With the release of thousands of new games each year, it’s not uncommon for publishers and designers to revive old classics. When they believe the timing is right, they bring these nostalgic favorites back to the forefront with updated artwork, new features, or updated gameplay. One of those games that’s making a big comeback is Rattus, a game that takes players on a journey through the middle ages, as they face the Black Death and try to keep their population alive.
2-6 players, ages 10+
Playing time: 30-60 minutes
Designers: Åse Berg & Henrik Berg
Artwork: Denis Martynets
Publisher: White Goblin Games
The Rattus Big Box edition is a refreshed take on the original Rattus game and includes a range of materials and components. It includes all elements from the base game and the Pied Piper, Africanus, and Academicus expansions. Additionally, players can add new excitement to the gameplay by incorporating the Guilds & Inns and bonus modules. The Big Box edition also includes popular bonus cards such as the Judge, Jester, and Boccaccio, along with the full set of 27 level upgrade tiles.
The game is set in the year 1347 AD, and the players settle in various regions of Europe and Northern Africa as the Black Death approaches. To help them, they can seek assistance from various professions of the middle ages, including peasants, bakers, monks, nuns, knights, and soldiers. Each profession offers different advantages and disadvantages, and the players must use their wits and strategy to keep their population alive.
The game is played in turns, with each player going through two phases. In the first phase, the player must place new population in one of the regions on the board, based on the number of rat tokens present in that region. The player also has the option to select a new class card, either one of the untaken ones beside the board or from another player, which can be done before or after placing the population. These class cards provide benefits to the player, but also increase the risk of their population being killed by the plague.
In the second phase, the player must move the Black Death to an adjacent region. The plague then spreads to the new region, causing the player to place new rat tokens in neighboring regions based on the number of rat tokens in the Plague Region. The population and rat tokens in the Plague Region are evaluated, and any revealed rat tokens are removed from the game.
The game ends after the turn during which the supply of rat tokens is depleted or when a player has all their population on the board at the end of his turn. A final round follows, in which all players except the player who had the last regular turn, may use the abilities of their class cards one last time. In this final round, players are only allowed to use the abilities of the cards they currently hold and cannot take any new cards, add population or move the Plague Piece.
Rattus: Big Box offers a great balance between simplicity and depth, with straightforward rules that are easy to learn, making it a great game for families. The rules are clearly explained in the manual, making it very accessible. However, with the inclusion of modules and class cards, the game becomes more complex, challenging players of all skill levels.
Rattus can be played by 2-6 players, but in my opinion it is at its best at 3 and 4 player count. The class cards are a significant driving force in gameplay, providing players with a range of strategic options. With the different modules and class cards included, the game has excellent replayability.
The game comes with artwork and components that look really vibrant, and the box includes a handy insert for storing all of the components neatly.
One thing is for sure: there’s no question that Rattus: Big Box will keep you entertained, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out.