Source of the Nile: Overview

by Lou Jerkich

Section 1:  Lost

Anytime an explorer tries to enter an unpublished hex that has not been visited already by that same explorer, there is a die roll to see whether the explorer has become lost.  Explorers who become lost cannot move for the remainder of their turn except to retreat from natives.  Furthermore, one guide will desert the expedition.  This is not a good thing because a guide lessens one's chances of becoming lost.

When the die roll is less than or equal to the terrain's Lost Number, the expedition becomes lost.  The Lost Number is shown at the left on the terrain key.  When a guide is present, or when the expedition is moving cautiously, add one to the die roll; add two if both conditions exist.  However, subtract one if the expedition is moving at a reckless speed.  If there is a guide but the expedition is moving recklessly, the effects of each are canceled out.

No matter what the terrain, an expedition following a river downstream cannot get lost.  If going upstream, regardless of other terrain, the Lost Number is 2, although guides and speed of travel can modify the die roll.  But never forget that leaving any terrain for known terrain avoids having to make a lost die roll.

Section 2: Hunting

An expedition must eat so it carries non-perishable rations (salt-meat and biscuits) as a food supply.  These are purchased when outfitting the expedition, but they can also be obtained from friendly natives by barter. Each person will consume one unit of food per turn.  Animals eat the natural vegetation so do not consume rations except in the case of a horse in a desert.  Horses in deserts require four food rations per turn.  Persons that are not fed each turn are starving and will desert the expedition.  Animals will die if they are starving.  An explorer without food cannot desert his own expedition so he becomes sick.  Incidentally, no food supplies are consumed if in the Cape Colony (or with a friendly native tribe.  Those places have it in abundance.  Note that the Cape Colony is all hexes on or south of the river Orange to and including the line of hexes that runs from Durban to the source of the Orange River.

Rations will last longer if there is good hunting at the end of each movement turn because fresh rations obtained by hunting can be used instead of the non-perishable rations.  Food produced from hunting only lasts for the turn on which it is acquired since it is perishable, so any not used that turn is lost.

Askaris (as-kuh'-rees) are an expedition's hunters. All askaris have their own muskets if they joined the expedition at a port.  Any natives hired later on as askaris must be provided with a musket from the expedition's supplies.  If the explorer has a musket, then the explorer can also hunt.

Some kinds of terrain are better for hunting than others.  This is noted on the game's Hunting TableDeserts are terrible for hunting.  One must roll a "6" and even then only one unit of food is obtained per askari (and explorer, if armed).  A "5" or "6" die roll on a lake will provide one unit of food per askari.  An oasis is a bit better, a swamp better yet, and  veldts or mountains are fairly good with only a die roll of "1" producing no food.  A jungle is the best terrain for obtaining food, with each musket-armed member of the expedition potentially able to obtain up to 3 units of food.  Yum!  When hexes have two types of terrain, the most advantage one for hunting is used for this purpose.  Best of all, when a river exists in the hex, the die roll is done on a column two hexes to the right, so a desert becomes as good as an oasis, a swamp as good as a jungle, and a jungle becomes extraordinarily good for hunting.  Traveling along rivers is helpful indeed.

A cautious expedition adds 1 to the hunting die roll.  A reckless one subtracts 1 from the hunting die roll.

When times get tough, explorers can choose to kill their animals for food.  Each horse and camel is worth 10 rations of fresh food.  When you don't need the animals any more, perhaps because the expedition is moving into terrain in which the animal cannot go, then killing them for food makes sense.  So don't give your animal pet names!

Section 3: Terrain

The terrain in Source of the Nile drives the game.  The nature of the terrain can impact not only the speed of movement but also whether an expedition is likely to get lost or to make significant discoveries.   Moreover, the terrain also impacts hunting and therefore the food supplies.  Understanding the terrain is a key element in getting the edge on the random elements of the game.   Note that the terrain in an unpublished hex being entered for the first time has roughly a 33% to 50% chance of being the same as that of the hex which the expedition is leaving.

Veldt (Lost Number = 2)
Properly speaking, the veldt is an open treeless grassland in south Africa.  Another word used for African grasslands is savanna.  However, in the Source of the Nile game both kinds are merely called veldt.  Veldts provide decent hunting and when moving cautiously with a guide, one doesn't get lost in a veldt due to its low Lost Number.  If there is an overall best terrain feature in the game, the veldt is it, in my opinion.

