(2014 – Pandasaurus Games)
Exploration as a base mechanic in games has always pulled me in. Whether it be from the experiences found in a story-driven title such as Descent or Mice & Mystics, or in the random death-fest of the tile-laying DungeonQuest, revealing and exploring mechanics in board games are amongst my favorites. In 2004, designers Roland and Tobias Goslar released an exploration themed game based on the Yukon Valley gold rush of the late 1800’s entitled, Lost Valley. While it had a small print run, it was regarded highly amongst the community. Now, 10 years later, it is finally receiving a second edition and being released in the U.S. by Pandasaurus Games.
In Lost Valley, players seek fame and fortune by delving into the unexplored Yukon Valley during the late 1800’s gold rush. Players are prospectors who will attempt to mine gold, whether it be along the river or in the high mountain passes, hoping to become the wealthiest prospector in the valley. Players can fish for food, set up traps to hunt animals and sell their fur, or build sawmills to build flumes in order to mine gold along the river. Players can build gold mines in the mountains and have other players pay them for their use. They can even collect pieces of a treasure map in order to score the ultimate dig. As players explore the map, they will uncover various types of landscapes and locations by the placement of interconnecting diamond and triangle shaped tiles. Players have until the start of winter to make their claims and collect as much gold as they can. The player with the most gold at this point is the winner.
– Starting Tile
– Land Tiles (diamond & triangle shaped)
– River Tiles (diamond shaped & a triangle shaped Spring tile)
– General Store board
– Player boards
– Gear tokens (axe, canoe, cart, dynamite box, dynamite stick, fishing rod, horse, jerky, rifle, and sieve)
– Building Structure tokens (fish trap, hunting trap, mine, and sawmill)
– Gold tokens (river gold and mountain gold)
– Treasure Clue, Event, and Animal tokens
– Skill tokens
– Wooden pieces (wood, horse, and canoe)
– Hunting/Winter dice & Ice Block
– Miss tokens & Experience tokens
– Prospector & Claim markers (one in each player color)
At the beginning of the game, players have yet to discover the regions beyond the river base where the Trading Post is located. The Starting tile with the Trading Post included is set at one end of the play area, as all exploring will be done outward from this location. All player Prospector markers will be placed at the trading post location as well as four Treasure Clue tokens.
The rhombus-shaped landscape tiles that will be revealed during exploration are shuffled and separated into two different groups: Land tiles and River tiles. These will be kept face down until they are drawn during the game and placed in the play area. Some of these Land and River tiles are marked with “+4”, “+5”, and “+6” icons. These tiles will only be used if there are at least the number of players corresponding to the number listed on these tiles. Otherwise, these are discarded from the game during setup. The triangle-shaped landscape tiles are also separated into Land tiles and a single River Spring tile. The Land tiles are placed face down in a pile with C tiles on the bottom, B tiles in the middle, and A tiles at the top.
Obtaining gold is the main object of the game. When extracted, players will take either river gold or mountain gold, depending on the locations that they are obtaining it from. All river gold tokens have a light green background and all mountain gold tokens have a dark gray background. These tokens are kept in separate piles and placed face down so that players will not know the exact value of each. Treasure Clue tokens, Event tokens, and Animal tokens are placed in their own pile as well. These are all tokens that may be placed face down on a Land or River tile when it is revealed.
The General Store board is also placed near the play area. When players visit the trading post on the main Starting tile, they will be able to purchase various items from the store. During setup, players will reference the opposite side of the board to see how many tokens of each item need to be placed in the store. The board also references the price for each good or tool when purchasing.
Each player receives a personal Player board which contains areas for their different types of inventory, including areas for backpack materials, gear, cart, and gold. Each player begins the game with two food, two tools, and a piece of wood, which are all placed in the player’s backpack section of his board. Players will also randomly choose three facedown skill tokens, choose one of them to keep and return the remaining Skill tokens to the reserve pile. This Skill is placed near the player’s board as well as a Claim marker that matches his color.
