29/07/2020

Ratzzia: A horde of mice during harsh winter [Review]

Ratzzia_Cover

Do you know what’s the difference between rats and mice? Despite its name, Ratzzia is a game about a horde of mice trying to survive through the harsh winter. It sounds sympathetic but I still don’t like the idea where mice go plundering my pantry during the cold winter night. Nevertheless, I still tried the game and here I shared what I think about Ratzzia.

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

Ratzzia, what’s this all about?

Ratzzia_Covering-Column
Covering the column depending on the player count.

This game is published by Devir Games but I also happened to find them advertised in Kosmos’ website as well. I and Geoffrey watched it showcased during the preview day of Spiel Essen 2019 but we didn’t manage to find Devir’s booth until the third day. Ratzzia was selling like nuts and we were lucky to obtain the last copy, too.

The actions

After setting up the board and distributing the dice to each player (each gets dice of one colour), we can pretty much start the game. The board acts as the kitchen, meanwhile, the dice represent the mice. You can place these mice into several parts of the kitchen to gain its effect and food. Whoever gains 25 food points win the game.

During his/her turn, a player casts the dice and may re-roll as many…

…dice as needed once. Anyway, the active player needs to place at least one die (and as many as he/she wants) and may save the rest. The dice placement on each column should be from bottom to top and left to right. Also, the dice we placed will only be back if the column is full.

The next option is to take back all the owned dice which have been placed on one column. This should be taken if there’s no die left on the player’s possession. When doing this, it may leave gaps, but the dice that stay are not shifted down.

Notable effects

Ratzzia_Column_Other
When that bar on the right bottom is full, you get the undivided attention from the Cat. Well, it’s time to scram.

Remember that the food point tokens you earned are still not safe! You have to put it into your bag to prevent something bad! It can still be stolen and taken by other players. You will also find the Cat’s column on the bottom right. When it’s full, all dice are removed from the board and all players don’t get any reward.

The rewards

After placing the dice, check from left to right for any complete column. If there’s any, all players take the dice they own and get the reward depicted on the small picture on the left side of each die’s column. The active player also gets the reward from the top of the column. These rewards include:

  • Place this column’s topmost die to the bottom of any other column without looking at the dice requirement, shifting all the other dice up.
  • Take the joker die. It can be used anytime you want as the die’s number face of your choosing.
  • Get the additional sausages on the top of the column.
  • Put the food point tokens into the bag.
  • Steal another player’s food point tokens that haven’t been guarded in the bag.
  • Make all players distribute half of their exposed food point tokens to the other players on their left and right side.
Ratzzia_Board
The board depicts the kitchen. Each column will give different effect and reward. Fill each column from bottom to top.

Thoughts on this game

I don’t have good luck with dice casting. Meanwhile, your victory in Ratzzia really requires Tyche smiling upon you. The high contingency makes this game tremendously chaotic. You roll your dice and your fate and what you can do rely on it solely.

Be that as it may, Sophia Wagner has also integrated the worker placement mechanic into this game. The indirect “take that” is quite common in this kind of game but it’s different in Ratzzia. She also managed to put some effects that escalate it to be so direct and potentially prevents another player’ planning to fruit. You might get tilted or flipped.

Ratzzia_food
The food tokens and the bag to safeguard what you have gathered.

I didn’t have any complaint about the rulebook. However, it could have been more concise. It’s great that they tried to explain the columns’ rewards with narration but I think it still lacks the emphasis on the reward explanation. This is easily done by bolding the important parts so players don’t have to read the whole lines during the game when they want to review what’s doing what. The game is listed for 2-5 players but three is the lucky…

…number and four is another charm. Playing with 2 players doesn’t feel right while playing with 5 feels a bit too crowded.

There’s no feature to manipulate the dice face and it makes Ratzzia a harsh, heavily luck-based game. What you roll is what you get and it’s just not my cup of tea. The game is not designed for gamers who like to plan the strategy without too much surprise and randomly generated result.

Management is the key

Be careful when you decide to place your rolled dice on the board. They will not come back to your hand before that column gets full. You can, of course, spend one turn to take all dice from one column but I when you do this, you have lost momentum and need to plan carefully in your future round. Ratzzia is a racing game to be the first who gets 25 points, so besides your luck, every turn counts.

The intense take that

Two columns really make the “take that” bit profound. The effect of stealing your opponent’s food is punishing enough if you forget to safeguard them in your bag. The other one is no less annoying: the Cat. When it is activated, the board is like *poof*, clean from all dice. The latter one may be enough to leave you in anguish, especially when you almost complete your desired column.

The artwork and components

Illustrated with comical features displays, Ratzzia is one disarming board game you can bring on the table and play with your kids. It is more welcoming this way, making it easy to be introduced to the younger audience.

I am in love with the dice, too. You can feel the weight of the dice in your hand. It is not the high-end accurate die but hey, they are not that easy-to-break kind you usually find on Wish.

Ratzzia_dice
The dice with vibrant colours. It represents the mice but you’ll never find a mouse in bright blue, right?
Ratzzia_Dice_Other
The wildcard dice you can obtain by finishing one of the column. It’s one of the best rewards in Ratzzia, since you cannot alter your dice face. Nice job on the components.

Final thoughts

Ratzzia is definitely easy to learn and to teach. You roll the dice and you place it based on your needs. It is straight forward and really fun for those who seek entertainment through dice rolling. There will be a vast range of gamers who will like this game but for me, it still feels a bit too chaotic despite the management element.

All pictures in this article are taken by Athalia Lie.

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