Quick Look: Scarce
Designer: Kim Jansson
Artists: Kim Jansson
Publisher: Todys Games
Year Published: Coming to Kickstarter (Link to follow along via Backerkit at bottom of this review)
In this alternate history game, a nuclear event began to devastate the world and most of the world is now covered in the ocean.
In order to avoid extinction, the survivors have built massive floating cities that need to be constantly powered to keep the cities moving.
This requires expeditions to the few remaining land masses and even the deep ocean to find the necessary materials for the cities. But resources are scarce…
Scarce is a cooperative or competitive experience where players need to finish the construction of the enormous nuclear plant that powers their floating city. Each player is in control of a dragonfly ship, a vehicle that can travel in the air, on the ocean surface, and in the deep ocean.
Players can upgrade and manage the crew and modules of their individual ships to maximize resource gathering. All this while avoiding a doomsday cult, hellbent on destroying the city. The cult has its own city on the way and several scouting forces already in the vicinity of the player city. Players will need to move carefully to avoid enemies and be time efficient to get their city moving before the enemy city arrives. The deep sea is not safe either as strange creatures lurk in the dark.
– Explore resource tokens above and below the ocean surface as you move your craft on a multi-dimensional gameboard. This is done while avoiding dangers on both levels. Outmaneuver or defeat these threats as you see fit!
– Upgrade your craft by attaching modules, recruiting crew members, and acquiring ability cards to maximize the efficiency of your turn. You will also need to play your cards right! Use your deck of cards to maneuver the craft, assign crew members to new posts, and execute powerful abilities. Using the right card at the right time might be enough to avoid disaster.
– Manage your resources well! You will need to use them to build the nuclear plant in order to achieve victory but you will also need to use them to slow the progress of the enemy city that is constantly closing in on you. If the time is up and the enemy city reaches you, it is too late and all is lost.
This is a game with a lot of choices, possibilities, strategies, and changing conditions. If you´d like a gateway into heavier games with several mechanics but in an easy-to-learn package, this game is for you!
It took a couple of times going through the game to really get into it, but once I did, the game was very enjoyable. I never felt locked out of any actions or areas on the game boards. It took a bit to understand how to use the seafloor well, but doing so can be rewarding. Having an Enemy city takes the focus off interacting with other players a bit, but interacting with other players can be one of the more fun aspects of the game. There are a number of tokens, icons, and different things which may overwhelm some players, but to me, as long as the bits don’t take over or force the gameplay, that is fine. Gamers should watch to see when this game will be released.
The rule book does an excellent job of describing the various components of the game and where they fit into the game. The gameplay rules are not extensive; only 1 page to describe a round and the game end. Several pages at the end of the rules can be copied for player aids to help with what components, tokens, and cards perform what actions or have a particular meaning.
Note: Since this was a TTS game it is likely the rule book was not in its final form.
The setup is not difficult, but can take a bit of time depending on the configuration used. The main game board is comprised of 2 different boards (a Surface and a Seafloor board) which can be set up either side-by-side or in a 3D configuration with the Surface board perched over the Seafloor board by a central column. The longest part of setup is placing tokens on the main boards. There is a City board that will have City missions on it that must be set up. The Player cards and the Enhanced cards are set up so players can see the ones that are revealed. Each player takes their player board and associated tokens. Some setup changes are made depending on whether the players are playing in cooperative mode or competitive mode. Once setup is complete, players roll a die and the highest role becomes the start player.
In Scarce you are a commander of a vessel that searches the ocean, which covers the Earth, for resources to use. In competitive mode you are trying to become the greatest commander. In cooperative mode you are working with the other commanders to save your city from a rival city. As you move around the board you will encounter events and sea monsters. Additionally, you can dive to the Seafloor, where rewards are greater, but so are the dangers.
The mechanic of the game is deck-building, resource management based actions. Each turn you draw up to a 4 card hand to perform actions, such as movement, resource collection, or tasks. One action can be to collect more cards to add to your deck. Some cards are more powerful (Enhanced cards). Some actions can be taken by simply discarding a card. Gameplay can be altered or interrupted by events or encounters.
Scarce is played over an indeterminate number of rounds. After the game is set up, players take turns performing actions based on the cards available to them in their play area. Some cards have an immediate action, such as an Energy Leakage card, while other cards can be used for multiple purposes.
Cards can be used to move your vessel, up to the number of spaces indicated by the Movement icon. This can be different between the surface and seafloor (not all cards have seafloor movement). If your vessel ends its movement on a token that has not been flipped over, players gain the depicted resource, and may sometimes flip the token over and gain that resource as well. If the other side of a token is a whirlpool, this will cause your vessel to dive to the seafloor, and you will need to surface in another location.
Cards can be used to perform the action as stated on the card. This can be actions on the game or player board, gathering additional resources, or altering other play actions. There may be a downside to using the action, however, in that if there is also a Foe or Enemy City icon on the card, Foes or the Enemy City will move, which may cause an encounter.
Cards can also be simply discarded to perform 1 of 4 other actions. You can use the card to dive to the seafloor, add to the City mission card, supply minerals to your city, or buy modules and crew tiles for your vessel.
Play continues until one of the game end conditions is met. This can be when the Enemy city token reaches the end of the Time counter or players fail to supply needed minerals to their city prior to needing them against the Enemy city (all players lose), the City mission cards are completed in cooperative play (player who has the most points wins), or the City mission cards are completed in competitive mode (player who has contributed the most and/or has the most points wins).
I really like the artwork of the game. The artwork is very reflective of the theme of the game. The graphics add to the feel of the game being post-apocalyptic, almost steampunk in nature, but also very nautical. Many of the graphics give a Jules Verne, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea vibe.
There are an abundance of actions. Players will have plenty of actions to perform making it very hard to have a wasted turn. It is possible to draw 4 cards that you cannot play, but there are player board actions you may be able to take.
The gameplay rules do not fully follow traditional rulebook setup. It may be difficult for some to follow the gameplay since some of the gameplay rules are included in the description of the components.
The 3D playing setup. When the gameboards are setup in the 3D mode, moving on the surface may be problematic where players can’t press down too hard without upsetting the board. Moving on the seafloor requires some dexterity.
Although this was a TTS version of the game, I did enjoy playing it. I had to keep the rulebook close to make sure the game proceeded as was allowed, but once the basics of the game were established I didn’t have to refer to the rules as often. I much prefer the non-3D setup, but can understand the need to keep the 2 boards in sync which may be more difficult if they are side by side. As the Enemy city approached, I did get a sense of urgency and dread to supply the city and finish the City mission cards. I can see a number of different winning strategies; it’ll be interesting to explore them. I will be watching for this game to get published. I’m not a fan of cooperative gameplay, so I didn’t fully test that mode, but it didn’t seem all that different from the competitive gameplay. I would definitely recommend this game to gamers who like a deck-building resource management type of gameplay.
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I grew up loving to solve puzzles, play games, and have fun. In my younger years I had fun playing pencil games, enjoyed the creativity of playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, and generally hanging out with others. My favorite thing to do was to make puzzles of all kinds, mazes, word games, picture games, etc.
Sadly my career took me in a different direction, solving computer problems rather than gaming problems.
Gaming came back into my life, though, in a big way about 15 years ago, and I have held onto it since. I still enjoy designing games and have 9 published titles, which I did through my own game publishing company, Toresh Games, prior to the Covid pandemic. Sadly I was not able to sustain the company through the pandemic.
I highly encourage people to play games, make friends, and have fun. As a game enthusiast, I would love to see a return to games as the best social media platform for the masses.
All of Thomas Shepherd’s reviews can be found HERE.