Incredible Expeditions: Atlantis is a steampunk exploration game designed by Liz Spain that has players assembling a crew of steampunk heroes, ne’er do wells, and pets to go on an airship adventure to discover the fabled lost city of Atlantis.
The game is very fun and does a great job of bringing you into a fantastical steampunk universe where you and your strange companions will use heroic deeds, skullduggerous acts, wonderful contraptions and curses to bring you victory in a richly detailed landscape. You feel like you are in an Around The World in 80 days scenario where you are in an intense rivalry with well matched adversaries to discover bizarre, wonderful, and horrific far off lands.
A nice look at all the goodies included in the box.
The gameplay consists of players starting off as Steampunk Airship Captains each with their own unique abilities, personalities, and airships in a bustling port city trying to assemble a crew for the journey ahead. There are all manner of folk looking to get hired for this expedition. Some of the potential crewmembers include Captains both Surly and Stalwart, Assassins, Scientists, Doctors, Clanking Automatons, as well as dogs and cats. You can also hire Saboteurs and Stowaways onto your competitors ships to take up valuable crew space as dead weight.
A look at the amazing variety of crew members you can hire for your journey
Also you will need to procure special resources for your trip. Strange Tinctures that can refresh your crew, relics that can bring you luck when you most need it, and curses that can plague your enemies are all for sale as you make your expedition.
When you are done with your preparations the real meat of the game begins. Each player must journey to two of four random and hidden destinations that lie between their objective of reaching Atlantis. These include obviously dangerous locales such as The Volcano of the Angry Goddess or The Cliffs of Madness or you could wind up in someplace that seems kind of nice but hides a terrible darkness under the surface like the City of Dreams or the Waters of Temptation.
Two of the many exotic locales you can visit in Incredible Expeditions
At each of these locations you will have to complete a set of difficult encounters using the skills of your crew and various resources that you acquire through the game. These encounters can consist of terrifying beasts attacking your crew, scary supernatural manifestations, betrayal by once loyal crew members, or bizarre crippling diseases. All of these encounters are made even more difficult by the infernal machinations of your competitors as they attempt to assassinate, curse, and sabotage your crew.
If you are able to make it through all of the dangers that stand in your way and be the first to discover Atlantis you will have a feeling of not only victory but one of accomplishment and pride. The game feels as if you are telling an epic story with each encounter and location feeling like an excerpt from a tale by Jules Verne or H.P. Lovecraft. Every trial feels personal because of the work you had to put in to hire your crew makes them all feel real and you will suffer pain when you lose any of them not only because it will hinder you in gameplay but because they all feel like they truly belong on your ship and in this crazy universe. On the other end of the spectrum you will rejoice in every minor victory you accomplish because it truly feels like a team effort between all of the working cogs (sometimes literal cogs from your automoton companion) on your ship have to come together to solve a way to defeat it.
On to the specifics of the game. Incredible Expeditions uses a lot of interesting mechanics coupled with excellent art and components to create a captivating game that can be brutal and cut throat given the type of people you choose to game with. Let’s dive into the mechanics first.
To start off, one of the most unique things about the mechanics is that it allows for the game to be played competitively, cooperatively, or solo. This is not something that I have seen very much of. My favorite version of the game by far is the competitive version. That is the version of the game that I described above. The Co op challenge is actually even more difficult, where each player will crew their ship independently but will take on challenges together. The twist is that this version of the game will introduce the peril mechanic which makes each encounter far more difficult and potentially game ending. Paired with the additional rule that you can only make use of your characters a certain amount of times and you have a very difficult mission ahead of you. The solo variant also uses the peril and limited rest mechanics but not nearly as crippling as the co op version. I have yet to beat this game on solo. It’s a beast from hell.
The main mechanics involved are a robust economic system based on money, heroism, and skullduggery. Each of these resources will be used to purchase crew members, relics, and curses that you can use on your journey. These same units of currency are used to defeat the perilous encounters that you will come across on your travels through the strange lands of Incredible Expeditions.
