I like playing Dungeons & Dragons. I hadn’t played for a long time until recently when I joined a group and my halfling cleric hasn’t looked back since. He’s look up a lot though. Because he’s short.
It’s one of those games that I think a lot more people would probably enjoy if they gave it a chance, and recently I’ve come to the conclusion that my brother-in-law and my sister would enjoy it having played The Expedition with them whilst on holiday. My wife may also be a likely candidate for the same reason.
The Expedition is a narrative-driven RPG card game (fuse those genres!) in which one to four players take on a character and adventure together, gathering loot and leveling up as they go. Unlike D&D in which you need a game master to run through the story, The Expedition tells stories using a smartphone. Players take it in turns to read a page of the story and handle any choices that crop up along the way.
Of course, this wouldn’t be much of an adventure without any peril. Along the way, you’ll come across enemies of all sorts necessitating combat. Battles are partially handled by the game with a time limit (that players can set ahead of the game) to add a layer of pressure. Each character comes with a set of randomly selected cards from four categories – magic, melee, ranged, and music. When combat begins, players draw three ability cards from their deck and the timer starts. The players need to decide what to play, place it in front of them, and put their finger on the phone before the time runs out, or suffer additional damage.
Once cards are played, players take it in turns to roll a 20-sided dice to determine the success of their abilities. More powerful abilities tend to need higher rolls for success. Rolling a 20 or a 1 often have a significant positive or negative effect in some way. For example, a spell may cause 3 damage but rolling a 20 could double it whilst a 1 causes it to cause the damage to the caster. Once all this is done, the game informs you of any damage your characters take and asks how many enemies have been killed before the next round begins, or combat ends with either victory or defeat.
It’s a pretty simple system, with player and enemy cards being used to track health. Player health returns to maximum after a battle to keep things moving, and a simple leveling up and looting system prevents encounters from getting stale. Reaching a new level simply means you take new cards from the appropriate ability sets to add to your deck, whilst loot gives you a random item from the loot deck that can be used at any time. Some of these are very powerful and can sway combat when things look dire.
Once you download the app, you gain access to a few ready-made stories, as well as a heap of community written ones. This is the core of the game, as there are a lot of player written quests for you to go on that can be filtered based on the number of players, length of time, and even theme. We had a hilarious time playing a quest to kill Cannibal Shia Labeouf. We lost after we had to chew our own legs off in a bear trap. There are horror themed ones thanks to the Horror expansion, and there’s an upcoming Future expansion that will add more features. It’s a good package that’s pretty cheap considering how much fun you can have with it.
The downside is that because the stories are pre-set, there isn’t a huge amount of scope for player creativity when events happen. You’ll often make one of two choices given to you by the game and not much else. It’s more Choose Your Own Adventure than Dungeons & Dragons, but it is a great introduction to tabletop RPGs. Occasionally combat can drag depending on what cards you draw, especially early on when you only have a few abilities to draw.
Other than those issues though, its a pretty fun lightweight game that can last pretty much as long as you want. I genuinely didn’t expect my wife to enjoy this all that much, but we’ve played a few games and she’s very much into it. Now if only I could convince her to play Dungeons & Dragons…