RARRR!!! - A Double-Take Review



Today we're reviewing RARRR!!! from APE Games--a game of giant monsters, card-drafting, and giant monsters... Did we mention giant monsters?

Let's go ahead and jump in!

The Components

There are cards, lots of them. Here's quick look at the cards:

Each player gets a Monster card and two Katakana cards, and each of these creates your monster name by giving you syllables to arrange as well as abilities that you can use.

There are also city cards that feature different cities and give you victory points--and some cities are resistant to certain powers. The game is mostly made up of power cards, these have a numeric value as well as a power type. The Monster and Katakana each feature four power symbols that determine the amount of each power type you can use in a single round (3 radioactive, 4 toxic, etc). There are also a few power boost cards, and the Angriest Monster Card (i.e. first player card).

During the setup players receive a set of Power Boost cards--we'll talk more about those a little later. A Power Gauge dial, which track how much power you've committed to a battle. And everyone is given a Monster card, and dealt three Katakana cards from which they draft two. 

Jeremiah--The thing I enjoyed about the setup is the monster creation. Once you've got your two Katakana cards and your one Monster card you can arrange the syllables on those in any way you want to create a very unique monster name; it's always different with each game!

Once you've set the game up it's played in three rounds, each consisting of two phases: The Power-up Phase and the Battle Phase. Here's a quick run-down of the phases.

The Power-up Phase--This phase is basically a drafting phase where each player is dealt 12 cards and they draft a new hand of 12 cards by selecting, passing, selecting, passing and so on. Then six cities are dealt and it's time for the Battle Phase!

The Battle Phase--Players can either pass or play cards on their turn. If they pass, they get to pick up a card they've played, and the rest of the cards are tossed... To play cards you have to play a set of matching power cards--three or more of the same type--down to the table and then do some maths. You add up the total face-up value of the cards and then multiply that number by the number of cards played. There are quite a few other rules about cards you can and can't play--you can't play two sets of the same type, you can't add to an already existing set, etc. Most importantly, you can't play a set if it doesn't bring your total for the battle above the highest value played by all other players. 

Jeremiah--The Battle-Phase adds a good amount of bluffing to the game: Do you hang on to some of your cards in hopes that other players will slug it out over a city and you can mop them up on the next one? Or do you go all in hoping that their bluffing and can't climb past your total. The math involved with the scoring pushed this right off the table for my kids. They weren't able to make decent decisions on what to play when because they weren't able to quickly calculate what their score would be. Despite its graphic and artistic design, this isn't the friendliest of games for younger kids!

Firestone--I never got this to the table with my kids. I had assumed I would, thanks to the theme and artwork, but one game with my game group and I realized they just wouldn't be able to make good decisions on this. 

Once all players pass the player with the highest amount of power committed to the battle wins the city and scores the points and you battle over the next chosen city. Once all players run out of cards or there are no more cities left the round is over and you start back at the Power-up Phase until you've played three rounds. 

The player with the most points, awarded from city cards won, wins the game. There are some advanced rules that give the cities bonuses depending on the collection of sets of cities with symbols and colors, as well as the power resistance of cities that reduces the total number of a certain power type a player can play there by 1.

The Verdict

Jeremiah--RARRR!! is one of many recent game to use the drafting mechanic. I'm fine with that; I think drafting makes for interesting interaction at the table with information leaking to each player in a slow fashion as cards get passed around. 

Firestone--Yeah, I'm definitely a fan of drafting. 

Jeremiah--While I enjoyed RARRR!! overall, there were some a few things that made the game feel a little disjointed to me. The components, even the box, all looked great, including bright colorful artwork that is VERY stylized. I'm just not sure if they work for this game. It looks great for a kids game, but as I mentioned before this is NOT a kids game. There's a lot of strategy and bluffing, and all those arithmetics involved that really raise the age range. Even my boys--who are BRILLIANT if I do say so myself--couldn't keep up with this one even though every time they see the box they want to play it. Does that ruin the game? No. But the way games look is a big part of the experience, and I felt like this may have been a miss for the game, imo.

Firestone--I agree. The artwork is lighter than the similarly themed King of Tokyo, but the gameplay is more complex. So I'm always going to play King of Tokyo or New York before this. 

Jeremiah--I really enjoyed the bluffing part of the game--any time I can try to manipulate the people at the table in order to get the points or the win, I'm a fan of it. There's a lot of planning ahead to do in the game as you lay out your strategy for those twelve cards, and a well timed/executed bluff can really swing things in your favor. But I found that even my most committed gamer friends had a tough time with the power commitment, card multipliers, etc. etc. It does get to be a little brain melty trying to manage it. I feel I have a good grasp of it, but even so, it's hard to get the game on the table.

Firestone's Final Verdict--I like drafting, bluffing, and auctions, but for some reason I don't much like how they mesh here. Cute artwork married with mathy gameplay that doesn't really match the theme. I didn't dislike the game, but it was missing a fun factor. If you like really strategic bluffing and auctions, RARRR!! might be right up your alley. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--RARRR!! is a deep strategic drafting game with a very cool theme--who doesn't love giant Japanese Monsters!? This is a great game for gamers who are into calculated bluffing, and worldwide destruction.