Deckbuilding is also a major mechanic involved in the game. Each of the items, actions, and curses that you purchase will go into a deck that you can draw from to assist you on your journey. You might have a strange relic that will bring you good fortune, an action that will allow one of your crew members to give up their lives to valiantly save the others, or a curse that will lock one of your opponents crew in a neverending nightmare. Cycling through these and weeding out the resources that don’t work so that you can use the more effective ones more often are a crucial element to the game
There is also an exhaust/refresh system in play that your crew members will use. In order to use your crewmembers abilities you must exhaust them, leaving them unable to be used until they take a turn to refresh. This will leave you to make some hard decisions when you are in a dead heat with your competitors and have to decide between pushing forward without the help of some key crew members or stop to rest and play it safe so you can have a stronger team for the next encounter.
Finally the take that mechanism will keep your opponents on their toes. Having a few curses to sling at your rivals will keep them second guessing whether they should risk pulling ahead of you when you might be able to take out a crew member or make their next encounter more difficult to defeat. If you have ever played Munchkin and had every player at the table throw a wandering monster at you just as you’re about to win the game you will be very familiar with this feeling of intense rivalry.
The artwork of this game is stunning. Honestly the thing that first piqued my interest in this game was the detail and splendor that was put into their booth at Gen Con 2014. Then after being drawn in by the charming booth and friendly staff the brief demo of the game showing off all of its artwork and components was all I needed to preorder a copy of this game.
The eye catching booth at Gen Con 2014. The amount of passion shown by the team at Voodoo Bunny Games for their product is unrivaled by any other company.
I love the photography that combines finely detailed steampunk cosplay with rich beautiful illustrations of exotic locales, creepy monsters and strange relics. Liz Spain’s work as a graphic designer and steampunk expert really came through in the visual design of this game. The look of this is incredibly unique and unlike any other board game universe I have played in.
The resin components of this game are also incredible. Each captain comes with a different ship that fits their personality and story perfectly. All five ships are very unique in their design and add to the enveloping theme of the game. The material they are made of is a soft, slightly malleable resin that feels nice in your hand and provides a good weight.
In the retail version that released in early February 2015 there is also a special dice. I did not receive this dice since I ordered a prerelease version of this game but from the looks of it I kind of it I wish I had waited for the store release. From what I understand part of the delay for this game was from having to redo this dice so that it could be made of a harder material that rolls better. After seeing this dice I will probably be replacing the plain white d6 that came in my set with a much classier version similar to this. I’m a sucker for a cohesive theme I guess.
The only downfall to this game is pacing. It does feel like it takes a while for the game to get started, especially when playing with more than 2 players. Every game play I have had of this game is spent buying crew and resources in the port city at the start of the game which can be time consuming as you wait for what seems to be forever as people agonize over which cards they will purchase that turn. This part of the game went on for at least 7 rounds for us since the people that I play with are very cautious and like to mitigate any possible bad turn of luck that can eventually come up by having a full crew and all the resources they need before leaving. So be prepared to spend an hour of game time just shopping.
There are a few ways to speed up this process:
The first way is to allow for each player to shop simultaneously rather than one at a time. Just give each player that is taking a rest action the six cards that they can choose from in turn order while other players are purchasing others can spend that time deciding what they will buy, Time spent shopping can be cut in half by this method.
The Second Method is to only allow players to spend a certain amount of turns in the port city before they have to ship out. You can make this fit with the theme by making the cut off round a grand starting ceremony that everyone in the city has gathered for. You can penalize players for not leaving in time by removing a random card from their deck to symbolize investors losing confidence in their expedition.
The Final method and perhaps the most challenging one would be to split up the crew and resource decks to different locations. That way there are only a few things that can be purchased at each location. This will encourage players to explore and take risks in order to gain new crew and resources.
I would strongly suggest this game especially if you only plan to play with 2 players. The game, though still very good, tends to lag with 3-4 and is frustrating with 5. If you enjoy exploration/adventure games like Firefly or Xia or if you are looking for a game with a perfect steampunk theme I think that Incredible Expeditions: Atlantis is an excellent choice. It offers a wide variety of gameplay options depending on whether you like competitive or co op games. There is a ton of replayability due to the wide variety of crewmembers, captains, and locations as well as some very interesting expansions like Lovecraft and Arabian nights to add on later. The game also does the steampunk theme to perfection and will give you a completely immersive experience.
By Levi Bushue