I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you enjoyed Love Letter, then Brave Rats should be right up your alley. Both are simple, fast, round based games. And while both have only 16 cards there is a lot of fun and depth packed into each game. Brave Rats is Seiji Kanai’s follow up to Love Letter and Lost Legacy. It’s designed specifically for two players and firmly establishes Kanai as one of the kings of micro game design.
In Brave Rats each player takes control of battling clans of…well, rats. There is a power struggle to see which clan will take control of the kingdom of the rats. The barbarian Yarg clan that wears blue and the sophisticated, but greedy Applewoods wear red.
The clans are made up of eight cards each, ranging in strength from 0-7. Each card also has a special ability to it. The winner will be the first person to get four victories or the person who can capture their opponents Prince with their Princess.
Each round players will secretly select a card and reveal at the same time. The player who has chosen the higher strength card wins the round…unless they don’t. You see the special abilities will often contradict that rule. For example the three power Assassin. His special ability is that the LOWEST card wins the round. Now, that doesn’t mean he’ll win, just that whatever the lowest card that was played will take the round.
The Prince is a pretty powerful card. He’s ranked at a power of seven and his special ability is that he wins the round. But playing the Prince comes with a risk. If your opponent plays their Princess they automatically win the game.
When the Spy is played it forces your opponent to reveal their card before yours is played. The General gives +2 strength to your next card. If you can win with the Ambassador, that victory counts as two.
Included in the game is a handy chart which allows you to quickly check who wins the round if there’s any dispute. You won’t need it after the first couple of games, but it’s nice to have as a reference.
In the case of a tie, the current round is put on hold. That means that the next round is worth both the victories. It’s possible for many rounds to be put on hold in a row. You learn very quickly that timing is everything in this game.
Speaking of timing, I initially scoffed at the five minute playtime marked on the box, but that’s actually pretty accurate. During my first session with Brave Rats, I played about ten games in a row. It’s one of those games that as soon as you’re finished you want to rack them up for another round.
Brave Rats has all of the things that you’ve come to expect from a Kanai game. Bluffing, trying to read your opponent and a little bit of luck. The artwork is pretty darn cute and just like Love Letter, it’s small size will let you take it anywhere. Is it a must-have or does it replace Love Letter? No, not really, but if you like that style of game and usually find yourself with just two players then it’s well worth a shot.