Once these setup steps have been completed, all remaining components are placed somewhere near the play area so that all players can access them easily. Various Gear tokens, wooden components, dice, the ice block, miss tokens, experience tokens, and buildings. Once setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:
In Lost Valley, players will take turns attempting to explore Yukon Valley for untapped gold. Players will take turns in a clockwise order, each completing the various steps of their turn until moving on to the next player. Each player will perform three different steps on their turn, in any order they wish. The player may move his prospector, perform an action, or complete a trade. The game will end when either Winter has fallen on Yukon Valley (referenced by the use of the Ice Block, which we’ll cover later) or a player has accumulated ten gold bags in his inventory, in which he can choose to end the game. At the end of the game, the player with the most overall collected gold, is the winner. Let’s take a look at the three different steps a player will take on their turn (remember these can be done in any order the player wishes):
Step 1: Movement
On his turn, the player can choose to move his prospector a certain number of spaces according to where he is moving and with what items he is moving with. Movement is unique in Lost Valley, as prospectors will move along the intersecting lines from the collected diamond and triangle-shaped tiles on the board as opposed to moving through the tiles themselves. There are two different ways in which a prospector can move, along with bonus items that will allow the prospector more options when moving.
When moving, the prospector can move from one intersection to a directly adjacent intersection. A prospector can only be moved in this way one space when moving from a Land tile to another Land tile. If, however the prospector is moving along a River tile, he can move up to two space when performing the movement step of his turn. For instance, (seen above and below) Player A decides that he wants to take the movement step of his turn and moves along the River. Since he is doing so, he can move two spaces as opposed to the normal single space if he was moving amongst Land tiles.
Additionally, a player’s movement can be improved by either owning a horse and/or a canoe. Having a horse amongst one’s inventory will allow the player to move two space no matter whether they are moving along Land tiles or River tiles. The Canoe on the other hand will not only allow a player to cross the River (which could not be done on foot or with a horse), but will also allow the prospector to move three spaces along the River. The only other way to move across a River is for a player to have built a bridge during the game, which we’ll cover later on when talking about constructing.
If at any point during the player’s movement, his prospector comes to the edge of a tile where there are no connecting routes in all directions, he must stop his movement and place a new tile or tiles out. Revealing tiles can be done in four different ways, depending on the situation. If the missing section contains the river, then the player must draw and place one of the River diamond-shaped tiles so that it matches the direction of the river. If it cannot be placed so that it matches the direction of the river, then it is placed on the bottom of the River tile draw pile and the next River tile is drawn and placed. If there are no more River tiles to place out in this situation or none that will match, then the triangular-shaped River spring tile is placed out. When the River has been fully explored, the Ice Block is placed on this spring tile in order to trigger the countdown to the endgame (which we’ll cover in a bit).
If the unexplored area is away from the river or if the river has been completed, the player will need to draw from the Land tile draw pile. He can either choose to place out a triangular-shaped Land tile or a diamond-shaped one, though two triangular-shaped Land tiles can never be placed beside one another. Some of these tiles will have icons on them referencing which types of tokens and the quantity of those tokens that must be placed on the tile when placed on the board. For instance, taking a look at the picture below, we can see that when this Land tile is placed out, it contains a mountain and will require the player to place three mountain gold token facedown on the tile.
The triangular-shaped tiles include special locations that will have specific bonuses for any players visiting there. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
Animal Den – When an Animal Den is placed out, it will show how many Animal tokens must be placed on it. This is an area where players can hunt animals and obtain food.
The Black Market – Throughout the game, players will obtain Event tokens and Treasure Clue tokens. Treasure Clue tokens will help players find a wealth of gold hidden somewhere on the map, while Even tokens can include anything from treasure clues and various types of gear that can added to a player’s inventory. The Black Market is a place that players can trade some of their unwanted Event and Treasure Clue tokens. When visiting the Black Market, the player can make a trade by placing one of his Event or Treasure Clue tokens on the space. He can then pick up the three facedown tokens from the space and look at them, choosing to keep one of them.
