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Europe, 1347. A disaster is about to strike. The Black Death reaches Europe, and during the next 4 - 5 years, the population of Europe will be halved.

The players settle in the various regions of Europe, while the plague spreads throughout all of the continent. The players gain help from the various classes of the middle ages: The Peasants provide population growth, the wise Monks keep the rats away, the rich Merchants flee when the plague approaches, the warfare conducted by the Knights spreads the plague to new areas, the Witches control the spread through magic and witchcraft, whereas the Kings avoid the plague by staying in their fortified palaces. But the plague does not make any distinction: When the rats arrive, no one can feel safe. When the plague withdraws and the game ends, the player with the highest surviving population wins.

User Reviews (10)

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Marquis / Marchioness
Advanced Reviewer
Professional Advisor Beta 1.0 Tester
44 of 47 gamers found this helpful
“Rats and the Plague have never been so much Fun!”

Rattus takes place in Europe in 1347, during the Black Death. The goal is to have the highest population on the map at the end of the game.

The board starts out with a rat token on every space, on “plague man” token at a random starting location on the map, and each player puts two cubes each on any two countries.

In a given turn, a player has the option to take a role card (whether somebody already has it or not), place a number of population units in a country equal to the number of rats in that country, use the ability of any and all of their roles before or after placing their population on the board, and then move the plague man to one adjacent space. When a plague lands, you’ll add rat tokens to adjacent spaces, and if there are rat tokens and people in the country he landed in, then rat tokens will flip over, possibly killing people to the Black Death until all rat tokens or all people in that country are gone.

The rat tokens, when flipped, activate and kill units if the population in that country is at least as big as the number on the rat token. The rat token has symbols for who all dies in that region; M for whoever has the most units, A for all players losing one unit, and symbols for each of the role cards, whoever has that role loses a unit.

There are six role cards
-The King lets you save your populace into the palace, where they are safe until the end of the game
-The Peasant lets you place an additional unit when placing units
-The Witch lets you look at any two rat tokens and switch them if you wish
-The Merchant lets you move up to three of your guys from one region to an adjacent region
-The Monk moves a rat token from one space to an adjacent space
-The Knight lets you move the plague man two spaces and optionally have him count as two cubes when seeing if the rats kill people

-Quick and simple rules
-Replayable time and time again
-Expansions to vary play and roles
-The role cards are thick, sturdy pieces of cardboard and the artwork is good for the roles and the board

-There’s quite a bit of randomness in who eventually wins
-Optionally never taking roles, while less fun, could be more rewarding
-The pieces are cubes, which aren’t too exciting, but are okay
-The board doesn’t lay perfectly flat right out of the box

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Reporter Intern
27 of 29 gamers found this 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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Critic - Level 2
Amateur Reviewer
32 of 35 gamers found this helpful
“Fun but limited without the expansion.”

This is a fun, fast playing area control game. I think this would be an excellent choice to introduce new players to the feel of some of the more complicated euro style games. Each turn players may take a card that gives them a unique power. This card can either be taken from a pool of six cards or from another player. There is no limit on the number of cards you can have but each card you possess makes your population more vulnerable during plague outbreaks. The only way to get rid of a card once you take it is for another player to take it from you.

The game flows really well and even a group new to the game can get up to speed after just a few turns. The mechanics are simple but there is a lot of depth here tempered by a bit of randomness in the form of the rat tokens. The knight card allows what amounts to an attack action and the card swapping keeps the players interacting throughout the game. The components are top notch with all the little cubes and pawns you know and love. The cards are really nice with great artwork printed on really thick stock.

The only problem is the limited number of role cards in the base game. Each game plays with 6 cards and with only 6 cards in the base game the result can get kind of samey pretty quickly. The Pied Piper expansion adds a bunch of new role cards that help to open up the strategic possibilities and keep each game fresh. If you are looking for a light euro that appeals to casual gamers this might be a good choice otherwise the expansion is a must buy to get the most out of the game.

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Novice Reviewer
32 of 35 gamers found this helpful
“Things that make you go Oehmmm...”

What is it in a game that, when it is newly presented to you, will make you go: Oehmmm…. interesting! I want to know more about this!

Is it space? Is it any game depicting a dwarf wielding an axe? Or will a dour looking man holding a scroll whilst looking up at a castle do it for you? Where for some the mere sight of a zombie on a gamebox is enough to get them a-drooling, my saliva gets kickstarted by daring new themes.

So if someone was to tell me about a game set in a rat infested Europe, trembling from the plague, but with a cartoony atmosphere. I’d go: ‘Aha, go on…’
And if I was then told that the mechanisms are very refreshing as well. I’d go: ‘I’m in! Where do I sign’?

