Have You Played... The Curious Expedition?
Japes with Marie Curie
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Select an explorer, form a team, and go on an adventure in a distant, procedurally generated land in search of treasure. Make it back alive and achieve fame and glory, or die alone in some hostile wasteland. Either way, The Curious Expedition will give you a story to tell.
Remember that time I woke up to find one of our party members being attacked by our dog and, when he wanted revenge, I refused? He died the next day. Remember when the local tribesman we invited to travel with us turned into an abomination in that cave, yet remained mostly friendly for the rest of the journey?
This is, increasingly, what I want out of games: anecdotes. Little nuggets of story I can tell other people and tell myself. It's better if they come from a game that doesn't have a pre-scripted story of its own, and it's best if I can extract those morsels in an hour or less. They give the time I spend playing a game structure and value long after I've stopped.
Curious Expedition is particularly great at it. The decisions you're making, about where to move, what to carry, who to take in your group - a clergyman who increases fortitude but is a bit racist, or a trader who reduces prices at stores but can't help and steal things - all domino together to shape your encounters.
Those encounters will be with native tribes and travelling salesman, but also frightening things in dark caves, mystical things in dark tombs, and consequences don't just affect you but re-shape the entire land. Causing a dozen new mountains to grow and block your chosen path, for example.
It's a great game, and in a year with Civilization 6 and XCOM 2, my favourite turn-based game of 2016. Read Adam's review for more.