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Rattus: Pied Piper

24 out of 27 gamers thought this was helpful

As noted in my review of the main game, it is almost essential to get this expansion to have much more choice in your characters. The option I prefer, is to randomly select a character from each category, or, if players agree, choose certain characters from the different categories. This way, the balance is there for how players are effected by the rat tokens, and you have mountains of replayability.

The additions are actually all fun, creating whole new avenues for creating interesting combos. The expansion also comes with some additional components, besides the 16 characters, because some of those characters have very special rules like walling off areas, or sending out nuns. And the titular Pied Piper can lure rat tokens from one region to another.

As I am a great fan of the game, I also own the smaller 4 character expansion that adds some legendary figures to the mix like Robin Hood and Merlin, the single promo Spiel ’10 expansion, and the exclusive Boardgamegeek Jester promo character card.

Lastly, keep your eye out for this year’s expansion, which adds a 5th and a 6th player, plus some interesting new play options. Rattus remains at its heart a chaotic and quick affair, but it is so much fun, and so interactive, that it doesn’t tire quickly.

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27 out of 29 gamers thought this was helpful

A potentially off-putting theme that, through the benefit of some centuries passed, can be turned into a light-hearted diceless romp with a lot of player interaction, chaos, and, yes, even some strategy. Some.

You control a people, in the form of colored cubes, and have to try to have as many as possible survive the Black Plague as it sweeps through medieval Europe. The gameboard is nicely sized, easy to read, and each region has enough space to accomodate the various components that may occupy them. Scaling from 2 to 4 players is done by adding certain regions to the playable game area, as denoted by darker shades of brown. Simple, and effective.

You start with a handful of cubes on the board, and as the Black Plague moves through Europe in the form of the Catan robber meeple, rat tokens are flipped to see if cubes die. I mean, swathes of people. Only if there are enough cubes in the region, as denoted by a number on the rat token, may cubes have to be removed. The rat tokens then denote if All, or only those cubes of a certain color that has the Majority in that area will lose cubes.

That’s all good and fine, but where the real fun kicks in, is with the oversized character cards (the components are great, but the cards could have been a little smaller). These characters are available to a player at the start of his or her turn, no matter who owns it at the time. It’s an interesting little rule, because effectively you can choose which ever character you want. And they give you all kinds of neat gamebreaking options, liking moving a cube to the palace where it is safe from the Plague for the rest of the game, adding more cubes than normally allowed, swapping out rat tokens, or moving the Robbber, I mean, Black Plague, faster than the usual one area per turn.

So why would you NOT want to take a character? Well, because they are all from a certain category (like Royal, Farmer, Clergy, Knight, and so on), and those categories may also be marked on the rat tokens. Which means that, if you have cubes in the region with that rat token, and the corresponding character in your possession, you will lose a cube.

I strongly recommend players if they enjoy the base game to quickly pick up the Pied Piper expansion, because it greatly expands the number of available characters, and therefore the possible “strategies”. Well, strategies. There’s some cool combos you can pull of when you have two or three characters in your possession, though you are of course much more susceptible to the Black Plague.

Regardless, Rattus is a fine, light, quick, random, frenetic, interactive boardgame that can be enjoyed (again, if the theme is not an obstacle) with gamers and non-gamers alike. Take note that if you like control in your game, than Rattus is not for you. It is chaotic, random, and there is not a whole lot of control possible in your gameplay. Nevertheless, it is my favorite release of 2010, because it plays quickly, and because of all the other traits I mentioned earlier. It may become a bit more strategic when you play with less players, but you shouldn’t expect the randomness to evaporate. And it’s still at its best with four, if you ask me.

So when you have a good handful of cubes in a single region, and that token is turned over to show that you will lose more than half of them, be prepared to call out, with humourous indignation: ‘Rats!’

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