Coming from a first Kickstarter in 2016, Rescue Polar Bears quickly found his audience. But very quickly, the game appeared to be suffering from some defects. In 2017 at Essen, a new version was published with adjustments making it even more pleasant. This is the version I will tell you about. Polar Bears Rescue: Data & Temperature is a game by designers Jog Kung (Cat Town) and Huang Yi Ming (The Deception of Antiques: 12 Chinese Zodiac Bronze Heads). It has been published by TwoPlus Games(Cat Box).
No surprises on the theme, the game is located at the North Pole. You are sent to head a rescue mission on the Arctic Ocean. Each player is behind the controls of a lifeboat. But who should we save? Polar bears of course!
The melting ice is accelerating and your team is responsible for recovering as much data as possible while preventing the disappearance of these adorable (but dangerous) hairy creatures. The recovered data will be used to raise awareness of the danger to the governments of the world (utopian?). You will therefore have to cooperate (with such a theme, what a surprise!) to carry out your objective.
For the set-up, nothing more simple. You take all the tiles, mix them, and install them face down on the board. Once done, we turn them over and remove the empty Ocean tiles. That's it, your playing area has appeared.
Among the available tiles, you will find three kinds: the ice banks numbered from 1 to 20 (where the bears can evolve), the empty Ocean tiles (which you will remove) and the tiles with a buoy (the tags can help you). We install the two bases, with the helicopters (essential), which will come to our rescue. We return a map position that allows us to define the location of the first data to be recovered. After putting the thermometer at 8 ° C, we turn over an alert token to know which number of the first ice sheet is in danger. Then install cute cubs and their parents. All that remains is to choose our boats and go.
Playable from 1 to 4 players, you can choose from five different boats. As in many of these styles games, each boat offers very different abilities. Several factors to take into account such as speed, the number of actions, the possibility of transport, power but also upgrades possible (two per boat). The initial choice is important. Each offers interesting possibilities and all are very useful in their own way.
Your rescue team can do its job. On your turn, you have three actions to perform from the possible actions (you can do the same several time):
to move : as many spaces as your ship allows;
collect a data / ship a bear : if you are adjacent to an ice floe, you can collect data or have a single bear embarked for each action (being careful of the available space);
land your bear cargo (also called "save polar bears") : if you are adjacent to a base, you can save ALL the bears in your boat for an action;
break the ice : does an ice floe prevent you from moving? No problem ! You are equipped for that. So you can go in, destroy it, which will remove the tile from the board. Positive effect: the temperature drops by 2 ° C (the water has cooled) / Negative effect: one tile less, end of game faster. An action to use sparingly so.
Of course, there are some specific actions for some boats, like finding more data, shipping more bears etc.
Once your three actions are completed, you slide into the breeding phase. It seems that polar bears are not aware of the danger. As a result, they continue to live normally. Which inevitably implies love between bears, and the potential appearance of new cubs because of the life’s miracle. But for that, you have to roll a dice 20 (ah, didn't you know that's how polar bears breed?). If the number of the die matches a tile in play, the miracle of nature does its job. If there is a male and a female, two new cubs are born. If there are only cubs, they grow (either in male or female). And if there is nothing, or there are not enough miniatures in the reserve or bears of only one sex, the temperature will go up by one degree.
Because yes, once the reproduction done, the heat continues to climb. So, we roll the temperature dice and increase the marker of the number indicated (possibly add the +1 bonus).
It is going to get more and more hotter in this part of the Ocean Arctic. And this is not the time to take a vacation. But what happens if the temperature reaches or exceeds the token of the tile where there is the alert counter? What it must scientifically do when the temperature is above the resistance of the ice ... the numbered ice pack melts and disappears. Positive effect: it will cool the water by 5 ° C. Negative effect: the end of the game approaches.
But what about the bears on it? Fortunately, polar bears have a minimum of survival instinct. It's like when a boat uses the icebreaker action or if after a birth, there are not more enough space on the tile. They will seek to move on the adjacent tiles that can accommodate them. Because yes, the ice is quite small. They can only accommodate three bears / cubs at a time. For those who unfortunately can not find a place, they find themselves in the water. It is known that polar bears are good swimmers. But actually not here. So, we have the chance to count on a helicopter team to come and save them. Phew. Except that we only have enough fuels for six flights (in the normal play), which is the rescue of six bears. After that... if by chance a bear drowns, your team would have failed in its holy mission.
The end of the game occurs if you win or lose. To win, one goal: to recover a sufficient number of data. To lose, it's even easier. If a single bear disappears or the temperature reaches 20 ° C, you lose.
Does it seem hard to win? It's because it is. The game is simple in its rules, but very hard in the possibility of a victory. It’s necessary to be vigilant, on the lookout for the least critical situation. Be careful, critical situation can often happen. You will have little respite in this excellent game. If you think you are saved, there is a problem that you have not seen. You can adjust the difficulty and add ice float tiles, which block the movement. The boats must therefore use the icebreaker action to move forward. In this case, the temperature does not drop. Behind a cute design, exceptional material, we are not in the simple family game. To win, you have to think and be ready to find the parry at the right time.
To help you, in addition to helicopters, you can win cards (limited number) by stopping on the buoys. These cards can save your life. But you will have to play them at the right time. Which upgrades to choose and for whom are also important things to consider.
Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature is smart to talk about a vital ecological problem without being preachy. The two designers have found the perfect recipe to combine playful fun with awareness. The theme is ubiquitous whatever one does.
Even if it is indicated 8 years on the box, and that it is quite possible to play there in family, the game offers a challenge worthy of experts. To win, you will not only have to rely on luck. From the start with the selection of boats, any choice during the game will have a significant impact on the future and any error is expensive. Especially for bears. They are so adorable that we can only want to save them. The material is really exceptional. Resin bear miniatures are beautiful and cute as they should (even if they can slightly deteriorate rather quickly). The boat embossed cardboard adds a nice 3D side. Tiles and tokens are made of cardboard. Cards of good qualities. Everything is well thought out and ergonomic. We are far from the beautiful game that hides gaps of interest or replayability. This one is very important: set up always different, rise of random waters, choice of boats, appearance of data ... Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature is a very good surprise. A game that deserves its place in any game library. A beautiful, intelligent, interesting game, carrying a strong message, while allowing to have fun great pleasure. A blow of heart certainly.
Technical Score 9.5 / 10 Exceptional gaming equipment, everything is at the service of the theme. Simple to set up, the miniature bear resin make their effect quickly. Perfect alliance between ergonomics and beauty.
My BGG Score 8.5 / 10 (Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it.) A very good challenge, a theme omnipresent, huge replayability, fun and intelligent. A cooperative game that requires cooperation every moment. Short rules, well illustrated and easily understood.
Combined Score 9/10 And now it's over to you ...