Although not really needed to enjoy the game, BraveRats does come with its own Braveheart inspired backstory to enrich your experience:
“Highlands, 13th Century
With the sudden disappearance of the King of Rats, the kingdom is now without a sovereign. Two rat clans have emerged in a bid for power, the Yarg and the Applewood. The Yargs are barbarian rats, notorious for their expert handling of the war hammer and axe. The proudly wear the color blue. The civilized Applewood clan is fond of everything glimmering and gold and horde masses of jewels. They are known by the color red.
The clashing clans gather their allies to begin a silent struggle for power. But a heavy secret weighs on both the Yargs and Applewoods: both of their princes are secretly in love with the princess of the enemy clan! Who will seize the crown and gain control of the kingdom?”
He Geek’s Insights:
The game comes with one instruction booklet and 16 game cards: eight cards numbered 0-7 for each of the warring rat clans. Since we played a pre-production version of BraveRats, I have to assume that the end product will be printed on traditional laminated cardstock. The cards are normal playing card sized and easy to hold eight in your hand at once. The limited number of cards makes BraveRats a great game for a quick pick-up-and-play session at home or on the go no matter how little space you have in which to play.
The BraveRats card artwork is fun to look at and nicely painted. Even though each clan has the same type of members, each rat has its own unique look with members of the red Applewood clan dressed in their finery and the blue Yarg barbarians looking much more, well, ratty.
She Geek’s Insights:
Since we received a beta of the game, I can’t speak to the quality of the cards as ours were laminated and inserted into plastic card sleeves. However, having played one of their previous games, Spot it!, I would anticipate the card quality being similar to traditional playing cards if not a bit sturdier. And I’d anticipate a smaller sized card box for the finished mass market edition as ours was simply in an envelope.
Blue Orange Games specializes in utilizing eco-friendly materials so you can expect this policy to be followed for the creation of BraveRats. In fact, the company uses recycled and recyclable materials; and plants two trees for every tree used in manufacturing their games.
With the traditional card size, and it being 16 cards in total with a small instructions insert, the game is compact enough that it can easily be added to even the fullest of game closets. The size also makes it easy to take along with you for road trips, to pack in a suitcase, or just to stick it in a purse to bring along to a friend’s as a “just in case” resource.
Numbering and border design mirror the blues and red colors seen on most traditional playing card decks. And the number area is flourished with a Celtic knot braid design in keeping with the Scottish theme. But the primary imaging is that of the cartoon rat characters, each with their own look and personality so that the two different “clans” reflect their individualism. Both clans tend to be tunic clad characters, but the red team is more refined and clean-cut whereas the blues are more of the rugged brood in appearance (and their illustrated demeanor).
He Geek’s Insights:
BraveRats is a game for two players. Each player picks one card from their eight-card hand and reveals them simultaneously with the more powerful card winning the round. Win four rounds and you win the game. On the surface, BraveRats appears to be a glorified version of War. However each card has its own power that makes you think twice about simply laying down the higher number card. The Prince card automatically wins the round, unless your opponent plays their Princess in which case they automatically win the entire game. Or if they play the Musician on the Prince instead, that round is put on hold and the winner is resolved in the next round. The Spy card is only worth a lowly two, however its sacrifice means your opponent is forced to show their card before you choose your next move. This makes BraveRats more strategic than luck based. It’s a bit confusing at first, but after a couple of games, the card text makes more sense. And for those who just can’t grasp it, there is a convenient chart in the instructions that shows each possible card combo and round outcome.
The rule book also includes different gameplay versions. Some add unique twists to the game, such as only having three cards in your hand at the beginning of each round or one player using both princes while the other holds both princesses. Others are a more simplistic “quick game” to three rounds rather than four, or playing best two out of three. Pretty sure we could have figured those out on our own.
She Geek’s Insights:
The overall play of BraveRats I would compare to a game of War. However, although in most cases the higher card value wins the round, each card also features a statement/ “special powers” that can affect the cards in play by voiding the round, swapping winning value to the lesser number, or even pulling rank based on who is battling whom.
The entire game is mainly a game of chance. However, especially in the traditional game play method, you can strategize some by anticipating what’s to come based on cards already played based on their number and power values.
Although there are multiple game play options, I lean towards the traditional method as my favorite.
That said, of the game variations my preferences were the Lucky Draw (each player choosing from a mere 3 cards at a time) and Random Deal (of all 16 cards to the two players) options which both added a heightened sense of mystery and anticipation/tension of what lay ahead.
And of the variations my least favorites were the Draft, which required a longer set-up time going back and forth on card selection, and Princess attack as it seems that the deck is stacked in the favor of the person holding the Prince cards. (Although I was able to win with the Princess cards so it is possible.)
He Geek’s Insights:
BraveRats was a little confusing at first, trying to remember which card beat which other, but we were soon speeding through rounds without needing the rule sheet. This is a game that is simple enough for young kids but has enough strategy involved that adults will like it, too. It’s portable (you can easily carry the components in your pocket, just don’t bend the cards) and doesn’t take up much space at all to play. We do not know what the final price will be, but I’d recommend the purchase if Blue Orange Games can keep the price at around seven dollars. That seems right for a fun game with a limited handful of cards.
She Geek’s Insights:
BraveRats is a relatively easy game to play. After a few times of going through the basic gameplay you will probably be able to put the rulebook aside. We found ourselves checking back earlier on in playing to verify a few of the special powers (i.e. who can cancel a Prince card), but it doesn’t take long to catch on.
Although the concept of War may be grasped easily by children, this one may require a child to be a bit older. Since the play isn’t solely dependent on knowing what number is higher, reading level does factor in. So if your child can identify and grasp the meaning of words like “reveals,” “opponent’s,” and “nullified” then they should be just fine to join in the fun.
As I mentioned earlier, the game size is compact, and the play of the cards requires limited space too. So this is a game that can be played pretty much anywhere. Overall it’s a good choice if you need a quick and easy game for a couple of people. And if you have friends or children with limited attention timespans than this will work very nicely for you.
It’s not something that I would find myself playing continually throughout an evening. But it will be one that I will pull out when I have limited time, or I simply want to have a break in the midst of one of our multi-hour gameplay board games or game nights.
BraveRats is scheduled for release in February 2014. If you’re interested in checking out the game for yourself, visit BlueOrangeGames.com for updates and retailers.