There’s something irresistible about a CMON big box game. Never the most complex of games, these behemoths nonetheless evoke a kind of giddiness you rarely see in similarly weighted games. Maybe it’s the miniatures. Maybe it’s the exceptional artwork. Heck, maybe it’s the well illustrated, feature rich rulebooks.
Whatever it is, I can’t help myself when CMON releases a new minis game. I want to play with all those little toys. Rum & Bones was not a game I enjoyed (or picked up) in its first release, so when Second Tide became available, it offered an opportunity to get in on a fantastic looking game with more refined and better implemented rules.
The game is about as simple as any of their games. It’s a MOBA made cardboard, with each player taking control of a number of heroes, each with their own special abilities, powers, and other-worldly ability to jump over decks and take on opponents from all sides.
Depending on the number of players, you can control as many as five heroes at once (the game is designed for 1v1, but can support different play styles up to 6 players).
The goal is simple as well. Take out your opposing heroes and crew, destroy the enemy’s deck features and reach the victory point goal first, all the while attempting to avoid summoning the Kraken or another baddy that will wreck your crew (quite literally).
How Rum & Bones: Second Tide Plays
The original Rum & Bones set out to bring MOBAs – among the most popular digital games of the last decade – to the tabletop, and it did an okay job. The game was clunky in some ways and needed streamlining, but it worked.
Second Tide fixes a lot of those problems, making it play and feel a lot like a MOBA, as was intended. The basic idea of the game is simple. Players activate characters, move around the board, and fight each other with special abilities. All this while they attempt to get the most victory points (by destroying enemy ship components) and buy new upgrades with coins collected from kills.
In the first edition, players would activate all of their characters at once and completing their turn. In Second Tide, players alternate, which significantly increases the number of options and hard decisions to be made. It adds some much needed tactical depth. Another major change is the way gold is implemented, with leveling up giving you abilities you can tap into when you are ready, instead of having to gather gold and hope someone didn’t come and take it away from you before you can use it.
Additionally, giving you points for attacking and killing enemy heroes encourages players to fight each other and not go for objectives only – admittedly a common MOBA problem. In addition to new sea monsters, the aggressiveness of the Kraken, flexibility of the crew, and general flow of the game have all been improved.
On top of which, there are a lot of different ways to play the game now, with multiple expansions on the way, unlocking new crews, ship options, and sea monsters. It’s a more viable game system than it was before, and it shows in the quick, back and forth flow of the game, which is a lot of fun to explore.
What We Liked About Rum & Bones Second Tide
I chose not to back Rum & Bones Second Tide when it hit Kickstarter because I was a bit underwhelmed by the first edition of the game. It was fun, but generally forgettable without a ton of depth after the first few plays.
I’m kicking myself now for missing out on all the extra content that Kickstarter backers unlocked, because not only does the new edition solve many of those problems, it makes the extra content a much appreciated addition to gameplay.
On its own, Rum & Bones works well because it provides a simple but tactically rich framework for a dice chucker. It’s not the most complex game in the world, and it’s not particularly strategic, but there are certain things for which you need to plan. Where to put your crew, when to activate them, who to move out and when, and the general flow of your heroes as you go after both opposing heroes and objectives.
These things all matter.
Sure, in the end, all you’re doing is running up to someone or something and rolling some dice to hit, but everything that leads up to that dice roll involves an important and often fun decision, and the result doesn’t overstay its welcome.
This game plays quickly, without a ton of downtime now that play alternates between players, and it offers increasing depth as soon as you start bringing in new heroes, mercenaries that can be played on either team and all the other goodies in the upgrades and expansions.
The inclusion of several additional ways to play the game is much appreciated as well. While it is by nature a game for two players, the 3-6 player rules variants all work well and it doesn’t feel too tacked on to have other people controlling heroes on the ships. The brawl mode that does away with crew is also an interesting twist that mixes up the traditional gameplay for those who want something a bit different.
What We Don’t Like About Rum & Bones Second Tide
Rum & Bones is a dice rolling game. Almost every turn you’ll be moving miniatures and rolling dice, which for players who are not fans of similar big box CMON dice-chuckers, will be disappointing. The MOBA elements are recognizable and engaging, but the randomness can detract from that.
Is that a legitimate concern for a game that doesn’t hide what it is? Not necessarily, but it’s important to know before investing $100 in a game.
And then there is the common issue of just a little less content than you might like in a $100 game from CMON. While it’s not surprising, nor is it different from any of their big box miniatures-games funded on Kickstarter, you’ll feel the urge to get more stuff pretty quickly as the same boards, same heroes, and same sea creatures get stale quickly.
The tactical limits of the game haven’t changed too much from the first edition either. It certainly evokes the feel of a MOBA, but the intricacies and matchups that make those games so addictive (and hard) aren’t necessarily here – this is an accessible game with a lot of variety when expanded, but it’s not a heavy game.
The Bottom Line
If you are a fan of Rum & Bones, the first edition, you will love this game. If you were mildly disappointed that the first edition was as clunky as it was and didn’t have the depth of content you’d like for what is supposed to be a MOBA, then the second edition will likely be a welcome improvement and is worth a play.
That said, this game isn’t going to convert players who disliked the first game completely or who generally don’t like tactical, character-driven dice-chuckers like Arcadia Quest or Zombicide. It’s a frenetic, fast paced game with lots of miniatures, beautiful artwork and a bunch of extra content coming down the pike. Everything CMON set out to do here, they succeeded with and that alone is worth a strong rating.
Disclosure: The publisher provided a copy of this game for review.
SUMMARY & RESULTS
Rum & Bones: Second Tide is a blast to play, fixing almost every issue I had with the first edition, and introducing the hero-based MOBA style gameplay that has been all the rage to the tabletop quite successfully.