Why Rattle Battle?
I am a lover of diversity. I love a game with an unusual theme or mechanic and have actually managed to collect several so far (just look at my other reviews!). Rattle Battle is no exception to this and I have to say that I was very very excited to crack it open and play it when it arrived. Whilst there is a multitude of dice orientated games out there which use the little blighters in many different forms, to my knowledge there are none which are like Rattle Battle. It’s a game which uses every part of the components well and I really looked forward to playing it because I like the chaotic randomness of dice and I also love a good pirate theme, despite knowing full well that I suffer with the same affliction a lot of gamers do… Dice Hate Me. 🙁
Rattle Battle starts off very unique in the set up and implementation of the game. When you’re ready to start your first Rattle Battle, the set up is very easy and you’ll be off plundering in no time. First off you need to set up the port town that you’ll visit between most turns and this goes in a specific order. First up is the Market, then the Tavern, Shipyard, Workshop, The Pit and lastly The Guild. You then also get to put your ship together which gives you an interesting choice in the beginning. You get to put together the bottom of the ship and the mast but you only get a choice of 1 upgrade to put on there. You can choose either a sail (for extra movement), a hold (to stash extra goods) or a cannon (for assisting in your plundering). This does change slightly depending on the amount of players you have though and I played with 2 players.
Rattling in your boots
Once you have your town and ship together you get to grab your rattle battle weapons (your ship dice) and then get to choose your mission difficulty. You get the choice of beginner which is symbolised by a child (harsh but funny), the Mr Norrington (medium difficulty) campaign which is signified by a flag with an N and a fleur de lis on it and the (self named) Best Of Luck You’ll Need It difficulty which is signified by a Jolly Roger for the most difficult of missions. I (like any new player would) started on the easiest difficulty and this is the first point where I think that Rattle Battle shows how simultaneously clever and well thought out it is. The easiest difficulty is a mini-series of 7 missions to get you used to all of the terminology used in the game and also to place you in situations that you’re highly likely to encounter while you’re playing the other difficulty levels.
All of the scenarios that you will encounter in Rattle Battle have a player aid to show you what types of encounter you’re going to have during the round and it is easy to identify too. You have a green flag for an easy mission, an flag which looks like a wooden box for a “crazy mission” a red flag for a difficult mission and a purple one for the final mission. There is only one final mission for the Norrington and Good Luck campaign but there are several of each of the other types of mission for replayability. All of the missions you can play (except for the starting scenario) are all very different too which also throws some more replayability into the mix.
Rattling, Battling, Measuring?!?
So how do you play Rattle Battle? Good rhetorical question matey! You Rattle Battle of course! All of the pirate players start with their 5 ship dice and once the mission prep has been read, they can decide how many of their ships that they’d like to put into the battle. Ship dice are not like the NPC dice and are solid coloured dice with faces marked by colours which identify which captain they belong to. You have one captain dice and 4 ship dice each. To give you an idea, I will use the mission Yummy! as an example of a rattle battle mission.
So, assuming that 3 players all put 2 ships into the foray each, you have 6 player dice and the mission card also tells you that you need to add 4 Non Player dice into the Rattle Battle too, with strength notified by colour. A green ship is the easiest which is a D6 with 1-4, a ship face and a cannon face on it. A yellow die is slightly more challenging with 2, 3 and 5 on it and a red is the strongest with 2 4’s and 2 5’s as well as the other 2 symbols. You will also be asked to add blue dice which are trap ships which have the possibility of exploding and taking your ship with it if it lands on the skull face of the die. So for Yummy, you need to add 3 green dice and a blue die.
Once you have given over all of your assigned dice, the first payer will collect all 10 dice into their hand, shake them up and literally drop them in the middle of the box (the bottom of the game box is used throughout Rattle Battle as the open sea). Depending on how the dice land depends on how you want to proceed on your turn. However, the NP ships resolve all of their actions first which are shown the mission card. Generally, the ship means that the NP ship can move away from the closest player die and the cannon means that they can volley fire.
