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Written Review – Arctic Scavengers

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When it comes to post-apocalyptic games I’m usually all over them. One game slipped under my radar, however, and that game is Arctic Scavengers. It’s a deck building game that throws a spin on the usual mechanics of other games of the same genre. Originally listed as being published in 2009 by Driftwood Games, it was recently reprinted and rereleased this year by Rio Grande Games.

What’s It All About?

The year is 2097. The Earth has been enveloped by a cataclysmic shift in climate, plunging the globe into another ice age. Over 90% of the world’s population was wiped out, driving survivors to band together in loose communities and tribes. You are the leader of one of these small tribes of survivors. Resources, tools, medicine, food, and mercenaries are all in limited supply. What makes this worse is that you’re pitted against other tribes in a fight for survival. You’ll need to build up your tribe, skirmish against other tribes, and even bluff through challenges to walk away alive.

Out of the Box

Arctic Scavengers comes in a nice box that includes:

  • 67 Mercenary cards
  • 36 tool cards
  • 20 Refugee cards
  • 14 Contested Resources cards
  • 6 Junk cards
  • 1 Setup/Initiator card
  • 1 Junkyard mat
  • 1 Contested Resources mat
  • 1 Rulebook

The new version from Rio Grande also includes the HQ Expansion. This expansion includes:

  • 10 Tribe Leader cards
  • 4 Building cards
  • 3 Gang cards
  • 2 New Mercenaries (Medic and Engineer)
  • 1 New Tool (Rifle)

The cool thing about this new reprinting of the game is that it comes with a pretty cool storage solution. Like with some other deck building games there is a plastic insert inside the box that allows you to separate your cards by type along with a sorting guide to follow. You’ll be able to house both the core game and the HQ expansion with ease. The only issue I have with this is that it doesn’t accurately store the mats you get to place your cards on in the game. This means that the box doesn’t close all the way when you put everything away. I am sure, though, with some clever maneuvering you could get things to fit better, but I didn’t.


The goal in Arctic Scavengers is to end the game with the biggest tribe. You achieve this goal by winning Contested Resources. As with a traditional deck building game players begin with a deck of ten cards, built to specifics laid out in the rulebook. They will then take turns, taking different actions on each of their turns. Here’s where the spin comes in.

On your turn you may perform several different actions, though only one time each per action. Performing an action requires the player to play cards from their hand. Each card has a different set of stats on it what will determine its worth when performing different actions. By playing cards, players can do many different things:

  • Hunt – Play cards from your hand, combining their Hunt score to gather food. Used to hire Mercenaries.
  • Dig – Play cards from your hand, combining their Dig score to draw that many cards from the Junk pile. You’ll then choose one of them to place in your discard pile and put the rest on the bottom of the Junk deck.
  • Trash – Discard any number of cards from your hand to the Junk deck .
  • Draw – Play cards from your hand, combining their Draw score to draw more cards from your deck into your hand.
  • Hire – Play cards from your hand, combining their Medicine score along with any food you’ve gained from Hunting to hire a Mercenary from those available in the play area.

It’s important to note that once a card is played for an action it cannot be used for another. For example: if I played a Hunter to hunt for food, I then could not use that same Hunter to dig for cards from the Junk pile.

These actions are similar to the buy and/or defeat actions found in games like Dominion and Ascension, though Arctic Scavengers really opens up the floor to much more playability. It also introduces a new level of strategy to the game. You’ll really need to know when to hold the cards you’ve got and when to grab resources, especially when it comes to the Skirmish.

You see, the first two rounds in Arctic Scavengers are quiet. They’re meant to help players gather resources because starting with the third round the Skirmish begins. Players take their turns as normal, but any cards they do not play are saved for the Skirmish. This is an event in which players simultaneously, at the end of the round, reveal their cards they’ve kept specifically for the Skirmish. Players will compare their Fight scores and the player with the highest score wins the Skirmish. As a reward they take the top card of the Contested Resources deck. Play continues this way until the last card of the Contested Resources deck is taken. Once this happens players total up the number of members in their tribe, represented by a number in the lower-left corner of their cards, and whoever has the most wins the game!

The Verdict

At first I thought Arctic Scavengers would be a complicated game, but once I got into it I realized just how easy and fun-to-play it was. I will admit, having knowledge of other deck building games drastically helped, but I am certain anyone can pick up the game and get right into it. I really like the ability to perform different actions on my turn and having this system enables play to be different each time you sit down with the game. As for the included HQ Expansion, it adds even more gameplay that I’ll save for another review. Aside from the storage issue I had, Rio Grande did a great job reviving this awesome game, and the fact that the card art looks amazing is a definite plus. I will say, however, that if you’re not a big fan of deck building games than this wouldn’t be for you, but if you’ve been waiting for the rerelease of Arctic Scavengers, I really think you’ll be pleased.