Arctic Scavengers Review by David Lowry
The year is 2097 and the earth was transformed from a climate shift of cataclysmic proportions plunging the earth and all its inhabitants into an ice age. An estimated 90% of the earth’s populations was decimated forcing the survivors to join together in tribes. Does your tribe have what it takes to survive? Will your tribe be able gather enough resources, medicine and tools to make it? Can you combat rival tribes for these incredibly scarce resources? In this battle for survival the largest Arctic Scavengers tribe wins!
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Game Designer: Robert Kyle Gabhart
Ages: 13 to adult
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes
Contents: 1 rule booklet, 1 rule summary mat, 1 junkyard mat, 1 contested resources mat, 1 initiator card, 149 play cards including 20 refugees, 69 mercenaries, 46 junkyard cards and 14 contested resources.
Contents: HQ Expansion – 1 expansion rules summary, 1 engineering schematics mat, 1 storage cover, 49 playing cards consisting of 12 buildings, 10 tribal leaders, 8 junkyard cards, 8 medics, 8 engineers and 3 gangs.
Suggested Retail Price: $34.95
Parental Advisory: Safe for kids
Rio Grande Games originally released Arctic Scavengers back in 2009 but with the release of Dominion and it being the hot game of the moment, Arctic Scavengers really took a back seat to its counterpart. With the new re-release of Arctic Scavengers, it is very possible that you are getting a better game at least from the visual point of view.
In Arctic Scavengers, each player works to grow their tribes as large as they possibly can. They do this through hiring mercenaries, scavenging through the junk pile and winning in player skirmishes against the other competing tribes. The player with the most tribe members at the end of the game is the winner.
The card anatomy is as follows:
The upper left corner is the card type. The upper right corner is the cost of recruiting this card to your tribe. Down the left side you have in order; draw cards, digging, hunt and fight. If any of these spots are empty, then this card does not that have ability as in the card below as it does not have the draw or dig abilities. Finally the bottom left corner is the amount of people represented by the card. This is where you total your victory points at the end of the game as well as it has its part in the player skirmishes but we will cover that later.
Every card has some ability to it. Some have medicine (+) not shown or sub-type actions such as +modifiers to certain abilities. All these are needed to recruit better people to your tribe or to dig deeper in the junkyard or be stronger in the skirmish.
Each player starts with 4 refugee cards (these water down the deck) 3 scavenger cards, 1 brawler card, 1 spear card and 1 shovel card. I should note that one person could only handle one tool such as a spear or shovel at a time. You can’t combine both a spear and shovel with a scavenger for instance.
Each round of Arctic Scavengers is broken up into 3 phases:
The Drawing Phase: Draw 5 new cards and discard any old cards from the previous round. After round 3 begins, the starting player (this rotates each turn) gets to peak at the top card of the contested resources deck that players will skirmish over to set the tone for the bidding war.
The Resource Gathering Phase: Each player uses any resources to gather resources to accomplish the main actions during this phase.
– Draw – Take one or more cards from the deck and add them to the players hand depending on how many draw resources have been played that turn.
– Dig – Here the player digs as many cards out of the junkyard as resources have been played that turn. For instance if 3 resources were played, the player can then draw 3 cards from the junkyard pile, keep 1 of those 3 secretly and put the other 2 back under the pile facedown so no one can see what they are.
– Hunt – This allows the player to produce one or more food for use in recruiting a new member to the tribe.
– Fight – This action is used during the Skirmish. The players commit cards secretly to the table to be revealed during the Skirmish Phase. These cards can not be used for any resource gathering during this turn. Highest score wins the skirmish and collects the contested resource and discards it secretly.
The Skirmish Phase – (following round 3)
– Once all the players have gathered their resources and put down cards they committed to the skirmish (they can’t be used for gathering resources), they then reveal their cards and the winner is determined.
– The winner puts the card in their discard pile and the first player moves to the next person.
There are additional free actions that can be taken as well.
– Hire – Select on mercenary from the table and pay its cost with food and medicine.
– Trash – Select one or more cards from the players hand and place them on the bottom of the junkyard pile.
There are special action cards as well such as the Sniper Team and Saboteur cards. The Sniper Team cards allow a player to snipe another players tribe member and can be played from a players hand or in the Skirmish phase. The Saboteur cards allow a player to disarm another player’s tool and can be played the same way.
Some the key ideas to think about while playing Arctic Scavengers are that a player wants to take all unused cards in their hand to the Skirmish and bluff their opponents into thinking they have played more fight than really has been. Each player may also make multiple actions per round as well as playing multiple cards for single action as that can make the action much stronger. A player may also only perform any given action once per round. Once a players has used one card for once action it cannot be used for a separate action. In order to use a tool, group leader or any card with a modifier to it, it must be paired with a card that has the base ability even if the base ability is 0. If there is no icon in the spot on the card, it does not have that ability. Once again, only one tool per tribe member card.
