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Anytime an explorer tries to enter an unpublished hex that has not been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
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
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.
(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
Some kinds of terrain are better for hunting than others. This is
noted on the game's Hunting Table.
Deserts 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Lou's Game Corner; Return
to the Source of the Nile links page,
Created 21 February 2010.
If you have
a game interest or question, you can leave a message by writing to
I use earthlink.net.