Whiskey Still – When a player visits the whiskey still, he can use an action to add a Whiskey token to his inventory, or may spend either a food token or a wood token in order to take two Whiskey tokens. Whiskey tokens will allow players either a 2nd movement, action, or trade on their turn (whichever they choose), but once used will be discarded.
Step 2: Actions
On their turn, players can choose to take one of seven possible actions. Remember that this can be done either before or after movement. Actions range from collecting materials, hunting, digging for gold, weighing the gold, building a structure, encountering an event, or collecting treasure. Let’s briefly look at how each of these actions resolve:
Depending on whether the prospector is adjacent to the river or a forest area, the player can choose to take an action and attempt to either fish or collect wood. When along the river, the player can use a fishing rod in his inventory to collect one food token. A player can also collect a food token if a fish trap was previously built on the space. If a fish icon is reference on the tile, the player doesn’t need to have either a fishing rod or a fish trap present to collect a food token, he simply collects one by taking the action because of the fish icon.
Any of these ways to collect fish however, work together. Meaning that if a fish icon is located on the adjacent space, and the player uses a fishing rod, he would collect two food tokens. At the same time, if all three were true (fish icon present, fish trap present, and player using a fishing rod) he would collect three food tokens.
Collecting wood works similarly. If there is a forest depicted on a tile adjacent to the prospector, he may collect one piece of wood. He may also collect an additional piece of wood if he has an axe in his inventory or if a sawmill was previously built and is present on the tile. As with fishing, these are all cumulative. Therefore if the prospector has an axe, he would collect two pieces of wood. If he had an axe and was also adjacent to a forest tile that contained a sawmill, he would collect three pieces of wood.
As tile appear on the board, various animal tokens will be placed out for players to hunt. If successful, the player will gain a specific amount of food based on the type of animal killed, and will also place the token in their gold bag as a fur. Each fur is worth 1 gold, and therefore will be counted towards a player’s overall Victory Points. A player can choose to hunt an animal that is in an adjacent tile to their prospector. When doing so, they will roll the red dice. The resulting icon on the dice will determine whether the player was successful in their hunt.
– Rolling a target icon will always result in a successful kill.
– Rolling a trap icon will result in a successful kill when a trap is present at the animal’s location.
– Rolling a rifle icon will result in a successful kill when the player has a rifle in their inventory.
– Rolling a “X” icon will result in a miss. The player will then receive an “X” (miss) token and place it near their player board. The next time a player attempts to hunt and rolls an “X”, the player can count it as a successful kill, and then must discard the “X” token.
Player B decides that on his turn, he wishes to hunt the animal located in the forest adjacent to him. There is currently a hunting trap token located on the same tile. When taking the action to hunt and rolling the red die, rolling either a “target” icon or a “trap” icon will result in a successful kill. The player has neither a miss (“X”) token or a rifle in his inventory, therefore rolling either of these two icons would result in a miss. Player B rolls the dice and rolls a “trap” icon.
He has successfully killed the animal and reveals the token, showing that the animal was a Bear, resulting in four food! He collects the four units of food from the supply and adds the Bear token to his gold bag, where its fur now counts as one unit of gold for him.
Digging for Gold
While furs, when obtaining them, will grant players a gold each, players can collect a larger amount of gold at once by prospecting gold from both the river and the nearby mountains. Gold obtained near the river come in smaller amounts than can be found in the mountains, and therefore are easier to obtain. As an action, the player can choose to obtain a gold token on an adjacent river tile by paying one food token (if the River gold is on a land tile, players must build a flume that connects the river tile and the land tile, first). If the player has a Sieve in his inventory, he can take two of these river gold tokens. River gold tokens will either contain 2 or 3 gold per token.
