Rum & Bones Second Tide: Change is Good

At long last I was finally able to get Rum & Bones Second Tide on the gaming table! To say I loved the first edition is putting it mildly. I went all in with the Kickstarter. For Second Tide, however, I showed some constraint; some. The game has been out long enough and there are a multitude of articles and videos to learn what comes in the box and detailed gameplay explanations. What I want to do is go over what I feel like are the primary changes between the first edition and Second Tide that really elevate the game to near perfection.

Setting up the game for initial play through

Setting up the game for initial play through

Turn Sequence

Possibly the most problematic mechanic in the First Edition was the turn sequence. Assuming a two-player game, each player would do the following on their turn:

  • Fire Deck Gun
  • Activate Crew
  • Activate Heroes

This created a little bit of analysis paralysis and during your opponent’s turn you really just had to sit there and take whatever was thrown at you with no way to react to a changing battlefield short of Tide Cards. The turn sequence in Second Tide is much improved. The game is played over a series of Rounds and each player gets to do one of these things on their turn:

  • Activate Crew
  • Activate A Hero
  • Pass

When a Hero or the Crew is activated, they get an activation token and once all players have activated all Heroes and Crew, a new round begins. These means if you activate your Crew during your first turn in a round, they are done until the next round. This new turn sequence creates a much more fluent back and forth play style that is much closer to the Real Time MOBA style they were trying to create with the First Edition without actually being Real Time. Being able to react to your opponents single turn action this way makes the game much more strategic and balanced. Other subtle improvements in this area include when activating the Crew, choosing to fire the Deck Gun before or after the Crew moves/attacks as well as choosing to not move Crew in a zone so they can attack an adjacent enemy.

Things don't look good for this Hero with the Crew rolling 10 dice

Things don't look good for this Hero with the Crew rolling 10 dice

Leveling System

In the First Edition, there was no leveling system at all for Heroes or Crew. Each Hero had a basic set of skills and most anything beyond the Basic Attack would cost money to activate. The main issue with this style of play was that you had to constantly kill Crew members just so you could use additional skills. Killing Crew members is a vital part of the game but it was also the easiest way to get money so some turns would be spent just earning cash when really you just want to get objectives so you can win (another pain point of the First Edition that I’ll cover next).

In Second Tide, each Hero generally starts out with a Basic Attack at Level 1. Two more slots remain available to attach a Level 1 skill for an amount of cash. Each skill can then be leveled up to Level 2 for an amount of cash. Beyond the purchase of each level, there is generally no cash cost associated with using any particular skill.

Hero Dashboard - Image courtesy of Rum & Bones Kickstarter

Hero Dashboard - Image courtesy of Rum & Bones Kickstarter

Skill Cards - Image courtesy of Rum & Bones Kickstarter

Skill Cards - Image courtesy of Rum & Bones Kickstarter

This leveling system brings the game much closer, again, to the MOBA video game style the creators were originally going for. They weren’t too far off the mark with the First Edition but this really cleaned up skill usage for Second Tide. Once your Heroes and Crew are all leveled up you can primarily focus on getting Victory Points.

Hero Selection

In the First Edition, assuming a 2-player game (which is really the best way to play Rum & Bones), you build a team of five Heroes and then after the initial Crew activation, you place each one on a deployment point and begin your Hero Activation turn. When a Hero get KO’d you will have the ability to place one of the two un-deployed Heroes onto the board the next time you are able to deploy a Hero.

Heroes! - Image courtesy of Rum & Bones Kickstarter

Heroes! - Image courtesy of Rum & Bones Kickstarter

In Second Tide, you choose three Heroes to play the entire game with. There’s not really any major impact on the game by limiting Hero selection but with the new leveling system it just means less Heroes to try and level up. You really get to focus in on a select group of Heroes and make all of them as powerful as possible rather than having a diluted pool. More Heroes are allowed in the game with 3-6 player variants. I’m opposed to playing Rum & Bones with more than two players, personally.

