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Remnants Review

Quick Look: Remnants

Designer: Justin De Witt, Matthew O'Malley, Ben Rosset
Artist: John Ariosa, Victor Pérez Corbella, Mateusz Wilma
Publisher: Fireside Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 45-60 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


tl;dr: Post-apolocalyptic base builder with some neat simultaneous action. Mad Max without the car chases.

Getting to the Game: Setup is a little intense, but far from noisome. Each player gets a unique player board with their camp's starting scavengers and four dice. The center board representing the wastelands of this terrible future is littered with the five resource types you and your fellow campers will by vying for. The development grid, containing the cards that you're going to use those resources to build is shuffled and dealt out, containing cards from three different levels of complexity/value. Finally, a Dread pile is constructed based on how difficult a game you want to play. A boss and their upgrade is randomly chosen, and on top of that is added two levels of Dread cards, representing threats to your camps that you'll encounter throughout the game. The rest of the game's tokens are set near the board, and a deck of Badlands cards is shuffled and put next to the Dread deck. It's a lot of fiddly bits to set up, but it belies pretty straightforward gameplay.

Remnants is played over six turns. The odd-numbered turns are basic building turns; no threats will arise during them. You're setting up for the even-numbered turns, where that previously-constructed Dread deck is going to come into play. Over each turn, you're going to go through the game's five phases. The trick here is that killing the intruders to your base only matters insomuch as doing so not only prevents your tribe from being slaughtered (thus ending your game), and also that successfully defending from them will give you victory points (awesome ketchup packetsflavor is the only real currency in the wasteland), the way you win the game. 

Playing the Game: Each turn, as the leader of your particular scavenging tribe, you will assign whichever survivors you have left to one of two jobs: Scavenging or Looting. Scavengers can bring back one resource each from the wasteland board, which starts each round with an equal amount of cloth, plastic, metal, rope, and wood. Looters each get one die to roll, and can add the amount of pips on the dice they roll to your Loot, which is medicine, screwdrivers, and scrap. The resources your scavengers gain can be used to purchase development cards which range in benefits from granting a static resource each turn to increasing the defenses of your camp. Loot is a little different. Medicine allows you to heal your injured scavengersand they WILL get injured. The wasteland and raiders will see to that. Screwdrivers allow you to add pips to your rolls, either for future looting, defending against raiders, or anything else that might require you to risk a die roll. Scrap serves as sort of a generic resource bank, allowing you to spend it to gain a single resource from the supply (it can't be used to snake a needed resource from your opponents). 

After committing your survivors, the scavenging begins. Starting all at once, each player rolls all four of their dice. You can re-roll as many dice as you want as many times as you want, until three of them match. At that point, you call out the resource you've rolled, and take it from the center of the board and put it on one of your scavengers. Once they're all full, or none of the resources you want remain, you can attempt to roll three stars. If you do, you can claim one of the bonus tokens left on the board. This signifies the end of your scavenging. There's always one less bonus token than number of players, so the slowest roller won't get one. After everyone's done, the players who assigned looters roll one die per looter. Add up the number of pips rolled across all your dice, plus any bonus pips, and then move your choice of loot cubes that number of spaces to the right. The simultaneous nature of the scavenging is really great, lending a ton of flavor to the theme and making it feel like you're really fighting each other for a single plastic bottle.

From there, it's time to build. In turn order, each player is going to spend their resources to gain a building card from the display. On even-numbered turns, you're going to want to prioritize defense and attack cards if you can't repel the imminent raider. These turns tend to be the most chaotic, as the display is available to everyone during the scavenging phase, so if Barricade or Wood Wall is showing, you better be fast to the wood and rope. The nice thing is that with information fully available, you can plan for the upcoming battle. The awkward thing is that everyone else also has this information, so they can too. You're gunning for the same resources, so you'd better be fast. It's this balance that creates some really great tension and dynamic game play. Remnants soars in this area.

The actual battling is thematic, but not particularly "fun." As mentioned, the goal is to defend from the raiders, so you're building up your base in that way. You have weapons, but they only come into play when your defenses aren't enough (when the raiders have breached your walls and are in your base). Never battling the raiders produces the same rewards as fighting and defeating them, so your survivors feel more like cornered refugees than wasteland-hardened warriors. This is slightly at odds with the artwork, but serves the overall theme pretty well. If you can change your mindset to this type of game (gathering, surviving) rather than what you might expect from a Mad Max type offering (fighting, thieving), you'll find a really great time underneath.

Overall, Remnants provides an excellent tabletop experience. Looting and scavenging are well designed, and the addition of managing and recruiting specialist survivors is very welcome. There's enough here to feel crunchy and deep without being overwhelming.

Artwork and Components: Remnants has a really fantastic table presence. The artwork feels suitably dire, with some very nice attention paid to create a unified look. Iconography is solid, and you can tell at a glance what each card does. The art on cards is really nice, the tools and weapons aren't salvaged stuff from the world as it was. This equipment is cobbled-together tech that is literally strung together. Wraps of cloth and plastic hold the flamethrower to the tank, the speargun is loaded with a giant rubber band. Attention to details like this really make the game pop, and it deserves recognition.


The dice are great, but are a tad small for my hands. Considering the best mechanic in the game is fast-rolling them, they could stand to be a bit bigger (if you've played DiceMasters, then you have a good grasp of the size). Still, the icons on the dice match perfectly to the icons on the board, so nothing is lost in translation here, and you can quickly pick up visually what you've rolled. The tokens are standard cardboard chits. Nothing to write home about. The inset player boards are fantastic, a great improvement over just sliding marker cubes around. Including order of play on them is wonderful.

The Good: Scavenging from a central pool at the same time as the other players adds a delicious element of competition. Game looks great on the table. Difficulty is appropriately punishing, considering the theme. Theme is strong.

The Bad: Player elimination is a bummer, especially when it's completely based on luck of dice rollingat 45-60 minutes (longer in some cases), it hurts a lot to fail early through no fault of your own and then be out. 

Score: Remnants packs some really interesting and fun moments into a dark, futile theme. Base building is really great, competition is solid, battling is just fine. Overall, this is a solid addition for 3-4 players who love Mad Max-style media. I'm giving Remnants a score of Not a Wasteland.

Check out Remnants on:


About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
Remnants Review Remnants Review Reviewed by The Madjai on June 20, 2018 Rating: 5

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