If adjacent to a mountain area with a constructed mine, the player can collect a mountain gold token by spending one food token and a wood token. If the player has dynamite in his inventory, he would be able to collect two mountain gold instead of the normal one. Mountain gold tokens will either contain 5 or 6 gold per token.
Players will keep all gold and fur tokens in their gold bag on their personal player board. If at any point, a player has a total of 10 gold and/or fur tokens, that player can attempt to end the game. To do this, the player must get their prospector back to the trading post space (the space that players began the game on), and take an action to weigh their gold bag. When doing so, the player will reveal all of his gold tokens. If no other player has a higher total value in gold than this player, the game is over and the player weighing his gold has won. However, if at least one player can show that he has at least one gold more than that player, the game will continue.
Player C has made his way back to the trading posts and decides to take an action by weighing his gold since he has a total of 10 tokens. When revealing his gold, he totals up a gold value of 17. Player A however, reveals a total of 18 gold amongst the tokens in his bag. Because Player A has been able to show that he has more gold, play will continue. Otherwise, Player C would have won the game.
Building a Structure
As previously mentioned, players will be able to build different structures, such as a fish trap, a hunting trap, a sawmill, a mine, a flume, or a bridge. When the player builds a structure, he will gain 1 experience token. These can be used eventually to gain more skill tokens (we’ll take a look at skill tokens in a bit). I’ve briefly explained the advantages of building fish traps, hunting traps, sawmills, flumes, and bridges. Let’s take a look at the costs for each, then I’ll discuss how mines can help players in the game. As an action, the player may build:
– a fish trap on a river tile by spending a tool token.
– a hunting trap on a tile with an animal by spending a tool token.
– a sawmill on a land tile containing a forest by spending a tool token.
– a mine on a land tile containing a mountain by spending a took token, a food token, and a wood token.
– a flume to connect a river tile to a land tile by spending a wood token.
– a bridge across a river tile by spending two wood tokens.
When a player builds a mine on a land tile containing a mountain area, he can choose to place his personal Claim marker on that space. This represents that the player owns this particular mine, and although other players are allowed to use the space to gather gold, when doing so they must place either a single material, gear, fur, gold, event, or treasure token on the mountain space. The player owning the mine can then collect these items as a free action when his prospector is adjacent to the space containing his mine.
Encountering an Event
As new areas of the valley are explored, various “?” tokens are placed out representing events. Players can spend either a food or a wood and encounter an event by revealing the token and placing it in their inventory. Revealed events can include different types of gear (fishing rods, axes, dynamite, whiskey, etc) or treasure tokens.
Each treasure token depicts a certain type of terrain, whether it be the river, forest, mountain, etc. As an action, a player can choose to reveal a certain number of these tokens as long as the revealed tokens match each of the individual terrain types that are adjacent to the intersection where their prospector is currently located. Players are allowed to take a total number of mountain gold tokens for each treasure tokens used for this action, minus one.
For instance, Player A is at an intersection that is directly adjacent to a forest, a mountain region, and two open valley regions. He decides to turn in his four collected treasure tokens that match these areas (1 forest token, 1 mountain token, and 2 open valley token). Since he has a token that matches each of these adjacent terrains, he would be allowed to collect 3 mountain gold tokens (4 terrain tokens minus 1) from the general supply.
Step 3: Trading
Players can make trades at either the trading post, located on the start tile, or at the Black Market, located on one of the triangular tiles (there are also additional trading posts that may appear on some of the triangular tiles). This does not count as an action and is treated as a separate step of the player’s turn. At the trading post, players can buy new gear and treasure tokens. Players can either pay gold, fur (each fur is worth 1 gold), or a combination of both in order to pay for these items. The General Store board lists the cost of each item.
The Black Market space contains a combination of three treasure and/or event tokens. When making a trade here, a player will turn in either a treasure token or event token, place it on the space, and choose a token to gain amongst the available three.
