Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rattus - A Deadly Review

Hi everybody!

Welcome back to another review. I am going to talk about a game I bought on a whim after watching Zee Garcia's Top 100 Games. Watching those videos, though entertaining, is pretty bad for my wallet. Today I will discuss Rattus by Henrik and Ase Berg. So without any more chatter let's get right into the review.
Those Are Some Cute Rats

 Rattus takes place in Europe during the time of the Black Death. The plague ended up killing a third of the human population. The mechanics of Rattus reflect the fear and the survival instinct of humanity. The game, at its heart, is not an area control game, but more focused on influence. Each player picks a color of cube to play, this is their population. A series of purple rimmed rat tokens are spread across Europe, and then the Man in Black (a physical representation of the Black Death) is placed randomly on the board. The rats hold all kinds of information on the underside of the chits. They instruct the players which part of the populace dies from the plague when the Man in Black comes to town. Once the plague and rat pieces are placed the players will place their starting populace, which is a similar process to the start of Settlers of Catan.
Surviving the Plague
After setup and a starting player is determined the game begins. The active player begins with taking a character tile either from the stock or from another player. Each character has their own special ability and class symbol. The class symbols come into play later on though when the plague comes calling. Now a player may use any of his character abilities, it is possible to have more than one, and then place his new populace cubes. The cubes that are placed are the same amount of rat tokens in a given region, if there are 2 rats in Italy the player may add 2 cubes to Italy. Next comes the terrible part - the player must then move the Man in Black and resolve the plague in that region. The Man in Black moves one space to any region that is adjacent to where he currently resides. The player than spreads the plague by adding rat tokens to the surrounding areas. Now the populace starts to dwindle down. Players begin to flip over rat tokens in the Man in Black's region. The rats show which cubes die off by targeting players that control certain characters, the player with the most cubes in that location, or even all players.
And Everything Falls Apart
The token shows the minimum number of cubes needed in order to trigger and how much of the populace dies as represented by the character symbols, an A for all, and an M for the majority holder. Rats in a region are resolved until there are either no more rats or population cubes in the region, once that ends the turn passes.

The game also has two end conditions; either no new rat tokens can be placed or one player has placed all of their populace on the board. When this happens all other players, skipping the one that triggers the end game, takes one last turn in reverse order and then all remaining rats are triggered and resolved across the board. The player with the most remaining populace is the winner.

First off, the artwork is wonderful. It conveys that old world sense of things. The board also features clear markers for what territories are cut out with a smaller player base. Light to dark show you what to use for 2, 3, and 4 player games. The characters are also wonderful. I love that the game is limited to 6 characters and each one is unique. The thing is you don't have to take or use the characters, taking them only leads to potentially losing your populace from the board, but at the same time they are very useful throughout the game.
Reaping What You Sow
The peasant let's you place an extra population cube which is so helpful, but it can make the rats trigger if the plague strikes. It really is a tough decision to make.

My one complaint about the game is the use of cubes. I would much rather see mini meeples instead. We are using cubes for people in a world where we have little wooden people that work just fine. I can see that it cuts down on cost, but I rather pay a little extra and have the cool meeples.

The game is a medium-light weight with some easy rules, although keeping the booklet near you for the first couple of games helps especially when it comes to character powers and the final reversed round. This game isn't for everyone and isn't suitable for younger players. There's some thinky bits to the game and some decisions to make that come with potentially game losing consequences. Player interaction is also low, but it is a great feeling to pile on rats to an area your opponents are gathered in and watch the plague take them down a few notches.

Now, just for a minute here, I want to talk about promos. Rattus has a big selection of promo characters to use with the game. Each one that I have used is neat and unique. Yes, some are better than others, but that really helps when playing as there will be characters that will get snatched almost every turn. One of my favorites though is the one made for BoardGameGeek.com, that is Ernie the Jester. The Jester let's you drop 2 populace cubes onto the board and whatever regions they land in is where they stay. Its a fun way to get your people onto the board.
What's in the Box

After all that's been said I am sure that it is clear that I really enjoy this game. I also think that Rattus is one of two games currently on my BGG profile that I have rated as a 9 (I have no 10s). Rattus is also currently my favorite game. That's right, if I did a Top 100 list Rattus would be number 1 with a bullet.

I can't recommend this game enough. It is light enough to give everyone around the table a good laugh or two, hefty enough to be thinky when it comes to making decisions, and has a little something for everyone. It also isn't too competitive. I mean you are trying to beat your friends, but you are also trying to beat the Man in Black and the game. There's a lot to overcome in Rattus and it is done in a great way with fun mechanics.
Clowning Around

Give it a play and give it at least one play with the Jester promo. It is well worth it.

Well, thank you all again for joining me here at Daemonic Teutonic. I hope you enjoyed the review!

Cheers,
Phil

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