Pie Rats of the Carob Bean Farm from the Wild East Game Company is delightful in every aspect. Its adorable sense of humor and madcap adventure spirit are evident right from the title, loaded with puns, and the art featuring buccaneer rodents.
The game is set in a rich story-world where rats on a farm of cocoa-substitute carob beans have learned that there is an even bigger prize to be won for dinner: pie. Players take up roles as captains, each organizing a crew of fellow rats to steal a fresh-baked bounty. The theme is strong, as players wield crews with unique art and names like “Sir Scruffy Red Beard,” “Just One Leg Jesse,” and “Greedy Gertie,” but that is just the beginning of the fun in Pie Rats of the Carob Bean Farm.
The learning curve in Pie Rats is not terribly steep, and the thorough rulebook establishes definitions for each part and phase of play. Players take turns drawing cards and playing them to build their crews. Each captain card features a strength score and a charisma score, and the crew have strength and loyalty scores. The aim is to have a team with enough strength points to lift the weight of a pie, such as chocolate cream, blueberry, or shoofly. Each pie is worth points, and the player with the most points when the last pie is stolen wins the game. The only things in the way are the other rat captains.
This real meat of play in Pie Rats is stealing crewmembers from other players. Some cards allow for immediate theft, but the better way of going about it is through playing charisma cards to overwhelm an opponent’s loyalty. These take the form of pirate accessories, like parrots, spyglasses, and plenty of doubloons. Through bribery or awe, the captains seize crewmembers from one another back and forth until one captain is able to steal a pie, in which case that whole crew runs off to eat while the captain collects the points. The jockeying continues until one pirate reigns supreme.
Using its solid mechanics as a base, Pie Rats allows for a good deal of flexibility in play. Each game will be different thanks to its two decks offering dozens of crewmembers and a wide variety of specials. A lucky hand will give a player a leg up, but seizing the lead too early will make that player a target for crew-stealing by the others behind them.
Pie Rats of the Carob Bean Farm is a card game for two to six players aged 10 and up, lasting about half an hour in play. With more players, Pie Rats becomes much more of a game of social strategy as vendettas and treaties come to the forefront, which is fitting for a pirate game since negotiation on the high seas was second only to having more guns. With its straightforward gameplay and fun art, Pie Rats of the Carob Bean Farm is a great time for families with older kids or on a light game-night with players who are eager to cry “Argh!” and swipe a tasty treat.