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Ra is set in ancient Egypt. The players strive for power by collecting tiles that represent various aspects of economic, spiritual, and technological growth. The players acquire the tiles by bidding for them in auctions. The currency for these auctions are tokens given to players by Ra, the sun God. Using these limited tokens, players must decide when to bid and how much to get the tiles they want.
Players: 2 - 5
Time: 45 - 60 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 1,107 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English). This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.
- 1 game board
- 180 tiles
- 48 VP tokens
- 16 suns
- 1 Ra figure
- 1 cloth bag
- 1 rule booklet (English, German)
Average Rating: 4.4 in 33 reviews
Look and Feel
Once you open the box you are struck with how nice the components look. Quad-fold board that opens up to reveal some beautiful artwork that certainly is evocative of the Egyptian theme. This art style extends to every item in the game.
Included is the game board, 16 wooden auction tiles, 180 playing tiles, 1 wooden Ra figure, money "tablets" for keeping score, a black bag for holding the tiles, and the traditional plastic insert. The tiles are nice and thick and should bear up to multiple playings over the years. The wooden auction tiles and Ra icon piece are thick and solid and give a real sense of quality to the product. Kudos to Uberplay for the work put into this game.
Piece of advice: Throw the insert away and then see if you have a bigger drawstring bag for holding the playing tiles. With the insert in place it is hard to get everything to fit back into the box once opened and you just won't need it. Next, the black bag that comes with the game is functional, but probably not quite big enough to hold the tiles and allow you to root around in the bag for your next draw.
As always, for games that call for a bag, I recommend a nice Crown Royal bag if you can find one. If not, then see if you can sew up or obtain a bigger bag for the tiles. Some folks like to set up the tiles face down on the table and not use a bag at all. If that is your preference, go for it.
Game play is relatively straight forward. The only confusion for most folks is how the scoring mechanism works. Basically, it is a set collection game.
Each player is allocated a few numbered auction tiles (depending on players involved 3 or 4: These tiles are numbered somewhere between 2 and 16. Players get some high numbers and some low numbers so it is relatively even) and the number 1 tile is placed on the center of the board. Across the top of the playing board is a number of open Ra spaces. These blanks are ready to accept any red Ra tiles that are pulled out of the bag. On the bottom of the board are 8 open spaces to place the tiles that are pulled out of the bag that are not red Ra tiles.
The game is played in 3 rounds (different Dynasties)
On a players turn, they have a option of one of three choices.
1) Pull a tile from the bag
If it is not a red Ra tile, place it on the collection row. If it is a Red Ra tile, it is placed on the top Ra row and an auction starts immediately for ALL the tiles in the collection row and for the number tile that is on the center of the board (Yes the bidding tile from the last auction is part of the bid.) When the red Ra tiles spaces are all filled up, that Dynasty comes to an end.
2) Play a god tile.
There are 8 yellow god tiles that can be used by a player to exchange one to one for any tiles on the collection board that they want in their set.
3) Call Ra and start an auction.
When someone calls Ra! an auction starts immediately. Starting with the player to the left of the caller, each player may suggest a single bid or pass. If they bid, they move their bidding tile so it touches the board to show what they are bidding. The next player can bid higher, or pass. Last player to bid is the player that called Ra. When all have had the chance to bid once, the high bidder gets ALL of the tiles on the collection track AND the bid number in the center. They tile that won the bid is placed in the center of the board and becomes part of the next auction. The bid tile you took in the auction is turned face down on your board and can not be used again until the next dynasty rolls around. So you see, you have to be very careful how and what you bid. It is light enough to not be brain burning, but you have to watch all the players and what they are acquiring.
As you can see there is a definite time crunch applied as the game goes on. You only have the opportunity to get tiles you want (or want to keep out of your opponents hands)until the Dynasty ends. Once it does, you score for that Dynasty and many of the tiles are returned to the box and you start again. Some of the tiles (like Pharaohs and Monuments) remain on your game board and add up through out the game to be scored at the end of each Dynasty or at the end of the game.
That is a very simplistic overview, but I hope it gives you enough of the flavor to see how the game would progress. You are constantly on the look out for tiles that help you with a maximum score while trying to keep other tiles away from your opponents.
The beauty of this design is that the tiles that are up for auction are worth more of less to different folks, so you really have to stay on your toes.
Who Would Like this Game?
At my board gaming group we have a nice cross section of heavy gamers, Medium weight Euro gamers, and some relative new comers to the genre. Although this is not everyone's favorite. It is a game that gets a lot of play across all types of players. And since the playing time is relatively short, I expect this one to hit the tables quite often. Even my wife who does not care for auction games at all, likes Ra and asks for it on occasion. So it really a game that once explained will appeal to a number of different types of folks.
