Scavengers is a new game from Zombie State games, the creators of “Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead“. Zombie state was a relatively dark game, with intense strategy, so I was surprised when I saw that their new game was about little furry animals stealing food from campers. It seemed like a major departure from the hard core gaming the company had previously done.
Scavengers is played on a little board with two decks of specialty cards, and a large handful of food chips. It’s a pretty compact little game, and the back of the box indicates that the designers did that on purpose so it would be portable. This very European thought process had me thrilled. I prefer the smaller condensed packaging over the American ideal that “bigger is always better”. Although at this point, I must admit that I took the American mindset and assumed that a small packaged card game with a woodland theme automatically meant the game was going to be simplistic. So, it was much to my pleasant surprise when I found myself being forced into a good deal of thought on my turns.
On each turn players play down a card into one of three camp sites. These cards represent woodland creatures who are searching for food. Each one has a value associated with them, as well as a special ability. The ability happens right away, which can be powers such as “move a food scrap from another camp to the camp this card is played on” (which is an ability the Squirrel has) or “remove a squirrel, chipmunk, or mouse card an opponent controls from the board” (which is an ability of the Owl). This ying and yang effect of the cards is present throughout the deck. Every card has a downfall and every card has instances where they are powerful.
At the end of a round, which occurs when everyone is out of cards, or when everyone has passed, the player with the most points on a camp wins all of the food scraps on that camp. Those food scraps are removed from the board and placed on recipe cards that each player is trying to complete. When a player has completed all of their recipes, they win.
This actually all equates to a highly strategic game. Which cards do you save for the end of the round? Which camps do you play your critters on? Should you cluster all the food you need at one camp, or spread it around? Should you run off powerful critters now through the use of special cards, like the Dog, or should you wait till your opponent thinks they have that camp, and then steal it away when they have no recourse? Lots and lots and lots of options.
I played this game with a good number of different people, each with different tastes in games, and I didn’t find a single person who didn’t like it. Everyone seemed pleasantly surprised by the depth, but given that the game was easy to pick up, and turns didn’t take very long, everyone seemed really happy and accepting of that depth, even those that typically enjoy “fluffier” games. This game is a “main course” kind of game, not a filler like most people expected. So my hat goes off to Zombie State Games for creating another great game. I was expecting much less when I saw the packaging and theme, but they really delivered.
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