If you’ll pardon the pun, Arctic scavengers leaves me a bit cold. After a couple of games I’m neither excited to or unwilling to play it again. It’s fine, it’s a solid game and it does introduce some new elements to the genre but it’s not epic and I demand epic. Again as ever this is an early review and I will return to it and review it again in coming months
Maybe it’s the theme that doesn’t grab me. The game sees you assembling a gang of survivors in the Artic with various skills. Scavenging resources, fighting, providing food, drawing cards (a really handy skill when it’s 20 below and a polar bear is trying to make you into a glove puppet) and trying to score highest in a number of categories (buildings, population, medical) all by the time one resource pile runs out. I just don’t like the setting. It’s bleak. I don’t know why everyone is up there (I don’t care enough to read the back story in the same way as I pick the standard character with no customization to start an RPG video game. If I like it enough I’ll come back to it, but for now, Jenny Generic is just dandy). I can’t associate with the cards. Let me put it another way. Ever go skiing? what’s the worst part? Getting kitted out and trying to remember everything. Getting your gear together in the cold. Stomping uncomfortably in sore boots, tired, burdened and cold. Now, the payoff is WELL worth the effort, way in excess in fact. I’m just not sure at least so far, that Artic Scavengers delivers the payoff. It feels all trudging and no soaring.
The graphics are ho hum. It’s all blues, whites and greys. Yes I know it’s set in the arctic and granted It’s mostly been played on a black table by us but the palate is just plain dull and uninspired. Yes it adds to the whole end of the world feel but for me it’s just too Eddard Stark. (see what I did there?) I want to be entertained. Look at Star Realms the pictures are gorgeous, you want to study them, Artic Scavengers you couldn’t care less you just look at the numbers on the edge. The art work is work man like. All of the dudes look pretty much the same. Pretty much it’s a pic of a person or persons wrapped up well with a weapon/rope.
Now, what does pull this game from the bargain bin is the extra rules. Having a charasmatic leader that grants you a bonus is nice, some of them seem a bit overpowered to be honest (like the cannibal) and some of them well weedy but time will tell. The three piles of cards are good. The diminishing returns scrap pile adds something. It’s definitely worth digging there early on but judging wether it’s still worth the effort when a number of other players have rifled through it with their grubby gloved fingers is cool. The engineers and buildings is nice, but it’s a longer term play and we noobs didn’t go there that much.
The fights are definitely cool. This on it’s own adds a nice dimension. Cards not played are held for a big scrap at the end of each round to gain the round card that the first player each round got a peek at. By big scrap there’s no actual fight as such and the most muscle points wins the card and the others just don’t get a look in but don’t lose anything
Another bit I like is being able to remove as many cards from your hand permanently as you like at the end of the turn. This is a power move, but since it’s open to everyone it makes or should make it quicker to get to the good cards. The games we played, it didn’t. assembling your tribe is a slow business. Again it would speed up with more replays but the time per game is WAY longer than the side of the box indicates. Thats fine, I’m in no hurry but there is something to be said for shorter games and more of them since this is essentially a lite game
As you can see I’ve no strong feelings on the good/bad number line. I’m going to keep my opinion powder dry on this one and recommend you try before you buy and of course there’s no better place to try it than at the next Knavecon on the 30th April.