It seemed like easy prey. Ship, from which smoke was rising on all sides. But as soon as we boarded it, enemies emerged from all sides. It was too late to bounce back and stop our attack. We wanted spoils, they waited for us and there is no turning back now.
And players will be in the first lines of both armies, because you certainly should not miss the opportunity to see two pirate ships fighting and even interfere. This option is now called Rum & Bones, and it is a new board game produced by Cool Mini or Not. Authors are David Doust and Michael Shinall, game was published under auspices of small Five Houses company. But we got our test sample from Esdevium Games.
On the lid of the box, we find ourselves aboard one of the two ships. Pirates of the two opposing sides are separated only by a few feet and some of them suspiciously resemble skeletons. We therefore prefer to jump straight into the tall box and save our neck. At least for now.
Box dimensions and its weight definitely does not adhere to the ground, but square shape holds dimensions of other games from CMON, such as Arcadia Quest or Zombicide. And based on this, we can expect, that there will be also a flood of components waiting and we begin their list with the most important – game board with a bird view of two ships sailing side by side. Their decks are divided into small squares boxes.
But it is certainly clear for description of the game, that we are only warming up by looking on the board itself. Among two cardboard boxes filled with some goodies (we will look into them later), can also inside be found ten pieces of cardboard objectives, ten big heroes cards and another pair for sea monsters. Each of the intrepid sailors has his faction printed on his card as well as number of lives and three abilities that characterize it. These rows may each have its own price, range, attack and number of dice used.
Even now, we are far from end, because there is one tide deck. It contains thirty cards for both factions involved. These are special cards, that can be played for their effect in specific moments. But there are many other cardboard components representing coins, injuries, states and spawning points. Big tile is also dedicated to the Kraken. However, most attention is eventually turns to miniatures, which are hidden in boxes: seventy of them! Each party has their own five heroes, six big bosuns and two dozen ordinary pirates. Each party will also receive a set of pedestals to mark their miniatures and together eight dice.
At the start of every game, one as the other (basic version of the game is really for two!) can choose his hero party from Wellsport Brotherhood or Bone Devils crew. The player then selects heroes, which may include even some mercenaries, put them on stands with his color and takes appropriate cards for each miniature. Both captains will also receive miniatures of ordinary seamen in his colors and shuffled tide deck.
Together, they prepare both boats anchored next to each other. Ships now will be joined together by three cardboard bridges, each sailing boat has five special places on board (each with its own importance for the battlefield, such as the rudder or boat cannon; and even these tiles have mentioned number of lives and victory points for its destruction) and also three places for deployment of new units. These spawning points are each filled with four sailors and two bosons are added to spaces based on player’s choice. All other tokens and cards / pieces of sea monsters are set aside.
During the game, players take turns. In each of them, player will be able to activate a set of his characters, which is currently located on ships. First real action in every round is the possibility to fire ship’s cannon (if it was not already destroyed), which can make a proper havoc in the enemy ranks. After that, however, it is possible to call for reinforcements. Their numbers in the form of ordinary pirates are fixed and its two bosons and six sailors.
After that, activation of the characters occurs (first hops, than heroes). Each piece can first attack any target in his vicinity. Player chooses an attack, pay any expenses for skill activation, then he can roll the dice. Each attack has written values, which set number of dice to roll, lowest number to hit and also distance, at which it is possible to attack. Ordinary sailors end their journey at the plan after being hit once, while heroes and locations will receive corresponding number of damage points. On each side, there may be three active heroes at any time. If there is less, player can ask for reinforcements and it’s free.
After that, the pieces is moved. Ordinary sailors always hop with no choice of direction. In each round, they will move one square forward over bridge towards enemy ship. Player has no control over them in this regard. Heroes are a different story. They always have a total of three action points, that can be spent not only to attack, but also to move or swing on the rope. But such a rope is a capricious thing and player may pay the price for such quick shift. In this case, it is a risk, that (in the case of the failed dice roll), hero may fall out of the boat and spend rest of this turn scratching back up (he appears on his own ship at the beginning of next turn).
