Gameplay Preview: Rum & Bones by CMoN


I don’t typically do a ton of video gaming in general, and I do even less on the computer because we’ve never had one with much power.  Because of that, and because I grew up in the late 90s, the only games I could really ever play on my various computers were Real Time Strategy games like Command & Conquer and Warcraft.  I love the game type, and was really happy last year when Cool Mini or Not and Super Rocket Punch Games released Rivet Wars, a fantastic game that reminds me a ton of all the RTSs I used to love.  One of my major gaming itches had been scratched, and well.

The other itch for me has been the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or MOBA, a game system that was birthed from the RTS and has overtaken it for competitive play, with its two big guns DOTA 2 and League of Legends (LOL) featuring heavily in the professional gaming circuit.  But the style, despite having been alive for 10 years (15 if you ask some people), never found its way to the miniature table.  WizKids released a crappy DOTA set for their Clix system, but it felt nothing like a MOBA and had even worse miniatures.

Enter upcoming game Rum & Bones from Coolminiornot.

If you’re unfamiliar, Rum & Bones was a miniatures line from Spanish outfit Tale of War that had a tacked on game system, but was primarily responsible for creating arguably the best pirate miniatures I’ve ever seen.  I love Werner Klocke and his Freebooter’s Fate line as much as the next guy (I own the entirety of 4 different armies), but Ron & Bones’ miniatures stand a cut above.  They’re full of character and definition, and when CMoN purchased the property from Tale of War in 2013, I was excited because they’d finally be easier for me to get.  I had no idea when I learned of the purchase at GenCon that they’d turn the property into a game system that, based on my two gameplays at CMoN Expo, is probably my most anticipated game of the year.

ALL HANDS ON DECK – The Overview

The Rum & Bones game system is, like any good MOBA, based on two teams battling each other for dominance of lanes.  Instead of generic battlefields like in LoL or DOTA, the pirate theme of Rum & Bones gives you the perfect scenario: two pirate crews boarding each other.  Your lanes are the planks that have been set between the two boats, your capture points (in the demo game we played) the mast and wheel of the galleon.

Gameplay in the beta was conducted in an I-Go-U-Go scenario, where each player activates his heroes and has three actions to move them around the board.  The heroes were all class based, with all of the MOBA tropes present, from Little Tom the Undead Tank to the Wraith, the Undead Assassin.  Ranged DPS, Support, and bruisers were also present in various forms.  Each Hero has statistics for their basic attack, a passive ability that benefits him no matter what, and two abilities that he (or she) could pay for using the pieces of 8 they acquire throughout the game.  Pieces of 8 could additionally be spent on the tide deck, a means of creating the “shopping” aspect of the MOBA without involving too much book keeping.  Finally, pieces of 8 could be spent to “block” damage.  But the big question is where do we get these pieces of 8 from?  Well creeps, of course.

There’s gotta be creeps, right?  Any good MOBA game has creeps, and Rum & Bones is no exception. The creep system in the game isphoto fairly simple.  You roll three D6s (one for each spawn point) and then assign your rolls to the various spawn points to create your creep waves.  The basic chumpstains have one wound and die fairly easily, yielding a single piece of 8 when you kill them. Roll a 1 or a 2 and you get to spawn a super creep called a  boatswain who has two wounds and yields 2 pieces of 8 when you kill them.  Creeps advance forward one space at a time, closing in on your opponents objectives and, if they reach them, can damage your enemy spawns and objective points.  It’s a simple mechanic that works really well.

The game ends when one team has depleted their opponents morale by killing heroes and destroying objectives.  In the beta, heroes were worth 1 point while objectives were worth two.  The demo, taught to us the first time by designer Michael Shinall, moved incredibly quickly and finished in around 80 minutes.


The easily pleased gamer in me wants to say all of it (I genuinely enjoyed both games I played) but I won’t.  Instead, I’ll focus on a few things that really stood out to me.

— The game “feels” like a MOBA.  Everything is there that you could ask for in a MOBA inspired tabletop miniatures game.  You’ve got hero classes with variable powers.  You’ve got creeps relentlessly droning across the board.  You’ve got spawn points that you can destroy to make your opponent less effective.  You’ve got towers that defend your base and inflict serious damage to any hero that isn’t careful.  You’ve got the Tide deck that serves as a shop.  It’s really all there.  George, with whom I played the first game, agreed with me that the game simply “feels” right.