Mountain (Lost Number = 3)
The Mountain is probably the second best terrain.  Hunting is as good as in the veldt, but there is a slightly greater chance of getting lost.  However, moving cautiously with a guide is reasonably safe.   Mountains may also be high enough to become eligible for victory points.  Explorers may get points for the four highest mountains discovered.

Lake (Lost Number = 2)
Only canoe expeditions can travel on a lake.  The hunting is poor, but cautious travel with a guide prevents the expedition from becoming lost.  Moreover, the three largest lakes that are discovered are worth victory points.  No more than three lake hexes may be adjacent to one another, but a grouping of two or three lake hexes is factored into calculating the largest lakes.

Desert (Lost Number = 2)
Expeditions in deserts don't normally get lost if they move slowly and with a guide, but hunting is terrible.  An oasis or a river can help the hunting situation and alleviate another great concern.  Deserts are the only place where an expedition needs to worry about carrying water rations.  Water is freely available everywhere except in a desert lacking a river or an oasis.  Expeditions only need water when they enter a desert hex, and they must have enough for every person and animal in the expedition.  They must carry it even if water is present in an oasis.  However, they will be able to restock from the oasis after they move.  When following a river, the expedition has a constant source of water.  Each person consumes 3 units of water per turn in the desert.  Horses consume 8 units.  Camels also normally consume 8 units of water but they can, instead, consume 16 units every second consecutive turn in a desert.  Because of the water problem, expeditions moving in a desert are often tempted to move recklessly to reach a water source faster.  This is fine if the expedition can manage not to become lost.

Jungle (Lost Number = 4)
Jungles provide the best hunting but one can become lost in them about 33% of the time, assuming one has a guide and is moving cautiously.  With faster travel speeds and/or no guide, one is even more likely to become lost.  On the other hand, returning to port through known jungle terrain is often a way to stretch dwindling food supplies.  Note that jungles can never be adjacent to a desert hex; some other terrain must always intervene.

Swamp (Lost Number = 5)
Moving cautiously with a guide, one has a 50% chance of getting lost in a swamp.  That is dangerous odds, for if one does get lost the guide will be embarrassed because of his failure and will desert the expedition.  That makes getting lost the next time even easier unless on has another guide handy.  Swamps are also unreliable when it comes to hunting.   All in all, swamps are best avoided unless they are known terrain.  Rivers may begin from swamps, end at swamps, and continue through them.  For example, the actual White Nile flows into the Sudd Swamp and then flows out again on its course through Sudan to the Egyptian delta.  In the game the Sudd is the southernmost know point on the White Nile, but traveling into it and going beyond can be a difficult and uncertain venture.  Canoes that enter or attempt to enter a hex containing swamps will expend 4 movement points whether the hex is published, explored, or unexplored.  However, this penalty does not apply if traveling along a coastal swamp hex, such as the one southeast of Calabar.

Jungle/Mountain (Lost Number =  5)
One can find better hunting in a jungle mountain than in a non-jungle mountain hex, but there is a much higher chance of getting lost.  If one begins a turn in this kind of terrain, it is usually best to back out unless following a river.

Jungle/Swamp (Lost Number = 6)
As noted previously, one can easily get lost in a swamp and only moving cautiously with a guide gives one a 50/50 chance of not getting lost.  In a jungle swamp, the odds are greater than even that the expedition will become lost unless it is moving back into known terrain.  Most expeditions are well advised to avoid going forward from this terrain if at all possible.  Jungle/swamps can be part of river systems just as a regular swamp would be.

Rivers (Lost Number = 2 when going upstream)
Any terrain that has a river is better for hunting and diminishes the chance of getting lost.  In fact, an expedition going downstream on a river always avoids having to make the lost die roll.  Canoe expeditions must travel on rivers, swamps, or lakes, but rivers will be their main avenue of exploration.  Their biggest obstacle will be cataracts, which are stretches of rapids, large falls, or very high waterfalls. Where cataracts exist they require a canoe expedition to portage around them.  On the game map, the short blue lines crossing the Congo River and at the end of the Blue Nile are indications of cataracts.

