The world ended a while back. Now, we must scavenge for the resources that will help us survive to fight the crazed and mad creatures of the badlands. Survival is anything but guaranteed in Remnants.
What Is Remnants?
Remnants is a post-apocalyptic survival game for two to four players, aged 13 and up. The game plays in about an hour and features deck building and real-time dice rolling. It’s hectic and a bit crazy, as life in the lawless apocalypse might be. Remnants is designed by Ben Rosset and Matthew O’Malley, the duo behind the excellent Between Two Cities (read our review), along with Justin DeWitt of Fireside Games, who is also the publisher of this title.
In the box, you’ll find:
- A game board
- 45 resource tokens (9 each of five different resources)
- 5 bonus tokens
- 2 survivor/training cards
- 22 survivor tokens (11 each of 2 characters)
- 15 specialist tokens (5 each of 3 specialists, two characters each)
- 9 badlands cards
- 6 Dread cards
- 3 Boss cards
- 6 Boss power up cards
- 4 Player boards
- 16 Identical dice
- 12 Loot tracking cubes (3 each in 3 types (colors))
- 1 Dread tracking cube
- 1 First player marker
- 15 Victory point tokens, double-sided
The quality of most of the components is very good. The cardboard is all nice and thick and the artwork that adorns it (and the cards) is fantastic and top-notch. It really helps set the theme and is worth careful examination for all the little details that can be found in the game.
On cardboard, the survivors and specialists are all postage-stamped size, with icons to note their abilities, if any, and are fairly uniform in their appearance. On their backs, a blood splatter and icon denote a wound. The resources are all the size of a dime and have the same icons on their fronts and backs. The resources they represent are one of the following: wood, rope, plastic, cloth, or metal. The bonus tokens are a bit bigger and are octagons. There are only five of them, but they grant some great powers.
The game board is a long rectangle with ruined buildings on its edges. In the center are places for the resources, where survivors and specialists will rush to grab the goodies before any of their competitors. The dread track is also on the board, as are spots for the bonus tokens. Lastly, in cardboard, are the victory points. They are small and double-sided, with one side having a value of one, the other side is valued two. The best part is that the victory tokens are ketchup packets because, in the future, flavor is the most valuable commodity. True story.
The dice, in particular are great. They are six-sided and custom, with each of the five resources on a side and the last face has a star, which can be used to collect bonus tokens. Additionally, each face has a number of pips on it, which are used to determine a player’s looting and fighting abilities.
Each player gets a player board, which are pretty solid. each board represents a different camp and they are unique in that each starts with a different number of survivors and/or specialists. The player board is where players track their loot and bank resources. Loot is defined as medicine, screwdrivers, and scrap and your loot progress. Medicine is used to heal your people, screwdrivers can be spent as pips toward a loot or fight total, and scrap may be spent as a resource of any kind. The game’s order of play is spelled out at the bottom of the player board, which is nice to have that aid.
The cards are ok, just plain card stock, however, the box is of a thinner stock, which feels a bit flimsy and not a standard quality. It’s unfortunate because the box is your first and last interaction every time you grab a game. I think that’s OK though — there’s a lot in the box and Remnants ends up being a pretty big value for it’s retail price of $39.99.
How to Play Remnants
There is a bit of work to setup the game. The game board is set in the middle of the playing area and a number of each resource equal to the number of players is placed on the board in its designated places. Bonus tokens are then placed on the board, equal to n-1 players. Extra resources and bonus tokens are set outside the board.
Those flavorful ketchup packets are placed in a pile near the board and the nine Badlands cards should be shuffled and placed near the Dread track. Next, players must make a decision about the difficulty of the game. When forming the Dread deck, first choose a Boss card at random from the three bad guys. Next, randomly select one of the Boss power up cards, which are categorized as level 1, 2, or 3. (These levels are noted on the back of the power up cards.) Level 1 power ups are going to be easier, so, for your first game, you might want to choose one of those. Complete the Dread deck by randomly adding a level 2 card on top of the boss and then a level 1 on top of the deck. The last one, the level 1, should be placed face up. The rest of the Dread cards should be returned to the box, as they will not be used. The Dread deck is placed near the Dread track and black cube should be placed at the start of the Dread track.
Players will want to able to build items to help them survive, so the Development grid must be created. Development cards are available in three levels, 1, 2, and 3. These cards should be separated by level, shuffled, and then the top three cards of each level revealed, in a grid. Each player gets a player board, which represents their compound. As mentioned, each compound is a bit different in the survivors and specialists they receive to start, so pick wisely (or blindly). Get your survivor/specialist chits next.
