Thunderworks Games has recently released three map pack expansions for Cartographers and Cartographer Heroes. Designed by Jordy Adan and John Brieger, they feature artwork by Lucas Ribeiro, and are new areas for players to map. Each map pack comes with a deck of double sided sheets, featuring two unique map designs, and 3 cards. The pads are each 75 sheets thick, and can be stored in the Cartographers or Cartographers Heroes boxes – across the two if all three map packs are purchased. The 3 cards included with each set are either new explore cards, as is the case for the in Nebblis pack, or objective cards. Let’s jump into the three maps!
Cartographers Heroes Map Pack 1: Nebblis – Plane of Flame
Nebblis is the first of the map packs and adds deadly and destructive volcanoes into the mix. On the A side the volcano is in the very middle of the map, with it shifted off to the right hand side on the B map. Shuffling in the three lava flow cards into the explore deck, the game plays as usual until one is drawn. When a lava card comes out of the deck each player must draw the shape onto their map, destroying the spaces it’s drawn on. It must either connect to the volcano itself or a previously destroyed space joined to the volcano, and can be drawn over empty or previously drawn non-destroyed spaces.
The lava flows can certainly disrupt your carefully laid out plans. However, as an interesting twist, depending on the objectives used in a game players can utilize the lava flows to their advantage. There is also the fact that you, not your opponents, are the one drawing the lava – meaning there is no one else to blame if it destroys that point scoring village. Just using real world logic of not fully building around the volcano is enough to get you out of most problems.
Of the three lava flow cards only 1 has a 1 value, while the other two are 0 value, and one even has a coin. This destructive lava can therefore actively finish off a round when players were praying for that one more forest or water section to come up. As two don’t have a value, when they come out of the deck they are additional cards to draw, so players are more likely to fill out their map sheet. Regardless, it is a relatively small addition that new players, who would be fine with the base game, would easily grasp. It’s enough of a change to add variety, without making it feel like a brand new experience.
Cartographers Heroes Map Pack 2: Affril – Plane of Knowledge
Affril is the second map, featuring multiple islands on each side, though with slightly differing designs. The Plane of Knowledge sees coins have a use beyond their scoring potential. At the beginning of the game the player links two of the six islands together. These are then the only two islands the player can draw the flipped shapes on until they unlock another, by linking it. At any time a player can cross off a coin they have collected to link to an adjacent island. The only other tweak is that when players are unable to draw a shape, instead of drawing a single space, they gain a coin – which in turn allows them to link to another island for a future turn.
Each of the objective cards are in the pattern category, replacing that objective type from the normal deck. This balances the newness of the expansion with overloading players with relearning everything at once. It would have been nice to see at least one of these cards usable with or without the Affril map. Alas, they are only usable with this map pack – though this does keep the islands fresher for longer.
To make the game still work, and not play with a reduced number of rounds or cards, the islands of Affril are more zoomed out – compared to the normal spaces of Cartographers. The sheet is also played horizontally rather than the regular vertically, as with the original maps (from either Cartographers title) or the other expansions.
The shapes of the islands still offer limits. With this limited space to work with until coins are earnt, it can be easy to screw yourself over on the islands of Affril. As a result it is best to have played Cartographers before, to get an understanding of utilizing space with the shapes being flipped over from the explore deck. Remembering the links between islands is also something extra to teach, making this a great map for fans but not one to introduce new players to.
Cartographers Heroes Map Pack 3: Undercity – Depths of Sabek
Undercity flips a core logic of Cartographers on its head. Firstly, the map is split in two, the above and below. Players cannot draw shapes so that they cross that line. In addition to this the free placement of drawing wherever you like is restricted. Almost like digging out a cave system, the shapes drawn must make a continuous route back to a special doorway space. To make this more interesting on the B side, each player chooses where to draw this doorway before play begins.
This map pack comes with 3 objective cards, which again replace the pattern objective type during setup. Each objective refers only to the below section of the map, be it completed rows and columns or what’s placed on the bottom row of the sheet. Not only do they offer the opportunity to score huge points, they also double down on what makes the map design unique. Unlike with the Affril objective cards, one of the Undercity cards, which is about linking mountains to ruin spaces, could be used in any play of Cartographers – though might be considered easier depending on the map used.
Despite changing a core of the original game, the logic of building out into adjacent spaces isn’t a complex one. It takes a few turns to get used to coming from the other map packs and such. Still, it works with new players without raising the difficulty of playing or teaching – making the Undercity map pack a welcome change of pace to play regardless of who is around the table.
(Editor’s Note: The Cartographers map packs were provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game and expansions are currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)