Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Rattus Pied Piper

The game Rattus, an interesting euro from White Goblin Games and ZMan Games that first appeared early in 2010, found a welcome home in our family. It's a tense and tight battle for survival that is quickly-changing, very tactical, highly interactive, tightly contested, and scales well from 2-4 players. Here's my original review of the game:

mb A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: A plague on all your houses, and a blight upon gamers everywhere

But many gamers - myself included - did draw attention to one weakness: from the outset the game has been begging for expansion class cards. Given that all six characters that come with the game are always in play, you'll quickly come to discover your favourite combinations and even have a sense that you've exhausted what the game has to offer. While children and families will be content to play it to death, as a gamer after about a dozen plays I felt that I'd seen everything that Rattus had to offer.



Enter the Rattus: Pied Piper expansion. By adding 12 new character cards that can be used in a multitude of combinations with the original characters of the base game, this offers room for a plethora of new possibilities and strategies to explore, giving the game a fresh lease of life, and increasing its replayability significantly. So let me add my voice to the chorus of the majority: if you enjoy the base game, and want to inject it with new life, this expansion is essential!

COMPONENTS

Game box

Considering that it's just an expansion, the box is quite generously sized. Although it's smaller than the box of the base game, it is obvious that what you get isn't just one or two cards that you can quickly and easily fit inside the original game box. We gamers like substance, we do!


Box cover

The back of the box introduces the notions of having 12 new personalities added to the game, and showcases some of the class cards included.


Box back

Component list

Here’s what you’ll discover when you open the box:
• 12 class cards
• 2 bishop pieces
• 3 nun pieces
• 3 wall pieces
• 10 potion tokens
• rulebook


Everything inside the box

Class cards

This is the chief feature of the expansion. There two extra cards for each of the six classes (Peasantry, Bourgeoisie, Church, Chivalry, Magic, and Royalty), making a total of 12 new cards. With the original six, you'll have a total of 18, and can select all six for a game randomly, or choose one randomly from each class.


The 12 new class cards

Bishops and Nuns

The two bishop pieces and three nun pieces are used in conjunction with the Bishop and Nun cards, and are made of solid wood.


The bishop and nun pieces

Walls

The three wall pieces are used in conjunction with the Emperor card. They're also of quality wooden construction.


The wall pieces

Potions

The ten potion tokens are used in conjunction with the Wizard card. They're made of thick cardboard stock.


The potion tokens

Rules

Four rulebooks are provided with the game, one in English, the others in German, French, and Dutch. The English rules can be downloaded from the publisher here, or from BGG here.


Rulebook cover

It consists of a single folded sheet, with four panels that include multiple illustrations. The bulk of the rules are an explanation of the individual class cards, but there's also an overview of how to set-up the game and select appropriate cards.


Sample pages in the rulebook

GAME-PLAY

Set-up

By adding twelve new class cards to the original six of the base game, you'll now have a total of 18 personalities (three in each class), of which you'll use only six per game. Players are free to decide amongst themselves how they'll select these cards. It can be done by a random draw of all 18 cards, or by drawing one random card from each class. The rules also contain three suggestions for specific card sets: Prosperous Times (which leads to a highly populated board with many cubes), Rat Control (which focuses on moving/placing/resolving rats), and Europe at War (which leads to a very attacking game).


The Bishop, Nun, Emperor and Wizard characters require you to use extra components

The game is played with same rules as the base game, with one small change in view of the fact that there are more cards: because you could theoretically have more than one card of the same class, a matching symbol on a rat token removes one of your cubes for each card of this class that you hold.

The New Class Cards

So what do the new class cards do?

Chivalry


Crusader and Soldier

The Crusader lets you move the plague piece up to two steps before resolving the plague (similar to the Knight), and also reveal all the rat tokens before deciding the order in which they are resolved.
The Soldier lets you move the plague piece up to two steps before resolving the plague (similar to the Knight), and also place an extra rat when placing rats.

Bourgeoisie


Courier and Mayor

The Courier lets you swap any two cubes on the board.
The Mayor lets you add a cube to each region in which you have a majority (instead of regular cube addition).

Royalty


Emperor and Queen

The Emperor lets you place (or move) wall pieces onto borders between two regions, and such a wall now prevents rats/cubes/plague crossing this border.
The Queen lets you add two more cubes than normal if you have the largest number of connected regions with your cubes.

