The 51st State Master Set released in 2016, and was a much improved version of that fun engine building game. If you don’t know much about it, you can read our full review here. Even though the Master Set includes two expansions (New Era and Winter) in the box, that didn’t stop Portal Games from going back to the well.
Today we are going to be looking at the new Scavengers expansion to 51st State and see if this 3rd expansion is worth adding to your collection.
Much like the other small box expansions for 51st state, Scavengers doesn’t include any new factions. Instead there are 50 cards that can be mixed in with the core set.
The new cards in Scavengers change-up the game play in a few ways. The biggest new feature is that each player now has their own personal discard piles. This is important because any time a player has to discard a card, it goes to their own pile and many cards in the Scavengers expansion will reference another player’s discard pile. Some will let you draw cards from them, while others will give you resources based on the icons showing on the top card.
There are a few other unique cards, such as ones that will let you rebuild ruins in your tableau or steal resources from other players. Finally, there is a new type of connection card to go along with the original two. These will have you drawing cards from your opponents discard piles and adding them to your hands.
Game Experience With the Expansion:
Scavengers does a good job of putting its own unique stamp on 51st State. I’ll say this for Portal Games, their expansions always seem to feel wholly unique and not just more of the same. And the real star of Scavengers is being able to pull cards from other player’s discard piles.
While I was a little worried at first that Scavengers would cause the game to slow down as players are scanning other player’s discard piles, it ended up not being an issue. As players usually don’t need to sift through a full discard pile, a quick scan of which card is on top isn’t any slower than looking to see what you opponent has built in their empire.
One great thing that Scavengers adds to 51st State is more player interaction. Many cards will key off the top card of a discard pile, so you can really hurt players by making sure icons they need aren’t showing. On the same token, there are now cards to steal resources from players, so for those of you that like interaction, Scavengers definitely ups the ante.
However, I will say that if you are not a conflict heavy group, then Scavengers might not be for you. Many cards trigger off having ruins in your tableau. While there are a few cards that let you add free ruins to your empire, those are few and far between. So if your group isn’t the type that is constantly razing your opponent’s structures, then many of the ruin oriented cards will not be used very often.
Speaking of ruins, Scavengers does give players a way to rebuild ruins (via certain cards), so if an opponent razes a building that’s the linchpin of your engine, you now have a means to get that card back (if you are lucky enough to draw it).
While I think that Scavengers is a good expansion. I don’t think everyone is going to need to rush out and buy it for a couple of reasons. The main one being that if your group isn’t one that thrives on direct conflict, then this probably won’t be the expansion for you. The ruin cards just won’t be showing up often enough to make use of many of the new cards.
The other thing to think about is that 51st State already comes with 2 great expansions. Now I will say that Scavengers is definitely different enough from Winter and New Era to justify owning (especially at its affordable price point), however if you haven’t played both of those expansions enough to be looking for more variety, then you can probably hold off for a while.
That being said, Scavengers introduces some interesting new concepts and is worth picking up if you are a dedicated 51st State fan. It’s unique, provides some fun new mechanics, and will definitely add some more variety to your game. The choice is yours as to what camp you fall into.
• Not geared towards groups with low conflict