Rivers flow downstream to their mouth or they end in a lake or peter out into a swamp.  They may pass through any number of lakes and swamps but can only end in one of those terrain types if unable to continue on to a river mouth.  A river may begin in a swamp or a lake, or in a river source.  Rivers may also repeatedly branch as they are followed upstream.  The mapboard depicts the mouths of eight rivers along the African coast plus the Nile in the north.  Each of these has a number by its mouth indicating the minimum drainage basin for that river.  For example, the Zambezi River will not naturally end until its basin includes 16 connected river, swamp, or lake hexes, including the two already published on the game board.  For the Nile, 13 hexes are already shown on the map, including the two Sudd hexes, but another 22 must be part of the river system to meet its drainage basin minimum of 35 hexes.

Section 4: Movement Speeds and Types of Expeditions

Movement speed is determined by mode of travel (foot, mounted, or canoe) and activity level (cautious, normal, reckless).  Normal speed is 2 movement points for a foot expedition and 4 movement points for a mounted or canoe expedition.  A cautious activity level gives the expedition half the movement points of normal activity.  A reckless expedition adds two movement points to normal activity for that mode of travel.  Only 1 movement point is needed to enter any published hex or any hex already visited and explored by that expedition.  It cost two movement points to enter unexplored terrain.  See the Activity Level chart for these movement points.

Canoe expeditions are confined to traveling along the African coast or along rivers, or to lakes and swamps connected to the river or coast on which they travel.  They may not, however, enter a jungle/swamp except when traveling along the African coast.  Canoes use four movement points to enter swamps.  Canoe expeditions need 8 bearers per canoe to move up to their full movement allowance.  They lose 1 movement point if they only have 4 to 7 bearers per canoe, and lose 2 movement points if having only 2 or 3 bearers per canoe.  When a canoe has only 1 bearer, it loses 3 movement points.  Canoes without bearers drift downstream at the rate of one hex per turn.  They must portage around cataracts, with the canoes being carried having the weight of 40 items.  It also counts an extra movement point to make a portage trip around a cataract.  Should a canoe expedition travel downstream in an unpublished hex for the first time, it risks losing one or more canoes over a cataract if one is found.  White water ahead!  Be wary....

Canoes have a transport capacity of 300.  People weigh 15 transport points each, so a $1000 canoe expedition with two canoes, 1 explorer, 6 askaris, 16 bearers, and 1 guide uses up 360 of the two-canoe capacity of 600.  Four extra muskets, 50 gifts, and 125 rations will leave 61 points of transport capacity to spare.  The bearers are the ones who paddle the canoes.

Mounted expeditions are made on horses or camels.  These animals can never enter swamps or lakes.  Moreover, unlike horses, camels may not enter jungles.  Camels can only be obtained at Khartoum or from friendly desert tribes.  Their one great advantage is being able to enter a desert hex without requiring water if it is the first of two consecutive turns in the desert.  Horses may be purchased only at the Cape Colony ports of Capetown, Port Elizabeth, or Durban. 

Horses and camels each have a transport capacity of 20.  Ride mounts can thus carry only 5 points of goods beyond their riders.  Bearers on ride mounts can lead up to 3 pack mounts each.  A $1000 mounted expedition will have 1 explorer, 4 askaris, 2 bearers, 1 guide, 8 ride mounts and 3 pack mounts, plus 65 rations, 20 gifts and one extra musket for the explorer to use.  The total, non-rider transport capacity will be 100 points, of which only 86 will be used by the rations, gifts, and musket.

Foot expeditions may not enter lakes.  A 28 member foot expedition can be outfitted for $1000.  It will have one explorer, one guide, 9 askaris, 17 bearers, 140 rations, 20 gifts, and one musket for the explorer.  Each bearer can carry 10 points of weight, so the expedition will be carrying 161 points with 9 to spare.

Given the above restrictions, the foot expedition cannot enter unexplored territory at a cautious speed since it will not have the required two movement points.  Mounted or canoe expeditions moving cautiously thus will tend to explore new terrain at the same speed as a foot expedition which must move normally.  Expeditions often bring back specimens of rocks, animals, or plants that were discovered.  Most of these items weigh 2 points each, but elephant tusks weigh 7 points.  Normally, as rations are used up, the bearers will have more capacity remaining to carry the specimens back to port. 

Note that guides can never be bearers or hunt like askaris.  Askaris will never do the work of bearers.  Explorers can hunt like askaris but can never be their own guide.  An explorer can do the work of a bearer, but if he debases himself this way, one askari will desert at the end of each turn until the explorer redeems himself or herself by killing a dangerous animal or gaining a victory over an unfriendly native tribe.

