I bought Discovery on an impulse few days ago — it was there in front of me at the right moment. I had heard good things about it (well, one recommendation was from a Tactic employee, but still) and it definitely looked interesting — so why not.
It sure is interesting. The components are neat: two maps of an island, over 200 hexagon tiles depicting various landscapes, some cards, two white board pens to draw with and a treasure detector slash clue giver gizmo. A box full of material!
The idea of the game is this: players (only two) are dropped on an island and set to find a treasure hidden there. First catch is they don’t know their own location. Players choose where their opponents start and track their movements on the maps. Thus, in the beginning you know where your opponent is but don’t have a clue of your own location.
Movement is simple. Players say which direction they wish to move to and the opponent turns over a landscape tile that matches the terrain type. After some travel, players can start to figure out their whereabouts. Players can travel only so far — each tile has a number under it. Each turn players have 12 hours to use, so new tiles can be drawn as long as the numbers are less than 12.
There are eight clue locations on the map. Six of them each tell what’s in one hex neighbouring the treasure. One tells the type of treasure hex — they are special hexes, and there are about five different types. Last clue is useless. There are 28 possible treasure locations and only one of them holds the treasure. Using the clues, players can deduce which one is the correct. As only one player can visit each clue location, players can’t know everything, but one or two clues help to limit the locations considerably.
The clue and treasure system uses a neat little gizmo. There’s a plastic apparatus which has a six by six matrix. Those are covered with plastic bars and players can look at the individual cells by pulling the bars. If you want to see cell B-6, for example, you draw the B bar and 6 bar out so you can see what’s inside. Eight of the 36 cells are used for the clues and the rest are empty — except the one with the treasure. The game comes with plenty of cards to use so if you choose one randomly, you’ll have no clue what’s coming. I’d guess there are 14 two-sided cards, but it feels like there’s more of them. But there can’t be, really as there are only 28 different treasure locations.
There’s also trouble ahead. Some tiles contain problems, either stops or getting lost. If you’re stopped, you’ll have to miss certain amount of turns (one to four). If you’re lost, your opponent will move you secretly to another hex within four-hex radius. Clever. In the beginning, players get to choose a selection of equipment which can help with these problems.
And that’s just about it — the first one to the treasure wins the game.
I rated is as seven, which seems to be the current general opinion at the Geek. The game is interesting and has good components. If you like to fiddle with things or draw on game boards, you’ll like Discovery. And the game certainly is different from your average euro board game. That’s one of it’s best merits — it doesn’t feel like any other game.
However — it’s only seven. There’s something missing, some extra development that could’ve been done to make it even better. The equipment part was a bit of a disappointment. I only used my equipment twice, Johanna didn’t have any use for her equipment. We both faced situations were we run into trouble that couldn’t be solved with any equipment or needed something we didn’t have. The first kind was particularly annoying. You choose loads of equipment and then it doesn’t help! Frustrating.
Well, that was my biggest problem with the game. There are some minor problems, but in general the game works fairly well, it just feels like it could use some more polish. I loved the deduction bits of it, it was actually quite fun to be completely lost. The beginning of the game was interesting and fresh. Getting lost wasn’t that annoying, since it brought excitement to the game.
Johanna won our game quite easily. She found her location soon (I placed her on an easy location in the middle — that’s something that’s not going to happen again) and got four clues pretty quickly. Then she just chose the right one of her two options, while I was plodding my way to find some clues.
The game took an hour and was fun, even though parts of it were disappointing. We’ll be playing again, that’s for sure. Maybe we’ll do something with the equipment rules, maybe not. Anyway, while it’s not perfect, it’s at least very different from anything else you’ve played. In the world of games recycling mechanics from each other, that’s always refreshing.
I think it’s fairly hard to come by outside Scandinavia or France, but if you see it, I suggest you pick it up and try it. If anybody is interested to getting a copy, the game is easily available here. It costs about 30 euros and the shipping will be about the same. English translation is available in the Geek, the components are language independent… Trading is also possible.