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Rattus: Pied Piper
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Rattus, the game of managing your little wooden cube-people through the ravages of the Black Death, is a game by the designers Åse and Henrik Berg (Oregon) that was released in Q1 2010 by White Goblin Games. The game combines some simple cube-placement mechanisms, lots of rats, and a moving plague bearer with special-powered characters that can be recruited and used by players at the cost of an additional vulnerability to any plague.
Rattus: Pied Piper, the first expansion for Rattus, leaves the basic game mechanisms intact and adds a wider variety of character cards. Since several of my game groups have been quite taken with Rattus as a fast light game, I’m particularly looking forward to playing with the Pied Piper characters to add some freshness to the game.
Before getting to details of the expansion, let's talk a bit about the base game. After a few games of Rattus, a few patterns start to emerge. There’s some capacity for effective use of most of the different character cards and an interesting tight-rope walk where you really want one of the other players to take a character from you once it isn’t helping anymore, so you don’t remain vulnerable to that plague symbol. Different situations reward different powers, so perhaps moving plague tokens is more useful than getting some extra cubes on to the board.
Most players quickly realise that the cards aren’t all great. The Witch, which allows you to pick up and look at two plague tokens and optionally swap them before replacing, is rarely chosen in our game, probably because adding a memory element to the game or switching a single pair just isn’t that powerful. What's more, taking the character adds a new symbol for the plague attack and you’re likely stuck with it the whole game.
The twelve new characters in the expansion are spread evenly among the six symbols of the main game, and their powers are mostly thematically related to the six characters from the base game: Both new chivalry powers allow double plague marker movement and one minor power, both Peasantry tokens provide a way to get extra cubes onto the board, and so forth.
Rattus – Pied Piper – components
There are a couple of particularly interesting new characters in the mix, though, including some that will be much more valuable for some players compared to others:
* The Nun and Bishop provide extra wooden figures which can be moved around the board and either reduce an area’s population by 1, or completely prevent any rats from entering a region. * The Emperor allows a player to move around wooden wall pieces which block all movement of cubes and rats across a border, allowing the shape of the board itself to be altered. * The Queen can be used only by the player with the largest set of connected regions with their cubes and grants two extra cubes placed. * The Mayor allows a player to place one cube in every region where he has a majority of cubes instead of the normal placement. * Finally, the named Pied Piper Character (bearing a magic symbol and replacing the Witch) allows a player to move one of their own cubes to an adjacent region. When the cube moves, as many rats from the start region as possible follow the piper without violating rat limits. I’m really looking forward to sloshing rats around with this one!
The rules have suggested several sets of six characters with consistent themes such as player attacks, easily adding extra cubes to the board, or various forms of rat control. Of course, random or player selected sets are encouraged as well.
Overall, I think these new character cards will add just the right amount of variety to the game without overloading it with dozens of extra rules. I’m really looking forward to many plays of the expansion and highly recommend it for people who enjoy the base game but who are starting to recognise the patterns of characters being chosen.
Rattus: Pied Piper is currently available via pre-order in an international edition from White Goblin Games by post or via pick up at Spiel 2010 – details on BGN here – and the expansion should also be available in English from Z-Man Games. The Essen pre-order comes with four bonus character cards.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com