RARRR!! Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s web page or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


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The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • Various game play lengths based on number of players (60 – 75 minutes)

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Take you monster and destroy the world for fun and profit!

Endorsements:

  • Game Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

They came from the deep oceans, the fiery core of the Earth, and from the cold reaches of outer space. They are taller than buildings, capable of great destruction, and you get to control them. They are the Daikaiju and they know only one thing: battle! Take control of your monster and travel the world to see exotic lands and then destroy them. In the end, the most powerful monster will rule all!

RARRR!!, designed by Michael R. Brandl and to be published by APE Games, will reportedly be comprised of 8 Monster cards, 24 Katakana cards, 72 Power cards, 24 City cards, 12 Power Gauge cards, 18 Power Boost cards, and 1 Angriest Monster card. As this is a review of a prepublished game, we will not comment on the game component quality. Nor can we suggest that the game is complete as the total game component count might change based on funding goal achievements. The final artwork is simply wonderful, in my opinion, and serves to further the game’s theme and narrative in a very colorful and fun way. I tip my hat to the game’s illustrator, Mr. Bob Canada, for a job well done.

The Calm Before the Storm

To set up the game, do yourself a favor and separate all the cards by type. This will make everything that follows go much faster. Use the back of the cards to quickly separate the cards into specific piles, and then flip over each pile to separate the cards further into specific types.

Second, hand to each player a set of Power Boost cards. A complete set is a Power Boost card with a “1”, “2”, and “3” value. Place any unused Power Boost cards back in the game box.

Third, hand to each player a set of Power Gauge cards. A complete set is one Power Gauge card that counts to 100 by tens and another Power Gauge card that counts to 10 by ones. Place any unused Power Gauge cards back in the game box. Optionally, you can use two 10-sided dice per player (not included in the game).

Fourth, shuffle and then randomly deal out 1 Monster card to each player, face-up. This Monster card should remain in front of the players at this time. Place any unused Monster cards back in the game box.

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Fifth, shuffle and then randomly deal out 3 Katakana cards to each player, face-down. Players will now select 1 of the Katakana cards they hold, place it in front of them, face-down, and then pass the remaining cards to the player to their left. This is referred to as “drafting”. Card drafting continues until all the cards have been drafted. From the 3 Katakana cards the player selected, they will choose to keep 2 and discard 1. The 2 Katakana cards they keep are now flipped over and placed next to their Monster card. The intent of card position is only to formulate a fun name for the monster. The position of the Katakana cards to each other or to the Monster card has no impact to the game play. The following two different positions of the cards only provides a different monster name but has no impact to the monster itself based on the Katakana card position.

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Sixth, shuffle the Power cards and the City cards decks, setting them to one side of the game playing area, face-down. The Power cards are shown here.

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That’s it for game set up. Give the Angriest Monster card to a player at random and begin your conquest of world domination!

MONSTERS! MONSTERS EVERYWHERE!!!

RARRR!! is played in 3 rounds. During each round, players will have an opportunity to battle their monsters in hopes of winning a City card. Each round is separated into two specific phases which are summarized here. Full game rules, that includes more specific examples, can be found on the game’s web page.

Phase 1: Power-Up!

During this phase, the player with the Angriest Monster card deals out to each player 12 Power cards, face-down. The same method used to select the Katakana cards is now used to select which Power cards the players want to take for the round. Again, a player will select one of the cards in their hand, place it face-down in front of them, and then pass the remaining cards to the next player in turn order sequence. When all the cards have been drafted, the player now has their Power card hand for the duration of the round.

The player with the Angriest Monster card now deals out 6 City cards, face-up, to the center of the playing area. These are the cities the monsters will be traveling to and destroying for fun and profit.

rarrr_city

Phase 2: Battle!

To begin with, ensure that all players reset their current monster’s power level to “zero”. Players can use the provided Power Gauge cards or use some other means to count their monster’s power level. For example, two 10-sided dice (which we did use from time to time and had zero issues with). It’s important to note that a monster will always lose its power level at the end of every battle.

The player with the Angriest Monster card selects one of the visible City cards in the center of the playing area that will be contested over. Now things get very interesting and the Power cards the players drafted during the first phase of the round become very important. This is also the point where anyone new to this card game is going to become exceedingly lost if how to play the game was not explained well enough.

Starting with the player with the Angriest Monster card and continuing in turn order sequence, each player will play one or more sets of Power cards face-up in front of them or pass.

Each set has a single power type. There are four different power types (Electrical, Toxic, Fire, and Radioactive) and it might help to think of these as card suits. Players will be playing their Power cards in front of them, face-up. Players cannot add to Power card sets after they have been played to the table and can only play one set of each power type in each Battle. The number of Power cards in a set can never exceed the number of Power icons of the same power type that is on the player’s combined Monster and Katakana cards. The total power value of the set is the sum of the values of the Power cards of that type in the set multiplied by the number of cards in the set.

OK, I just lost you. Let me explain in a bit more detail.

