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RUM & BONES : SECOND TIDE There are PIRATES and then there are PIRATES .  And those in RUM & BONES : SECOND TIDE   are...





There are PIRATES and then there are PIRATES And those in RUM & BONES : SECOND TIDE  are distinctly of the latter persuasion.  We are in the full-on Ameritrash world of pirates which takes us way beyond Johnny Depp and Pirates of The Carribean.  I know the very word "Ameritrash" may have sent some of you running for cover almost before you'd read it, but I certainly don't use it in the pejorative way that certain gamers unfortunately do.   For me, Ameritrash signifies strongly themed games of action and conflict in glorious strong colour presented with components of high physical quality and often quantity too.  RUM & BONES : SECOND TIDE ticks all those boxes and then some.  

At its heart we are taken to what is one of the major climactic scenes of piratical derring-do - the boarding action.  The playing area consists of three separate boards  that depict in top-down view the contesting vessels.  In this case, the centre board is one faction's major ship, a gallant, while on either side are the opposing faction's two smaller ships, windcutters.

The Gallant

The two Windcutters

These substantial mounted boards are wonderfully atmospheric in design and colour, especially the Gallant which exudes a strong impression of alien depths and tentacled realms.  That's not too surprising as this ship belongs to the faction of the Deep Lords of Atlantis, while the opposing Windcutters serve the faction of Maria de La Muerte, a more human set of rogues, but no less deadly as the title Muerte spells it out only too clearly.   It's also clear from the illustrations of other ship layouts in the rule book that at least two other factions are already planned.

All the ships have a number of sturdy cardstock tiles that depict the objective tiles to be potentially captured, deployment point markers and gangplank tiles that are the main routes that each player vies to secure in order to attack and board his/her opponent's ship. 

Here the ships are set up with gangplanks, objective tiles
and deployment point markers

 The many other cardboard components include a substantial range, including familiar tokens such as Damage, Condition, Activation and Coins and what self-respecting Pirate game would be complete without a set of Dead Man's Tokens!  Slightly oddly named for a game set at sea are the ten Hero Dashboards, two Crew Dashboards and the two Sea Creature Dashboards.  I'm not sure where this terminology first sprang from, but it is a growing usage that seems to be replacing more familiar terms for the card that contains a figures stats and other necessary information.

As you might expect they contain a dashing full colour image of the character, rendered in a strongly cartoon style, the number of hit points necessary to remove them temporarily from the board [note, I didn't say kill them] and three slots for the different skill cards that they may acquire.   

Personally, I find some of these a bit cheesey, like the one of the Captain of the Deep Lords, and the picture of his Swashbuckler Hero  definitely raises memories of one of Captain Barbosa's crew.

Your Crews are about as motley as you can imagine, consisting of the many cannon-fodder rank and file bravos and a couple of slightly more significant bosuns.  What I like about CMON Limited, the company making this game, is that they haven't just trotted out umpteen copies of a generic pirate.  Both sides have totally different models which consist of 24 figures in four different poses. 

Here you can see the whole Deep Lords faction on parade - oh no not more figures to paint.  [I really must get back to some historical wargames that just have cardboard!!  Ah, that wish will soon be granted.]

At the top of the tree, each player has five individual heroes from whom they can select or randomly choose three for a game.  With these you will defend your own ship/s and seek to board your enemy's as you seek to capture Objective tiles and dispose of your opponent's heroes.  Adding more flavour is the possibility of summoning a Sea Monster to your aid or worst of all awakening the dreaded Kraken. 

A pity there are no models for these two monsters of the deep, but that's a minor wish for an added extra [and even as I was penning this, my wish was granted.  Heading the line-up of maaaaaany expansion packs is .... Sea Monsters!]

A closer look at the other Faction's Heroes displayed above does reveal a certain rough hewn blockiness to the quality of the plastic.  All the figures tend to have a lack of refined detail in their execution, but a good paint job will soon set that right.  However, if you compare these to those they produced for Blood Rage, you'll see the difference in quality. Still, even as they stand in their original simplicity, once you set up the whole game, I don't think you'll be disappointed with the sheer chutzpah of the ensemble effect.  And here it is!

You need a substantial amount of table space to take in all that this game holds and, however I arrange the contents back in the box, I still can't fit everything back in!   Unless you're willing to jettison the excellent moulded plastic trays for the models and their cardboard boxes, there's going to be a bag of markers left out in the cold.

