So, you think you are the Big Cheese do you? That sort of confidence can grate with me. A bit like unnecessary cheese-related puns when talking about Rats to Riches. A board game about doing business with gangster rats. What any decent, self-respecting board game reviewer would be doing, is paying fromage to classic mobster movies instead.
Those sort of things can whey heavy on your mind. I have however thought Caerphilly about my introduction, and figured I ricotta slice into this review and cheddar some light on the game regardless. Having re-read it I don’t think I will raclette my decision!
Well, you have gouda ask yourself if you want to find out more about the game? Brie my guest… You will be cheesed to hear the play on words will stop now as you are probably feta up with them!
To win Rats to Riches you need to be the first player to gain 100 Swindles, the currency of the game ($). At the start of the game you will be issued with $5 from the Slush Fund, a Flush Card and three pieces of cheese of your choice from the red, green and blue wedges available.
The setup of the game is very easy, everything has a nice neat home on the board. Setup complete, the rat race starts. A player’s turn consists of collecting income, buying cards with cheese wedges or Swindle, using cards that you have purchased and then finally buying more cheese wedges.
Once everyone has taken a turn that concludes a round. The Swindle of each player is counted up and the player with the most money becomes The Big Cheese and gains $2 income extra on their go. A little house rule is that we pay this when the Big Cheese is decided as we tend to forget to collect it on our turn otherwise.
Rats to riches is a game for 2-5 players and does play well at all counts. It is also intended for 8+ and this is there or thereabouts depending, as always, on the child. I also think younger players will generally benefit from adult supervision, making it more of a family game.
The cards are split into two phases, first comes the Scrappy Sewer cards, which generally have lower rewards but help build the foundations of your ratty empire. The Supreme Sewer cards indicate the impending end of the game and ramp up the opportunities and actions available to each player.
In Rats to Riches there are different types of cards which reap different benefits. Green cards (purchased with green cheese) grant more income each turn. Blue cards (purchased with blue cheese) can be cashed in at any time, the money received is the number of pipes multiplied by itself. Red cards (purchased by red cheese) are action cards offering one off bonuses or sabotage opportunities.
There are three other types of cards that appear: purple cards which grant lasting benefits to a player. Yellow cards that are one-off events that instantly affect players. Finally grey cards which allow you to bundle assets together for a one off bonus, these are the only cards that can be purchased with Swindle.
How it actually Plays
You can only buy cards from what is known as the open sewer, an offering of three face up cards that are constantly replenished. This adds an element of luck as the cheese you have collected may not be able to buy the overturned cards. You will forever be wishing you had a few more cheeses, a certain card, or a bit more income.
The flush card you obtain at the start of the game is powerful, it allows you to take any card from the open sewer and get rid of the other two. This can help you nab a powerful card you can’t afford.
Rats to Riches starts at a plod as you slowly scavenge for a couple of swindles here or there, and grab a small offering of cheese too. There is a little bit of down time between turns but you still feel like you are involved. Someone might swipe your card or, be negotiating who to share the spoils of a card with. Generally, play moves around swiftly and gathers momentum the whole time.
Scrappy to Supreme
There are various strategies you can undertake to claim a victory. Will you gain lots of income with green cards? Gather a load of blue pipes or be the rat that sabotages and schemes their way to victory? Inevitably, it will be a mixture of them all.
The game reaches its crescendo once you have burned through the Scrappy Sewer cards and hit the Supreme Sewer deck. This pretty much marks the end game with play only likely to last a few turns more. On your first play you won’t believe me, but you soon realise this is when you can maximise whatever strategy you adopted and start cashing in bundles that are worth $25 each.
The box says it plays in 15 to 45 minutes. If you get through this game in 15 minutes it will be a rarity. An average game will be around 45 minutes – and that’s the average. Don’t let that put you off though, you’ll be enjoying every minute.
I really like the theme of Rats to Riches. There are plenty of play on words relating to rats and life in the sewer. These lighten the mood of the game and for me, add to the fun factor.
The cheeses sit in little wedge troughs, these aren’t big enough to hold them all and some cheeses will overspill. At first this really bothered me, why aren’t they just a tiny bit bigger to hold them all? I have relaxed a little now having decided that perhaps the publishers have given me a few extra cheeses in case any get lost. Without these few spares they fit in and the solar system can keep turning.
The base of the box unfurls to become the board, a nifty gimmick for less wastage that I admire, but perhaps do not love. Everything is clearly labelled so setup is a breeze.
The bank notes are themed and tally nicely with the Big Cheese. I also think the cards are nice quality and have nice ratty vignettes. The cheese wedges are akin to something you would find in a Trivial Pursuits game, but have sculpted tops to resemble cheese. It’s all these little details that bring further subtle enjoyment. The logo with the mouse and cheese silhouette incorporated into the ‘R’ is inspired too.
The cheesy crook miniatures, which indicate who is in charge of certain colour cheeses, are fun. The Big Cheese meeple is truly something to behold; weighty, regal, and glistening in its gilt splendour. No wonder my youngest always wants to be the big cheese! It is probably among the best components I have seen.
Final Thoughts on Rats to Riches
Rats to Riches is the game you should be playing instead of Monopoly. In fact, if ever someone says they like Monopoly I would want to sit them down to play this instead. Knowing they will be converted by the end of the game.
The theme and the components are all great and really add to the gaming experience. Rats to Riches does play well at all player counts too. A little caveat being that I probably wouldn’t recommend it if you could only ever play it with two, but when you do, it is still good. I guess what I am trying to say is there are better two-player only games I would recommend first.
Don’t let the fun theme fool you, this is a serious game with plenty of strategy. I love the way it can scale from being a board game that can be enjoyed as a family or once the children are in bed. Younger players may get daunted when the game changes gear, but if they don’t they will remain competitive until the end.
Games will also quite often be close with one player exclaiming that they would’ve won on their next turn when someone pips them to the post. This balance for me, reflects a well-designed game.
This is an entry level game that will lure non-gamers away from the classics like sweets from the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Instead of imprisonment in the film they will move into the enlightenment of the modern board game hobby. I will also add there is also plenty of medium weight strategy to scratch the itch of more seasoned gamers who may have overlooked it because of its theme.