End of each turn is about drawing new tide cards up to the limit. These cards can then be played anytime during their turn, when the condition is met. But even here, a catch is waiting for players. Some of the cards have Kraken symbol in their lower right corner. Cards are placed on the table and when there is a sufficient number of those symbols, this battle has summoned a sea monster. It will inflict proper damage in both player ranks.
Game is full of constant fights. Players take turns, moving their units and trying to destroy enemy’s location or arrived monsters. Every destroyed enemy position gives players some victory points and whoever first reaches a score of six becomes instantly a winner!
Rum & Bones is a game, that handles its topic really nicely. And now we are not talking only about quality and overall impression of the components, that are really nice and provide impression of a real duel of two ships wedged into each other. But author was also able to use all the interesting elements, that players might encounter in a sea battle.
First of all, it’s absolutely devastating cannon. Its usage is very important and I dare to say, that every ignite of the fuse will be really enjoyed by all players involved. And then there is rope swinging, which makes the game truly special with chance to fall overboard.
The game is filled with conflict, but fighting is not the main route to victory. Everyone involved must be careful, because battles are only a means of distraction and cutting paths for your damag . Players must make a space for more of their troops, get to the rear of the enemy and destroy as much of his buildings as possible. Each round brings new influx of troops, so this fight is neverending. New and new creatures constantly run up on deck, no matter how many you manage to kill. Exactly in the style of some splasher movie.
Although it all looks complicated, in fact there are no difficult rules or lack of continuity. Summary on the back side of the rules will be enough for you to play the game after one read. And still, you will find some features in the game, that would use some tuning and balance. We specifically mean heroes skills, but also victory points gain. Rewarded is only the person, who deals the Kraken his final blow and sends him to the abyss below.
From previous paragraphs, you might mistakenly get the impression, that Rum & Bones is playable only by two players. But this is not true! Any battle can be layed up as a team for up to six participants, each controling his hero(es). Such haggling and joint planning again offers a completely different experience and is fun way to play this game.
Fortunately, despite the seemingly plenty of actions, turn alternations goes quickly enough. But there is still waiting caused by moving all your miniatures at once. A lot of activities are clear and there is not too much to think about. The game is playable during ninety minutes. Team plays get you to about two hours, but time required to complete depends a lot also on how straightforward will the players go for their goals.
At the beginning of each round, heroes who were killed in the last round must pay price by skipping one round. Only then will they turn to their owners, available for deployment to the next fight. But the most fun is, when hero swings on a rope and falls overboard. The game abounds with such moments and thus offers a constantly excellent atmosphere. You’ll appreciate it, when Kraken emerges from the depths, destroying the middle bridge and make you happy for all units, who are out of reach of its tentacles.
There is not much heroes to choose from in the base game. Each side has those needed five, but the market is filled with expansions. But based on the cost of base box, this may not please many. Even with the basic group of five heroes, you can have a lot of fun. Unfortunately, games are quite similar, but thanks to the constant conflicts, you will not even feel that problem scratching your mind.
From continuous supply of units, it can be clear to some of you, that this is a representative of the so-called MOBA genre (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). Here, units are only expendable element to achieving your objective. And it makes Rum & Bones quite a unique experience, that will surely be appreciated by a number of players. But there are certainly some, who will be on the opposite side of the opinions, who will reject it. It’s up to you, where you stand this time.
Rum & Bones is a game representing the newly emerging MOBA genre in tabletop gaming. We can feel from its conception of gameplay, that its not even trying to be perfect. The idea of fun is simply so close and still different for each of us. So if you are not okay with using dice and do not have a fertile imagination, then you'll probably leave battling ships disappointed. Game offers no hidden depth nor the possibility of deciding tactics, but an action ride full of atmosphere. Yet, there are other problems, particularly with variability relying on expansions (game is perfectly prepared for them) and especially the price. Games are longer, but interesting and players can compete not only in two, but also in teams. Rum & Bones is a good and interesting game, which some may label as well as delicious.