ICv2 Stars: 3 (out of 5)
Posted by William Niebling on May 31, 2018 @ 2:26 pm CT
Publisher: Fireside Games
Release Date: June 27, 2018
Game Designer(s): Justin De Witt, Matthew O'Malley, Ben Rosset
Illustrations: John Ariosa, Victor Perez Corbella, Mateusz Wilma
Format: Board Game
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Playing Time: 60 mins.
Product #: FSD1012
Age Rating: 13 and up
ICv2 Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
My first exposure to the "post-apocalypse" genre was, predictably, the landmark Mel Gibson flick The Road Warrior, in which an isolated outpost struggled against an insane gang of petrol-hungry psychopaths. That is pretty much the idea behind Remnants, from Fireside Games: can you build up your little wasteland outpost quickly enough to resist the depraved denizens of the waste? Or, at least, can you do it better than your rivals?
Summary: Each player begins the game with a tiny band of “survivors” and nothing else. Over six rounds of play, they send their survivors out to scavenge through the ruins of an utterly destroyed civilization, hoping to gather such precious commodities as wood, plastic bottles, and metal so they can construct improvements to their outpost—everything from barbed wire to flamethrowers. Scavenging is accomplished by rolling dice as fast as possible until three-of-a-kind come up. As fast as possible, because all players are doing this at the same time, and the supply of stuff is limited. Alternatively, survivors can be sent into the city to collect medicine (needed to heal the wounded), screwdrivers (to help fight baddies), or scrap (which can be used as "wild" resources).
After the scavenging and looting, players build any improvements they can afford. Then, if it is an even-numbered turn, everybody is attacked either by raiders (hostile humans) or bizarre mutants (turtle bears, anyone?), which can be fought off using the improvements built earlier. Victory gives rewards, but failure can result in injuries to your band or the destruction of precious improvements. Throw in a few random events, and there’s plenty of unpredictable chaos until the “Boss” shows up for the climactic battle.
Originality: Real time dice games, in which all players roll their dice at the same time trying to be the first to get a winning combination, have been around for a while. Marrying this mechanic to the scavenging theme turns out to be a clever way to create a sense of scarcity and near-panic that fits the genre. While it would be easy to focus on that element of the game, however, it is only one aspect of the strategy one needs to pursue. Knowing how to deploy survivors, which improvements to build when, and keeping an eye on the efforts of the other players are all just as important. As a result, Remnants offers more depth than the description "real time dice game" would imply.
Presentation: Remnants fits very nicely into the Fireside Games line, with the bright dynamic artwork that marks the company’s style. The box is nice and compact, without too much empty air inside (though it could have benefited from an insert of some kind—my rulebook was bent a little bit in shipping). The back of the box has a good description and a nice component shot, and everything is easy-to-read and attractively designed. The artistic style is consistent throughout the game components, and the artists did a good job of capturing the gritty post-apocalypse feel.
Quality: The component that pleased me the most to was the dice, which are good quality molded custom jobs, with different colors on every side and symbols that are easy to read quickly. These are critical features considering that players have to roll dice, read them, and decide which ones to reroll quickly, and being molded means they should stand up to the heavy use (and abuse) the game calls for. The boards and tokens are also good, manufactured from middle-weight cardboard. The cards are quite good, and since they are only shuffled once per game, they should hold up well even without sleeves. The rulebook is well-crafted and readable, though it would have benefited from some examples of play so the reader could see the rules in action. I do appreciate the "quick start guide" on the back cover of the rules: it’s very handy for reminding you how to set up and play when you haven’t read the rules for a while.
Marketability: It seems like the post-apocalypse genre is one that just keeps popping back up, every time the news around the world seems a little bit less optimistic, so this may be good timing for a game like this. The price point is very reasonable considering what’s inside the box, and the game play is light enough for casual players while deep enough to appeal to experienced gamers as well. It is, perhaps, a bit too much for a "filler" game, but it still has a short enough playing time that it’s unlikely to wear out its welcome too quickly.
Overall: Remnants is fun to play. I enjoyed the tension of trying to scavenge the materials I needed to pursue my strategy, and alternating between building up my outpost and preparing for the next attack (with those attacks getting stronger as the game goes on) kept things interesting. Scores tend to be close, so there is tension about the outcome right to the end, plus a good variety of Boss enemies and special powers for them to use against the players means that the climax of the game is always a surprise.
Unfortunately, the dice rolling part of the game wasn’t as much fun as I expected it to be. It is surprisingly hard to get three-of-a-kind on only four dice, and there were times late in the game that it became frustrating, with everyone rolling over and over again but unable to get the combination they need to move on to the next phase. It also felt like there wasn’t enough variety of outpost improvements, and to our surprise we were able to build almost everything on offer, despite the apparent scarcity of construction materials.
The good news is that Remnants has a lot more to offer than just the dice-rolling element, and finding a way to deal with the interlocking strategic pressures of the game more than made up for the frustration. And that’s why I’m giving this game 3 out of 5.
-- William Niebling