If a player’s Monster and Katakana cards have a total of 5 “Toxic” power type icons, the player cannot play anymore than 5 Power cards that show that same power type. Note that Power Boost cards never count towards this total. When determining the power level, a player will first add up all the numbers shown on the Power cards. Then they will take that number and multiply it by the number of cards in the set. For example, if a set of 4 Power cards had a sum of 8 after adding up all the Power card numbers, the total power level obtained so far is 32 (8 x 4).

One single-use Power Boost card (which represents any of the power types) may be used by the player to increase the total power level of the set. Again the Power Boost cards do not count as a card in the set for purposes of the Monster limit or multiplier. A player can play multiple sets at the same time, but sets can only be played if they increase the monster’s power level above those of all other monsters. For example, if the current highest power level is 10, the player must boost their total power level to 11 or higher.

After playing sets to the table, the player adjusts his power level to match the total amount of Power they have played so far.

A player must pass when it’s their turn if they cannot play Power cards to their sets so their total power level is highest at the table or the player can simply elect to pass, regardless of what Power cards they might have.

When a player elects to pass, they remove any Power Boost card they might have played and discard them for the duration of the game. They then take one Power card (or two Power cards and the Angriest Monster card if they are the last player to pass during the battle over a specific City card) they played and return it to their hand. All the other Power cards are placed in the Power card discard pile. The player is now out for the duration of the current battle over the City card selected, but not out for the round. Thematically speaking, think of it as the player’s monster sitting down to take a breather.

If all players pass on a City card, remove the card from the game.

The player who has the highest power level (and did not pass) claims the City card after all their opponents pass. All claimed City cards are placed face-up in front of the player. Any Power and Power Boost cards still on the table are now discarded. All the players now reset their monster’s power level to “zero” and the player with the Angriest Monster card selects a new City card to fight over. A new battle has begun and the round continues until every City card has been fought or passed over.

Ending a Round

A round ends after all 6 City cards have been fought or passed over. Any City cards that were not claimed are discarded for the duration of the game. Any unplayed Power Boost cards remain with the player, but any unplayed Power cards are now discarded. A new round now beings starting with phase 1 noted above unless this was round 3. In which case, the game is now over.

Ending the Game

After the 3rd round of play, the game comes to an end. All the players now add the number values together from the City cards they fought for and won. The player with the highest total number of points wins the game and is crowned the King of the Monsters…or Queen…whatever is the most appropriate.

Game Variants

RARRR!! comes with several game play variants that can be used to change the game play. They are summarized here.

  • Bonus Scoring: Each of the City cards has a specific color and symbol. When determining the player’s final score at the end of the game, players will receive additional points for having specific numbers of City cards that share the same color and symbol. These points are in addition to the points earned by each City card’s value.
  • Raw Power: Power cards can be played face-down to a set. These do not count as any specific power type , have no power level (power level of zero), and count towards a monster’s set size limit. So why bother? They contribute to the overall number of cards that are used when multiplying!
  • Power Resistance: Each City card has a power type icon. Player are forced to play 1 less Power card of that type than what their current limit is. Essentially, count the total number of icons of that power type across the player’s Monster and Katakana cards and reduce the sum by 1. The value is the new player set size limit for this battle.
  • Basic Game: The game play described above could best be thought of as the standard game. Adding any of the above mentioned game variants changes it to an advanced game. The basic game has the same objective and rules of play, but the game set up removes the drafting of Katakana and Power cards.

To learn more about RARRR!!read the full rules, and download a print-n-play version of the game, visit the game’s web page or visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Prediction

I had to read the rules twice before I understood the battle portion of the game play. At first, I thought the game sounded a bit too difficult for our Child Geeks due to what I originally perceived as some very complex (and clunky) Power card set restrictions. I played the game out in my head after the reading rules once, determined that what I thought was right couldn’t possibly be correct, and read the rules again. After reading the rules a second time and playing a mock game by myself, it all came together.

RARRR!! is going to greatly appeal to our more casual but still highly competitive Gamer Geeks. The card game has a lot going on that demands foresight, tactics, strategy, and hand management. For our Parent Geeks, they’ve played more complex traditional card games and will enjoy the game’s play a great deal. For our Child Geeks, I have some doubts. The drafting mechanism will work just fine for the Child Geeks, but 3 rounds of combat with a total of 18 cards to win is going to tax their little minds. My concern is that they will focus too early on the City cards and leave the rest for easy pickings or hold back and become too reserved. I predict a mixed level of endorsement from them, at the very least, as RARRR!! will certainly appeal to the Child Geeks, but it might be just a bit too much for some of them. I hope the basic game will reduce some of the complexity without resulting in a less interesting game.

Teaching RARRR!!, as I alluded to in the overview, can be a bit tricky. Any player who has countless hours of card games under their belt will have no issue learning the game. Younger and inexperienced players are going to need some hand holding. I highly suggest you play a mock hand out in front of the players (even the experienced ones) so they can see how the Power card sets are played and how a monster’s set size limit impacts how many cards can be played. In fact, I suggest you do no less than 2 mock battles. This will demonstrate how the Power cards are used and power is lost.

