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David G. Cox Esq.
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Riches & Rascals



An Educational Game for 4 Players
Designed by Florence Hassall
Published by The History Scribe, Limited (2010)



Riches & Rascals came into my possession after the designer, Florence Hassall, put a message on BGG saying that should would sell a small number of games for $1 each, plus postage, so that she could get some “honest feedback” here on BGG.

When the game arrived in the mail it was in a much larger box than I had expected. I’d like to say at this point that although I found the game not to my taste, a group of 14 and 15 year-old boys told me that the game was “good” and “cool” after they had played it.

Upon opening the box I had mixed feelings about the quality of the components.

Rules – The rules are written on four pages and are very clear. Good job on the rule writing.

Board – The board was drawn and painted by the designer. I think it looks a little on the dull side and this is due to the use of water colours (at least I think they are water colours) on the original art work. There are places on the board for the various bonus markers – I would have liked something like a line around them or a contrasting background to make them stand out better.



Counters & Stuff –
there are lots of beads that are used in currency in the game. Each continent has a different currency – diamonds, cedar, gold and amber for Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe respectively. Most of the markers look as though they are beads from a craft shop. The four plastic boats and two wooden dice look just a little cheap. The boats are actually a tad too small and it is a bit fiddly using them to store your treasure. The comments about the map are equally valid for the cardboard counters – just a touch on the dull side.



Playing the Game
Playing the game is very straight forward. The object of the game is to score as many points as you can. You can get points for treasure (diamonds, cedar, etc.) and the further you have had to travel to get the treasure the more that it is worth. The Asia player gets 3 points for each amber, 2 points for each cedar and gold and 1 point for each diamond they have at the end of the game. The three other players have slightly different scoring schedules based on their proximity to the different treasures.



Each turn you roll two dice. The d6 shows how far you can move. It is around 9 spaces to the next home port – if you get to one of the other players’ ports you can trade goods at the rate of 1 for 2 (for every good you have that is a foreign good at that port you get two of the good for that continent in return). If you finish your move in the same space as another boat you can become a pirate and steal all of the goods in that other boat. If you return to your home port you can deposit as many goods as you like into your treasure chest (where it will be safe from pirates) and you will receive two more of your ‘home’ goods.

If you roll a ‘6’ you get to have another roll of the dice (a free turn).



The second die is the ‘scroll’ die. It has a scroll on two of the six sides. If you roll a scroll you check the next page of the history scrolls folder and see what counter you are given. Most of the scroll counters are positive although some are negative. There are eight special counters that give +20 points and the time-line on the map gives you some idea of when these will be available and in which continent it will become available.

The game continues until the ‘scroll’ has turned up 36times – which means you have reached the end of the history scroll folder.



Impressions

The game lacks real strategy – there is way too much randomness in the way that our move is totally dependent on the dice, when bonus tiles are given is dependent upon the dice and the value of the bonus tiles can be positive or negative.

Something I don't understand is why rolling a '6' gives you an extra turn. This seems to give an extra turn to someone who doesn't need it - giving an extra turn to players who roll a '1' makes some sense as it is an attempt to equalise the game and give an extra turn to someone who is not moving very far.

Apart from piracy there is no real meaningful interaction in the game.

Some of the game mechanisms could have been done differently to create a better game. Having cards instead of dice for movement would add strategy (give everyone a set of six cards numbered 1-6 – they can play each card once and when all 6 have been used they get them all back).

The scroll folder is cumbersome to use – a set of cards with the information would have been neater. I also don’t like that players don’t know the results of the history scroll until they turn the next page. I think it would be more fair that all players know what the next set of tokens will be so they all have a chance to avoid bad tokens or go for the good ones that are available.

I found the set-up rather fiddly where all the bonus counters are placed on the map on a matching icon. I think that all the counters from one continent all together is much simpler and more practical.

The boats are also ill-suited to holding the goods and tokens - just a bit too small to hold everything easily (if you have been on a long and fruitful voyage).

So there we have it. I want more strategy and less luck – young teenagers seem to like it.

Well done Florence – not everyone can design a game that appeals to that age-group.


"No games are bad - but some are just misunderstood!"






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