BG2 4

Source of the Nile (1979)

This is the Avalon Hill edition of Source of the Nile (1979). In it, players outfit expeditions, begin their quest at one of the coastal ports and explore the blank hexes of the interior of the continent in search of discoveries (points gained depend on the nature of your expedition — zoologists get points for discovering animals, say). The game is card-driven, with players resolving events that occur as they traverse (and map) the terrain. It is a fairly complex game that is very deadly for explorers and, honestly, has a pretty bland presentation for players. That map, though.

So, let’s set aside the fact that this is plainly Colonialism: The Game taken to an almost mind-boggling conclusion, with the very landscape only being called into existence once Europeans gaze at it (and only if they return home to tell the tale, otherwise their notations are erased as rumor). Source of the Nile demonstrates how powerfully alluring a blank map can be, though. In the context of Africa, a blank map erases countless cultures and centuries of history, but in a world of fantasy, it can a powerful visual metaphor for exploration. It compels the curious to want to fill it in. The same exact feeling comes to me when I look at the blank map in X1: The Isle of Dread. And granted, Isle of Dread is kind of colonialist too! But that isn’t the blank map’s fault, really — exploration doesn’t have to be exploitation. We’re just waiting for the right designer to come along and do the blank map justice.

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