16 November 2018
Rolling for scraps at the end of the world
Set amid the Mad-Maxian dust and violence of a ravaged, post-nukified world, Remnants instantly strikes you as the kind of game that will involve roaring about radioactive wastelands in pimped-up war-vehicles, like a kind of 21st-century Battlecars. Yet, despite the prominence of such fuel-guzzling monstrosities on the box art, it’s a far less kinetic affair. The focus is instead on survival: scrabbling for resources (iron, rope, old plastic bottles, etc.), while patching together a safe, secure compound in anticipation of the ultimate arrival of some Humungus/Immortan Joe-ish boss bastard come the seventh and final round.
A collaboration between the minds behind Castle Panic and Between Two Cities, Remnants realises its theme of desperate scrounging and junk-armoured hunkering through a blend of frantic real-time dice-rolling and rather more considered card/asset collection. The first phase of each round involves allocating your compound’s denizens as either scavengers out in the wasteland, or looters in the shattered cities. Then, after a Badlands card is resolved (usually doing something nasty to your scavengers before they’ve even got going) the dice-rolling begins.
Each player has four custom dice, showing each kind of loot on five of its faces and a star on the sixth. With each roll you can choose to keep as many or few of your results as you like before re-rolling the other dice – the aim being to get a set of three icons and claim the matching piece of loot from a limited pool at the board’s centre before the other players do, which you dump on an available scavenger until they’re all loaded up. If you roll three stars, however, you take a bonus token, which confers a ‘for this round only’ special ability and cease rolling. Once all the bonus tokens are gone (there’s always one fewer than there are players), everyone has to stop. Then looters take their turn, with one die being tossed per looter, its one-to-three pips, located beneath the loot icons, being tallied up to convert into three kinds of handy ‘loot’ stat (medicine, screwdrivers or scrap).
It’s frantic and fun and appropriately matches a sense of people racing to grab all they need to beef up their compound before the next baddie-onslaught begins. This construction element is handled in the build phase, through which you spend resources to recruit survivors or specialists (who have extra abilities), and claim development cards that can offer defence boosts, weaponry or special abilities – all very handy when the every-other-round fight phase kicks off, and you need all you can to modify crucial combat rolls with raiders or mutant beasts.
There is much to like, but the cardboard components are a cut below the impressive tactile quality of so many other titles on the market and, more crucially, it feels inherently limited, lacking much variety – either from round to round, or between games. The development, Badlands and dread decks are very thin, meaning the same assets, events and threats will come up more often than they should. Even worse, there are only three bosses included, which hardly provides much scope for surprise when the final dread card is flipped at the game’s end.
Remnants is entertaining enough if you only plan to play it a few times. But when it comes to tabletop longevity, it definitely lacks endurance.
Simultaneous dice-rolling and thoughtful tableau-building suit the theme well, but the cheapness of the components and the measliness of the decks deprive it of any long-term appeal.
Designer: Justin De Witt, Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset
Artist: John Ariosa, Victor Pérez Corbella, Mateusz Wilma
Time: 60 minutes
This review originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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