Monday Night Tabletop Round-up 23/03/15

Oops. I made a bit of a bungle this week as I thought Fury of Dracula had featured in a previous round-up when it hadn’t. That section is a bit sparse but there is plenty more information on BGG’s profile of the game. Seeing as I am already late I thought I would just leave it as it is. Apologies.

Medici

Players: 5 (Plays 3-6)

Duration: 60 minutes

Full first impressions here

In Medici players bid for coloured cards over 3 rounds. At the end of each round players move a token up each of 5 tracks (one for each of the 5 colours) and score depending on their position. Cards are also numbered and players with the highest totals also score too. Mechanics are easy to grasp and bidding on cards is fast and fun with only one round of bidding per lot. The veneer of 16 Century boat builders is entirely arbitrary but I do wonder if it was released as a themeless card game would it have done as well. As gamers we latch on to any element that could give the game a little bit more colour. The winner claimed that the successful Florentine artisans that led him to victory here were the forefathers of the Italians that rallied him to victory in Tammany Hall last week which I thought showed some nice imaginative flair. The smug git.

Another thing I like in this game is that you pay for cards in victory points making the board state one step easier to understand. It may be a minor thing but with 5 separate colour tracks and players cards there is quite a bit to keep an eye on. Medici is a straightforward game with lots of small decisions and plenty of opportunity to grief your opponents. Which is always good.

Fury of Dracula

Players: 5 (Plays 1-5)

Duration: 3 hours

It was the second play of Fury of Dracula for me on Monday and while the first was full of twists, turns and narrow escapes this second was a fairly drab affair. The four players who were playing the hunters hopelessly meandered across the map while the Dracula player moved relatively unchallenged for almost the entire game, slipping past the rest of us and away to victory before we could do much to track him down. It was a shame that this game fizzled out so much when the first had ended with a dramatic showdown in Castle Dracula.

The nature of this game is such that if the hunters don’t get at least a general idea of where Dracula is early on in the game then it can be quite boring for them. We also made an assumption about which direction he was headed (my fault) and so wasted a long time in closing the net on somewhere Dracula wasn’t which made it feel even more pointless. The encounters we did have were even more frustrating as all combat is based on rolling of a d6 which is very random. I think we lost every single dice roll.

This last experience has really challenged what I think of it. Previously it was one that I would have leapt to play again but now I am not so sure. I love the theme and the mechanics of trying to find Dracula are fun but 3 hours is a lot of time to invest just to lose on the roll of a dice. Playing as Dracula might be a bit more exciting but then there are still four other players that might want to do the same. I think I will give it one more shot and then take it from there.

Rattus

Players: 4 (Plays 2-4)

Duration: 30 minutes

The death of 100 million Europeans is a fairly dark theme for a game but that’s what Rattus is all about. Players are trying to increase populations in their colour (represented by cubes) on a map of Europe during the time of the Black Death but at the same time they manipulate rats to spread the fatal disease to other players. Nice.

At the start of the game one rat token is placed face-down on each of 12 regions in Europe and then a plague marker is added to a random region. Play then proceeds clockwise round the table. On their turn players take three steps. The first, which is optional, is to take one of six class cards which grant the player a special ability depending on the card. Cards can be taken from the central pool or other players and a player can have more than one if they wish. Secondly the player picks a region on the map and places population in that region equal to the number of rat tokens in it. Lastly they move the plague token to a region adjacent to it.

Once the plague token moves two things happen. First the plague spreads and the active player takes 1 or 2 rat tokens and places them in adjacent regions to the new plague region (up to a maximum of 3 per region). Then the plague attacks the new plague region and rat tokens are flipped over one by one until there are either no more cubes or no more tokens. On the bottom of each rat token is a number and a series of symbols either M (majority), A (All) or representing each of the six classes. Once flipped, if the number of cubes in that region is equal or greater than the number on the rat token then the plague activates and cubes are removed depending on the symbols on the token. Any rat tokens flipped are then removed from the game. The game ends when one player has all their cubes on the board (unlikely) or the supply of rat tokens runs out. At this point the plague attacks every region and the one with the most cubes remaining on the board is the winner.

Rattus is a game I own and I am glad every time it gets to the table. I love the risk-reward balance that comes with taking the class cards as each one gives you a useful power that can become very powerful in combination. However  they leave you open to losing population when the plague attacks which it will frequently when other players see you getting too far ahead. It plays fast, scoring is tight and there is a lot of back and forth between players. Just my sort of game.

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