Relic Expedition designed by Randy Hoyt and published by Foxtrot games is a terrific family romp of jungle exportation and relic hunting.
“My brother Tyler Segel and I both love hobby games,” Hoyt said. “We try to introduce them to our other family members when we get together for holidays and vacations. On one such vacation, we struggled to find a game that the rest of our family could have fun playing that was still deep enough to hold our interest. So we decided to make one, with me designing the mechanics and him creating the artwork.”
In Relic Expedition, each player is an adventurer trekking through the jungle trying to find either five matching relic symbols of different colors or five different relic symbols of the same color.
The design and mechanics of the game are light enough for kids to understand and play, but at the same time there is just enough strategy and power-ups that an adult can play Relic Expedition and still enjoy it.
“For adults without a lot of gaming experience, learning a new game is hard work — and not very fun,” Hoyt said. “The theme is fun and accessible. The expanding board feels novel and unique, which helps hold people’s interest. The more difficult decisions don’t come until after your backpack is full, which gives new players a little time to figure out the mechanics before they make a wrong move. There is a lot of randomness in all the mechanics, emphasizing good short-term tactical decisions and giving new players a chance to beat experienced players.”
By far the coolest components in the game are the awesome animal meeples. There is a monkey, boar, snake, and panther. At the start of each player’s turn they roll the animal die and if an animal symbol shows then they move the corresponding meeple.
“I started with the villains in the cartoon Jungle Book movie: snakes and tigers at first, and then later monkeys,” Hoyt said. “I had cannibalized pieces from other games to use for the three animal types when I started, but I later ordered some pieces from The Game Crafter. As I was browsing their site, I saw some pig pieces and impulsively added a few of them to my order. While they were shipping, I worked on figuring out if they would fit into the game or not.”
When an animal ends up on the same place as an adventurer bad things happen. A monkey may steal something from the player’s back-pack or a panther may attack them, causing them to be med-vav to base camp. It’s a great take-that element that depending on the players can be a non-issue or ohhh so fun.
“I had all four animal types in place when I sent the first prototype to Tyler,” Hoyt said. “He had already been doing some work on the design and backstory for the game, and he wanted to set it in South America with an Aztec or Mayan feel. There are no tigers in the Amazon, so we changed them to panthers.”
The core of Relic Expedition is exploring and tile laying and there are also a bunch of tiles that different effects. There is a quicksand tile that can eat animal meeples and can only be crossed with a swinging vine. There are banana trees that can be used to get tasty fruit to fight off pocket picking monkeys.
“The most interesting tiles we cut were probably the bamboo tiles,” Hoyt said. “When one was revealed, a bamboo supply was placed on it — like a banana or a vine tile. I had searched on the internet for something like “how to kill a wild boar in the jungle,” and I found a very detailed tutorial on how to use a machete to sharpen bamboo into a spear. So I of course needed bamboo! If a boar attacked you and you had a machete, you could discard the bamboo to protect yourself. I ended up removing that: I wanted the game to be family friendly, so I took out all killing.”
To keep things fresh, as players explore they jungle they have a chance to stumble upon a large feature tile. There is a river, which you can see in the photo above, as well as a cave and a mountain. Each feature has a relic stash on it, but can only be visited by players if they have the proper tools. So for example, to go onto the river a player must have a raft or to go up the mountain they must have climbing gear.
“I tried a lot of different things,” Hoyt said. “I had made a fourth feature (a temple), but I cut that pretty early: three features worked better for a 2-4 player game.”
The most interesting component in the game is the back-pack. Each player gets a wooden slab that can hold relics or other items. The holder only has eight slots which means that players have a lot of descions to make. Is it better to keep the tranq dart encase you run into a boar or are you better off keeping that one relic?
“The toughest thing to get right was how much information should be public and how much should be hidden,” Hoyt said. “The game was more fun if you didn’t know what supplies other players had, so I created the backpack tray to keep those hidden. I had tried cards you hold in your hand, but players didn’t really feel the backpack constraint that way.”
“Creating and publishing Relic Expedition has been such a wonderful experience,” Hoyt said. “It’s been a ton of work, but the support and enthusiasm from our backers has carried us through. We delivered the games to backers in December, and the positive feedback and pictures of people playing the game with their families for Christmas has been so rewarding.”
Relic Expedition is a fun family game and if you are looking to add it to your collection then head over RelicExpedition.com and pick up a copy today!