A lot of people seem to be having troubles with these, so this is an attempt to explain the mechanics as far as I know them. I'll try being general but, of course, huge spoilers.
Other Cultist Simulator Guides:
- Getting Started.
- How to Survive as a Cultist.
- Quick Guide to Rites.
- Quick Lore Study Reference.
- List of Expeditions.
- How to Make Money & Earn Promotions.
Why Do I Want to Go on an Expedition?
- It's the best source of Tools and Ingredients.
- It's the mid/late game source of new Books (aka Lore).
- It's satisfying, once you know how to do it.
How Do I Go on an Expedition?
First, you have to find a place to send the Expedition to. You do that by Exploring with the Secret Histories lore. The level of lore determines the difficulty and possible loot of the place you'll discover - level 1 lore will allow you to go to a location in the City, with just 1 Obstacle (we'll get to these), level 2 will uncover locations in the Shires and so on.
Once you've unlocked the location, you can put it in the Explore verb together with at least 1 follower and 1 gold. Keep in mind that you can send summoned eldritch monstrosities or hired help (if you're scared of losing followers it might be a pretty good idea).
How Do I End an expedition?
Help, it's eating my money and followers and I don't know what to do!
Expedition can end in three ways:
- By succeeding.
- By running out of money.
- By running out of followers.
Third one in particular is obviously the worst one, we don't want that. We'll talk about success later.
So if you've bitten more than you can chew just let it run out of cash. That's it. If you've added a lot of cash you might lose a couple of followers before that happens, so let this be a valuable lesson - don't give expeditions more money than they need, in case something goes wrong and you have to stop.
Expeditions have Obstacles. Easy expeditions will have just one, hard ones - three. You need to get through all of them to succeed.
Every attempt at beating an Obstacle eats money. The attempt is a skill check - it checks the relevant accumulated skill/aspect of every follower you've sent. The higher the aspect, the more likely you are to beat an Obstacle and progress.
As far as I know, 3 is the minimum with low chance of success, 5 is decent but not amazingly reliable (will work more often than not but don't trust it) and 10 is certain win.
You can check what Obstacles you'll be facing by clicking Explore once the expedition has started (once it's ran the first 60 second timer) and then clicking on little icons under the card slot. The upper row shows your Followers, the place you're in, the Obstacles and some other stuff, the bottom row shows accumulated skills. Click the obstacles, read descriptions. Some will tell you straight away what you'll need (example: one particular Curse will need either Heart or Winter and will tell you exactly that), some will be a bit more vague (but those are usually the combat related ones, if there's any mention of fighting you'll know that Edge is a safe bet).
Afaik if the description has seduction in it it wants Grail, deception is Moth.
If there's more than one Obstacle it's a bit hard to tell which one to prepare for first, I haven't noticed any rule here, so try to have at least 5 of every relevant aspect as soon as you can. Sometimes you'll get lucky and 2 or 3 obstacles will want the same aspect.
Usually there is a 60 second "add resources or followers" timer, and after that it picks the Obstacle, the description of Explore verb changes to reflect that and you have another 60 seconds to add someone - but this time you know for sure what you're up against. Once it's in that stage, read the description to learn your approximate chances of success, if you add a follower with relevant aspect you'll see it change.
After that it goes through a short "success!" or "failure!" timer, and back to "add resources or followers".
Be careful, some Obstacles will kill 1 of your followers if you fail.
You can sometimes guess what aspects you'll need before starting the Expedition (and therefore you'll be able to send relevant Followers right away) by carefully reading description of the place you're going to.
For example, if the descriptiont mentions ghosts/undead, sending someone with Edge or Winter often works.
YMMV, that's what works for me.
Early game I focus on getting money, achieving some sort of equilibrium and buying the whole stock of the shop and auction house. If I'm not doing anything with the Talk verb, I use it to find more potential followers and patrons. I'm also trying to improve my lore (the one that I used to establish my cult) enought that I can upgrade my followers to diciples. By the time I ran out of books, I usually have enough.
I start going on Expeditions when I have 4 or 5 Disciples of different aspects. Earlier than that I might go using a Hireling, so that I don't lose anything if they die. First, I just go around the City (places uncovered with level 1 lore), then the Shires if I'm feeling lucky. I don't go to the continent until I have more Disciples or a powerful summon.
Example of an expedition:
- 3 obstacles, 1 wants Heart or Winter, 1 wants Moth or Edge, 1 wants Grail or Edge.
Usual order of actions:
- Start expedition using a summoned monster or a hireling (if I have one). If not, use a Disciple with an aspect that's likely to come up. Early game: that's it. Late game: take a second Disciple with another aspect likely to come up. Give them 2 gold (unless it's the start of the game and it's only a one obstacle expedition that you're not sure you'll be able to complete, then give them just one so they'll stop after one attempt).
In this case let's say I've guessed that I'll need Heart, that's my expedition leader. I guessed wrong on the second Disciple, they have Lantern and will be useless.
Current aspects: 5 Heart, 5 Lantern.
- Wait for Exploration to change to reveal the Obstacles. Read the descriptions, decide which Disciples to send. You want to max out the relevant aspect to make sure you succeed, so worst case scenario you'll be sending 2 Disciples per obstacle.
Currently: 2 money, 5 Heart, 5 Lantern.
- If you don't know which Obstacle is next, try to send followers to have at least 5 in every relevant aspect.
Here I see that I'll need more Heart to ensure success, but also Edge - two obstacles demand it. I'll send a Disciple with Edge.
Currently: 2 money, 5 Heart, 5 Lantern, 5 Edge.
- First Obstacle attempt starts. It's the one that wants Moth or Edge.
I add another Disciple with Edge. This ensures success.
Currently: 1 money, 5 Heart, 5 Lantern, 10 Edge, 1 obstacle down.
- Second Obstacle wants Edge (or Grail) again, which I already have. Good moment to add money - I had 2 at the start, I'll need 1 more.
Currently: 1 money, 5 Heart, 5 Lantern, 10 Edge, 2 obstacles down.
- Last obstacle wants Heart (or Winter). I add a second Heart Disciple.
Currently: 0 money, 10 Heart, 5 Lantern, 10 Edge, 3 obstacle down.
- And it's over! Enjoy your spoils, remember that you'll get Notoriety for completing the Expedition so be careful with law enforcement.