After teaching the basic game to my two oldest little geeks, I asked them their thoughts on RARRR!! so far.

“Wow! I really like the artwork and the idea of the game. Looks like a really fun card game to me!” ~ Liam (age 9)

“This sounds hard, Dad. If I need your help, can I ask for it?” ~ Nyhus (age 6)

The suggested minimum age level for RARRR!! is 8-years-old. My middle child is well below that, but there is nothing in RARRR!! that is overly complex, rule-wise. He’ll need help with the math, but that isn’t going to impact the game play much. The complexity comes in drafting cards and playing them effectively. The basic game will remove the drafting which will allow our younger players to simply focus on the Power card plays. From there, and if they like the game, we can introduce the drafting element in the future. Baby steps, folks. Baby steps. That’s the only way you’ll ever get your children to learn anything new without breaking their self-confidence or taxing their patience. Let’s play RARRR!! and see if all this trouble has been worth it.

Final Word

To be clear, we always push the limits of each game we are given and attempt to play it with audiences that the game is not necessarily intended for. If we find that a specific group (be it based on age or game prowess) is correctly excluded, we do not count their negative endorsements towards the final vote. This is the case for the youngest of our Child Geeks who played RARRR!! and found it to be too frustrating of a game. As feared, they tended to either spend their Power cards too early (and unwisely) or hold back and lose out on great opportunities. The game was found to be just a bit too difficult to grasp as a result. The basic game did nothing to reduce their level of frustration or confusion. It was unanimously agreed that the 8-years-old and older recommended minimum age might very well be correct, despite all the Child Geeks (regardless of age) really loving the card artwork. For the older Child Geeks who did fall into the age range, they all thought RARRR!! was an exciting and very worthwhile game. Individual player strengths determined victories, of course, but none of our older Child Geeks (ages 9 and over) walked away from the table with anything less than a smile. The Child Geeks who fell into the age and target audience all voted to approve the game.

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Round one and my little geek monster selects his first city to destroy!

The Parent Geeks, especially those who loved games but were getting tired of standard card games, simply adored RARRR!! They found it to be a quick game to learn and a hard game to beat. Nothing about the game confused them and their level of focus was sometimes so intense that everyone at the table was very, very quiet. Battles were fierce and the card plays were brilliant at times. The drafting of Power cards really appealed to them and they loved how each game was slightly different based on the Monster card and Katakana cards selected. According to one Parent Geek, “This is a challenging and really fun card game. I’m not big on robots or monsters, but I had a great time destroying cities!” All the Parent Geeks agreed that RARRR!! was a great game for their family table and for playing with their peers.

The Gamer Geeks understood how to play this game very quickly and went about the systematic destruction of cities worldwide with much enthusiasm, I had to “hush” them a few times due to the noise level in the office. The games were intense, highly strategic, and heavily laced with smack talk. What stood out from the very start was how much time the Gamer Geeks took selecting their Katakana cards and then selecting just the right Power cards to go with it. I used all the advanced game variants with this group right from the start and all the Gamer Geeks did simply fantastic. With winning specific City cards now being part of the overall scoring, it was obvious when a Gamer Geek was throwing a battle to get the upper hand in the next skirmish. City victories were essential to bonus points and the use of Power cards as multipliers really made the Gamer Geeks think. Surprisingly, the Power Resistance game variant did little to stifle creative card play or game intensity. Most of the Gamer Geeks thought it was a throwaway rule, at best. According to one Gamer Geek, “This is a card game that is easy to understand, damn hard to win, and a lot of fun to play. It has my endorsement without question.” The majority of the Gamer Geeks agreed with the only Gamer Geeks not overly infatuated with RARRR!! being the group who didn’t like card games in the first place. But they were highly outnumbered and RARRR!! won the Gamer Geeks’ endorsement.

Having played RARRR!! so many times now, there are two important aspects of the game I think need to be shared. First, the game is highly replayable, but it’s the same type of game play throughout. No special powers, no special victory conditions, and no surprises. Ever. The game will not shock you with a turn of a card and force you to completely reevaluate how you play the game. A player’s opponents will, however. Especially when a specific City card suddenly becomes highly contested over. Second, building the Monster with just the right Katakana cards is crucial. Players should either seek balance with all the power types or focus on no more than two. This will guide them with drafting Power cards which will lead to stronger card plays during battles. Failure to do so will cause the player to be terribly ineffective with victories being more based on luck rather than smart card plays.

I am very pleased with RARRR!! Its game play is tight, crazy hard at times, and highly enjoyable. The game’s theme is strong despite lacking any narrative. I truly enjoyed the feeling that I was the monster I created and kicking buildings down to rubble. Every game left me satisfied, energized, and eager for another round. This includes games with 2 players and games with as many as 6 players. Game play was sometimes quick, sometimes slow (because everyone was really thinking hard), but the game itself never overstayed its welcome. This was a fun game to play and I eagerly look forward to playing it again.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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