The game ends when the last contested resource has been taken from the pile. At this point, all players go through their decks and up all the people in the bottom left corner of their cards and the biggest tribe wins!
Arctic Scavengers also comes with the HQ Expansion for free! The expansion is 4 different modules that can be used any combination in play. The basic premise is a basic headquarters or base camp for each tribe leader as well as being able to construct buildings that can be used during play for strategic use. This introduces new victory paths, new mercenaries and tools. The engineering schematics deck are also included. The basic game is basically the same when the modules are added.
Module #1 – Medics, Tools and Gangs
– Medics have a draw of 1, can be played to represent medicine to recruit new mercenaries or they can be played from the hand to save another tribe member from a sniper attack.
– Save – a new action to protect a tribe member from or leader from a sniper attack.
– Rifle – A tool for hunting and fighting Skirmishes. This gives you a +2 in 2 categories.
– Toolkit – This helps digging for both junkyard and engineering schematics or can be used by another tribe member to speed up building. This also allows for cards to be removed from one building that is under construction.
– Gangs – There are 3 new gangs introduced here for a new concept. These gangs hide back until all the contested resources have been gathered and then try form an alliance with whichever tribe best meets its needs. The gangs are “The Gearheads,” “The Pharmers” and “The Masons.”
Module #2 – Engineering and Buildings
– Engineers may dig in the junkyard but their main purpose is to dig in the engineering schematics pile as they are the only card that can do this. This is of course how you go about building the buildings as well.
– Buildings – Players use engineers to construct buildings at the player’s HQ. These buildings take time to build but offer strategic advantages once built. Buildings are normally used during the players turn and never during the Skirmish.
– Building Types – Amory (stores 2 tools for later use,) Bunker (stores 3 tribe member cards for later use,) Hydroponic Gardens (generates 1 food per round, which does not accumulate) and the Pharmacy (Enables 2 medicine cards to be stored here for later use. Not including medics and not during the Skirmish.)
– Store – a new action that allows the player to take one or more cards of a particular type from their hand and place them, face-down, under a building.
– Retrieve – a new action that allows the play to take one or more cards from an active building and place them in your hand. This can be done anytime except after the Skirmish has started.
Module #3 – Tribal Leaders
– Tribal Leaders – The concept is to give unique capabilities that no other player will have. Every player picks one leader from the two provided at the start of every game. This will impact the players strategy and game play.
– Butcher/Cannibal/Fanatic – Cards that are removed from play cannot be brought back.
– Butcher/Cannibal/Sergent at Arms – Leaders can use special abilities without the need for a refugee.
– Excavator/Fanatic/Gangster/Mentor/Organizer/Peacemaker/Ranger- This requires the use of a refugee to utilize the leader.
– Butcher/Cannibal/Fanatic/Mentor/Organizer/Peacemaker – Abilities can only be used once per round.
– Excavator/Gangster/Ranger/Sergent at Arms – Leaders grant abilities that are always activated and can affect multiple cards in any given round.
Module #4 – Dirty Deeds
– New Saboteur ability – The Saboteur may attack a building and disable it. This makes it unusable. No cards can be played to or from the building until it is repaired. This requires the player to discard a card their hand.
– New Sniper Team Ability – The Sniper Team may now attack a tribe leader, wounding that leader removing their advantage until a medicine is played against the leader to heal them.
Obviously there is a lot I couldn’t put in the review and there is a good amount of depth for this deck-builder. Arctic Scavengers while being a deck-building game offers a fair amount of versatility in it’s game play and separates it’s self enough from other games of the genre to make it a must have game. I really enjoyed this game and highly recommend it to people who love the deck-building genre or who may be on the fence on this since it’s original release in 2009. The interaction with the Skirmishes alone makes it fun.
The components are well done and the artwork is fantastic. The box isn’t to big and it is designed to break the cards down easily although I am not sure it accomplishes that. I prefer slots for starting decks myself to make game set up easier and quicker. Also, if you sleeve your cards, this system will not work as the slots are not big enough. This part could have been better thought out.
All in all, a very good deck-building game that is worth the price and should give you enough of a different feel that you don’t feel like it’s just another deck-builder.
I will go out on a limb and give this game about an 8 out of 10 stars as it achieves the depth I like in a deck-builder especially when the expansion is added. [rating=8]
The review was originally posed on Geek Eccentric: http://www.geekeccentric.com/arctic-scavengers-review-by-david-lowry/
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