Review: Rum & Bones

Rum & Bones review

Davey Jones is dead! Well that’s what they say. Rumour has it that the Jolly Roger has been wrecked, but no bodies have been found. The kraken is roaming the seas in search of its master and the pirates of the seven seas have found mysterious pieces of eight in their holds.

The locker is open and whoever can gather the most pieces of eight will have the power to rule the seas. Get ready because the pirates are going to war!

A 2015 release by CoolMiniOrNot, Rum & Bones has players taking on the roles of famous Pirates and their crews as they perform boarding actions on other pirates in an attempt to steal their pieces of eight. These magical coins grant them immortality and the more they have, the more powers they will gather.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the box:

  • 2-6 players
  • Ages 14+ (my 9 year old is pretty good at the game, it’s actually fairly easy to play)
  • 45min

In the box we have more boxes! These contain all of the gorgeous miniatures that come with the game. There are 2 crews each made up of deck hands, Bosuns and 5 heroes. Each crew has their own ship board and deck of cards. Extra factions, as well as expansions for the starting factions can be purchased separately.

Rum & Bones review
I am not a fan of these boxes but they keep the models safe.

Additionally there are boarding planks, tokens for pieces of eight, wound counters, status effect markers and tokens for objectives and sea creatures.

There’s also a gorgeous rule book. It’s an easy read with some lovely artwork and a good backstory. I just can’t get over how good it looks, although I’d like a bit more of the back story.

Card Sleeves

I used these Mayday sleeves to sleeve all of the cards. They won’t fit back into the plastic insert once they are sleeved but the cards are better protected.

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Theme

So as I have mentioned Davy Jones is dead and his power has been spread across the seven seas. The pirates are trying to steal his magical pieces of eight from each other in an attempt to wrest control of Davey Jones’s Locker for themselves.

The game focuses on an encounter between 2 pirate crews and how they attempt to sabotage their opponent’s ship so that they cannot chase them as they make off with their loot!

Gameplay

Setup can be a bit of a chore. There are quite a few components and if you use the boxes that the miniatures came in for storage then it will take some time to setup and pack away.

Lay out the ships side by side. Each player takes the crew he likes and their deck of cards. Then the 4 objectives are setup on their corresponding ships with 4 deck hands standing on each of them. The spawn point counters are placed and then everything else is placed within easy reach of everyone. Not difficult to setup, it’s just a lot of stuff to unpack.

Rum & Bones review
The crews rush to engage!

Then play begins. Players start by giving each hero that they have not yet deployed a piece of eight. Then they move on to firing their deck gun, think of it as a cannon that can fire anywhere on either ship. So pick a spot roll 4 dice and any that roll a 4+ (4 or more) will hit something.

It’s important to note that there is a target priority. Deck hands are hit first then Bosuns, then heroes and finally objectives. This applies to all attacks, so you cannot just start off targeting the objectives or heroes.

Then you spawn more deck hands and a pair of Bosuns. All of your non hero models are just mindless drones, moving forward and attack whatever is within their reach. Bosuns make the decks hands fight slightly better so it is worth your while to spread them out a bit.

Next you get to spawn heroes. You can only have a maximum of 3 heroes deployed (or dead) at a time. Select the hero that you which to deploy and then select where you would like him or her to spawn.

Rum & Bones review
Mad Ivan is a close combat monster.

After the heroes have been deployed you get to do stuff with them. Each of them can be activated up to 3 times, to perform up to 3 actions. These actions could be using one of their powers or moving.

The powers are usually attack powers. They will tell you how many dice to roll, what you need to roll to hit and the range of the attack. A pirate equipped with a sword will attack at a range of 1, but one if the pistol could shoot to a range of 2. These attacks often have extra abilities, like granting status effects on the enemy, blinding them or slowing them down. Some of them can grant friendly heroes bonuses or buffs, and others are reactions to being attacked by the enemy. They all have a cost.

Each hero will have a 0 cost power, and then 2 more powers that could be anything for 0 to 4. You pay for these powers using pieces of eight. The more powerful the ability, the higher the cost.

Gaining coins is fairly easy. If you kill a hero then you take all of his coins, if you kill a deck hand or Bosun then you get 1 coin.

Movement, in any tactical game is the key. Heroes can move 2 squares per movement. They can end their movement among friendly models and hide in them, or they can charge out front and attract attention while their horde moves up behind them. My favourite movement is using the rigging to swing across to the enemy ships. Just like in the movies they can grab an overhanging rope and rig across directly into the thick of things.

Rum & Bones review
Ivan used the rigging to land on the opposing ship.

Also, just like in the movies they can fall into the ocean. It’s risky but it can be very worthwhile if you pull it off.

Heroes can die. If they receive enough hits they will be KO and receive a dead man’s coin. While they have the coin no other hero can be summoned in their place. It only lasts for a turn and then you can summon a hero again, even the one that was KO.

Once all of your heroes have activated then you draw cards from your sides tide deck. You don’t start with any cards so draw a full hand of 3 in turn 1. These cards do all sorts of things. From inflicting status effects on the enemy to healing your heroes or summoning a sea dragon. There is a risk though. The kraken is out looking for its master and concentrations of magic attract it. So the more cards that are played, the higher the chance of the Kraken coming to ruin everyone’s day.

Rum & Bones review
The mast is one of the objectives.

The game ends when a player acquires 6 victory points. The easiest way to do that is by attacking the objectives. Each ship has 4 objectives, once destroyed they will have some impact in the game and you will get 2 victory points. The kraken and the sea dragon are also worth victory points but they are not that easy to kill.

Conclusion

I need to point out that this game is based on a genre of PA games called Multi Player Online Battle Arena (MOBA). These games focus on 2 teams of heroes, usually 3 per side, and a number of mindless drone units for each side. They then battle each other in an attempt to destroy their opponent’s bases.

It actually does capture the feel of those games in a physical format. It’s not exactly the same but it’s a very good try which has resulted in a fast paced, tactical game. It can bog down, if players try to play safe and keep their heroes alive. Most games of this type have a limited number of models so playing defensively pays off. Rum & Bones effectively gives players an unlimited number of models so be bold like a pirate and seize what you came looking for!

I really like this game. I love the models, and the pacing. It’s very easy to play and teach. If you’ve got a friend who is into MOBAs then this will be the board game to help get them to the table.

Rum & Bones review
The details on the models are fantastic.

There are down sides though. With more than 2 players it’s a team game and that suffers from having an alpha gamer on the team. There are homebrew rules on BGG for multiplayer games with multiple ships, which I’ll try when I buy some expansions.

The other down side is the cost. It’s very expensive, especially for a 2 player game. It says 2-6 players but it best with 2 players. I don’t regret buying it though, and I’m very keen to get more factions.

Can I play this at a braai?

Oh, yes that would be great. Unless you don’t trust the other players to roll their dice fairly when you’re not around 🙂

Rum & Bones review
I could use some whisky…
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