XX72 Series: A Mapping Marathon

Drawing terrain on a hexed grid is an activity I find to be calming, engaging and immersive. I wasn't aware of the appeal of mapping until last year, when I first played Mike Heim's 1872: The Lost Crows. 1872 was the latest in a series of one-page roll 'n' map games that the designer has been putting out since 2016. Each of them takes place in the same year, in a different century and setting.


A party of people or a solitary figure is always 'lost', and you have to help them find their way. Random events may benefit or harm them, and the various types of terrain affect the ease of their movement. A new game by Heim, 1472: The Lost Samurai, is currently taking part in the 2020 Roll 'N' Write Game Design Contest on BGG, and is ready for playtesting. This motivated me to go through the series and play every game released so far. A few hiccups with the rules hindered my progress, but I did try them all and recorded my impressions (presented below in the chronological order of each game's release).


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1572: The Lost Expedition - The game that laid the foundations of the series. Total disaster for me, given my gaming tastes. First of all, I could not understand a couple of key rules. I had to look for explanations in threads where other people encountered the same problems.


You are playing as a group of Spanish Conquistadors lost in the mountains. Your goal is to survive long enough to reach the coast and signal for help. You are supposed to roll a number of dice and allocate them to actions. The fact that you have to roll for every single action phase, and not just the ones that you allocate dice to, should have been made clear in the rules. I also had trouble figuring out how movement works. Again, not sufficiently explained.


I started playing, tried to make some progress in a way that seemed correct but quickly lost interest. There is almost zero decision space in the game, besides boosting some numbers with your rolls. If my experience wasn't ruined by frustration with the rules, I might have given The Lost Expedition a proper chance and finished it. The premise is good, and the theme is reminiscent of Werner Herzog's film 'Aguirre'. Gameplay is entirely luck-based, however, which makes me reluctant to revisit it.


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