Next the players can take their turns which are resolved in clockwise order from the first player. Players have the choice of 2 actions; move and fire. You can only move if you have a sail ready and can only fire if you have a cannon ready on your Galleon. You’d want to use the move action as the closest player to the NPC ship gets to do battle with it, and battling is resolved in a higher number being the winner way. The cannon can negate the need to have a higher dice roll than your opponent so long as you’re in range to use it, and you have a cannon ready on your Galleon. Measuring the distance of both movement and cannon fire is done by use of a card or the supplied ruler. You can move the length of a card or fire the width of the card. You can also use the ruler to judge who is closest to an NPC dice if you need to.
In the event of an actual draw, you both either win or lose. If your score is lower, then you’re sunk instead and the other closest player gets to try and sink the ship. You can also “board” the NPC ship if it lands (or you move your ship) directly into contact with the NPC and this will give you an extra loot at mission end. Although, you still have to win the rattle battle to sink the ship. Each player has a mat which once you have sunk or boarded a ship, or been sunk yourself you can return the dice to. It’s a really easy and clever way of keeping tabs on how much loot you’re due at mission end as each sunken ship rewards you with 1 silver coin as well as the loot the mission card gives you.
Crazy missions in Rattle Battle are not sea fights, but more a bunch of pirates getting together and bragging after a few barrels of rum. For example, there’s a crazy mission called “Party at Port” where all of the players get to roll all of their dice, and tally up how many landed on cannons. The player with the lowest total gets 1 rum loot and gets eliminated. This step is then repeated until there’s a victorious player which gets 1 silver coin and a loot of their choice. I just find that they break up the sea battle missions really nicely.
For those of you which love a good Player vs Player sea battle, sadly you’ll be disappointed to find that there’s no need to fight each other directly. It’s more about being able to be the best pirate in the sea and earn bragging rights by sinking the most ships and earning the most loot. The closest you come to PVP interaction are in the crazy missions, but there’s nothing to say that you couldn’t create your own missions and fight each other should you feel the need.
Fencing (the stolen goods kind)
When you’re in the Rattle Battle port, your loot becomes invaluable. However, while still on the open sea you need to make decisions about how much loot you can keep. You can keep some in the hold and 1 loot for each spare ship you have, but the ship cannot be used in battle if it’s storing loot- unless you ditch the loot! Once you have made the decision and gotten into port, the town is used as follows: The market is used to exchange 2 gold loot for any other kind of loot.
The loot you get to choose from is Piratey bread and butter. You have Rum (of course), spices, fabric or jewels. The tavern is for employing other sailors for your plundering adventures and these can have extra uses either in battle or in the port. To employ a sailor, it will cost you 2 rum. The shipyard can be used to exchange one fabric for a ship upgrade to add a sail, an extra hold or a cannon to your galleon. In the workshop you can trade in a fabric and some spices for a permanent upgrade to you galleon which can vary from something like Super Sails (which gives you 3 movement plus however many single sails you have for 1 extra movement each) or super cannons which double the range of normal cannons. In the pit you can exchange either 2 gold loot tokens or one valuable loot for good ol’ fashioned money. Then your money can be exchanged in The Guild for cards with increasing amounts of victory points on to help you win the Rattle Battle at the end. As you’d expect, the pirate with the most victory points wins!
Is Rattle Battle a Sea Shanty or a Nursery Rhyme?
I really enjoyed the game given it’s unique nature. I have only ever played one other game which makes use of all of the components in the same way this does by using the box as an integral part of the game play. I would say it’s a space saver but with the size of the port town this just isn’t true. I also loved the way that it allows you to play both sides of a pirates life with the sea battling and then getting rid of the plunder once you hit dry land to try and either make yourselves richer or get yourself some nifty bonuses from extra sailors. It wasn’t such a great play with 2 players because a) there’s not much competition when you’re in the heat of the battle and there’s not much player interaction with 2 of you, and b) the sea doesn’t get overly crowded during the titular rattle battle. However, given a higher player count (I’d say at least 3 upwards and quite literally the more the merrier) then it would be truly epic and I intend to take it to a game night with some other friends to prove my theory.
If you think it could be for you, then check it out at your FLGS: http://www.gamesquest.co.uk/new-releases/november/rattle-battle-grab-the-loot-dice-rolling-party-game
For more information on the game itself, then check out the BGG listing or the Portal Games website:
Portal Games: http://portalgames.pl/new_en/
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.