There and Back Again with Expedition: Northwest Passage

Oct 1, 2023 | Sessions | 4 comments

Set sail to explore the uncharted waters of the north Atlantic as winter threatens in Expedition: Northwest Passage.

Many of my favorite solo games don’t need to hit the table all the time to retain the strong memories and enjoyment I associate with them. Expedition: Northwest Passage might appear to be pretty standard, yet it remains excellent! Still, it seemed like the right time to bring it back to my table to explore even more of the different strategies. Sail on!

Game Overview

Game Name: Expedition: Northwest Passage
Publication Year:
 Yves Tourigny
 Stéphane Poinsot and Yves Tourigny
Publisher: Matagot

Solo Mode: Official Solo Variant

The goal is to lay tiles and explore to connect to the Northwest Passage, then turn around and make it back home before time runs out. A solar disc marks the seasons and which regions are frozen over, and it’s certainly a journey that will put any crew to the ultimate test!

Looking Ahead to the Ultimate Goal of Expedition: Northwest Passage

First Play

January 26, 2018



Latest Play

September 28, 2023



Setup Time

5 Minutes

Lifetime Plays


Play Time

25 Minutes


High Score



Game Area

26" x 24"


Low Score


Tracking the Weather

So many possibilities when starting out! My ship is the sturdiest one around, particularly since I push it to the breaking point with every play. Ha ha! Love this ship.

Exploration happens by placing new tiles that connect to the ice and water, then traveling further west.

It might sound simple, yet the solar disc changes the landscape quite a bit. The ship might get frozen in place, or the sled crew could end up stuck on an island.

The race to make it back home adds to the urgency of plotting the best route, yet I absolutely love this puzzle!

Preparing to Sail West in Search of Discovery in Expedition: Northwest Passage

Relying on the Crew

Nearly everything that’s needed is included on the player mat, save for the main solo action. This involves using a crew member to place the next large tile from the market.

I’ve often played to fill in as much of the map as possible, so I don’t necessarily look at the point values. Not a lot of these tokens often make it into my play area!

However, there are many ways to play, so it’s nice to have all of this information available at a glance.

Usually, I only need to check the rulebook for the negative victory points for failing to return home. Because…

An Excellent Reminder of Nearly Every Action in Expedition: Northwest Passage

So Close to Safety

My map looked pretty filled in, the crew discovered the Northwest Passage, and the return journey was pretty open. Alas, everyone was stranded on the way back!

This was an agonizing way to lose since I needed 3 more actions, and probably could have made it had I turned everyone around just a little sooner. Bad planning.

I always hate losing any members of the crew, and this was a total loss. Blame it on my rusty cartography skills.

Despite the loss and a mediocre map, playing again brought back lots of great memories. I still love this game!

Floundering in the Last Round So Close to Home in Expedition: Northwest Passage

Headed for Home

Without much effort, I reset and decided to give this another attempt. I made sure there was a quick way back home through the middle of the map. Split those islands!

I also put nearly all of the crew on the sled, which I rarely do. It seems like there’s an interesting strategy there, and I hope to keep exploring some more ways to play.

Fortunately, I planned better! The ship picked up the sled crew and sailed home before winter swallowed them up.

However, this meant no one actually made it to the Northwest Passage. Still, at least everyone survived!

No Final Frontier but a Successful Journey Home in Expedition: Northwest Passage

The Emotional Side: Keeping the Crew Alive

I absolutely feel bad when I don’t bring the crew home safely. It’s very much implied that they don’t have enough provisions and can’t survive through the winter. Terrible! However, I think this is part of the reason why I have such a strong connection to the game. It’s not just a matter of moving pieces around and hoping for the best.

Granted, I’m fully aware it’s all for fun and entirely fictional. Yet I think it would be a very different story if it was presented as a game about spending resources, not assigning crew members. In that scenario, losing the ship would still be bad, but would feel less personal. It’s interesting to see how games can generate these sorts of emotions.

There is a plan for some posts in the near future about how I’ve looked at emotions and board games. I’ll say it many times: It’s not academic, scientific, or professional in any way! But to consider how I determine my favorite solo games, it’s been very useful for me to understand what I love and feel strongly about. More on that coming up relatively soon!

Session Overview

Play Number: 55 and 56
Solo Mode: Official Solo Variant
Outcome: -9, 3 (2 Losses)

It was interesting to finally start picking up tokens in this second play. Maximizing my score and exploring more in terms of these locations might be my next challenge! Still, I think I’m just trained to try to fill in the map as much as possible. Ha ha! There is something special about this one in terms of the combination of tile-laying and discovery. I haven’t tired of it yet, and will forever remember that year when I hunted for my first complete map! Memories…

Trying Another Strategy to Find Victory Points in Expedition: Northwest Passage


50 Plays


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • The way the tiles come out mean that every map is a little different with the formation of the islands.
  • Deciding how to split the crew between the ship and sled is an interesting decision that can change gameplay a lot.
  • Plotting a course with the solar disc is a fun part of the challenge to ensure that no one gets locked in or stranded.
  • It seems like there is always just one less crew member than what’s needed, which makes decisions meaningful.
  • Gameplay can be tailored to various strategies that focus on filling in the map or collecting a boatload of tokens.
  • Appreciating the play space at the very end is very fun, as it highlights the choices about mapping the area.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • The tiles can slide around very easily on the board without any way to anchor them, which is a little annoying.
  • Although there is a lot of variety in the artwork, it all boils down to a pretty uniform visual of ice and water.
  • Sometimes, bad luck requires using extra crew members to clear out the tiles and find some that can be placed.
  • Being able to see the best routes for exploration and a return route isn’t an easy skill and can result in lost crew.

More Expedition: Northwest Passage

Explore related posts about Expedition: Northwest Passage!

Victory Conditions

Find the Passage and Return

  • Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%

Goals and Milestones


Complete the map in at least 1 game.


Use only the ship to explore and win in at least 1 game.

Continue the Conversation

What do you think of Expedition: Northwest Passage? Are there other solo exploration games about creating a map that you enjoy? I haven’t tired of this one yet, and I just love how it’s about documenting a journey into the unknown. There are a lot of very interesting decisions to make. I’m excited to keep on exploring and finding my way between the ice!


  1. It’s an amazing game, that deserves more attention. I even enjoy the solo mode from time to time.
    Timing is very important in this game and there is a good way to indirectly put pressure on the other opponents. During my last game, i fell for the pressure and in the end i didn´t make it home.
    I like the current version and will definitely back the new version.

    • Always wonderful to hear from someone else who loves this one! I haven’t had anyone interested in playing it multiplayer, but it’s still one of my favorite solo games. Here’s to hoping you win the next time you play, and that the new version is available relatively soon!

      • I’m lucky to have a friend that is highly interesseted in the old north expeditions. ( She was the one that put pressure on me -.- ) She knows alot of the old explorers and we’re both interested in the Franklin Expedition. So this game is perfect for us. 😉
        Both of us supported the “Through Ice and Snow” campagne and we can´t wait to bring it on the table.

        • That makes it even more awesome! Finding a game with the perfect theme is the best feeling. Have a great time playing together!


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