As expeditions move along, rivers may end, food may get sparse, animals may die for one reason or another.  So a canoe or mounted expedition may switch to a foot expedition.  If there are insufficient bearers, the excess items can be stashed away in a hidden cache to be picked up later, perhaps on the return trip or in another expedition to the same area.

Section 5: Choosing a Starting Point for the Expedition

Each expedition will begin at one of the named African port cities or at Khartoum on the Nile in Sudan.  Where an expedition begins should be based on two key factors determined by the player: the expedition leader's occupation and the type of expedition being led: foot, mounted, or canoe.  Conversely, if a player prefers a specific starting location, then that should influence the kind of expedition to be outfitted and should guide the player in the choice of his occupation.  The terrain in the vicinity of the starting point influences both of these choices.  So whether the player first chooses a starting point, initially favors a particular kind of expedition, or prefers to have a specific occupation, each of these choices has a bearing on the other choices, at least if the player seriously wants to succeed. 

Compare the Victory Point Schedule in Cyberboard to fully assess the points for terrain received by the different occupations.  Remember that terrain can change and not be quite what was anticipated, so one always makes a gamble when choosing and occupation for the expedition leader.  One also never knows how many native tribes may be encountered.  An Ethnologist is poised by his occupation to make the most of discoveries of native tribes, so he is a good alternate for almost any location chosen as a starting point.  The Journalist gets more points than any other leader for the highest mountains, waterfalls and lakes, so he also can be good for any expedition except perhaps for a river journey since he gains no points at all for rivers.  The following list of starting points suggests the kinds of expeditions and the most likely occupations for the expedition leaders if not choosing Ethnologist or Journalist.  Also remember that a Doctor can help his expedition recover from sickness more easily, so a Doctor is generally a good choice--all the more so when rivers or mountains are part of the landscape.  Explorers are good in jungles, mountains and swamps, so when expeditions get away from the coast and find those terrains coming together, then the Explorer is the occupation one may want to have.

Brass (Nigerian Coast)
Although the Niger river has its mouth at Brass, that river is for game purposes only a pathway to the Benue River.  However, with a minimum drainage basin of only 6 hexes, four of which already are known and published on the board, there is a possibility that a canoe expedition will find the Benue river's source in two or three hexes of travel.  Or, they may find that the river becomes a jungle/swamp.  In these cases, the canoe expedition will be somewhat wasted since it will have nowhere else to go unless it travels back down the river and then along the coast to explore the Ogue River in Gabon.  (Canoes can travel along the coastal hexes this way in Source of the Nile.)  A player starting at Brass can take a chance with a canoe expedition, or can make a foot expedition.  In the latter case, it may be advisable to hike up the Niger to the veldt hexes and then turn east, in the hopes of generating more veldt hexes.  Or go upstream on the Benue and stick to the river.  As for the leader, Doctors and Missionaries gain the most points for publishing river hexes, but a Zoologist does better in the veldt or jungle and gets more for swamps as well. In addition, a Zoologist gets an extra point for highest waterfall.  If sticking to the river in a canoe expedition, a doctor or missionary may be best, but if traveling by foot the zoologist may be better.

Calabar (Cameroon Coast)
Most of what holds true for Brass pertains to Calabar on the Cameroon coast as well.  From Calabar an expedition is poised to go to either the Benue River or south to the Ogue River on the Gabon coast.  The Ogue is a better river than the Benue for a canoe expedition because it has a greater drainage basin to be discovered.  With the prevalence of jungle terrain, it is probably best to stick to the river on an initial exploration.  Again, a Doctor or Missionary might profit best, with the Zoologist being another good choice.  An inland journey by foot through likely jungle terrain along the Cameroon or Gabon coast is risky.  If the terrain doesn't change to veldt or mountains, it could be slow-going.

Luanda (Angola Coast)
Luanda in the Portuguese Colony of Angola is often the starting point for an expedition up the mighty Congo River which has a drainage basin of 25 hexes.  Due to the combined river and jungle terrain, once again a canoe expedition up the Congo with a Doctor, Missionary, or Zoologist are probably the best bet.  For similar reasons as expressed for the Calabar port, an inland foot expedition moving out from the jungle is ill-advised.

