First of all, you get to send rats on a mission of death throughout Medieval Europe. Okay, your real goal is to keep the rats from killing all your peeps and to have the largest remaining population at game's end, but that's beside the point. It's the Black Death, and at the end of each turn you get to place more rat tokens in territories where they'll do the most damage. And that is just stinking awesome.
During set-up, players claim territories with colored wood blocks. As play progresses, players attempt an equilibrium by placing rats and replenishing their own dwindling ranks, taking off and putting on in an endless routine of bubonic plague and new births. Special cards let you move populations, move rats, increase populations, etc. The Pied Piper Expansion adds even more cards and lets you build walls to hold the rats out.
You can't predict what your opponents will do, but this is not a game of chance. There are no dice, no spinny-wheels, and no random "Everybody dies!!" cards. Rat tokens can surprise you with their death tolls at times (they remain facedown until the plague spreads to the region they inhabit), but for the most part winning is a result of strategic placement and smart use of cards.
This isn't the most intense board game you'll ever play, but it's a good break from multiple-hour showdowns like Merchants & Marauders or Axis & Allies. Strategy actually becomes fairly intricate as you try to deplete rival populations while maintaining yours at high levels. Not great as a 2-player game, Rattus is rapidly becoming a favorite for 3 or 4 players among the Exodus staff.
How to Play