Desperation in the Dark
In Godforsaken Scavengers, you are an insect-like creature that has endured a mysterious cataclysm and is trying to survive and maybe escape unnoticed by the things in the dark. The game plays in around thirty minutes for 1-6 players and offers cooperative, competitive, and solo scenarios.
When I saw the Ricky Royal preview for Godforsaken Scavengers, I was excited. To my thinking, there are too few thematic games that play in under an hour for the solo gamer. Many games provide rich, thematic experiences, like Mage Knight and Arkham Horror–but at a steep investment in time and complexity.
As much as there is something elegant about designing one of these solo-gaming titans, there is something equally clever about designing a rich small-game experience.
Let’s unpack the core elements of this game, and discuss why they resonate with me, and might appeal to you.
Anatomy of a Game
Drawblack, the company behind Godforsaken Scavengers, had this to say about their project:
We drew inspiration from both heavier story-driven games like Dead of Winter or Robinson Crusoe and smart lighter games like Control or Port Royal to create a mixture that is very accessible with optional depth somewhat hidden from the plain sight.
And in watching the solo playthrough (linked above), I could see their unique take on some favorite mechanisms in games.
Location, Location, Location
One thing that appeals to me is that the game has locations with various effects on gameplay. This is a characteristic that has been used to great effect in other games, such as Space Hulk: Death Angel, Lord of the Rings LCG, and Warhammer Quest ACG to name a few.
Unlike these other games, where you must generally fulfill certain conditions before moving on, Godforsaken Scavengers keeps the pressure on players by only allowing them one round to gather enough cards to survive the location, before requiring them to move on. In this way, Drawblack offers players something familiar with a new spin.
Mystery and Luck
One of my favorite solo games, Elder Sign, balances luck with planning. Tougher locations offer better rewards, but are also quite difficult to complete; easier locations may be simpler to conquer, but seldom offer the type of reward needed to win the game.
Similarly, in Godforsaken Scavengers, the cards you can scavenge are ranked: yellow, orange, and red (or one, two, and three spears). Yellow cards offer smaller rewards, but also few dangers, while orange and red cards offer greater bonuses but might hide greater perils waiting to snare the unwary.
Once you select a pile to draw from, you can only keep going (or not) with that particular pile for a round, even if the cards underneath prove riskier than the top card. While not unique, it’s a nice touch for a survival-themed game: the best loot is often the riskiest. And, the uncertainty of the card draw is a source of tension.
Another survival trope is that there is only so much your character can do to stave off bad stuff. In Robinson Crusoe, for example, each round an event happens that causes something bad. This event can go from bad to worse if you don’t use an action to address it. But, sometimes, you should ignore the event anyway, and take the penalty because your valuable actions are needed elsewhere.
Similarly, in The Grizzled, where players are trying to survive WWI, players often take trauma (“hard knock”) cards that force them to play under some sort of handicap. These cards can be discarded with the support of other players, but some of them are more debilitating than others.
In Godforsaken Scavengers, players suffer afflictions for not eating food at the end of each round. But, sometimes, spending a card as food rather than keeping it to use in a later round is more costly.
Packing meaningful choices into a small game appeals to me, as well.
Go Forth and Scavenge!
In sum, I find Godforsaken Scavengers compelling because it seems to be aware of the mechanisms and tropes that have made other games successful, while bringing its own twist and unique theme to the table.
The images might be frightening to younger gamers, but older players will find an atmospheric world with significant choices. While I have yet to play the game, I anticipate that it will join my rotation of go-to solo games.
If you wish to check it out, the Kickstarter is here.
Until next time!