- Designers: Jordy Adan and John Brieger
- Artist: Davey Baker, Luis Francisco, and Lucas Ribeiro
- Publisher: Thunderworks Games
- Kickstarter Date: October 6th, 2020
Disclaimer: Cartographers: Heroes, the Nebblis map pack, and the Skills Mini-Expansion #2 were provided to us by Thunderworks Games for review.
Luke: Cartographers is a game I reviewed some time ago to my surprise and delight. A fascinating yet simple take on the flip-and-fill genre, it quickly usurped Welcome To… as my favorite title within the now burgeoning category of games. And considering its huge success, it’s no shock that we are here once again to talk about its standalone sequel.
Phil: On the surface, this game appears to be pretty by-the-books. You are a mapmaker looking to present the world with your interpretations of the world you explore. It may look entirely different than the map that other guy is making, but he’s probably a hack and can’t see quite right, so you should just trust that mine is the better of the 2.
Luke: What’s perhaps the most charming element of the Cartographers system is the ebb and flow of scoring. Each round, you will score only 2 of the 4 goals randomly selected for that game, and each goal will only score twice in total. So after the 2nd round, goal card B will never get scored again, making you consider all the scoring options and how to best plan so you don’t neglect a goal that could score you a ton of points a few rounds down the road.
Phil: This time around, there’s a whole new assortment of goal cards that can be mixed and matched with those from the base game, allowing for a huge variety of possibilities.
Luke: We also have 2 new maps, though they aren’t particularly different or crazy. That’s what the map packs are, but we’ll touch on those later.
Phil: Each round, players will flip the top card of the deck, filling into their map a combination of a shape and terrain type as is provided on the card. Some less optimal shapes can be placed for coins, extra points that are generated each round.
Luke: However, there are some special cards that lie in wait beneath the surface…
Phil: A new crew of monsters will appear at the worst moments, forcing you to pass your sheets to your neighbors and allow them to draw nasty shapes that will earn you negative points at the end of the round if they aren’t dealt with. These new beasts are far worse than your average ilk, though, coming with special abilities that will further incentivize how you plan your moves.
Luke: Luckily, some new heroes have entered your kingdom, helping you attack monster spaces and protect spaces from future invasions.
Phil: These are a cute addition but by far the weakest of the new content for us. Luckily, they are completely optional; we elected to remove them after a few plays and feel the hilarious pain of watching zombies and gorgons go to work on our kingdoms.
Luke: The game ends after 4 seasons, each growing shorter, amping the tension of the late game. Players will total their scores from all 4 rounds and whoever has the most points wins!
Phil: It’s very much the same game as its predecessor but with more stuff, which we love. If you dig on the first, you’ll likely love what this box has to offer.
Luke: But what of the side content, you may ask? Well, let’s take a look at the skills and map packs.
Phil: These skill cards work the same way as the last batch; players can spend coins to take 1 special action per round, giving you some flexibility as to how you tackle the game. We’ve tried the skills in the past and find that it muddies the experience, with players regularly asking for clarifications.
Luke: It’s a nice addition for those who are looking for it, and since it’s free, everyone who backs the Kickstarter will get to try it, but we find the game far more satisfying when we’re left to our wits and the flip of the cards.
Phil: The map packs, on the other hand, are fantastic, easily one of the most exciting elements of the game yet. Each is based on one of the regions featured in the Roll Player universe, Affril, Nebblis, and Undercity, challenging how players will tackle each game.
Luke: Affril forces players to spend coins in order to connect the various islands that compose the map, pressing you to make the most of the space you have to work with before spreading out.
Phil: And the Undercity cuts the board in 2, requiring that players build each shape entirely above- or below-ground, all while connecting to the entrance.
Luke: The map that we’ve gotten to play with, though, is the Nebblis map pack, one that sets a gigantic volcano in the board. Lava cards are shuffled into the season deck, and when 1 is drawn, players are forced to spread lava from the volcano, destroying spaces on the map. It’s a clever idea and loads of fun in practice. The maps are double-sided too, meaning you get some nice variety here.
Phil: I honestly may have to back the campaign just to get my hands on the other 2 map packs.
Verdict: Cartographers Heroes is exactly what we wanted out of a sequel for the game. More goals, more maps, and more clever ideas that make this series an absolute joy to play. We’d recommend you head over to the Kickstarter page and check it out for yourself!