Everyone gets cubes to track their medicine, screwdrivers, and scrap. They all start at 0 on their respective tracks — hey, the Badlands are a brutal place! Lastly, each player gets four dice, a player is chosen to be first, and you’re ready to go!
The goal of Remnants is to survive. If you can manage to get to the end of the game, victory points are then used to calculate a winner. All development cards give victory points, some provide additional VP if conditions are met, plus if you defeat the Boss, you’ll get points for that. You also receive points for healthy survivors and specialists at the end of the game. Remnants takes place over six rounds, each of which has five phases.
Phase One: Scavenge
Each player must decide if they are going to send his or her survivors and specialists out to scavenge or loot, both of which take place during the scavenge phase. Scavengers are placed in the desert, along your edge of the board and looters are placed in the corner of the board, in a ruined city. There is no limit to how many you send to either area (nor do you have to send any) but specialists may influence your decisions. A scrounger (chit shows two black cubes) who is sent scavenging can collect a resource with two matching faces instead of the required three. A hauler (chit shows a generic resource with the number 2 on it) who is sent scavenging can bring back two resources, but they still must be rolled for. The last specialist is the Rummager (chit has a “L” on a yellow diamond) who shines when sent looting. This specialist can add one pip to your looting roll. More on how scavenging and looting work in a moment. First, players must face some potentially bad experiences.
Before scavenging and looting, the players must reveal and resolve a Badlands card. These can both be pretty good, providing medicine and resources, or pretty bad, dealing damage, losing people, or discarding resources. After each player resolves the card, the Dread track is advanced. Every other round, players must fight an outside threat. While there is no fight the first round, there are three fights, including the boss fight in the last round, and advancing the Dread track now reminds players what is coming.
Scavenging is resolved next and is a hectic, crazy bit of fun. Each player who committed at least one of their people to scavenge get to gather their four dice, someone says “GO!” and all hell breaks loose. Players roll for resources in real-time, meaning there are no turns — start rolling and don’t stop until you get what you want or the round ends. Players roll their dice, looking to roll at least three of the face of the resource they are working towards. Once a face turns up, it can be banked and the other dice collected and re-rolled. Once at least three faces are identical, the resource can be claimed by calling it out, loudly, and then all four dice are collected and the player can begin rolling for another resource. You may take resources equal to the number of specialists or survivors you sent to scavenge. (Exceptions for Haulers and Scroungers, as mentioned above.)
Scavenging continues until all the bonus tokens have been taken. Bonuses can be claimed by rolling at least three faces with stars showing on them. Once you collect a bonus token, your scavenging ends. You can’t roll any more during this phase. Bonus tokens can be played any time after this phase. There are a few more, nuanced rules, but this completes scavenging and brings up looting.
For each looter you committed to the burned out city, roll a single die once. Count the pips shown at the bottom of each die face and then advance the cubes on the medicine, screwdriver, or scrap tracks by a number equal to the total number of pips. If you need a bit more scrap or medicine, you can always spend two screwdriver points to earn an extra pip. Medicine, of course, is used to heal injured people in your compound. In addition to adding pips to your loot roll, screwdrivers may be spent on any roll that involves pips. Scrap may be spent to generate any resource at any time.
Wrapping up the Scavenge phase, any resource tokens remaining on the board are buried, moved to the very center of the board (any resources previously buried are returned to the supply). Buried resources may be claimed by players on the next scavenge phase as if they were regular resources, out in the open. Scavengers, looters, and claimed resources are placed on and around the player’s board and the phase ends.
Phase Two: Build
Next, players get to spend all the resource they’ve gathered. Beginning with the first player and then in turn order, players may purchase a development card or acquire or train survivors. This continues until everyone passes. The cost of a development is shown, in resources at the top of the card, beneath its title. An asterisk can be fulfilled with any resource. Once a card is purchased, it is immediately refilled by a card of the same level from its deck.
Development cards are classified as either weapons, defense, or specials and each card, once purchased, may only be used once per turn and are tapped when used. Defense cards reduce the health of the opponent on the Dread card during the health round. Weapons are also used during the fight phase and give you a die to roll for each fist symbol on your cards. Special cards provide a variety of benefits, from extra resources to discounts when building to extra victory points. New survivors can be brought into your compound or a survivor can be trained to be a specialist during this phase. There is a specified resource cost for both of these actions. At the end of the build phase, no player may have more than four resources, so spend wisely.
