Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature
The ice caps are melting. It’s up to you to find enough data to understand and halt the warming, while saving stranded polar bears from drowning as the ice melts underneath them. Are you up to the challenge: Rescue Polar Bears?
Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature is a game for up to four players designed by Jog Kung and Huang Yiming, published in the United States by Mayday Games. Cooperate to sail ships around the board, collect data, rescue bears, and occasionally break through the ice, while the temperature climbs.
How to Play
After setting up the map tiles, bears, and tokens, each player selects a ship (randomly) and places it on one of the starting spots marked on the board. You’re ready to begin!
On your turn, you take 3 actions. Handily, you have “Action tokens” you can pass to the next player to help you keep track of how many actions you have left.
Move your own ship across and through the hexagons on the board, based on its speed. You may not sail through ice tiles or the helicopter base. If you end your movement on a special support tile, draw a Support card and use its special power immediately. Each support tile can only be used once; then you must remove it from the board.
Load a Data Token
Obtaining Data tokens is the object of the game. If you end your ship’s movement on an ocean tile containing a Data token, pick it up for free. If the Data token is on an ice tile adjacent to your ship, you may spend an action to “load” it.
Every third Data token obtained unlocks an Upgrade token. Players decide together which ship receives the upgrade, and the new upgraded ability may be used immediately.
If there are no Data tokens on the board after loading, flip a Position card and place a new Data token.
Load a Polar Bear
Spend an action to load a single polar bear onto your ship from an adjacent ice tile. You may not load your ship past its maximum capacity.
If your ship is adjacent to one of the two helicopter base tiles, you may unload all the bears on your ship for a single action. Return the bears to the supply.
If ice tiles are blocking an important path, or it’s crucial to bring down the temperature, you may perform “ice-breaking” as an action. Remove an ice tile adjacent to your ship, making sure any polar bears can flee to an adjacent ice tile. This lowers the temperature by 2 degrees.
Growth and Reproduction
After all actions have been taken, roll the 20-sided die to find out which ice tile experiences “growth and reproduction”. The bears there will either grow up or have babies. If they can’t (due to the wrong combination of bears, lack of bears in the supply, or lack of space), the next phase will not go well!
Increase Temperature and Melt Ice
Then roll the red temperature die to find out how much the temperature rises this round (2-5 degrees) – then add an extra degree if you couldn’t successfully grow or reproduce bears.
Whenever a turn ends with the temperature above the current “melting point”, remove the piece marked for melting. Any bears on this piece must flee to adjacent tiles. If they can’t, spend a helicopter token to “rescue” them from drowning. After removing the ice, lower the temperature by 5 degrees. Randomly choose an Alert token to indicate which ice tile is marked for melting next.
Note on Polar Bears and Ice Tiles
Each ice tile can only hold three bears. Bear cubs resulting from “growth & reproduction” can move to an adjacent tile if there’s not room, but otherwise, bears only move if the ice under them is melting – and they won’t move to an ice tile that’s already full. You have a limited number of helicopter tokens to save polar bears that end up in the water!
Players lose the game when the temperature is over 20 degrees after ice melts, or if a bear drowns in the ocean (because there are no helicopter tokens left and nowhere to flee when the ice melts). Win by collecting all the necessary Data tokens.
It’s easy to accidentally hit the end of game – there are even tips in the rulebook for how to reset after an exceptionally short game!
If you like lighter “adult” cooperative games such as Pandemic or Forbidden Island, the gameplay here will feel familiar. The suggested age range of 10+ felt right to us; we wouldn’t recommend it for kids any younger unless they already play and enjoy games with plenty of reading and strategy. Like those games, Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature is also vulnerable to “quarterbacking”, where one player makes all the decisions, especially since one bad turn can end the game prematurely.
The polar bears are really cute, and you’ll want to save them all. Don’t. Ignore their pleading little eyes staring up at you and disregard the name of this game. Your real goal in Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature is to accumulate Data. Save just enough polar bears to keep any from drowning when the ice inevitably melts.
The special powers for each ship are useful, and the ship models themselves are pretty cool. We loved figuring out which upgrade to use and simply playing at sailing the ships around. You may want to apply a little bit of glue, otherwise certain boats will fall apart, even with gentle handling.
Harder than We Expected
There is a lot of setup involved. You’ll need to lay out all the hexagons, place the bears, set up two decks of cards, and separate a minimum of four small tile types (some of which need to stay face down). It feels frustrating to do all of that, then lose the game in 15 minutes, but thankfully it’s much easier to re-set and start again.
We found Rescue Polar Bears harder to win than we expected. The best moves are often counter-intuitive (ignore the bears, ignore the temperature, use special powers to dump Data tokens all over the map). However, it nicely fits into the ecosystem of other ecology-minded games such as Endangered and Mini DiverCity. Maybe it’s okay that it’s so hard to win; it can serve as a reminder of how difficult (and important) it is to protect endangered species. The challenge makes winning even sweeter.
If you can’t find a copy of Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature at your local game store (or on Amazon), don’t fret! Mayday Games is planning a reprint soon.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature from Mayday Games for this review.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature
Number of Players: 1-4
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 30-60 minutes