Magic


Pied Piper and Wizard

The Pied Piper lets you move one cube of your colour to a neighbouring region, and as many rat tokens as allowable along with it (the maximum of 3 in the new region still applies).
The Wizard lets you place a potion token besides any of your cubes, and this protects it from being removed by the plague (the potion token is removed instead of the cube).

Peasantry


Serf and Baker

The Serf lets you place cubes when resolving the plague for every rat token that kills at least one cube of another player.
The Baker lets you place a cube on the Baker card each turn, which you place in a single region of your choice when another player takes the Baker card from you.

Church


Nun and Bishop

The Nun lets you place or move the nun pieces, each of which reduces the population of a region by one when resolving the plague.
The Bishop lets you place or move a bishop piece, which protects regions from having rats placed or moved into them.

End of Game

The regular rules about the end of the game apply, i.e. when the end of the game is triggered, a final counter-clockwise round sees all players (except the person who triggered the game end) use the abilities of their class cards a final time - the rulebook documents the precise effect of cards like the Queen, Soldier, Crusader, Mayor, and Serf in this situation.


Game in progress

MORE CHARACTER CARDS

The good news for Rattus fans is that with the Pied Piper expansion we haven't seen the last of Rattus. Yep, there are even more character cards to get!

Bonus cards

The Rattus: Spiel 2010 Bonus Cards was first made available at Essen 2010, but can now be purchased directly from ZMan Games at a relatively low cost (information here). It introduces the following new characters:

Joan of Arc lets you use abilities of all characters of a certain class (chosen randomly) - thus representing how Joan of Arc disguised herself as a man to join in the 100 years war.
Count Dracula puts cubes removed on his turn onto the card, and at the end of the game the player with least cubes on Dracula gains 4 points (the player with 2nd least number of cubes gets 2 points) while the player with the most cubes on Dracula loses 4 points - thus mirroring how Dracula was one of history's most blood-thirsty rulers.
Robin Hood lets you move the plague piece up to two steps before resolving the plague (similar to the Knight), and also lets you replace a cube from a player with a majority in a region with one of your own - stealing from the rich to give to the poor!
Merlin lets you place the rat token on the Merlin card anywhere on the board, or if there isn't one on Merlin yet you may remove a rat token and place it on his card - thus using magic to manipulate the plague!


The Essen 2010 bonus cards

Promo cards

Two promo cards have also been released separately, the Rattus: Judge Promo Card and the Rattus: Jester Promo Card.

The Judge lets you remove two of your cubes from a region (including a region with rat tokens), and move one to the Palace and the other to your supply. This card features the face of Peter van Heumen, a winner of a Rattus contest.
The Jester lets you take 2 cubes from your supply and drop them onto the board, staying wherever they land! Like medieval jesters, it's intended to entertain, and notably it features BGG's own mascot Ernie, and is available exclusively from the BGG store.


The Judge and Jester promo cards

New expansion

And more Rattus is still brewing on the horizon, with Rattus: Africanus scheduled to be released at Essen 2011. It promises the addition of a caravan, diplomats, region cards, and the possibility of playing with up to six players. Along with others, I'm looking forward to see what this offers!


The forthcoming Rattus Africanus expansion

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?


The Bishop
Replayable: The chief attraction of this expansion is that it adds different combinations of class cards to the game. This means that every game will be different, so you can't use your favourite combinations, but will have to decide from game to game how to maximize the possibilities offered by the cards that are in play. This adds a new level of decision making and interest to each game, as you try to figure out the best way to utilize what is available, all the while working with the interaction that happens with other players. Unlike the original game which can quickly get stale because you begin with the same six characters, each game will bring a fresh set of characters to the table, and you'll have to start your thinking anew about how to best use them and figure out possible combinations.

Balanced: Some cards may be arguably stronger than others, but to a large extent this is circumstantial. To some extent it is also up to the players to address this, because the game does have a self-balancing aspect. But for the most part the new cards are welcome additions, and plug in to the game without any real sense of a power creep or adding new measures of chaos or imbalance.

Consistent: This expansion does not totally change what we liked about the original, or take it in a radically new direction. It just offers what most of us wanted in the first place: more variety and interest. In that regard it is very consistent with the base game, and complements it beautifully. Could it arguably have been included in the base game? Perhaps, but it's a moot point given that this isn't what happened. As such the expansion is true to the original game, both in terms of complexity and flavour, and helps give it extended mileage without detracting from what we liked about it in the first place.