Each player begins the game with one Skill token. A Skill provides a special ability to the player throughout the game. As mentioned before, players gain an experience point when they build a structure. When players gain a 2nd experience point, they automatically gain another Skill. Let’s take a look at a few of these Skills and what they can provide:
Normally, when moving with a horse, the prospector can move 2 spaces when moving along land or water. However, with the Horseman skill, the prospector is allowed to move a 3rd movement along water.
A player with the Fur Trader skill will count all of his fur tokens as if they are worth an additional +1 gold.
When a prospector would reveal a new tile to be placed on the board, he could choose to draw two tiles, look at each, and then choose which one he wants to place out.
Once the river is completed and the Ice Block marker has been placed out on the Spring tile, the end-game begins. At the end of a player’s turn (after the Ice Block marker is on the board), the player will roll the Winter dice to determine how the Ice Block moves:
– When a Sun facing is rolled, the Ice Block moves back one space towards the Spring tile.
– When a Snowflake facing is rolled, the Ice Block moves one space towards the Start tile.
– When a facing featuring 2 Snowflakes is rolled, the Ice Block moves two spaces towards the Start tile.
– When a Blank facing is rolled, the Ice Block stays on the same space.
When the Ice Block makes it all the way to the start time, the game has ended. Players will count the gold in their bag as well as any furs collected (furs are worth 1 gold each). The player with the highest amount of gold is the winner. Of course, remember that a player can attempt to end the game before this, by taking a weigh action with his ten gold tokens at the trading post.
Lost Valley is a game that rests comfortably within its theme of exploration and mining during the Yukon Valley gold rush. While it reminds me of another tile-laying, exploration title released year (Relic Expedition), I feel that Lost Valley provides more options and unique actions for a player to perform and interact with throughout the game. Between hunting animals, building mines, fishing, resolving events, collecting pieces of treasure maps, and even trading, players have a wealth of opportunities to explore during each session. And while most tile-laying, explore-themed games involve hexagonal or square-shaped tile components, the diamond-shaped tiles in Lost Valley are unique and something that works surprisingly well, especially in conjunction with the triangular special land tiles.
I was never fortunate enough to grab a copy of Lost Valley when it first appeared in 2004. However, from what I’ve gathered, the second edition has introduced both Skills and Claim markers to the game, not found in the original‘s release. Skills are a great implementation, and one that not only creates a more unique strategy for each individual player, but also encourages the building of structures throughout the game. I would imagine that the introduction of Claim markers were also implemented to encourage players in the construction mines. Without the use of a Claim marker, players that built a mine in the first edition of the game would have no recourse for others using their mine freely, essentially giving other players free access. Now however, players can use someone else’s mine, but there is a tax of sorts involved with its use paid to the owner. Placing a mine on a section of the map that is convenient for all opposing players will reward the
constructing player down the road.
While Claim markers on mines limit some of the free access amongst these controlled mountain areas, all other structures can be freely used by all players. This is a strategy to keep in mind when exploring and moving amongst the various areas of the map. Being able to use another’s structure, whether it be a fish trap, sawmill, etc will allow a player to take advantage of extra bonuses that they may not encounter while venturing out on their own. As much as players may feel the need to go out on their own and explore, the goal of the game is collecting gold, not miles traveled, or sections explored. Allowing the other players to work for you is just as important to the overall strategy than building and exploring solo.
With the wealth of things to do in Lost Valley, it may seem that a session would take hours upon hours to complete, however that game moves fairly quickly from beginning to end. With movement and an action to decide on each time around, players will move through each turn at a prompt pace. The game rewards being able to combine equipment, movement, and collecting into an efficient, long-term strategy, but never at the cost of bogging down the time spent on a player’s turn. A high rate of meaningful decision-making mixed with an exploration theme and swift gameplay, make for a great consideration to one’s shelf. Lost Valley is as relevant and enjoyable today as it was considered to be 10 years ago.