Sunday, June 23, 2024

That’s One Small Step For Rat, One Giant Cheese For Rodent Kind – A ‘First Rat’ Review

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First Rat is a family weight race game using point to point movement to move up on its track. The backstory is fairly simple: rats have been in this old junkyard for generations, and there is a great legend about a moon made out of cheese. One day they found a comic that described the first landing on the moon, and since then the rats have been trying to build a rocket to make it to the cheese moon. The junkyard has everything they need, and rat families compete to build the most part of the rocket and to train rattronauts so they can feast on the space cheese. First Rat is for 1-5 players and can be played in about an hour. The game is designed by Gabrielle Ausiello and the same is published by Pegasus Spiele who also published Carnegie, Framework, FYFE, and Skymines.

What’s in the Box?

  • 1 Double-sided Gameboard
  • 20 Rats (4 of each color)
  • 50 Cubes (10 of each color)
  • 5 Light String Markers (1 of each color)
  • 5 Rat Burrow Markers (1 of each color)
  • 2 Neutral Rats
  • 14 Score Markers
  • 45 Value 1 Cheese markers
  • 15 Value 3 Cheese markers
  • 12 Moldy Cheese markers
  • 10 Backpack Tokens
  • 6 Energy Drink Tokens
  • 10 Bottle Cap Tokens
  • 10 Comic Tokens
  • 30 Vinegar Bottle Tokens
  • 30 Baking Soda Tokens
  • 20 Tin Can Tokens
  • 15 Calculator Tokens
  • 26 Junkyard Path Tiles (divided into 5 groups)
  • 8 Score Tracks
  • 4 Super Rats
  • 16 Award Tokens
  • 5 Player Aids
  • 1 Start Rat Marker
  • 1 Scorepad
  • 22 Cards for the Solo Game
First Rat box cover

How’s it Play?

Players are collecting different resources, moving up on tracks, and ultimately trying to place their cubes on the score tracks to gain the most points. When a player achieves a goal, they place one of their cubes on the leftmost spot, and as they add cubes, they will score the higher amount of points left on the track.

Score Tracks:

Each score track shows different points, which are different each time you play the game. When playing, you should check which tracks have the highest possible points that you can gain.

  • Construct a cockpit for the rocket spending 1 tin can and 2 calculators.
  • Construct a cargo bay for the rocket by spending 2 tin cans and 3 baking sodas.
  • Construct a thruster for the rocket by spending 2 baking sodas and 5 vinegar bottles.
  • Complete a rocket by constructing the 3 rocket parts. 
  • Donate or spend 10 cheese tokens.
  • Move your light token on the construction lights track and when it moves pass a construction light, score on this track.
  • Move your burrow marker around its track, when it passes the space next to the stored food, score on this track.
  • When 1 of your rats reach the launchpad, having traveled from bottom to top of the board, it becomes a Rattronaut, and is placed on this track.
First Rat board

On Your Turn:

You first decide how to move your rat(s) at the beginning of your turn. You can choose any one rat to move 1-5 spaces along the junkyard path. Then you take the action shown on that tile. Or, you can advance 2-4 of your rats 1-3 spaces each along the junkyard path, but all rats being moved on your turn need to end up on different spaces of the same color tile. Then, you activate each tile your rats ended on. 

As rats move on up on the path, the tiles get better and better. Strategically, you want to try to maximize your actions, which is most likely trying to move as many of your rats as possible. If you really want a specific action space, you might be better off choosing one rat to move to take the desired action.

The path runs to the rocket on top of the board, and rats always move in that direction, never backwards. You can never have 2 rats in the same space, but you can have a rat in the space of another player’s rat. When you end your movement on a space with another player’s rat, you owe them one of your cheese tokens. If you don’t have any cheese, you gain a stinky cheese worth -2 points at the end of the game. Based on how movement works, placing your rats on desired tiles so other players land on you to give you cheese is a good tactic to practice.

First Rat rocket and score tracks

Types of Actions:

  • Green / Orange spaces – These let you collect tokens to use to build the rocket. This includes vinegar bottles, tin cans, baking soda, and calculators.
  • Yellow spaces – Here, you take the depicted amount of cheese listed.
  • Blue spaces – This lets you move your light marker up the number of spaces. 
  • White spaces – This lets you move your rat burrow marker up the number of spaces.
  • The final space – Represents all colors, and when your rat moves here you place your cube on its track as well as take a bonus token or take one of your rats from the nursery and place it at the beginning of the track to start moving.

So again, you move your rat(s), collect resources, possibly move on the light or burrow track, then optionally if you passed a store you can buy extra abilities that can make your collect more stuff, or move further on tracks. Whenever you fulfill a goal, you place your cube on the leftmost space of that track. Sometimes this is during your turn, or sometimes you have the chance at the end of your turn to spend items to build the rocket, or turn in cheese to score on that track. 

Once a player either moves their 4th rat to the launchpad, or if a player places their 8th cube on a score track, the current round is finished and one last round is played. The players then add up points from the score tracks, plus points from awards. Every 4 remaining resources gains you 1 point, and any stinky cheese gives you -2 points. The player with the most points wins the game.

First Rat tiles to move on the board

The Verdict

Can I just start by saying WOW. This game was a huge surprise for me. Let me explain why. First, the theme and the cover art just didn’t grab me and give me interest in the game. But, for me this game is pretty amazing as to what it does because of the mechanics. The theme isn’t bad, mind you; it makes sense as to how it incorporates into the game. But, for me, the winner of this game is the amazing mechanics.

So the tiles are randomly placed each time you play the game, the score tracks are randomly placed each time as well, and this causes you to possibly change your strategy. The changes helps you so you have to figure out how you can move more and more rats taking more than just 1 action on your turn. Then you have the choice as to what tracks you are working toward. You probably don’t want to do a little bit of everything, you probably want to specialize in some way or another to focus on certain tracks.

The light track benefits you by gaining you additional resources as your light moves forward. The burrow track gives you a special ability for one of your rats and allows you to release more of them. Cheese is used to move on a track as well as pay for bonuses from the shops. But, you can also steal from the shops without paying, and move that rat to the beginning of the track again, starting with the lower tiles but gaining some type of ability. 

First Rat light track and cheese

You can navigate the board in different ways as there are short cuts that can be utilized when spending certain resources. This can give you more options on moving multiple rats as well. Harry’s Hamster booth give you ways to gain more stuff when landing on specific tiles. Zippy’s booth provides energy drinks to double your resources on a turn, which could be something like 8 to 16. Then, the bottle caps at madcap crow’s booth give you some additional ways to score end game points.

First Rat  rat meeple

The best thing really is just playing the same game in so many different ways, which you will want to do because the game is setup differently each time. And lastly, you can play the game solo and fulfill challenges, which might be a fun way for you to play the game.

I have been playing the game with my kids, ages 5 and 7, and they do very well with this game, so it’s a great family game with great mechanics. Strategy is king in this game, and ultimately, this will continue to make it out on our table.

First Rat special actions

You can pick up First Rat from the Pegasus Spiele website, Amazon, or your FLGS at an MSRP of $39.99.

Images via Pegasus Spiele

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