Rattus (2010) Review
Europe, 1347. A terrible plague falls on the known "world": the Black Plague. In less than five years, this disease will eradicate no less than half of the population of the time. It is well known that one of the agents of it spreading, was rats. These small rodents carrying the virus, infiltrated everywhere and contaminated everyone who crossed their paths. No one seemed to be safe. Divine punishment spared neither the poor nor the "well-born". But what if this contagion had a specific purpose?
Rattus plunges you into the heart of this tumultuous time. You are at the head of a cube population, without a fixed country. Your goal will be to try to grow your color in Europe where the mortality rate is extremely high. But that's not all, because in turn, you will be able to take possession of the personification of the Plague itself to prevent overpopulation.
Rattus is a game by Åse Berg and Henrik Berg. It was released in 2010 by White Goblin Games. It is a game of simple majority, in the vain of a light atmosphere game. Initially planned for 2 to 4 players, the game has several extensions and has translation into several languages.
The board represents Europe of the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the game, the players will be asked to place face down on the map, randomly the rats tokens. The rats represent the infection and who will infect the population with the Plague. On each token, you will find a number and symbols. The numbers correspond to the population level required for the Plague to take effect. The symbols indicate which characters, and by extension the players, are targeted. For each icon, the target player loses a cube in the region. If they do not have one, all the better for them. When a rat is returned, if the required number is insufficient, the Black Death does not kill.
At the beginning of a turn, a player may, if they wish, ask a character for help. The characters are drawn at random at the beginning of the game. They represent the local population who wish to help you in your survival. There are six categories of characters: nobal, warrior, merchant, priest, farmer and wizard. Each has their own power. But also their own symbol. When you choose to take possession of a character, you collect that tile. You are not limited by the number of tiles you can have at the same time. The more tiles you collect, the more help you can get. The powers of the characters you have can all be activated once in your turn. However, this can be double-edged. Remember the rat tokens? Each rat counter indicates specific symbols. As a result, the more characters you have, the greater the risk of suffering the plague. A pure dilemma. You can choose not to ask for help and to get by on your own. It is quite possible. You will be less focused. It also means that you will be more limited in your progress.
Once this optional character selection phase is completed, players will be able to expand their population on the map. You will choose a region and you will put as many of your color cube as there are rat tokens in that area. As you can see, the more dangerous a region, the more people reproduce. Again, there is a choice for you. Are you going to play small to protect yourself and not spread out too much or are you going to try the most infested areas and place more cubes? A region can have only three rat tokens at most. At this stage, you can also use each of your tiles once to help you ... or slow down others.
Finally, you will move the Plague counter. You can move it to an adjacent region, except if you have a special character. Be careful, the map is small and everything is more or less connected, so it’s difficult to hide. When the plague arrives in a region, the epidemic will first spread. You’ll count the number of rat tokens present in that region. The player takes the same number from the reserve (with a maximum of two) and places them on the neighboring regions. It can very well be placed in the same region or on two different ones (in cases when there are two rat tokens for example). If the plague moves on a region without rats, nothing happens.
Once this expansion is complete, the plague will do its job. The active player will therefore choose the order in which the one or more rats present in the region concerned is solved. They will then turn over the first rodent. The number indicated on the upper part corresponds to the value required for the disease to have an effect. This value is for ALL cubes in the region, regardless of color. If the number matches, the rats contaminate the local population according to the symbols below. For each of them, the players concerned loses a cube. You’ll resolve the icons from left to right, which can play an important role. In case of a tie, the players concerned all lose a cube. If the number does not match, nothing happens. The other rats are returned until there are no more rats or there is no more of the cube population (in this case the unused tokens remain in place).
The game ends when a player has successfully placed all their cubes onto the board or there are no more rat tokens in the pool. A bonus round then takes place. During this round, played in the reverse direction of the players turns, everyone except the one who has just finished, may activate their characters a final time. If they do not have one, too bad for them. Finally, all the rats remaining on the board are activated. The player with the most cubes at the end of the game wins.