Phase Three: Fight
Fighting occurs during the second, fourth, and sixth rounds. Players will know what enemy they are facing, so they should be prepared — for victory or defeat. Each player fights the Dread card and should first consider the creature /raider’s health. Any defenses will immediately lower the Dread card’s health number. If it’s now at zero, the player is done fighting. If not, the player looks to see how many fist icons they have on the development cards in front of them and roll a number of dice equal to the fists. Pips are counted on the die and that number is subtracted from the Dread card’s current health. If a player has screwdrivers, they may spend them to get an extra pip or two. A player doesn’t have to fight. If it’s apparent they are going to lose, no matter what, they can hold on to their screwdrivers. Each Dread card has a win and lose outcome. Players who have defeated the threat get the win condition, losers get to feel the pain.
After the fight is complete, the current Dread card is removed from play and the next Dread card is revealed. If it’s the boss, players should also reveal the Boss’s power up card. Each player has to fight each Dread card at its full health – one player’s progress does not benefit other players. Bosses have additional powers, which must be considered, and also award VP to anyone who can defeat them. Dread cards can deal injuries, which are expressed by flipping the chits of survivors and specialists. Injuries can be healed with medicine. However, if you don’t have medicine, you can still send your people out to scavenge and loot. It should be noted that specialists cannot use their ability if they are injured. Two injuries will kill a person and if you lose all your people, you are out of the game. Brutal.
Phase Four: Heal
If you have medicine, now is a good time to use it. One medicine heals one injured person. You don’t have to heal your players, but why are you earning medicine if you don’t help your people? Note that the medicine track doesn’t award actual medicine until you have advanced to the third space on the track.
Phase Five: Cleanup
Cleanup a wasteland? As if! Oh, game cleanup? Ok. Any unused bonus tokens are returned to the supply (with the exception of one) and shuffled. Any tapped development cards are refreshed. Some cards generate loot, which is done during this phase. Resource and bonus tokens are placed on the board and the first player marker is passed.
Play continues until the end of phase four, the healing phase, during the sixth round. At that point, the game ends and victory points are counted.
Why You Should Play Remnants
You might think of Fireside Games as a publisher of softer, mostly cooperative, and family-friendly games — and you’d mostly be right. For years, GeekDad has faithfully recommended Castle Panic (among other games in the Fireside stable) for families with younger gamers. Remnants is a turn in down another road, one that looks a bit dangerous and might test you just a little. It’s a meatier game with challenge and some depth, but without the promise you’re going to make it to the end of the game.
Remnants forces some tough decisions on players. Should you send your players looting or scavenging? Should you take a bonus token right away or roll like crazy for resources? And when it’s time to build, you have to weigh resource generating cards against those that allow you to survive the battles against looming enemies.
Those fights are an interesting thing. Players know when they will occur and the enemy is even revealed, so players know what the price will be, should they lose. I wasn’t sure I liked that as much, so we hid the enemy cards until it was time to actually fight — it’s one of the alternate rules. It made a hard game tougher, but the victories were also that much sweeter.
Remnants is GeekDad Approved!
Related to the battles, every one of your people have a health of two and it’s a real possibility that a player might be eliminated before the final round. It only happened once for us, in all the times we played, but it left us with a bad taste because there is a fair amount of randomness in the game, between the dice rolls and the development cards available for purchase. I should mention that, even when the game seemed stacked against us, my kids still loved the game and would mention how much they enjoyed it, after we were done playing. That said, I appreciated that there was a decent amount of strategy to help balance the luck of the game.
The best part of the game, the dice rolling for resources is straight-up bananas. It’s hectic and crazy and, above all else, fun. That moment, when you realize your competitors are all going for the same resources as you … well, you never realized you could scoop up a die and roll it so quickly. So fast, in fact, that it wasn’t unheard of for players to scoop up the die face they wanted without thinking about what they had done. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, just wait until there’s a single bonus tile left or just one more of the resource you need to build in the next phase. It’s bonkers.
Mechanically, the game is strong. It’s easy to teach and to pick up and has enough depth to keep most players engaged. But I think where Remnants really excels is in its immersive theme. Because of the swing from frantic dice rolling to strategic building and back to the anxiousness of fighting bad guys, Remnants creates the illusion of a stressful outpost, where resources are hard to come by and pretty much everything is a fight. For me, any game that can transport you to its theme, I think that game has more than done its job. Plus, it’s my favorite game that uses ketchup as VP!
Remnants is available today from Fireside Games. It retails for $39.95.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.