Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 16 February 2016

Wicked wild-wild west wacing:- Lewis & Clark

GameLewis and Clark


Designer: Cedrick Chaboussit

 It is spring 1803, Napoleon just surrendered the Louisiana Territories for the princely sum of fifteen million dollars. Thomas Jefferson has wisely chosen me to explore this expanse of the new world and claim it in the name of the United States! Soon everyone will know the name of John Ordway!

Lewis & Clark is a 1-5 player racing game in which you rush across the newly purchased Louisiana territories to find the Western coast. In this reality there isn’t just one exploration team, but (up to) 5, and history will certainly only remember the first. Lewis and Clark is a game steeped in historical lore, each of the characters you recruit along the way has a little description in the manual of who they were and what they did. I should start this review by stating that we have had a historical run of mis-reading the rules, the first 3 games or so afterwards we looked at the rules and thought “So *that*’s where we went wrong”. I think we have them down now, but please let us know if there is a silly mistake, we’d like to improve!

You will travel via river from east to west, taking a small detour to cross mountains along the way. You could make your way alone with your starting party, but to be truly successful you are going to need allies, from nameless Indians to historical figures both American and native. You’ll be using these people to manipulate your stores of the 6 different resources (food, fur, equipment, wood, horses and boats) ensuring that you have enough to do what you need to do, but not so much that you overload your boats and slow yourself down.
The purple player has 2 cards left in their hand (bottom-left), but has less than 3 resources and only 1 Indian so when they camp they will be dragged back 2 places, behind the yellow player.

Lewis and Clark  has a deck building element, there will always be 5 potential recruits available to add to your hand for varying costs in fur and equipment based on how long they have been there and how powerful they are. Even if a character isn’t to your taste you might still want to recruit one as you’ll need cards not just for their abilities, but also to power other cards. All the cards are two-sided and you play two together. On the first side they have their ability, say gain 1 wood for every wood icon on the table. The reverse side has a number of Indians on it, which indicates the number of times you perform the action. Both sides of the card have a symbol of one of the 4 basic resources, which also add to the power of the resource generating cards. So for our example we play a basic wood generating card (which features the wood symbol), which produces one wood per wood icon, we power it with a 2-indian card which happens to also have the wood icon, we’d get (up to) 4 wood.

The personal board and the selection of 4 boats that you can buy, you have to strike a balance between carrying capacity and how much it slows you down (the sun symbol).
To win you need to get your camp past the finish line of Fort Clatsop, however the camp isn’t the same as your explorer which is what you’ll be moving. Your basic movement card can move you based on food, boats or horses depending on how you power it, this moves your explorer along the river/mountains. But at some point you’ll want to move your camp, when you decide to camp then your explorer gets dragged backwards along the river depending on how you performed. If you recruited (and retained) a lot of native workers then these will slow you down, the first 1 is free, but the rest drag you back 1 space each. If you overload your boat with goods then you’ll be dragged back, 1 space for having 4-6 and then 1 more for each of the next 5. Finally any cards from your hand that you didn’t use between your camps will spend their time bickering instead of helping and drag you even further backwards. Once you have moved backwards you can place your camp where your explorer is, get this camp to the end first and you win!

There is also a worker placement element; I’ve mentioned the natives that you can recruit you can use them in 2 ways. You can use an Indian to boost the power of a card when you play it, or you can place it in one of the worker spots in the centre of the board. These places allow you to gain some powerful bonuses, or turn base resources into the advanced (horse or boats). You can also build new ships to add to your exploration fleet, allowing you to bring more Indians/goods when you rest without or at least with lower time cost.

Ultimately I find Lewis and Clark very fun, the variability is certainly a strong point, you can find yourself going for a very different strategy from your opponent based on the cards you bought but also on the cards they played. If they don’t play any cards with wood icons on it until they need to camp and drag it back then you won’t get as much wood as you might have hoped, that effects your strategy as much as theirs! If you find the base route boring then you can add some of the route change markers to spice things up. The rules could be put a bit more transparent, and there is a solo variant which I’m yet to play so I can’t judge. If you want a unique take on a racing game with deck building, resource management and worker placement then this might be the game for you, but if you are a casual gamer you might find it all a bit much!



  1. Nice review! I just had one thought about this part: "All the cards are two-sided and you play two together."

    That's not necessarily always true. To power an action card, you can use (a) another card, (b) some of your available Indian figures, or (c) a combination of the two (for a max power of 3). So you often have to choose between using another card or using a native, both of which have pros and cons.

    1. Agreed, using Indians only is always an option we tend to forget, but it is really useful, especially when you only have one card left in your hand and don't want to take time penalties on the position of your camp.