When I set out to review Arctic Scavengers, I was hesitant. It has been a bone chilling winter where I live and we are just now starting to see the ice and snow melt. The last thing I want to think about is digging through snow in order to find tools or food. However, my mind quickly forgot the temperature outside and focused on the beautiful depth of Arctic Scavengers.
The basis of Arctic Scavengers is building a deck but where other deck builders fail, by lacking player interaction, this game succeeds. Every round, one player will look at a special item of loot up for grabs. Every player will take their turns spending cards to search for supplies or recruit new members to their clan i.e. deck. Players need not spend all their cards to do those actions; instead they can reserve them for the brawl.
The brawl takes place at the end of the round. Each player will reveal their cards and apply the tools they are carrying to increase the fight strength of the human cards in their hands. Whichever player has the highest attack value wins the contested loot. The player who looked at the card can try to bluff other players as to the value of the actual card.
A typical troupe of deck builders is trying to remove your weak cards from your deck and increase the likelihood that you draw your better cards. Arctic Scavengers takes those weaker cards and makes them worth points at the end of the game. The winner is the person with the largest colony. So there is a balancing act that needs to be played.
Additionally while the seemingly helpless members won’t do much to hunt or help attract new and better members of a colony they can provide the tools you need to win the special loot at the end of the round. They give you more ammo to bluff with, yes your hand maybe filled with cards that don’t allow you to do much but the other players don’t know that. You can eek out a productive turn even with unproductive cards.
The game also includes modules that serve as mini expansions. They can add buildings that allow you to keep a card between turns or rewards of clan members at the end of the game for specializing in certain cards. My favorite is the Tribal Leaders module. This gives you a special power that can be activated on your turn. Some of these are straight up brutal including a cannibal that can sacrifice people to give food to your colony. These can add a spice of role playing to the game that is almost nonexistent in deck building games.
All of these aspects add up to something that makes Arctic Scavengers a special game in my opinion. Having a bluffing aspect adds to the gameplay and what the game is trying to say. In an apocalypse, everyone has value. After the world has collapsed, everyone has a place and is needed. Seeing that warrants Arctic Scavengers as one of the best survival games out there and a really enjoyable deck builder.