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Subject: A GFBR Review: The Bluffing, Doublethink Microgame rss

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GeekInsight
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Microgrames ride a line between legitimate game and mere novelty. Some microgames are entertaining and are playable when the mood (and circumstances) occur. Others … well others are more of a play once, say “neat,” and never pick up again. BraveRats, originally a Japanese game title R, is firmly in the former category. It’s a real game in a micro package.

The Basics. BraveRats is a two player-only game. Each player receives an identical set of eight cards (though the two sets are colored red and blue to help distinguish them). The cards are numbered 0 through 7. Each player selects any one of the available cards and the players reveal them simultaneously. The higher number wins. Win four rounds and you win the game.

But layered on top of this simple premise, is the fact that every card also has a special power. For example, the 0 card (the Musician) nullifies the round. Both cards are set aside and whoever wins the next round also wins the previous nullified round. The Assassin, meanwhile, changes the rules so that the lowest card, not the highest card, wins. And the Wizard nullifies the special power of the opponent.

The Feel. I love games that have an element of doublethink. Where you say to yourself, “My opponent is most likely to play X. And if he does, then I should play Y. But he knows I’m likely to play Y, so he’ll play Z instead. And if he does, I should play A. Unless of course he knows that and …” Running down that rabbit hole of possibilities is exciting and trying to out-think your opponent is thrilling.

Early rounds are a little swingy. With no information, it isn’t clear what your opponent might play. An early prince to get a guaranteed victory? A spy so that the next round can be played perfectly? But after a few rounds, you know what cards they have left and you know which you have left. It becomes a battle of trickery and deduction.

One of the more interesting cards is the Princess. Only a number 1, she has a potentially game winning power. If one player plays the Princess and the other the Prince, the player who played the Princess wins the entire game. Not just the round, but the whole game. So you must consider your Prince and Princesses carefully.

But, even though the game seems based on playing the higher number, players are never without options. The ability to nullify a round or a power is brutal when played at the right time. A player might play his spy on me, hoping to figure me out for the next round. The following round, I might play the Musician – nullifying that round. So the round he hoped to do so well in is now being put on hold.

After several plays, I’m absolutely enamored with BraveRats. The one fault, though, is that it is strictly a two player game combined with its short play time. So not only will it only come out when you have about 5 minutes to kill, but also when there are only two players. That’s such a narrow window, for me at least, that it is questionable just how often BraveRats will get played during gaming sessions. When a filler game is necessary, I typically have more than two players or more than 5 minutes.

Components: NA of 5. I received a pre-production copy for review. However, I can say that the artwork was certainly enjoyable.

Strategy/Luck Balance: NA of 5. BraveRats is completely luck free. There is no randomness and the only element out of your control is the actions of the other player. So, there’s no “balancing” of luck and strategy here. Instead, it is an entirely strategic endeavor.

Mechanics: 5 of 5. BraveRats is simple, yet powerful and effective. The core mechanic of “play the higher number” is supplemented with a barrage of powers that interact in interesting ways. Combine that with the perfect information – both players know what the other has played – and it fosters engaging gameplay.

Replayability: 2.5 of 5. The major concern here is that it will simply be hard to get to the table from a logistic standpoint: two player only, plus minimal time to kill. For me, it’s rare for both of those stipulations to be met. Even looking at the game itself, early rounds feel a little random and it might be easy to get stuck in a predictable rut. But, once a round or two has gone by, the potential really opens up and later rounds are exciting. Those rounds keep me wanting to play the game even if it is hard to find the right occasion.

Spite: 0.5 of 5. There’s no real “spite” in this game. No way to steal rounds that have been won or make the other player discard cards. Sometimes an especially damaging play (like using Musician after someone played a Spy) can seem spiteful, but it’s all part of the back and forth of the game.

Overall: 3.5 of 5. BraveRats, despite the logistical difficulties, is one of the most entertaining microgames I’ve played to date. It causes the players to think, there is an element of doublethink, and if players want to talk and add a layer of metagaming involvement, BraveRats can certainly accommodate. No microgame will be as deep or as interesting as the best big box titles, but BraveRats certainly is near the pinnacle of the genre.

(A special thanks to BlueOrange Games for providing a review copy of BraveRats)

(Originally posted, with pictures, on the Giant Fire Breathing Robot. Check out my Geeklist of reviews, updated weekly)
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Christian K
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Thanks for the nice review.

Do you also consider rock paper scissors luck free?
 
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Muemmelmann wrote:
Thanks for the nice review.

Do you also consider rock paper scissors luck free?


I think characterizing it as RPS is a little unfair. After the first round or two, you'll have information about what your opponent is likely to play (or not play).

There's really no more luck than other simultaneous action selection games.

Thanks for the compliment, though!
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Christian K
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I just meant that in simultanious selected games the best strategy includes. Randomness (it is mixed), which means that with good players there will be some luck.
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Brandan Parsons
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Having played a few hundred games of BraveRats, I have found that the game basically goes:

Luck > Bluffing > Strategy.

I think RPS is a pretty poor comparison because there is hardly any bluffing or strategy found in that game (and certainly no card counting). I agree both games have quite a lot of randomness, but I win at BraveRats much more frequently than I win at RPS.
 
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