Benguela (Angola Coast)
Benguela is also in Portuguese Angola.   It is the nearest port to the Cenue River with its minimum drainage basin of 10 hexes.  A canoe expedition up the Cenue is one option but also a foot expedition has some validity due to the presence of veldt hexes around the mouth of the Cenue.  Again, Doctors and Missionaries always get the most points for exploring rivers.  A foot journey on the veldt is better for a Zoologist, especially with jungles nearby.

Capetown, Port Elizabeth, and Durban (Cape Colony)
When starting from any port in the Cape Colony, a mounted expedition makes the most sense thanks to horses being available for purchase and because the likely terrain to be explored is veldt or mountains.  A Zoologist is happy with veldt terrain but for mountains the Botanist, Geologist, Explorer, Doctor and Missionary are the main beneficiary of points.  Explorers, Zoologists, Botanists, and Geologists all benefit equally from finding the highest mountains, lakes and waterfalls, and they generally score better than other occupations in these areas.  However, the Zoologist prefers the veldt to mountains whereas the other three are at home in the mountains.  Should rivers be found in the vicinity, however, the Doctor and Missionary also would fair very well in acquiring points in mountains with rivers.  If a mounted expedition is to be made from Durban to explore the Limpopo River system, then a Zoologist would perhaps be most favorable because of the veldt terrain.

Laurenco Marques (Mozambique)
Although Laurenco Marques is itself in a jungle, the Limpopo River is nearby and the rest of the surrounding terrain is either mountain or veldt.  Both foot expeditions and canoe expeditions have good opportunities in this area.  Either kind of expedition may wish to follow the river, so the player starting here might choose the Doctor or the Missionary because of the river journey, or a Zoologist for the veldt terrain.  Explorers, Botanists, and Geologists all benefit equally in the mountains, so one could choose any of them.  The Limpopo has a drainage basin of 13 hexes so it is worthwhile to stay with the river in this area.

Quilimane (Mozambique)
What was said about Laurenco Marques applies also to Quilimane, with the exception that the mountains may be too far away to consider a leader who likes mountains.  The nearby Zambezi river with a drainage basin of 16 hexes provides canoe expeditions with lots of terrain to explore.  A Zoologist for the veldt or else a Doctor or Missionary for river travel are again good choices.  If not traveling by canoe, the foot expedition is the way to proceed.

Kilwa (East Africa)
As with Quilimane and Laurenco Marques, Kilwa is a jungle port surrounded by veldt.  The Zoologist is favored here with a foot expedition unless, of course, the terrain changes inland.  The Rufiji River is just to the southwest with a drainage basin of 10 hexes, so a canoe expedition is another possibility.  In that case, the Doctor or Missionary may be a good choice.

Zanzibar (East Africa)
Thanks to the presence of veldt terrain, the Zoologist may be favored here.  If one starts in Zanzibar, it should be with the intention of heading inland to see what can be found.  Only a foot expedition makes sense from here.  (No canoes are needed to go from Zanzibar to the hexes that the arrows point to on the map.)

Mombasa (East Africa)
A Zoologist is preferred at Mombasa due to the veldt terrain and since no river is ready at hand.  However, if the explorer plans to head north to Ethiopia where both mountains and deserts exist, then the best leader is probably a Botanist or a Geologist.  Only a foot expedition can begin here and proceed inland.

Khartoum (Sudan)
At the beginning of the game before friendly desert tribes are found, Khartoum is the only place at which an explorer can purchase camels for a mounted expedition.  Because the nearby terrain is deserts or mountains, the leader most likely to garner the most points would be a either a Botanist or a Geologist since both prefer those areas for exploration.  The difference between them is that the Botanist is also at home in the jungle, but the Geologist would garner lots of extra points if he found King Solomon's Mine in one of the Discovery chits (?) on the map.  If travel is to be exclusively on the river, then the Doctor or the Missionary would be good.  Both of them favor mountains as well, so an expedition heading up the Blue Nile could be one of these latter two leaders.  Canoe, camel, or foot expeditions are all possible from Khartoum if heading for the Blue Nile and Ethiopia.  Traveling down the White Nile to the Sudd swamp could end up getting the expedition lost as it tries to leave the Sudd region.  Camel expeditions could also try to move west into the desert before heading south to discover new territory. 

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Created 21 February 2010. 
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