In terms of theme, visual appearance and clarity of rules, RUM & BONES : SECOND TIDE is a great success.  All the artwork is powerful, in strong colours from the excellent depiction of the ships already mentioned to the individual deck of cards each player uses. 

Just a sample of the individual decks.

The rules are of low to moderate depth and very clearly laid out and explained.  In essence, each round you take turns either activating a single Hero or your whole crew or passing, until both sides have passed.  So, three Heroes and your whole crew at one go means 4 actions per player each Round.  Sounds dead simple, in fact too simple.  Thankfully it's not. 

There is a neat interaction between your Crew and Heroes.  The former are a mindless bunch who operate on programmed paths from which you cannot divert as they march inexorably towards one of the assigned enemy Deployment Points.  However, as they do so, anything in their path that can be attacked whether enemy Objective tile or enemy Hero must be attacked.  If they reach their assigned enemy Deployment Point, an orgy of looting and pillaging takes place, as they make one last attack before being removed from the board.

The mindless Crews about to set out on their march
to destroy or be destroyed.

As the ship boards are divided into square zones and moves are orthogonal from zone to zone, calculations are very straightforward both for movement and the one time you fire at range which is part of Crew Activation.  I'd love to be able to fire broadsides, but a game would probably be over in ten minutes or less! So, I'll just have to make do with the single firing of my Deck Gun and my Hero Gunner.

An opportunity to see the Captain of the opposing faction

The five Heroes are your most flexible characters as they make take up to three Actions, while each has a variety of Skills that can be built up and brought in to play and upgraded.  Each Hero's type [Captain, Brute, Swashbuckler, Gunner and Quartermaster] directs the type of Skills they are likely to possess.  They all also have one important ability that your Crew don't.  They can move from ship to ship by swinging on ropes from the rigging - for me an absolutely essential part  of a tactical pirate game.  Even better, you can decide how far you want to swing up to six zones - then roll a single D6.  Roll equal to or less than the number of zones you've moved and you succeed.  If you're feeling really lucky or absolutely desperate, then swing 6 zones and pray that you roll a 6!  Fail and its Overboard for you, me hearty.

With his physique, it's not surprising he's a Brute Hero!

As hinted at earlier, however, it's not curtains even if you lose your last life point in combat.  Perhaps, falling in the sea may not be fatal, but just what does losing all your health points mean?  Obviously, not dying!  The term used is KO'd - familiarly knocked out.  Still, this is a very normal mechanism in many fantasy games, such as dungeon-crawlers, where it's usually essential in order to keep individual players in the game, but [just a personal thought] when you have three Heroes in play, is it quite so necessary?  I shall certainly explore the variant idea of starting play with only three Heroes, who die as they are KO'd, but then allowing you to bring the other two on board.

The rule book itself offers a number of alternatives for different numbers of players above two, as well as what they call Clash Royale.  This is  a variation intended for multiple players, where no Crew figures are used and each player controls only two Heroes.  Players agree on a set number of lives for each Hero and it is literally last man standing wins! 

However, in the main game as intended, ultimately, your aim is to KO Heroes and capture Objectives in pursuit of being the first to reach 8 VPs.  Slight suspension of disbelief needed here for the game's subject matter. 

The outer columns chart those Victory Points
The inner columns chart Kraken Wakes points

"Cap'n, are we fighting for booze, a good brawl, gold bullion or pieces of eight?"
"Nah, Mate, eight victory points!"

Perhaps, they might at least have been called Notoriety Points!!

All in all, the game is a highly enjoyable romp, full of strong action and cartoonish fun.  With its narrow focus in terms of situation and fairly easy level of rules, it's great for a light and light-hearted interlude between longer more complex games and should certainly attract younger gamers to the hobby as well.  I have some concerns about how it would fare from too frequent play, as despite the prospect of different Factions [and there are lots of them, as well as Mercenaries - yes, I'll definitely have some of those!] bringing new Heroes and their Skills to the table, the essential gameplay will not vary much.  Definitely a good choice to let your hair down with at the end of a long day's gaming or while waiting for the heavy stuff to commence.

[mutters, stifled groans, sighs ... OK, you can say it  ...

Aaar, Jim, lad!

But lock him away now and throw away the key.]

Rum & Bones: Second Tide

RRP – £92.99

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