Review: Arctic Scavengers

Arctic Scavengers review

The year is 2097; a second ice age has caused a catastrophe of biblical proportions. 90% of the human population is gone. The few that remain have banded together in gangs and tribes scavenging and fighting for survival…

Artic Scavengers is not a new game. In fact it’s been around for a while. When I first heard about the game, it appeared to have been put on ice for a while *, pardon the pun. It has only recently become widely available in South Africa; in a bundle version that includes the expansions.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the box:

  • 1-5 players
  • Ages 12+
  • 45-16 min

Artic Scavengers is published by Rio Grande Games, they people who sell another popular Deck Building Game (DBG), Dominion. It’s not surprising that the interior of the box looks exactly the same… It’s loads of cards in a plastic insert that helps keep the cards sorted. It’s functional and for the type of game it’s a damn near perfect insert. I honestly don’t expect any more expansions for this game so this is the box to get IMHO.

Arctic Scavengers review
The insert is neat but there is no space for the carboard deck holders, that you don’t actually need. If you don’t mind the aesthetics then you can fit everything into a small lunch box or a convenient storage box.

While I have not tested it, the insert does appear to be bigger that the one for Dominion so you might be able to get away with sleeving the cards and still having them fit in the insert.

There is a pair of rules books in the box, one to teach the base game and the first expansion and the 2nd just for the 2nd expansion. Additionally there are a few cardboard deck holders which you don’t actually need.

Sleeves

These cards are the same size as Dominion cards so you can use most standard Magic sized sleeves.

Theme

As I’ve mentioned the game is set in a post cataclysmic world. Each player is the leader of a tribe of survivors who are competing for scarce resources. Over the course of the game you will recruit new survivors, go looking for food and equipment and even fight with neighbouring tribes.

Gameplay

To start the base game each player will receive a set of identical cards. Then a Junk deck is created along with a Contested Resources deck. The number of cards in these decks can vary based on the number of players.

Next you create the supply, which contains all of the people that you can recruit into your tribe.

Arctic Scavengers review
The game all setup to go.

Then it’s time to play.

Each player will have a hand of cards. These are usually a survivor of some kind. That means it is a person or group of people that you need to send off to perform tasks for you. Additionally you can draw tools which you can give to your people to help them perform better at their tasks.

The first task is to draw more cards. Play as many survivors as you would like along with equipment to aid them and then draw the required number of cards from the top of your deck.

Then you can also send people to scavenge (dig) for junk. The same as before send as many people with or without equipment to dig through the junk deck. Draw that many cards and keep 1 of them. Just 1. You don’t need to show any one what this card is, you add it to your discard pile and can keep it a secret.

Recruit new tribe members are performed in the same way. Looking at the cards in the supply you will see the requirements to get those people into your tribe; it is usually some combination of food and medicine. You can send people out hunting to gather food and you can play any medicine that you found in the junk and add the new survivor to your discard pile.

Arctic Scavengers review
Refugees are the chaff in your deck. They can only hunt or dig but they are very bad at it and need tools. In this case they can scavenge for 1 card or gather 1 food. The multitool adds +1 to combat but they cannot fight at all.

You can perform as many or few of these actions as you want to however you can only perform each action once per turn. Then you keep any cards that you want in your hand to use to fight for the Contested Resource. This happens in the skirmish phase at the end of each round.

Every turn there is a valuable resource that the players have to fight to secure. When each player has finished their turn you each, in turn order. Play out your cards and total the combat value of your team. The player with the highest combat value wins the skirmish and claims the top card of the Contested Resource deck as a reward. Again, they don’t have to show the other players what their reward is, they just have to add it to their discard pile.

The Contested Resource deck is very interesting. They are valuable cards, usually, and starting from turn 3, the first player each turn gets to peek at what the resource is at the start of the round. There is a bluffing aspect that’s added to the game and it spices things up a bit, only the first player knows what the card is so everyone will be watching to see how many cards he is keeping behind for the skirmish.

Additionally the Contested Resources Deck is the games clock. When that deck runs out the game is over. Each player sorts out their deck and finds all of their survivor cards. At the bottom of each card is listed the number of people represented by the card itself. The person with the most people in his tribe wins.

Conclusion

It sounds simple right? Well it is but that does not mean that it is not good. In fact it’s pretty damn cool. I have my new favourite DBG. It’s highly thematic. Digging in the junk pile can actually just yield junk or you can find a real gem. You also have the option of removing cards from your deck, any cards but only 1 per turn; these get shuffled into the Junk deck. One man’s trash…

There are also cards that you can play as a reaction to other player’s actions. The sniper team can pin down your opponent’s survivors, forcing them to retreat and abort whatever action they were trying to perform. You can also sabotage your opponent tools and buildings.

Yes buildings.

The first expansion HQ adds a deck of building plans and new survivors. The buildings are a lovey touch allowing you to build a base of operations. In addition to that you can get a personality, a tribe leader each with a unique special power. The HQ expansion really needs to be part of the base game.

Arctic Scavengers review
Buildings from the HQ expansion that you can add to your base.

Recon adds variety. It’s got a lot of options which when combined with all of the other cards actually has too many cards to play so you only use a subset in each game. This helps to keep the game fresh and increases replay value.

Arctic Scavengers has all of the good things from Dominion but it drops off the bad, things like the victory points being dead weight until the end of the game, you can actually use your worthless cards as extra junk to dig through; although some leaders love extra refugees… Cannibals *shudder*

It also has a theme that elevates it above who can get the best engine going first wins. There’s a bluffing aspect and player vs player confrontation. It’s also fairly quick to play too.

Can I play this at a braai?

Yes you can, but it depends on which cards you are adding. If you add in too many reactive cards then you will want to watch what everyone else is doing. If you don’t have a lot of these then you can happily turn the chops and come back to the game when it’s your turn or when the fight starts.

Arctic Scavengers review
The group leaders, like most leaders don’t do any actual work themselves. They add +2 to whom ever you send them to boss around.

Thanks to Boardgames.co.za for the review copy of Arctic Scavengers.

* Drakes Flames is a site that I’ve always loved. It’s had an amazing run, some 15 years; *sniff* I’ll miss it.  Please, if you have the time read it, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. For some reason it have never been blocked buy any proxy at any company that I have worked for so enjoy it while he still deems it ok to pay for the hosting…

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