Win Condition

In the First Edition, the win condition was to gain 6 Victory Points (VP). VP’s were only achieved by destroying objectives, killing the Kraken or killing the Sea Serpent. Each objective was usually worth 2 VP’s and so this was the easiest and quickest way to win the game; destroy three of them. Knocking out (KO) other Heroes was somewhat necessary but had no real benefit other than getting them off the board for a few turns and the occasional coin purse they might be carrying. The general strategy that I followed was to ignore the enemy Heroes as much as possible because they were pretty difficult to take down.

New Score Card with VP and Kraken Pool Tracker is Nice!

New Score Card with VP and Kraken Pool Tracker is Nice!

In Second Tide, the win condition is 8 VP’s. Okay, two more VP’s; big deal. The difference isn’t so much the number but how you can achieve them. Destroying objectives, the Kraken and the Sea Serpent still all gain VP’s; but so do KO’ing Heroes! Dealing with your opponents Heroes are now an integral part of strategy and decision making. That’s huge! VP’s for KO’d Heroes is awarded when your Hero KO’s an opponent’s Hero or when your Crew KO an opponent’s Hero. Couple that with the fact that Bosuns now roll two dice per unit instead of one, KO’ing Heroes is a legitimate tactic although shouldn’t be your only tactic.

Kraken Pool

In the First Edition, the Kraken Pool was only increased by playing Tide Cards with the Kraken symbol. Additionally, the only way to track the current pool was to count the stack of played Tide Cards with said symbol. This was a little clunky and created a slight pause in the game flow when it came time to “Unleash the Kraken”.

Carcharius's Feeding Frenzy is nice but could also awake the Kraken!

Carcharius's Feeding Frenzy is nice but could also awake the Kraken!

In Second Tide, not only do Tide Cards still increase the Kraken Pool but some Hero Skills will do the same. This helps balance out the one time cost associated with upgrading a skill in that you want to be careful when you use a skill as increasing the Kraken Pool could have dire consequences on your game plan. The new Score Sheet also helps alleviate counting Kraken symbols on played Tide Cards which helps keep the game moving.

Ransack and Pillage

In the First Edition, when the Crew made it to an opponents objective, that’s pretty much as far as they could go. They would just either keep beating on the objective or simply fight whatever shows up close to them. Generally, it’s a non-issue since Crew get killed pretty quickly, especially when piling up on an objective; but there wasn’t any additional benefit.

Ready to Ransack and Pillage!

Ready to Ransack and Pillage!

In Second Tide, the Crew now Ransack and Pillage! When the Crew make it all the way to an opponents deployment point, …“they have pushed as far onto the enemy ship as they can go, and now disperse in a mad rush of pillaging and ransacking.” For each Crew removed from that zone, they can make 1 attack targeting a zone containing an enemy Deck Feature or Hero and the attack hits on 3+. This makes getting your Crew safely into enemy territory even more beneficial.

Other Noteworthy Changes / Additions

  • Bosun roll two dice - In the First Edition, you roll a number of dice equal to the number of crew in a zone when attacking. Deck Hands hit on 4+ and Bosun hit in 3+ giving the same bonus to Deck Hands in the same space. In Second Tide, Bosun roll two dice per. Assuming two Deck Hands and two Bosun attacking from a zone, you roll six dice. This makes attacking Heroes a lot more advantageous.
  • Crew Upgrades - Just like your Heroes can level up, your Crew can also level up; including the Deck Gun. Destroying specific objectives unlock these upgrades.
  • Push - Some effects can push a Hero. If a Hero is pushed, it is moved into an adjacent zone adhering to all legal movement rules with one exception; a Hero can be pushed overboard which takes them off the board for the remainder of that round.
  • Onward - If Crew attack a zone and that zone becomes empty after resolving the attack, the Crew move into that empty space.

Summary

If you don’t own the First Edition then you won’t really notice any of the improvements as I’ve noted them in this article; you’ll just think the game is totally awesome! If you own the First Edition and have been wondering if you need Second Tide, you absolutely do. As much as I love the First Edition, Second Tide makes a great game nearly perfect. Just make sure you get the upgrade kit so you can use all of your First Edition stuff in Second Tide. Happy pillaging!

Please feel free to comment and discuss your experiences with Rum & Bones Second Tide in our BGG guild forum.