— Character classes are varied and appropriate.  In the game, we had the opportunity to play with all the classes, and each one really felt unique.  The bruiser/tank types were really good at soaking and regenerating damage, while your ranged DPS were good at killing creeps and fairly effective at killing heroes.  The captains worked as your support, with both helping to generate income in one way or another.  And the assassins, especially the Wraith, felt like assassins.

— The game is tense the entire time.  I thought I was in a position to have George beat, so I took a gamble and rode the Wraith over the riggings (yes, you can bypass a lane and land yourself in enemy territory fairly quickly by attempting to swing across on the rigging) to try and assassinate his character.  I failed, rolling a dubious set of snake eyes on my last action, and that swung the game in George’s favor.  And I loved it.

— The Ron & Bones miniatures are top notch.  The game is going to look gorgeous, and, if rumors are true, may even include 3D ship boards to fight over.  The notion of that has me fondly remembering my old Crossbows and Catapults Sea Battles set.

A MERRY LIFE, & A SHORT ONE – Ironing out the Kinks

Again, while I really did enjoy both times I played the game, there are some areas that we discussed for improvement in the game that Mr. Black & Leif are tossing around.

— The spawn rolls are the only thing that, occasionally, felt uneven about the game.  Boatswains aren’t quite powerful enough to spawn by themselves, and spawning a single boatswain while your opponent spawns six crewman did create some imbalanaces in gameplay.  You do get to decide where you put your allocations, but Mr. Black explained that they were tossing around the idea of making the spawn numbers either static or rolling once at the beginning of the round, and using the results for each team.  I like the notion of the latter, as it will adds some variability into it, while keeping it balanced for each side.

— Respawns were hard to keep track of in the I-Go-U-Go system, and is something Mr. Black was definitely aware of.  On turn two George used his Ranged DPS to knock one of my characters into the water, forcing him to climb back aboard and respawn two turns later.  It was hard to remember when exactly he was supposed to come back on.  The CMoN design team is considering moving the game to one of alternating activation and simply requiring that a respawn require the player to use of their activations for the game turn.  We talked through it, and this seems like it would improve the game in a few ways.  One, it would eliminate that need for bookkeeping, and two, it would allow each player to react more spontaneously to what their opponent did.

— The Tide Deck, despite the fact that it worked well enough, was occasionally forgotten by George and myself.  Additionally, having the cards all be ‘play immediately’ upon purchase really eliminated any sense of surprise.  The team is considering making it so that after purchasing a tide deck card, you put it into you hand to be played at an opportune time later in the game.  I like this potential change a lot, as it reminds me a lot more of shopping at the store in LoL.

AND A BOTTLE OF RUM! – What’s Incoming

Again, I really enjoyed the game, so I think anything they do to improve upon it now will be icing on the cake.  Here’s the breakdown of what we know will be coming, so far:

— A kickstarter in late Summer 2014 with a pricepoint around $100.

— 10-14 different crews, from your traditional Pirates to Chinese Pirates to Undead Pirates.  Each Crew will come with their own unique tide deck as well as their own unique ship, not of all which are Galleons.  We were told the Chinese Pirates, for instance, will have three Junks that are connected together while the French Pirates will have two smaller Cutters.  So not only variable Tide power decks, but also variable ships.  Very Cool.

— Plastic 1-Piece miniatures most likely similar to the Arcadia Quest plastic or Zombicide plastic.  I got my hands on some of the final production plastics for Arcadia Quest, and they were well detailed.  I think it’s fair to say that the models will have a bit softer detail than the original lead models did, but based on the growth the industry has seemed to make with plastic detail, I’m really excited.

— Some final tweaking to the rules before it becomes official.

Like I said, this one is at the top of my watch list.  The game was a blast to play, with quick, exciting rules and the correct feel for what I envisioned a MOBA tabletop game would be.  If I was CMoN, I’d name the ruleset and start making money on it like FFG did with their X-Wing System, as I’m sure someone’s going to come along one of these days and want to make a DOTA tabletop game.