Thanks to Thunderworks Games for providing review copies of these expansions.
A few months ago, I catalogued my experience with Cartographers and Cartographers Heroes as solo games. We’re returning to the subject now with three new map packs:
These three map packs are all expansions for the Cartographers system, which means you need either the base game or Heroes to play. This is the second set of map packs for Cartographers, following #1 (Nebblis: Plane of Flame), #2 (Affril: Plane of Knowledge), and #3 (Undercity: Depths of Sabek). Each map pack adds new maps, as well as a few cards and some new mechanisms. The three don’t really integrate with one another, so I’ll be talking about each one separately. This review will also assume you know something about Cartographers, so if you know nothing, feel free to click on my link above to learn.
Map Pack #4 is Frozen Expanse: Realm of Frost Giants. This one comes with a map pad of 75 double-sided maps, as well as two new Ambush cards and a new Hero. The Ambush cards can be used with the original base set or Heroes, though they do follow the Heroes model of having some extra text attached to them – the Dire Wolf destroys a space once it enters play, and the Frost Giant allows you to fill a space one it is surrounded or destroyed. The Hero (Cheiftain Dreni) can only be used with Heroes, and gives you a new pattern to fight Ambushes.
The map has a couple of new features. First is the Frozen Lake. This is a large blocked off area around the center of the map, kind of like the Wasteland spaces on some maps. You can’t draw over it, but like a Mountain, if you completely surround it, you get coins, which are extra points each round you have them.
The other big addition to the map is the scouted spaces. These are spots already filled in with different kinds of terrain. But they’re kind of greyed out, much like the Ruins spots, so they don’t count as already being filled in. They must be filled in with the indicated terrain, but filled in scouted spaces score one point each at the end of the summer and winter seasons, so you’re incentivized to get them filled quickly.
That’s pretty much all for this map pack. I think the scouted spaces are the best addition here, and something that I hope appears more on some future maps. It just adds a little extra challenge since they can only be filled with the specific terrain (though the new Ambushes and Hero will allow you affect scouted spaces too). The Frozen Lake is a nice opportunity to earn some more money. The new Ambushes are good too, and I guess the Hero is OK, but right now, the Heroes are my least favorite part of the system. I won’t go into that now, I talked about it a bit in my last article.
Anyway, I do like the Frozen Expanse. So, let’s move on.
Map Pack #5 is Kethra’s Steppe: Redtooth & Goldbelly. This is another 75 double-sided map pad, and the expansion comes with three new scoring cards for the Beacons. The Beacons, Redtooth and Goldbelly, are printed on the map and basically act like mountains. However, when they are fully surrounded, you don’t get a coin. Instead, you unlock a new scoring condition. This is drawn at the beginning of the game, and you can score it after every season. You have to be careful, however, because these conditions also give you ways to lose points. There’s an outlined section around each beacon, and you could lose points if it’s not fully filled when the beacon is lit. Or you could have to make sure the row and column of the beacon is lit so you don’t lose points. Or you could lose points for just lighting the beacon, then gain points for clusters in range.
There’s not anything else to this expansion. And yet, there’s a whole new dimension added. The three beacon cards each score pretty differently, and it’s interesting having to focus in one spot to get those points while you’re simultaneously trying to focus on the regular scoring. It’s another mechanism that works pretty well, though I’m OK with this one being contained in its own expansion. The range area takes up quite a bit of real estate, and I imagine it might not work well if included on all maps.
Moving on from Kethra’s Steppe to
Map Pack #6 is Hornhelm: Wasteland Market. This one is unusual among this set of map packs in that it uses a pad of 150 maps that are all the same, rather than having double-sided ones that are different on each side. The reason for this is that, on the back of each map, is a 3×3 market grid. The pack comes with six market cards, which you’ll shuffle and reveal one between each season (between Spring-Summer, Summer-Fall, and Fall-Winter). Each market card will show a row or column from which you may purchase one item. Each item has a cost in coins, which you spend from what you have collected (you start the game with one). The items generally earn you journal points for fulfilling certain conditions. The journal points stack up and score you reputation points as you cross certain thresholds.
That’s really the only change. It’s a standard map design much like in the base games. The only real difference is that there’s a reminder for the market phase in between the seasons, but the journal points are tracked on the market sheet. As such, I think this is the expansion that is probably most integrable with the other expansions. You just need a market sheet and the cards, there’s nothing special on the map itself.
I like this one because it’s almost like giving yourself little extra goals to work for. As an example, one of the items is the Coin, which scores you a journal point every time you place a shape that has a coin value attached to it. So you now have an extra incentive to work for those coin shapes, which are smaller but can be very useful. I find these kinds of personal goals help bring games where there’s a lot you could do into sharper focus, and I like ’em.
OK, so there’s the three map packs. Again, I haven’t played the first three so I can’t compare, but I did really enjoy these. I continue to be sad at how this game’s content doesn’t really work with each other, but that’s really kind of the nature of the beast. They’re enjoyable on their own, and I’ll be happy to play with them all in the future.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Didn’t I just answer that? Yes, I would definitely recommend these to people who like Cartographers. Each pack brings a new flavor to the game, and they’re a lot of fun. If interested, you can get your own copy of these maps and the first set here.
Thanks again to Thunderworks Games for providing review copies of these map packs, and thanks to you for reading!