Simple, no? Rattus is indeed a simple game, which can be learned and explained in a very short time. The turns are fluid and the decisions seem fast enough to take. Thematic level, even if you have fun killing others, it remains quite light. The game plays around 30-45 minutes, which is nice for this type of games.
Rattus has a fairly high degree of randomness. This is especially true when resolving rat tokens. But that's also what makes it charming. We felt a little pressure when we saw the arrival of the Plague in a region where we are present or relief when we decide to send it to others. Because yes, Rattus is a nasty game. If you want to play in your own area, avoiding any conflict, it is possible. But there is little chance that in the end it is really profitable. It must also be confessed that you will lose the charm of the game this way. You will have to play the opportunist, deceitful and not hesitating to be ruthless to others. The population addition system is, as such, rather well done. When you add cubes to a region, it depends on the number of rats present. So you can deliberately choose a region with three rats, so increase the local population significantly, why not, for example, in a region with a lot of opponents. And of course send the Plague right after. The carnage will only be greater.
The characters play a very important part in the fun of the game. All bring the same feelings. Some are no longer there to help you score victory points while others are clearly there to help you to wipe out the other players. The choice available is very important. In the basic game, you have six characters. However, with no less than nine extensions (more or less important), that will give you a choice of 51 cards of different powers to change the game. As much to tell you that the available combinations vary enormously. Even if all the characters are not as fun as each other, there is always something to do, especially when you only choose six. In addition, each character brings interest at one time or another during the game. At first glance, some seem more essential than others and yet all seem very well balanced (even if they require more control). It is of course recommended to choose at least one class each for each part. Besides the number, the mechanism of the characters are really interesting. Will I take one at risk of it falling on me? Will I choose an available one or will I pick one from an opponent? Sometimes, some players can tear themselves up for a character letting others take advantage to recover and keep those they want.
Luck is certainly important but it participates, as the choice of characters, for that very important replayability. Of course, this is not a game that will make you addicted, but you may have to bring it out fairly regularly in the presence of a family audience (as long as they are open to black humor or the Black Plague). Each game is different. Whether you play caution or attack, Rattus will delight you.
The game becomes really interesting with four players. At three players, it is nice and playable. With two, I can only advise you to choose something else. Not that it is bad, it’s just players are in each other’s face and the fun is replaced by optimization. Of course, you’ll lose a lot.
Rattus is a game that I can only advise you, if you are not allergic to luck and strong interaction. This little atmosphere game offers a lot of originality and cunning. This is certainly not the deepest game that exists, but in its category it stands out very much from others. You have to be opportunistic. To be fairly present on the board without being too much so as not to be the target of rats or other players. Juggle between protecting yourself or attacking others. The illustrations of Alexandre Roche put us in the mood. Personally, I like a lot. All the iconography is clear and easy to understand and the rules are simple. A very good game of majority, rules accessible, randomly present but important pleasure.
So there are no less than nine extensions to this game. Of these, only one brings real changes in the gameplay. The others correspond to combinations of new characters (attention: nevertheless it brings replayability).
Rattus : Africanus adds an extension to the plateau, North Africa. It also adds the possibility of playing up to six players. As new mechanisms, Africanus adds area cards that can protect you or give you points at the end of the game. Finally, we see the appearance from this extension of a new class power: Islam. New characters, new powers, and in five or six player games, you have the choice between six power tiles or eight. This extension brings a small wind of quite pleasant novelties. The game of six only increase the pleasure. But if you have little opportunity to play from five, Rattus: Africanus will not bring you much.
Technical Score 7.5 / 10
The graphics put in the mood. The power tiles are pretty thick. The rest of the material is correct. The iconography reads rather well and the rules are well written.
My BGG Score 8/10
(Very good game. Like to play and recommend it)
In its category, Rattus has everything of a big. Simple, deceitful, fast, clever. Some may blame the excessive importance of chance or the excessive importance of opportunism. But the replayability is huge and the extensions ensure it in the long run.
Combined Score 7.75 / 10
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