Strategic: For some great links to strategy threads by Danny Mack discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of all the characters, see here:
The "Absolutely Vital" but Much-Neglected Expansion

Essential: If you like the base game, the Pied Piper expansion is essential, simply because it adds more variety to the game. Otherwise there's a real risk that you'll find yourself quickly feeling that you've `played out' the base game. It's a very welcome addition, and without this expansion the staying power of Rattus would be in serious peril. Thankfully, the extra character cards of this expansion do an excellent job of rescuing it and ensuring its longevity!


A Bishop hiding behind the walls in Hungary

What do others think?

The criticism

The Queen

There is a small minority of folks who didn't like this expansion, but most of them are people who didn't like the original game to begin with, and were hoping this would redeem it. If you didn't like the chaos and feel of the original game, the Pied Piper doesn't have the charm to turn you from a Rattus hater to a fan. But if you did enjoy the original game, you're going to be hard-pressed to dislike this expansion because it expands and improves it by adding more choices, variety, and replayability, and because the base game really does feel incomplete without the extra characters provided here.

The praise

Let's hear from some of the people who did appreciate what the expansion offers:
"This expansion is a must have addition to the game. If you like Rattus, this is a must get. It adds in so much variation it really fills out the game. This expansion actually succeeds in making the game better, more variable and more interesting." - Giles Pritchard
"Adds a ton of variety to the game to help keep it fresh. " - Christopher Boat
"The extra characters add more choices, mostly meaningful ones, and would rather have these when playing the base game. Provides a great deal of variety for game play." - Stephen Sanders
"One of the most sensible expansions I own or have played. All it does is extend the playability of the game. It doesn't make the game more complicated or longer. " - Dea Draper
"What an expansion should be. Excellent mix of new roles and fun." - Rick Baptist
"This expansion makes the base game great. Twelve new characters expands the combos and replayability. Must get if you enjoyed the base game." - Joe (Nordiska)
"Some welcome variety into the base game." - James Keith
"Very good! Must have, really — this'll be in use from now on every time I play, and I would definitely recommend buying this expansion with the base game." - Mikko Saari
"In my opinion, an incredible addition and quite necessary to the base game... the 6 personalities that shipped with the base game could become scripted in a way. Rattus: Pied Piper blows the roof off of that possibility! The sheer number of possible combinations makes this a must have expansion. And, the new characters are all good. I love it." - Justin Robben
"Rattus really shines with this expansion added on." - Noah Sheola
"A must have for this great game !" - Grognard David
"I really enjoyed playing Rattus with this new expansion, Rattus Pied Piper. It adds more variety to the base game and introduces some really interesting (and important!) class cards, like the serf, the crusader, the emperor and the nun." - Bart Nijsssen




Recommendation

So is Rattus: Pied Piper for you? If you didn't like the original game, you won't find that this expansion saves it. But if you liked the original game and were ruing the fact that it didn't come with more class cards, then this expansion is a must. I'm not a big fan of expansions as a rule, but this is one case where I consider the expansion a must!



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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David G. Cox Esq.
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I hope you're proud of your self.

By writing such a detailed, informative and generally excellent review you have made it virtually impossible, not to mention a waste of time, for anyone else to even attempt to write a review on this game expansion.





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Or to resist purchasing the game being reviewed.

surprise

Stellar overview, as always.

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Christopher Boat
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excellent review! i'm proud to be quoted in such a finely written piece!
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Dea Draper
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Thanks for another astral review. Obviously a lot of meticulous work.

As of 9/7, for this year I have played for the first time, 179 games/expansions/promos (most of them multiple times), and this remains in my Top 10 for 2011.
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Damien Seb. ●leoskyangel●
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Thank you for the thorough and excellent review from your point of view, Ender. I myself quite eager to try out this expansion, but only if my friend decided to get it, since he owns the base game.

I thoroughly like the base game a lot, and find that this expansion isn't necessary yet. But, at one point, I'll definitely left burned out after a dozen or more plays, just like you said. Also, I'm waiting patiently for the 2nd expansion to come out and hope you'll post a review on it very soon.

Again, thank you.
Regards
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Andy Andersen
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dtroy_de_rapcore wrote:
Thank you for the thorough and excellent review from your point of view, Ender. I myself quite eager to try out this expansion, but only if my friend decided to get it, since he owns the base game.

