Days of Discovery: Preview

The world is round. Fairway knows he can prove it and secure the riches of the new world. Or, at least, that’s what he thinks will happen in this preview of Days of Discovery by Matt Worden Games, coming to Kickstarter on June 19th.

Days of Discovery is a one- to six-player strategy, card game. Each game is played in three “acts” representing three phases of securing a patron, getting a crew and supplies and, finally, the voyage to the new world. Games take about 30 minutes to play.  Days of Discovery is the first in a series of games by Matt Worden and is coming to Kickstarter this monthWe were given a preview version of the game so some art is likely to change (the box for example).

Initial Impressions ^

  1. A game is three acts which is an interesting narrative mechanic. Each of the three chapters feels like three different types of games, but uses only a single set of cards. Pretty nice.
  2. The multi-use cards are a highlight of the game. They’re a bit cluttered, but understandable once you’re in the middle of the game.
  3. The art and illustrations feel like an update to something you’d expect from the relevant time period.
  4. Games are pretty quick and easy to learn.
  5. This game can play from 1 to 6 players, but the real sweet spot seemed to be around 4.

How to play ^

In Days of Discovery, players are competing to reach a newly discovered land in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They must gain a sponsor, recruit a crew and buy supplies and then make the voyage across the ocean. Each of these form the three acts of the game.

To start, a number of sponsors are turned face equal to the number of players plus one. The sponsors have a suit, are ranked, and have a certain set of requirements. These requirements are what that sponsor needs to see as proof that you’re the right one to back in a voyage to the new world.  Then the deck of “people” cards is shuffled. The people cards are the primary set of cards in the game and are used for different purposes depending on which act you’re in.

At the start of the first act, each player is dealt three people cards face up.  Another five people cards are placed face up in the middle. The remainder are placed face down in the center as a draw pile.  The first act is now ready to begin.

During this act, players will take turns trying to build the support they need to secure one of the face up sponsors.  This act is primarily set collection: players will recruit two cards (either from the top of the draw pile or from the face up cards) trying to gather plans and evidence that meet the requirements of one of the sponsors. The support is shown in the upper left of the card.  In addition, each of the type of people cards are only persuasive to certain of the sponsors.  Each people card has a set of suits below the support icons.  After drawing two cards, the players can then secure a sponsor if they meet the support requirements.

This continues from player to player.  When the second to last player secures a sponsor, the last player will automatically take the lowest-ranked sponsor remaining.

Once a player secures a sponsor, they’ll move onto the second act.  This act begins with the player discarding cards from their hand until they reach the starting hand size shown on the sponsor card.  Now, during act two, players will continue to draw from market of people card, except now they’re looking at the crew and supplies on the lower left of the card which will be used during the voyage phase of Act 3.  Players might also be looking at the voyage parts (lower right) as a way to plan for Act 3. Act 2 is much like a traditional card game trying to build an optimal hand.

During Act 2, the player will draw from the draw pile or market equal to the draw number on their sponsor card.  Once they reach the max hand size, also shown on the sponsor card, they can either exchange cards or begin Act 3.  Everyone will being Act 3 together.

Once every player has their maximum hand size, the players advance to Act 3.  During Act 3, players will take turns either voyaging or foraging in an effort to complete five voyage segments. At the start of Act 3, all unclaimed sponsors are removed. The people cards in the discard pile and market are shuffled back into the deck, and players pick up their hands.

Taking turns, each player can choose to voyage or forage. During a voyage action, a player will play a card from either their hand or a random card from the top of the deck to start a voyage segment.  The voyage segment’s duration is shown as a number on top of the ship in the lower right.  The player plays that card horizontally in front of them, then draws from the deck cards equal to the voyage duration.  These drawn cards show the segment requirements in the upper right of the card — typically a number of crew and supplies or, alternatively special events like “bad luck,” “illness” or “rough seas.”

To complete that segment successfully, the player must then discard cards from their hand that have at least the segment’s requirements. There’s no change if you overspend on crew or supplies.  In this case, all the spent people cards and segment requirement cards are discarded, the segment is left face up and, if possible, the player can play a card from their hand as bonus points facedown below the segment (a journal entry).

If the player can’t successfully complete a segment (or chooses not to), then they must forage.  The player turns 4 cards face up from the draw pile, adds three to their hand and one to the current segment.

Once one player completes a fifth segment, all other players get one more turn. Then, the players will score the points from their voyage.  Their score is equal to the total of all the segment durations plus the segment durations of the cards played as journal entries. The player with the most points wins.

On the green ^

Days of Discovery was well-received by everyone who played.  It has a good number of things that made each game unique and fresh:

Three games in one.  Days of Discovery really is three games in three distinct acts. Like a medley of songs, there’s a transition at each step, but it never breaks stride. From set collection, the strategic card game, it’s got a bit of something for everyone.  However, of the three games, the voyaging is definitely the highlight.

Multiuse cards.  I don’t think that the three-in-one thing could work but for the well-crafted, multi-use cards.  They make the first few games a bit harder to learn since it’s not clear how each Act works together, but after that players started getting the hang of it.  At times, players were concerned about the amount of information on each card, but at no point did that actually slow the game down.

Illustrations.  The deck is more than 100 cards with about 40 unique illustrations and personalities.  It was pretty rare to have more than one of the same cards in your hand so it seemed to be a pretty good amount of uniqueness.

Where it comes up short ^

Most of the players shared some of the same thoughts about the game, but none of them were game breaking.

Hand management.  There are two points in the game that seem to disrupt the hand-building of the player. The first comes when a player transitions to Act 2 and a player goes from a bunch of cards, painstakingly collected during Act 1, to just two or three cards.  Likewise, it seems hard, if not impossible, to complete the five segments using only the cards in your hand. And in this sense, it defeats a player’s feeling that they’re really able to plan and strategize for that final voyage to the new world.

“Insider” rule. I left it out of the rules summary above, but during Act 1, there’s a gatekeeper mechanism to playing cards to garner a sponsor. Not only do the cards all have to have the sponsor’s suit, you have to have a relatively-rare “insider” card marked with a star on that suit (3 or 4 per sponsor).  The trouble is two-fold: in 100 card deck, there’s no telling when that card would appear and no telling whether you’d be the one to get the card. So you could be collecting cards for a sponsor and not get that one card. We nixed this rule after a few games. One option we thought about is that the insider card could be used to double support for that particular sponsor instead of as a gatekeeper.

Variation in the sponsors?  As an entry point to the game, it felt like the selection of sponsors should have had more impact on the game. To this end, I think there’s probably room here for more varied “reward” for reaching for that higher ranked sponsor. On the other hand, the fact that there isn’t a huge difference means there isn’t a runaway leader issue right out of the gate.

In the hole ^

Days of Discovery is a good starting point for a series of games set up around the world it’s creating. Days of Discovery is a fantastic little mashup of three different card games. It creatively uses the same deck of cards is a creative way to express the story in three Acts which loosely follows the real world historical exploration of North America by European explorers. If you like card games and are looking for one that plays quickly, is easily learned and can play six, this game should definitely be on your list.

Days of Discovery is in the hole for a par! ^

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report:

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