One of my favorite interviews on Gumbo Live! during Season Two was Justin De Witt of Fireside Games. He’s as much of a bundle of energy as I am, so the biggest struggle was making sure we could compress everything into one hour!
We talked about cons, games and designs in general, but the game he seemed really excited about was Remnants. It is coming out on July 25, and afte the show, Justin was kind enough to send me a review copy. Here’s our discussion.
You could tell Justin was pretty proud of this design. So what did we think after our first couple of plays? Join us around the table for a little beignets and board games talking about Remnants.
Remnants is a four player game designed by Justin De Witt, Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rossett . Players will compete in a competitive post-apocalyptic world to establish an individual compound and protect it from dangerous raiding parties. Each player will develop their compound with upgrades that can eventually defeat the three big baddies that are attacking the area. The game uses a market system for upgrades and a mitigated dice system for scavenging for useful materials, and plays in about 60 minutes.
Remnants comes in the usual standard size box similar to Kaiju Crush and Hotshots, with thematic artwork from John Arisoa, Victor Perez Corbella, and Mateusz Wilma. Players will find a main game board, and unique player boards with the oh-so-trendy (and definitely cool) recessed boxes to track progress on the development tracks. The game also comes with a ton of cards and unique dice. There’s plenty of other cardboard bits, ranging from the victory point tokens to the resource tokens that players will pick up while scrounging.
Good news, gateway gamer fans. Remnants is one of the more involved offerings from a mechanism standpoint from Fireside Games, but it is still a pretty easy teach, because the game progresses through five stages that all make thematic sense. After first choosing their unique faction, players will then start with the Scavenge phase.
For fans of games like Steam Park, where frenetic dice rolling is the order of the day, this may be the most fun step. Players will roll dice looking to match similar symbols, and grab resources that match those symbols from the piles in the center of the board. The twist is that players have to decide which of their survivors to send. Do you send the regular survivors, who are efficient at grabbing resources but with no special abilities? Or do you send one of the specialized workers that you have? For fans of delicious decisions, there is a lot of thought and planning required, but if you are not a fan of real time dice rolling, don’t worry. Sure, it is an advantage to roll fast, but finishing last is not something that will feel too punitive.
Next, players will take turns in the Build phase, adding cards from the market (and maybe even more specialized survivors, too, as players develop their own unique strategy for the end game) to add weapons, defenses, and buildings to their compound. This is followed by Fight and Heal, which are pretty self-explanatory. Both are important, because keeping survivors injury free (and alive) is a big part of the game, and how you deal with those injuries can have big impacts on game play later in the game.
The enemies will level up from one to three levels of difficulty, and the tangling with the final boss can be a very nasty affair. Hopefully by then, players have sufficiently developed their weapons or defenses and can withstand the attack, but how a player gets there is part of the fun.
Score up the points earned at the end of the game, and the one with the most points is the winner! On our brand new Roux Scale of Heaviness, I’d put Remnants on the tiny bit lighter than medium roux level, akin to something like Paramedics: Clear! in weight.
BUT IS IT FUN?
Game nights with my son and his friends have two pre-requisites: the games have to be thematic and they have to be fun. After a couple of plays, the verdict was positive on both counts. The artwork, resources, upgrade cards, and game board all contribute to the post-apocalyptic feeling, and the dice rolling for resources mechanism is amped up fun, but just short enough not to feel overwhelming to those who do not like real time action.
I like when a designer gives me multiple options to victory. In Remnants, the decisions are not as obvious as in other games. I could focus on grabbing as many survivors as I could afford, to give me more dice to secure resources. Or, I could focus on grabbing weapons, defense, or other building cards to upgrade my compound, to give me a leg up when we are getting raided or when attacking the big bosses. I could walk the line on injury, content to spend my resources on cards and new survivors, or protect my compound as best as I could.
It will take more than a couple plays to uncover all the strategies that are at our disposal, and the fact that there are multiples of everything (cards, factions, bosses, threats and events) that worrying about replayability should not be a factor.
But my favorite aspect was the dice rolling. I love that mechanic in Steam Park, where players compete to roll as fast as you can to secure the actions they will take for that round, without waiting to long and getting stuck with too much dirt (negative points). In Queen Games’ Escape, the dice rolling is almost too frenetic, and can be frustrating if one gets knocked down with negative consequences.
Remnants feels like the perfect blend. After a little bit of planning, players will know what they are looking for in the rolls and quickly start grabbing the resources. Once the last person is finished, the rest of the round is all about turn by turn construction, fighting and healing. So while scavenging for resources is very important, the mechanism is not overwrought and should not turn off the gamers who don’t like the pressure that real time rolling can create in other games.
FINAL THOUGHTS: :
It is still early in our plays, but Remnants is my favorite Fireside Game so far. Remnants has a great theme, good artwork, and two of my favorite mechanisms (real time dice rolling and card purchase from a market) done well. The tension from building up your compound to withstand the attacks every other round is palpable, and the end game is very satisfying. Throw in the competitive point scoring, and this hits a lot of marks for me.
I asked Jack and Mitchell about the weaker aspects of the game. The artwork, while perfect for the game could have a little more variety, and the lack of a good player aid for each player made learning the various stages and abilities a little slower than we would have liked. Plus, it would have also helped us decipher some of the cards more quickly.
But, these are minor quibbles. Remnants is an enjoyable experience, and sits right in the wheelhouse of anyone who enjoys thematic one hour wonder games.
Remnants has a scheduled street date release of July 25, 2018.