I thoroughly like the base game a lot, and find that this expansion isn't necessary yet. But, at one point, I'll definitely left burned out after a dozen or more plays, just like you said. Also, I'm waiting patiently for the 2nd expansion to come out and hope you'll post a review on it very soon.

Again, thank you.
Regards


I haven't yet fleshed out the base game enough yet, but have purchased this expansion in anticipation of that.

Thank you for a great review.thumbsup
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Item 1: Praise for the well-written review.
Really nice work here, Ender. Obviously a lot of research and organization went into this and it shows. The useful links, the well-cropped colorful photos (although it's hard to screw up that part when the game is so nice to look at already), the impeccable spelling & syntax makes it a pleasure to read. Very informative. Now all these folks who say they love it need to go talk about it in the forums!


Item 2: One disagreement.
The Pied Piper Expansion is everything Ender says it is, but I differ on point: The base game isn't lacking replayability. It is still true that Pied Piper adds variety, but the base game is far from stale without it.
I was just in a Rattus tournament at my local con this past weekend, and was really hard-pressed to utilize my favorite game-winning combinations. Either they were being snatched away from me too quickly, or they were just ineffective in keeping up with what the other players were doing. So I was forced to adapt. In either case, what was keeping it fresh and challenging was my opponents. Ergo, if you play the base game with the same "stale" people/ideas, then the base game will start feeling stale, no doubt. But a stale gaming group is never the game's fault...the games are just frequently the whipping boys so that we don't have to challenge ourselves or admit that we are predictable in our play. Rattus is one of several games that I hear people marginalizing. My suspicion is that it's not about what comes in the box, but rather it's about not being able to think outside the box.
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Radioactive Man
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EndersGame wrote:

So is Rattus: Pied Piper for you? If you didn't like the original game, you won't find that this expansion saves it.


Excellent review. But I have to disagree with that statement. I played the base game a couple of times and the game felt very flat for me. I added the expansion, and the game was much more interesting and alive. I'm not sure what it was, but the actions themselves seemed to work better. Granted, I've only played the game as a 2 player game, but if you didn't like the base game, I would definitely try it again with the expansion. It certainly changed my opinion on the game.
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Damien Seb. ●leoskyangel●
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dtroy_de_rapcore wrote:
Thank you for the thorough and excellent review from your point of view, Ender. I myself quite eager to try out this expansion, but only if my friend decided to get it, since he owns the base game.

I thoroughly like the base game a lot, and find that this expansion isn't necessary yet. But, at one point, I'll definitely left burned out after a dozen or more plays, just like you said. Also, I'm waiting patiently for the 2nd expansion to come out and hope you'll post a review on it very soon.

Again, thank you.
Regards


Update!:
Just an update. Man, I'm terrible at keeping my words. I went ahead with purchasing the game (which was against me since it's an area control/influence kind of game). Played it about 7 times (recorded) and I've just purchased Pied Piper XP last night.

Some reasons why I got the XP are:
- when I played with the same persons few times, I hate it when they used the same character/role combos.
- I feel like I want more. Adding new role cards for each game really forced me to think of a new combo/strategy. It's more fun & fair that way, though experience in hand. In other words, yup, got burnt out, in mere 7 plays.

Everything happened in about a month, darn.
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Adam Fenrick
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The thing I hate most on bgg is when people write huge reviews full of pictures and walls of text. You are the first person, however, that have mastered the art of putting pictures without buckets of pointless squabble. The layout is perfect here and for that you deserve a tip and thumbs up. Kudos. I'll be looking for other reviews by you.
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Jake Waltier
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Thanks for yet another great review. Aside from the nuns being pink (shake) I agree that this is an excellent expansion and should be a required purchase for anyone who owns and enjoys Rattus.
 
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Serious? Lee
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Great review, Ender. I noticed a few errors regarding the explanations for some characters, though, as noted below.

The Emperor allows the player to move "all" the walls (not just one), hence all three are pictured on the card.

The Bishop allows the player to move "one" of the Bishop pieces (not both), hence only one being shown on the card.

Count Dracula does award 4 points to the player with the lowest number of cubes on the card and also awards "2 points the player with the second lowest number of cubes on the card", hence the #4 next to the 1st place symbol and the #2 next to the 2nd place symbol on the card. Points are shared among tied players. (The player with the most cubes does not lose any points.)
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