next set of cards that will come out of each continent will reveal. While you are waiting for other players to make their decisions exploring, you can examine the layout for each content in the game's instruction booklet to try and figure out if you'll be able to get the resource you're looking for.
What We Liked
We really liked Exploriana's pacing and exploration mechanics. You go from acquiring items, to exploring, and then back to acquiring items. None of these phases take very long; while you have choices, they are limited to the degree where you don't need to spend a tremendous amount of brain energy contemplating the best option. It's an "all choices are good" scenario, which means even if you don't necessarily pick the best item or continent, you'll still get something useful out of it.
The game also features fantastic painted artwork throughout. There are some repeated cards, but the variety is good on the exploration cards in particular.
It's also exciting to push your luck. It's very difficult to calculate your actual odds of uncovering another hazard after the first round because it's very challenging to remember what other users have picked up (and remembering hazards is almost impossible.) This means there's no Analyzation Paralization, you just either decide to go for it, or you don't. There's not too many calculations to make as you risk going for a bonus treasure card.
What Could Be Improved
The game could probably use more cards in each of the exploration decks just to make it a bit more varied and re-playable. The game is about exploration, and I think after you've played 3 or 4 times this game wouldn't be as desirable because you're comfortable with what to expect in each continent.
It'd be really fun to see a game like this with randomly generated cards (like Mystic Vale) to make the excitement of discovery a bit more interesting.
At the least, this game should probably have random deck construction (like the Mythos Deck in Eldritch Horror) so you're not completely sure what's in each stack. Random events might spice things up a bit as well.
Notes on the Tabletopia Version
The Tabletopia seems to be a pretty much perfect adaptation. The only slight issue is the awkward placement of the player cards relative to the center area. When exploring, you need to rotate your camera so you are facing the explore decks, otherwise they draw out at an odd angle.
Additionally there are a few items which involve card search, which Tabletopia does not yet do well.
Time To Learn: About 20 minutes reading the rule book / looking at components.
Kickstarter Verdict: Unfortunately Exploriana was unable to find its audience and the creators were forced to cancel the Kickstarter. We'll definitely back when it's re-released.
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