The evil Count Rath is hunting down orphans in his mansion. Can you guide your young charges to safety?
What Is Endangered Orphans: House of Rath?
Endangered Orphans: House of Rath is a dice rolling and resolution survival game for 2-6 players, with a play time of 25-45 minutes. The instructions for my prototype cheekily listed the age range as “no one should be playing this game,” but mechanics-wise it’s probably 10+, and thematically, 14+. Lord Rath is killing off orphans in the game, but if you wanted to play with your younger children, it would be easy enough to instead explain that Lord Rath was sending the children off to boarding school. It’s a sequel to Certifiable Studio’s Endangered Orphans of Condyle Cove, but doesn’t require the original game to play.
Endangered Orphans: House of Rath is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. There are multiple pledge levels for the game, starting with a $30 base pledge for the game and any stretch goals, and going up to a $120 all-in pledge that includes the original Endangered Orphans of Condyle Cove, its Last Winter expansion, a deluxe slip case for the games, as well as several additional extras.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer>.
Endangered Orphans: House of Rath Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
Here’s what comes in the game:
- 12-sided Options die
- 6-sided Fate die
- Fate board
- Count Rath (Boogeyman) miniature
- 7 Room tiles
- 18 Adoption cards
- 18 Orphan tokens
- 8 Lock tokens
- 7 Run Away cards
Before I get into the components, I wanted to give a quick mention to the fun little surprise Certifiable Studios decided to bestow upon the game reviewers. When I opened the shipping box from them, I was greeted not by the usual cardboard game box but rather this locked “NoNo Box.” The website address attached to the box instructed us that the keys to the locked box were…inside said box. We’d have to figure out a way to get inside.
Using a small flathead screwdriver, I was soon able to pop the lock and open the box. I later learned that one of my fellow reviewers had gone so far as to order a set of lockpicking tools and teach himself how to use them. I guess I was just in too much of a rush to get to the game itself!
The artwork for Endangered Orphans: House of Rath has a distinctive, off-kilter cartoon design. This aesthetic is echoed in the font and even the narrative content, feeling a bit like a modern-day The Gashlycrumb Tinies.. You can see this on display with the Fate board, which was set into the lid of the NoNo box for my copy, but I’m guessing will be a separate board in the production copy:
There are relatively few components in the games, but they’re all of good quality. I appreciated that two of the components were oversized: the Orphan cards, and the towering miniature of Count Rath, which has a satisfying heft (and is as black in color as his soul.)
Although the orphans are virtually identical in what actions they can perform in the game, the designers have made each of them unique in art and description. This definitely adds a lot of character to the proceedings.
Also of particular note is the 12-sided Options die, as this will determine what action you can take on your turn. The symbols are clear and well-chosen to remind one of what actions they represent.
How to Play Endangered Orphans: House of Rath
Be the player with the last surviving orphan.
Place the hexagonal Room of Mourning tile in the center of the table. Place the remaining 6 tiles flush against the Room of Mourning, with matching border colors opposite each other.
Randomly place three orphan tokens, face up, on each of the outer rooms, and Count Rath in the Room of Mourning.
Shuffle the 18 Adoption cards and draw three: take the matching orphan tokens and turn them face-down. They are now “hidden.” Reshuffle the Adoption cards. For 2-4 players, deal each player four cards and they should each choose three and discard the fourth. For 5-6 players, just deal three cards to each player and they keep them all. The players each place their Adoption cards face down in front of them.
Shuffle the Run Away cards and draw as many of them as there are players, placing them face down into a deck. Put the lock tokens within easy reach, and choose a player to go first, who will take the Options die.
There are two phases to a player’s turn: The Roll Phase, and the Boogeyman Phase.
Roll the 12-sided Options die. The symbol will indicate the action you must take on your turn:
- Rotate (gear symbol). You may rotate one room twice or two rooms once. You rotate a room by pivoting it around another room once. You cannot move a room if it has a lock connected to it, or if it would disconnect that room from the other rooms.
- Move (feet symbol): You move any orphan to another, adjacent room, as long as there is not a lock between the two rooms. A hidden orphan that is moved becomes unhidden, flipping the token face up. If an orphan is “revealed,” meaning that their card is face up on the table, then they may move that orphan directly from one colored tile to the matching colored tile, as if through a secret passage.
