Emivaldo Sousa
Brazil
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Rum and Bones is one of the newest Cool Mini or Not miniature smorgasbord, the product of a highly successful kickstarter campaign that it is also available on retail right now. I did not catch the kickstarter (more on that later), but the positive reviews made me take a deep, long, profound and ponderous look at the game, and seemed something I would enjoy.

And I did enjoy it. And here is why.

1. It has an incredible presentation. This is the drive behind the CMON campaigns and it shows. Tons of fun (and funny), well sculpted minis that perfectly capture the theme and mood of the game, a beautiful game board, quality cardstock, quality art. I can forgive a lot if the game has a fun presentation.

2. The theme: two pirate ships caught in the middle of a mutual boarding action. You are maneuvering a selected crew of heroes amongst a sea (no pun intended) of disposable crew members that move and fight obeying the lane system now popularized by the MOBA genre in computer games.

3. Gameplay: the game has a nice flow and is really focused on how skilled you are in:

A) managing some powerful cards in your hands,
B) maneuvering and activating your heroes abilities and
C) rolling dice. Yes, this is a skill.

Some nifty mechanisms are also present to enhance the theme and allowing for adventurous tactics: rigging can get you closer to your objectives or drop you in the water, a Kraken or sea serpent might awaken to kill everyone around them and your crew is divided in specialized roles.

I even think that the 4-player mode, although not ideal, works quite well and the game benefits from the added table talk. Wit fun, energetic people around it, the game shines.

Everything is simple, but it works. Zombicide, the CMON poster child was a much more crude experiment when launched a few years ago, but I do have a few criticisms.

1. Length: there are a lot of variables here: how well players know their crew, luck of the draw, luck of the dice, focus on objectives or killing heroes, when the Kraken appears, who the Kraken kills. Some sessions were quick (an hour), some were almost too long (two and a half), but they were all fun, but keep in mind that due to several factors (some under your control and some not) the length of your game session may vary wildly. And this is actually quite common on those dice heavy games – when the dice are not in the mood, there is little you can do.

2. Some imbalances. Nothing serious, though. This is par for the course in games like this. You have some rich get richer systems (after you complete an objective you get stronger) and an unreliable catch up mechanism in the form of the kraken.

That said, after we applied Mr. Skeletor house rule for deploying heroes at the start of the game almost everything else became a non-issue.

(if you are curious: first player deploys 1 hero, second player deploys two, first player deploys the other two, second player deploys his last hero, after that, everything proceeds as normal)

3. Variety: A lot of the fun of the game is tied to its variety. You will want to combine crew members with crazy powers with cool cards, with different setups, with different minis and so on. The box has a nice value, but it is just a carrot dangling in front of us, waiting to be pushed further as soon as we think we have it in reach.

I do not have a problem with that, several game systems are built this way (especially when miniatures are involved) but I found the options to upgrade the game lacking.

The large expansion boxes are the more interesting option, because they add whole crews, with new mechanisms for their boats and their own tide deck (the cards that I was talking about), and they are ok.

The mini expansions, however, I didn’t like. They offer three minis, but a crew is comprised of five members, and all of those expansions (or most) have captains (you will end up with a lot of captains) and not all of the minis can be used with all crews (although I think a draft system involving all options available may solve that). I would be more on board if the mini expansions offered a whole crew (with some cards to add to the tide deck to boot, to match the theme of the expansion).

It is ok, but it is not great. That said, the kickstarter was great, with great value and a lot of options out of the bat. I don’t mind exclusives and free stuff on kickstarters (I actually like them), but the CMON kickstarter experience is so different from the retail experience that it put a break on my excitement to invest in the game.

I bought the Mazu’s Dreadful Curse box, and one mini expansion and I am now waiting for CMON next kickstarter.

Don’t get me wrong: the game is fun, there is value on the box and I think the bigger expansions are interesting. The mini expansions are just aiming to bleed your wallet but there is some good stuff there too.

I just think that CMON could make their retail experience a little bit more exciting (include the personalized dice in the big box expansion, offer some tide cards, offer some complete crew expansions or other little things like that). As it is, I am becoming less and less interested in their retail products. This is not a rational process by any means, but to give an example: I recently decide to not buy Blood Rage on retail to save money for the Arcadia Inferno kickstarter (And Blood Rage is a much more “complete” game on the base box than Rum and Bones, as it is much less dependant on variety of components).

But kickstarter shenanigans aside, I really liked this one. To sum up: simple, fun, thematic, great minis, begs for expansions, expansions available were hit and miss for me.
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