The game's author, Peer Sylvester, wrote a nice introduction to its creation over at Spielbar (in German, English Google translation here), and I thought I'd write a little bit about the art side of things.
I was contacted by Duncan Molloy from Osprey Games in March 2016, though due to technology getting the better of my initial replies perhaps it was a close-run thing that I was involved at all. Thankfully we overcame our computers' resistance and I got started on the cover at the end of July. Here are some of the early sketches ...
And below is the finished cover illustration, including box sides. Osprey's final design has featured a Tintin-style title graphic, which, along with my (not quite) clear-line artwork, seems to have resulted in it pushing the right buttons to give off that lovely high adventure vibe.
Next came the characters. At one point, early on, it was discussed (perhaps not too seriously) whether this could be a Julius Chancer game, which - although tempting - I wasn't in favour of. Firstly, it would probably limit the game's audience and, secondly, The Rainbow Orchid had been finished for four years and was now, naturally, seeing a decline in interest and sales.
As an aside, this was not the first time that Julius Chancer and his chums had been considered for a board game. In 2013 my publisher, Egmont, had a visit from the game designer Reiner Knizia and he expressed an interest in my book, the result being that they agreed to adapt his board game Tal der Abenteuer (Valley of Adventure) into a Julius Chancer game. Lots of possibilities come and go when you have a book, but this one got pretty far along, I think, before it petered out and entered the graveyard of dreams, where all the other might-haves and could-have-beens now lie.
Anyway, it was the right decision for The Lost Expedition because the characters that Osprey settled on are fantastic - they are all based on real people and I probably used up far too much of my time on research as they have such a fascinating backstory each, and there's some welcome diversity within the group as well. Here are my initial character sketches ...
In the game you only play three of the characters (though all six are involved in competitive mode), picking one with navigation expertise, one jungle specialist, and one with camping skill - there's male and female of each. My six-year old's favourite is Bessie, and I like her too - it's always a little more painful when she meets some grizzly end in the jungle, so try not to get too attached to them!
Illustrating the deck of adventure cards was the next phase, and probably the most daunting. Sixty-five cards in all (yes, I know the game only includes 56 ... so watch out for some bonus promo packs out there!) and the biggest workload of the project - but enormous fun, even if, sometimes, the research involved looking at some rather nasty stuff! I think initially the cards were intended to be smaller, my original brief mentioning 'poker-sized' cards (63.5 x 88.9 mm), but they've ended up being larger, at 78 x 119 mm, which seems to have had a favourable reaction from the gaming community.
The adventure cards are the engine of the game. The mechanics are fantastic and can, at times, be quite brain-taxing, but another big part of the enjoyment of The Lost Expedition is creating a narrative and telling the story of your explorers' jungle trek as you go along, and I like to think the illustrations play a big part in bringing that aspect to life for the players.
For instance, in the trail pictured below we find our adventurers risking the danger of a steep path, causing some serious injury but avoiding the lair of the looming crocodile in the process, and then finding themselves further on in their journey than they thought. They are then caught in a sudden tropical storm, meaning they have to set up camp quickly! When it's over they find the path they had intended to follow has been transformed, perhaps for the better - perhaps not. Hook worms - actually avoided thanks to the torrential rain in this example - must normally be dealt with either by having to stop and camp, taking damage from the infection, or using up valuable ammunition to burn them out. A nest of swarming insects means a sudden change in direction, using up navigation resources, missing the next encounter, and gaining new expertise of your surroundings. If the last card had come into play, then the vantage point would have been a bit of struggle to reach (loss of health) but would have allowed you to change upcoming events to your advantage and gain new knowledge of the terrain. You perhaps also spot something tasty for lunch - though you'd have to shoot it first!
The final component of the game for me to illustrate was the map cards. Although I had a basic idea of what the game was about, I didn't know the rules, so I was a little unsure about how to do these at first. At one point a miscommunication meant that I spent over a week drawing the cards in the wrong orientation (landscape instead of portrait). Osprey, kindly trying to accommodate, were going to look into adapting the artwork somehow, but I didn't want my art out there, on my first game, to be compromised or even fudged in some way (though I'm sure, with their standards, Osprey would have made it work), so I took a deep breath and redrew them - the right decision!
When you play The Lost Expedition you can play an easier game with seven map cards, or do the full trail with all nine. The cards are numbered on the back, and you place them in order, with number nine featuring the ruins of the lost city you're aiming for. But, actually - on the redraw - I designed the cards so they can go in almost any order (in pairs), and still match up.
1 and 2 always need to start, and 9 must always go at the end. 3-4 and 5-6 must always stay as pairs to match up, but they, along with 7 and 8 on their own, can be put in any order. So, you could go 1-2, 7, 5-6, 8, 3-4, 9 (pictured below). It doesn't make any difference to the mechanics of the game, but you can produce some different landscapes with it. (Incidentally, working out the card edges and the bleed for this system almost fried my brain on several occasions!)
I've played the game a handful of times now, in all of its modes, solo, cooperative, and competitive, and greatly enjoyed them all. I know I might be biased, but this game is right up my street anyway. I think Peer and Osprey have produced a really fine game with a ton of replayability.
The rulebook is available for download here (and even in Chinese, here) and Watch It Played did a great video overview here. With the UK Game Expo and Origins largely out of the way (it's the last day of Origins today), a few reviews are starting to creep out too - see here at Co-op Board games, here at Geek Girl Authority, here at Go Fatherhood, and here at Geek and Sundry for starters.
Go and grab yourself a copy - but be careful ... it's a jungle out there!
Edit: There is a short interview with me over at More Games Please about The Lost Expedition.