Riff Raff is an ingenious piece of engineering: from the box and the pieces inside you put together a wooden ship – as it sails on a stormy sea it bobs and rolls, and the players task is to get all their pieces (everyone starts with eight) balanced somewhere on the boat without them falling off. Or better still, falling off on somebody else’s turn.
The boat is set up and each player takes their pieces and a set of cards numbered from 1 to 10. On a given turn, everyone selects a card and plays it face down, before all cards are revealed simultaneously. Then the highest card goes first, followed by the next highest and so on. As well as establishing turn order though the cards also determine where on the ship you have to balance your pieces: numbers 1 to 4 are the deck, where the ship is most steady. Higher numbers pertain to the yardarms, higher up and not necessarily so easy to balance. But as the game continues even the deck can be perilous, and careful placement of your pieces is key.
If a piece falls off on your turn your go is immediately over and you take any pieces that fell into your supply: you now have to get rid of them too! But if you catch any falling pieces – well done, they’re out of the game for good.
The first player to get rid of all their pieces wins. If nobody has after all cards are played, the player with the fewest pieces left wins. As well as the fun and tension of balancing, there is also the strategy of when to play your cards, as the game also allows you to place two pieces in an area where there are already pieces present from a previous round. Keep this rule in mind as it can accelerate your progress when well-utlised!
Although I think my go-to dexterity game is probably always going to be Bausack, Riff Raff sails in a close second. It could have felt rather gimmicky, but the rapid play, fun tactile nature and the integration of cardplay make Riff Raff very revisitable. I think it’s great.
The Take That element mostly comes from the game itself; there's not much opportunity to target individual players.
None. When it's not your turn you'll be either marveling or commiserating with others, and the game plays quickly.
Nothing taxing. But after a first play or two you'll see that the order you play your cards in is more integral to the balancing than first appears.
It's hard to avoid randomness in a game about balance, and the cards add an extra dimension too.