Area dumping
Rattus can be viewed as an area control game, but I think that might be a misleading way to put it. I’d call it an area dumping game and here’s why.
In short, every player starts out with a bunch of cubes (their people). The goal is to have more cubes on the board (map of Europe) by the end of the game than your opponents. Once placed, the cubes will do nothing for you, but still you love them so much you will do everything in your power to protect them from the plague.
You’re such a good soul.

Build character
And here is the delightful twist. Everything in your power depends on which characters you control. Each character, which you can grab at the start of your turn, will give you an extra ability. Take control of the King and you can bring you people to the safety of the castle. Take control of the Knight and bring the plague to your opponents.

But the plague seems to be attracted to power. Because the more characters you have in front of you, giving you all these cool extra things to do, the more likely that the plague will affect your people. Affect meaning killing them off and send them back to your hands where you don’t want them.

This goes on for about an hour, when the plague finally calmes down and you and your fellow gamers look at the damage all those nasty rats caused. The player who kept most of his people plague-free during the game will be the winner.

So who is this for?
Rattus will have your mind warped for the first few games. It can take quite some time before you get a handle on things. Which character should I take, or none at all? Which powers combine well? Where should I dump my cubes? etc.
That makes this perfect for avid gamers. Rules are easily explained, but it takes a gamers heart and mind to feel in control. I don’t see non-gamers enjoying this one.

Rattus depends on flipping tokens and seeing what happens. You can get unlucky sometimes but not devastatingly so. The game gives you enough control that you should take a hard look at yourself at the end of a terrible loss, not Lady Luck.

Downside to Rattus is that is an expensive game. You’ll need the Pied Piper expansion which adds 12 new characters to the game. Going from a fixed set of 6 characters to a 6/18 randomizer. This ups the replayability by about a gazillion.
Having only the Rattus base set is like owning Smallworld with only 6 races with fixed powers. After 1 expansion though, you’ll probably have more than enough to last you until a next plague wipes out humanity.

I really like Rattus, for a game situated in the dark dank middle ages where the winds are thick with pestilence, this is truly a breath of fresh air. I think you should have a snif as well.

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Treasure Map
8 of 13 gamers found this helpful
“Great Game”

This is a review not a description of play.

I really enjoy this game and so do MOST of the people I play with.

The game is simple, easy, quick and fun. However, it still offers some good strategy for those who want to put more thought into their moves. A good strength is I can get my parents who are almost 60 to play and they don’t forget rules or get confused as they do with some other games.

What really makes this game is picking the role cards. I love games where everyone has different abilities but I enjoy that no one is locked into one role for the whole game. The game balances well as the more roles you grab the more likely it is you will lose your people.


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Rated 10 Games
16 of 29 gamers found this helpful
“Nice Area Control Variant”

This is an area control game with some different mechanics for exerting and changing that control. The role selection keeps things interesting as you hope to survive the plague better than your opponents. Roles can be powerful but they also put you more at risk of the plague, so you have to find the right balance to win. There is definitely some luck involved in this game as well.

Unlike other reviewers I actually prefer the base game over the first expansion, but perhaps the combo of roles I experienced with the expansion just left something to be desired. I am looking forward to the second expansion.

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Platinum Supporter
Petroglyph Beta 1.0 Tester
24 of 56 gamers found this helpful
“An Excellent Area Control Game”

This is actually one of my favorite area control games to play. I like ti better than SmallWorld. The variable player powers work better. The art is nice, and the theme fits well with the mechanics. Winner!

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Gamer - Level 3
12 of 34 gamers found this helpful
“Just needs the Pied Piper to shine!”

This is what I always refer to as “El Grande lite”. It’s a very good game.
However, the expansion, Pied Piper, really makes it shine. It opens up myriad combinations and possibilities. The base game contains only 1 set of characters, making replayability somewhat lukewarm.
The expansion makes things…awesome!

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I play red
10 of 30 gamers found this helpful
“Quick and Fun”

The game is quick, fun, and has a decent amount of strategy involved. It’s also easy to learn and a great game to teach to others in less then five minutes.

It was not difficult at all to get the hang of the characters and movements, and once you start understanding it, you can set up some very nice situations to give your opponents a bad day.

All in all, it’s a nice game that can fill time while waiting for others to finish a game, such as at a group board game night. Recommended!

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Amateur Reviewer
6 of 33 gamers found this helpful
“Worth it, but really needs expansion.”

Really good game, but without expansion it starts to become dull. With expansion its really good game,especially with nongamers.


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