Rum & Bones

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01 March 2016
Yaaaaaaar ye scurvy sea dogs, batten down the hatches because there be trouble on the high seas!

Whereas something like Super Dungeon Explore is a little more obvious with its videogame roots, Rum & Bones hides it under a boat load of ‘yaaaaaaaaars’, grog, cutlasses and, of course, undead pirates. You see, underneath the strong theme Rum & Bones is inspired by MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) video games like League of Legends. In practice this means you have hordes of fairly useless pawns that spawn each turn and surge forward (only to be hacked down) who are backed up by far more powerful heroes with a range of special abilities.

The set-up sees two pirate crews – the Wellsport Brotherhood and the Bone Devils (undead) – attempting to board the rival ship to destroy key objectives, e.g. the armoury, wheel, rigging lines, etc. The first to get to six victory points is the king of the seven seas and gets a bounty of gold coins (if you’ve got no cold coins, just give the winner some biscuits).

On your turn you’ll start by spawning the lowly deckhands or slightly better bosuns, who built their deckhand counterparts, then sending them to their death on the wooden planks between the ships. Invariably these conflict points between the boats are a slog of attrition with one player getting a temporary upper hand, only for their opponent to come back in their turn and establish a balance again.

Things get far more interesting when you get the heroes involved in a scrap, as they have more powerful attacks that can cause plenty of damage or special abilities to heal/buff their counterparts. As a rule the heroes won’t be involved in that melee between the ships, instead they’ll be moving around and taking out objectives or fighting other heroes, while the melee carries on in the middle.

The heroes are themed around different roles on a ship, so the captain is, as you might expect, a bit special, while a gunner exceeds in long range combat and the quartermaster (normally the second in command in a crew) can run around offering support for their shipmates. Another clever element that fits into the theme is that if a hero wants to get somewhere quickly they can use the rigging to swing over from their boat and onto the opposing one. However, you need to work out the distance and this becomes your required dice roll but if you fail you’ll fall overboard. As a result, there’s a definite sense of risk involved in those ballsy moves that could turn the tide in your favour.

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There’s also the chance that all the bloody combat can draw the attention of the Kraken (surely every piratethemed game needs a Kraken). This terrible sea monster attacks EVERYONE on the board, regardless of faction… however it’s also worth two victory points when killed, so it can quickly switch the attention of players from killing each other to killing the Kraken.

Thematically Rum & Bones is exceptionally strong and, as you might expect, from Cool Mini or Not the miniatures are fantastic and the components are top notch. Something to consider though is that killing crew members is almost a distraction to the more important task of taking out the objectives. If you get bogged down in combat, it can become a slog, but focus on your goals and games should be fairly frenetic and a lot more enjoyable.

Buy your copy here.

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