Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark Review, Re-Discovering an Underappreciated Game

The following is a guest review from Anthony Ball.

Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark, Game Profile:

  • Designed by Cédrick Chaboussit
  • Plays in ~60 minutes
  • Accommodates 2-4 players

BoardGameGeek Link

Author’s Plays: >15 at player counts: 2 – 4

Figure 1: Front of the box (Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark)
Figure 1: Front of the box

Appearance

The front of the box is very attractive with a beautiful image of Lewis and Clark being shown where to go next by a Native American tribe (Figure 1).

The back of the box shows a typical 2-player game set-up and shows some of the beautiful card art (Figure 2).

The game board is clearly laid out and is excellent quality with beautiful artwork of a river and different settlers on each side (Figure 3).

The dice are brightly colored, a nice light weight and etched with several different symbols (Figure 4). I find these to be one of the most attractive components in the game.

Figure 2: Back of the box (Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark)
Figure 2: Back of the box

The player boards are clearly laid out with the many actions you can perform in a given turn, but are not as pretty as the other components (Figure 5).

The cards are double sided and the tribal art is very impressive and unique for each card (Figure 6). Although the art on the journey cards isn’t quite as nice, it still feature all unique artwork. The special cards (fish, animals etc) have unique images as well, and are clearly labelled.

Figure 3: Main game board (Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark)
Figure 3: Main game board

Gameplay

The aim of the game is to have the most points after the end game has been triggered.

At the start of the game, you take a player board and the corresponding colored dice and roll them. Your aim is to complete the journeys depicted on the cards which comprise of various rivers and mountains.

At the start of the game you choose a journey from the display. Then when you complete it, you choose another one from the display to start on your next journey.

You complete journeys by placing your dice on the corresponding symbols of your player board.

During a turn you can only play one type of symbol, but you can play as many dice with that symbol as you wish.

Figure 4: Player dice (Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark)
Figure 4: Player dice

There are 4 types of symbol on your dice: walk, ride, negotiate and journal.

Walk and ride enable you to perform the journeys on you player board by storing the dice on your player boards for later.

Journal allows you to record journeys after you have placed the corresponding ride and walk dice and complete the journey card. A journey card must be completed in one turn and cannot be split up, so careful planning is needed for more complex cards.

Negotiate enables you to take a tribal card, giving you a new journey option or a player power for the rest of the game. Additionally, it grants a grey die that you can use for actions on your player board, and increasing your options on a given turn.

Figure 5: Personal player boards (Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark)
Figure 5: Personal player boards

In addition to playing dice on a turn, you may claim dice, either all of your color, or a set of dice from either side of the central player board.

Dice can accumulate on the sides of the board when planning journeys as dice need to be placed on a side of the river matching their faces in some cases.

After a player cannot take a journey card, every other player gets one more turn, and then the game ends.

Players will get points for those written on cards, points for sets of plants and animals (3, 8, 15 or 24 depending on set), and points for majority in teepees—a symbol on tribal cards and some journey cards.

The turns in this game are lightning quick when players have a grasp of the rules, meaning the game flows very well. The game can be played with 2 to 4 players.

Figure 6: Tribal and journey cards (Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark)
Figure 6: Tribal and journey cards

Theme and Game Length

There is a very strong theme here thanks to the artwork found across both the boards and cards. The theme is deeply sewn into the actions you take in a game. For example, walking and riding up mountains and past rivers on the cards.

The rulebook also has a lot of information about the characters that you are playing, the journeys they took, and a complete timeline of the exhibition. This flavor helps to add to the theme significantly.

The average playtime is about 15 minutes per player, but this can go down to 10 minutes when players are familiar with the actions they can take.

The game never drags, with turns consisting only 4 options to choose from (and taking dice back).

The game scales very well as more cards are removed with lower player counts. The removal of these cards also means that you never know which cards will be available in a game, adding to its replayability.

Strategy

The game requires you to plan ahead quite extensively, with the main aim being to do two journey cards in one turn. Doing this gives you an additional turn, potentially giving you a huge boost over your opponents.

You need to develop a good array of options, be it with multiple dice or versatile tribe cards.

One of the most important things in the early game is to get more dice and more tribe cards enabling you to travel further distances in a given turn.

The cards themselves can potentially give you a bit of flexibility with splitting paths, and these are usually good cards to take if you’re struggling to decide.

It is also important to block opposing players, taking most of their dice from a side of a river if possible. Doing this can mean a player has to waste their next turn taking their dice off of you, rather than getting further towards completing a longer journey.

Figure 7: Main board during the game (Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark)
Figure 7: Main board during the game

There is always a difficult choice to be had between point cards and the symbol cards for the set collection bonus. I feel that the set collection cards are only worth it if you can get 3 or more in a game, as they are worth little compared to other cards.

There are a few different paths you can take in the game. You can go for many small point cards and tribal symbols, or you can go for a smaller quantity of long journey cards, potentially with some set collection. Both are viable winning strategies.

A experienced player will beat someone who is new to the game. The game takes a couple of plays to really understand how to build an engine, which is necessary for completing multiple journeys in a single turn.

The game is very replayable. With the cards being double sided, and some being removed at the start of the game, you are never quite sure which cards you will see each game.

The game doesn’t suddenly end, so you can plan if you have enough turns to complete a journey card when you take it.

The end-game scoring is simple with only 3 different parameters to analyze. The person with the most points being the victor.

Figure 8: Personal player board after a few turns (Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark)
Figure 8: Personal player boards after a few turns

Accessibility

Although the game is light to medium weight, with very few options on a given turn, it is very difficult to teach new players.

The game can take a few rounds for newer players to get a full handle on what they can do on their turn.

The rulebook is ok, but I did play the game wrong for several games, as I misunderstood a couple of rules which weren’t worded clearly.

It does feature a nice list of the tribal cards and their effects on the last page, which I use every game. This is necessary because some of the iconography can be a little confusing. The game has a lot of iconography, which can be daunting for newer players, but after a couple of games the symbols start to make sense.

The teardown and setup time are both excellent, taking about 5 minutes for each, with just dealing out dice and sorting the cards for the game.

Final Thoughts

Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark is an excellent mid-weight game with beautiful artwork.

However, it does require a couple of plays to appreciate how good it is, and I think this is why it is an overlooked, underappreciated game.

The artwork really brings the theme to life and it plays well at all player counts due to minimal player interaction.

The game requires a lot of decision making and rewards future planning. Discoveries is a great dice game with a nice amount of depth for the play time.

Overall Rating

4/5

Purchase Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark on Amazon

Categories Board Game Reviews

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close