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I played this game with the designer when she brought it to the Mt Albert games club in Auckland. In that environment it would have been easy to criticise Riches 'n Rascals for what it is not, i.e. a strategy game. But let’s look at it for what it is.
Riches 'n Rascals is a simple trading game with an educational backdrop, clearly intended to be child friendly. Players set out from their bases in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, taking goods from their home country by boat to trade it for double that amount in any other centre.
Movement is determined by a die roll, with a second die potentially triggering historical events. This gives the lucky player points to add to their boat, as well as the reading of flavour text. (Which Florence did with great gusto!) When you have worked through the booklet, reaching the end of the designated historical era, the game ends. Richest player wins.
The box, map and counters are beautiful and would be the envy of many a eurogame. The game comes with a plastic treasure box to hold your winnings. The trade goods come in a plastic compartment box of the type that many players would buy for themselves in other games. Good choice.
The trade goods themselves though... They're mainly beads, which give the game a homemade look. They also come in two sizes, with the large ones worth 10 of the small ones. The size difference isn’t very pronounced though, and I suspect in our game I may have given myself 70 points too many due to this confusion. (My apologies if this was so, fellow players. Not that that would’ve changed the outcome of the game.)
The ships are plastic containers that hold the loot... not very well. In our game, the loot was soon too much to fit into a ship.
It’s basically roll and move, see what happens. At your home base, you can choose how many trade goods to put in your ship. Once on the way, you can choose which way to move or which fork to take - generally a choice between four or so potential end positions. If you land on another player, you can steal everything from his ship. Easy money. Also, once you know the timeline, you can try to position your ship in the area of the world where the next big thing happens.
So what’s good about it?
- The look.
- The theme. It seems to be well researched and will be educational for children and most adults.
- It's easy enough for even small kids to play, perhaps with an adult to handle the reading duties.
What’s not so good?
- Setup is quite a task for such a simple game. I missed this part of proceedings, but it's clear from the many counters that have to go on specific places that this is quite a chore, especially since it's not that easy to pick the colour differences between counters for the different areas.
- Gameplay. It’s largely a game of luck. Decisions are more interesting than in Monopoly, but still relatively trivial.
- The trading good components. They add flavour, but are not very practical. Makes one wish for wooden cubes.
- The ships can’t hold all the goods. Perhaps a colour-coded box on the board could have held each ship's contents. A better solution may be to limit what ships can carry, which may also force players to go to their home base and offload more often, which I suspect could avoid the situation where one pile of loot gets pirated repeatedly.
- A player aid with the timeline and major events would help. Those seeing the board upside down can't really see what is about to happen.
- Replayability might suffer as people become familiar with the historical text in the book.
The last word
If you want to do something reasonably engaging with the kids and expose them to some valuable history lessons, Riches 'n Rascals could be a good choice for you. (Or if you're really tempted by Monopoly, buy this instead!)
This is primarily a game for families, and probably not a gamer's family either.
- Last edited Thu May 27, 2010 9:00 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Thu May 27, 2010 11:11 am