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Monday, November 14, 2005


Ra Ra Ree!!!!!

Finally got to play the Knizia classic "Ra" the other night. I discovered German boardgames too late to get in on the original print run released in 1999. I bought the Uberplay re-print as soon as it came into stock in my local game store a month or so ago.

I struggled through the rules on various occasions and wasn't too impressed. Ra did not seem like my kind of game as judged by the rules. It felt like it would be a game with too many ways to score points, thus have little tension. Bidding chips seemed too limited, although I do find cut-throat bidding to make the best auction games. (Cut-throat means; you only get one chance to bid, so you better make that bid count).

Although I wanted to play Ra, the rules left me cold and I didn't lobby hard for it. I now wish I had played sooner. It is a fine game.

Scoring in Ra is based upon tiles that you win in auction. Nile and Flood tiles score one point each, but you need to have at least one Flood tile for the Nile tiles to score. Pharaoh tiles earn you points if you have the most, and lose you points if you have the least. You must finish each round with a Civilization tile in your possession or you lose points. If you have 3 different Civilization tiles you score points. Gold tiles score 3 points. God tiles allow you to take tiles without winning an auction. Monuments only score at the end of the game, but are valuable if you can collect at least 6 different types. There are also disaster tiles, which if won in an auction, require you to discard tiles, and Ra tiles that force an auction when drawn.

Nile, Pharaoh, and Monument tiles are retained from round to round. Each round Flood, Civilization, and God tiles are discarded.

On his turn a player can draw a tile or call for an auction (or use a God tile, but that is infrequent). If a player draws a tile he places it in the auction track. If a player draws a Ra tile an auction is forced.

In the auction each player, starting with the player to the left of the person initiating the auction and continuing clockwise, bids once. High bidder takes all the tiles and the Sun token on the auction board.

Sun tokens are valued 1-16. The value of the Sun is the value of a bid. For example: a player has 3 Suns numbered 3, 7 and 12, he would have to bid either 3, 7, or 12 on his turn if he chose to bid. The highest bidder takes the current Sun token from the board and places it face down in front of himself, it won't be used until the next round. He then places the token he used to bid with on the board to replace the one he drew. The person winning the next auction will win the just placed Sun token.

After a player wins 3 auctions he is out of Sun tokens and may no longer take part in either drawing tiles nor the auctions until the next round. The game is played over 3 rounds or "epochs". At the start of a new round players turn over their spent sun tokens and the player with the highest sun token starts the next round.

The round ends when the tenth Ra tile is drawn, or every player's Sun tokens are turned over.

I really liked Ra, as did all the other players. After the first game a second was immediately called for. The auctions were not tension free as I had predicted after reading the rules. There was quite a bit of stress involved in calculating the value of tiles during an auction, not to mention strategy in bidding. Each player can only win 3 auctions each round, so you have limited chances to get the tiles you need. I thought the God tiles were very weak, but in our games they never seemed to come up early enough in the epoch to be utilized.

Ra might be good enough to make me rethink my current game ratings. I suspect that Through the Desert will fall to a 9 and Ra may enter my rankings with a solid 10. Although I really like TtD, and the games have absolutely nothing in common, Through the Desert starts to fade in the presence of Ra. Ra does not require as much strategy as TtD, but is a gamer's game with a much higher "fun factor".

Dame Coldfoot has not yet played it, but I predict it will be a smashing success with her. That is significant. The only other games we agree are upper-tier games are Puerto Rico and El Grande, and I don't think she considers any of the Knizia games to be top notch.

Good Gaming,

And so the reprints keep coming to bless us who missed the First Wave. I also got my uberplay RA reprint, but I'm content to leave it in shrink while we play my buddy's beat-up alea copy.

So, now waiting on Medici, Stephenson's Rocket and Taj Mahal (though I personally have the alea Taj) in 2006...
hey, also just played Ra for the first time just yesterday! with latria and his wife Janey, played twice with latria winning both times. but at least i won at Louis XIV, although latria claims he gave me an additional shield! sore. hee! hee! fun games!
I don't share your impression; I began to play Ra one month ago approximately; together with him I learned Santiago and Tower of Babel. I and my friends find Ra a little boring and monotonous. Any tension in the one finishes off (a little when a single player is auctioning); the truth is that personally I prefer, in games with auctions, Santiago, Industry and Modern Art.
In Mussing on Ra, Greg Schloeser said:
"I feel my turn actions are very limited. Indeed, on most turns, it is turn over a tile, and that's it. Often, there is no real incentive to call for an auction, so the turn simply consists of turning over a random tile. I find this very limiting and rather unsatisfying.

That being said, auctions are occasionally very interesting, and the decision on whether to bid can be tense. Unfortunately, that simply doesn't occur often enough. I tend to enjoy games that give players multiple options and present them with difficult decisions on every turn. I just don't find that these elements are present in Ra".
Source: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/690750
I totally agree.
Mario- Your thoughts are similar to mine before I played the game. I was quite pleased with the way it all fit together.

I will grant you that the auctions aren't as intense in the beginning of each epoch, but when the Ra track has 8 tiles on it, and you still need that one flood tile to score your 9 Nile tiles it gets pretty intense.

My opinion could change over time, but I suspect that as I learn to better value certain combinations of tiles that the game will become even more tense.
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