Why would people keep exploring a haunted mansion for decade after decade, especially when horrible things happen there? Curiosity, I suppose, or perhaps an ignorant boldness that comes from the belief that we know better than those who have come before. Look at all that we've learned, marvel at the tools we have at hand! Surely we'll all exit safely this time...
As with other Betrayal titles, the game is narratively-driven, with elements that record the history of your specific games. The tools mentioned earlier, for example, become attached to specific families. This isn't just a bucket; it's my bucket, the one my grandpappy used to feed his family's pigs when he was a boy, and while you can certainly use that bucket, I know how to wield it best from the time he spent teaching me how to slop. Yes, it's an heirloom bucket, and when kept in the family, I get a bonus for using it.
In The Voyages of Marco Polo, players recreate this journey, with each player having a different character and special power in the game.
In more detail, the land of Ethnos contains twelve tribes of fantasy creatures, and in each game you choose six of them (five in a 2/3-player game), then create a deck with only the creatures in those tribes. The cards come in six colors, which match the six regions of Ethnos. Place three glory tokens in each region, arranging them from low to high.
Each player starts the game with one card in hand, then 4-12 cards are placed face up on the table. On a turn, a player either recruits an ally or plays a band of allies. In the former case, you take a face-up card (without replacing it from the deck) or the top card of the deck and add it to your hand. In the latter case, you choose a set of cards in your hand that match either in tribe or in color, play them in front of you on the table, then discard all other cards in hand. You then place one or more tokens in the region that matches the color of the top card just played, and you use the power of the tribe member on the top card just played.
At the end of the first age, whoever has the most tokens in a region scores the glory shown on the first token. After the second age, the players with the most and secondmost tokens score glory equal to the values shown on the first and second tokens. Players score again after the third age, then whoever has the most glory wins. (Games with two and three players last only two ages.)
On a turn, each player chooses a tile, collects the depicted ships from the reserve, optionally buys or sells one ship, then places the ships on the board. The land has five entryways, and you must start from these points or place adjacent to ships already on the board. You can't branch the ships being placed, and if you place your first ship adjacent to another, then that first ship must be the same color as the adjacent one; otherwise you can place ships without regard to color.
After placing ships, you can either claim colored resources from land that you've touched with new ships this turn or build on one vacant space. To build, the space must have colored ships around it that match the ships depicted on one of the available building tiles. If you build a personal building that's connected to others you own, you receive money equal to the number of buildings.
You can bank one ship before the end of your turn, then you can use any three resources or a pair of matching resources to purchase a specialist, each of whom has a unique power.
After all players go, you shuffle the action tiles, place them face down in the row, then reveal enough tiles at the front of the line to set up for the next turn, with the turn order being determined by the numbers on the tiles that players chose the previous turn. Once you trigger one of the game-ending conditions — e.g., no ships of one color or no more specialists — you finish the round, then count points for buildings built, specialists hired, and money on hand.
The game ends either when all the barbarian villages on the game board have been surrounded and attacked or when all the temples have been constructed. Whoever has the most points wins.