- Hide (eye symbol). You may do one of three things: hide a single orphan by flipping its token face down, reveal a single orphan by flipping its token face up, or reveal an Adoption card by choosing one of the face down cards in front of another player and turning it face up.
- Lock (key symbol). You can lock a room by placing a Lock token on the seam between two tiles, or unlock a room by removing a lock token. Orphans cannot move past lock tokens (except by secret passage).
- Wild (question mark). You may choose to do any of the four actions.
In this phase, Count Rath will move, then attempt to eliminate one of the orphans if possible.
Count Rath must be moved one space towards the closest room with the most orphans, and can remain in the room that he’s in if that room is the most crowded. If there’s a tie, it’s the choice of the player as to which room the Count moves to. For determining which room has the most orphans, you only count tokens that are face up…if they are “hidden” from the Count, he cannot see them.
Note: there are several easy to understand “if x, then y” qualifiers for moving the Count that can be found in the rulebook for dealing with specific situations.
After movement, the Count will attack if there are any orphans in the room he ends in. The current player indicates which (non-hidden) orphan Count Rath is attacking. If one of the other players has that orphan’s card, they may claim the orphan at that time by revealing the card and leaving it face up in front of them.
If the orphan is revealed, the controlling player can then roll the Fate die and try to run away. That player consults the Fate board: on a 1-4, the Count has eliminated the orphan, and you remove both that orphan’s token and card from the game. But on a 5-6, the orphan has escaped! The controlling player then moves that orphan either one adjacent space, or (as the orphan is now revealed) can move the token to the other tile matching the color of the one it’s currently on.
When a player loses an orphan, they can draw a card from the Run Away deck, if there are any remaining. These cards provide special abilities or alternately will allow an orphan to run away, even if they’ve failed their Fate roll.
If a player’s third and final orphan is removed, then that player is eliminated. Once a player is eliminated, the Shrinking House rule goes into effect, where at the end of each player’s turn, they remove one empty room, as long as that room doesn’t have any locked passageways, or would result in a room isolated in space.
The last player left with at least one surviving orphan wins the game.
Endangered Orphans: The House of Rath – The Verdict
Make no mistake about it- this is a cutthroat game. You will be throwing other orphans under the metaphorical bus in order to allow the ones in your care to escape Count Rath. The gameplay is full of “take that” moments, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you may want to stay away. Well-timed movement or revealing opponents’ orphans can make all the difference between whether they lose one of their orphans to Count Rath, or you lose one of yours. However, the game moves along at a rapid pace and is fairly light despite the theme, so those moments when an opponent arranges for one of your orphans to be Rath’s victim don’t feel soul-crushing. Endangered Orphans: House of Rath definitely isn’t Diplomacy.
Similarly, while there is player elimination, which many people don’t enjoy, it’s not much of a concern thanks to the game length. The “shrinking house” rule helps speed the end of the game along, so even if you’re knocked out of the game relatively early, you won’t be sitting around long waiting for another game.
Admittedly, the theme of Count Rath tracking down and killing orphans is not very family-friendly. But the overall feel of the game is definitely more Charles Addams than Charles Manson. And as I had pointed out at the beginning of the review, you could still play Endangered Orphans: House of Rath with children, and alter the theme to make it more palatable to a younger audience. The mechanics of the game are still enjoyable, even removed from the dark theme. The Fate Board, which describes gruesome deaths, is an entirely optional component- it exists to add some flavor to the results of your dice roll, and you could play without it. It’s easy enough to remember that your orphan successfully escapes on a roll of 5-6 on the Fate die.
I found Endangered Orphans: House of Rath to be easy to learn, with quick, engaging gameplay. I have a feeling it would be best at 5-6 players, but was unable to try it out at that size because, well, the pandemic. I am looking forward to the day when I can get the game group gang back together though and try it out with a full house. This darkly humorous survival game is a good mid-weight game in a small package that’s just a bit longer than a filler, but will still offer you plenty of fun.
For more information or to make a pledge, be sure to visit the Endangered Orphans: House of Rath Kickstarter page!
To subscribe to GeekDad’s tabletop gaming coverage, please copy this link and add it to your RSS reader.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.