This game is just fun! Everyone is involved on every turn so the down time is minimum. It is easy enough that even the younger ones in the family can play, yet deep enough that hard core gamers will not be bored while playing. It plays quickly enough that if you play one practice game to teach the game, there will be plenty of time for a couple more games that evening.
Final Rating: Solid "A" (Two thumbs up)
Even if you have other "auction" games in your collection, you might want to make room for Ra if you have even a passing interest in this type of game.
As you can tell, I really like this one and if I am not mistaken, you will too.
Too many things to do - too little time to do them - sounds familiar?
A feature of many games by Knizia is that it is hard to decide on a long-term strategy and follow that throughout the game - you constantly have to re-evaluate your options every round - how the possible courses of action would effect you and the other players.
Games of this type are not for everyone - which is why I normally would only have given this game 4 out of 5. Hoever - I love the Egyptian theme - I have always been interested in ancient Egypt, and that earns the game its 5th star as far as I am concerned.
The first few times I played Ra I came away with an 'Eh' sorta feeling. There's so many ways to score, the strategy wasn't clear, and the theme seemed pasted on.
But I remained intrigued, both by the game and by the praise it's received. So I played it a few more times and I must say I'm incredibly glad I did. It's grown into one of my all time favorite games.
In my opinion this is a true classic, easy to teach (if not incredibly easy to grasp at first), lots of tension ('No Whammy!'), and a good mix of luck and skill. It plays well with 3-5 (one of the few games that really shines with 3) and it can be played almost as a filler (we call it 'Speed Ra') as well as a full meal of a game.
Although I've always struggled fitting the theme to the game the production quality and especially the artwork is excellent.
Of Knizia's bidding games (and I love them all) this ranks near the top, mostly because of the versatility I mentioned earlier.
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Nerves of steel, canny evaluation of what's for sale, and precise timing are demanded by this exquisitely tense bidding game. Players in turn randomly pick Tiles which gain winning Victory Points or neutralize severe penalties. Less wealthy players can impose frightful dilemmas on richer ones by calling auctions at the opportune moment, hoping to buy a collection cheaply and get a valuable coin in exchange to spend next round. Will they dare to use their best coins just to stop you? Rounds are of uncertain duration and, in their closing moments, fraught with anxiety; they can end abruptly to stop your current spending. Better luck--no, precision!--next time. Whatever you offer me for this superb game is simply not enough.
There's a breathless hush as the tiles are turned. A Civilization. A Pharaoh. A God. "RA!" cries the poorest player, starting an auction. If the others pass, he will win the tiles cheaply.
Player A thinks: "Curses! My highest coin can win, but just to stop him from getting a bargain? Hmm..."
Player B: "If I bid my last coin and win, no more spending for me this round. Is it wise to quit?"
This subtle bidding game, the goal of which is to collect scoring sets of auctioned tiles, is full of seemingly unresolvable dilemmas. RA, represented by special tiles, crosses the firmament inexorably...
There's his last tile: Discard everything on the Auction track.
Player C. "Stupid! I should've bid!" A tightrope of bidding suspense that's far above the ordinary.
After several years when they just concentrated on children's games, Ravensburger are back with us and this time they are targeting not just the "10-Adult" market but the "gamers' game" market as well, something they haven't really done since the days of Metropolis fifteen years ago. What is more, it is clear that they have put a lot of thought and effort into the enterprise: a new brand name to act as a designer label; the teaming of a top games designer with a top graphic artist; a theme which lends itself to strong visual images; and an intelligent marketing strategy that would earn the respect of the film producers, Miramax. Never, to my knowledge, has a game been given as carefully orchestrated an entrance as this one, with a high profile preview at Essen ensuring that both it and the label were going to be grabbing the Nuremberg headlines well in advance of the event itself and while the opposition had nothing to fight back with apart from lists of titles. It is a clever way for a big firm to use its muscle and resources, clever provided the product being marketed is worth the fanfares you are giving it. Get it wrong and you have nowhere to hide. Fortunately, they haven't got it wrong, because Ra is a very good game. It was clear from the playtesting insights that Reiner gave us in the last issue that this was a game he sweated blood over before finally getting the mechanisms that would make it all fit together in the way that he hoped, but he has succeeded and the result is a game with parts that mesh beautifully, that is both simple to learn and quick to play and which gives you lots to think about.
The game to which Ra is closest in spirit is the same designer's Medici. Both are games where you collect objects in various categories, where you acquire the objects by bidding and where you are constantly having to balance what a set of objects is worth to you against what they are worth to an opponent. However, closeness of spirit is as far as the kinship goes. The mechanics are very different, with the later game being much more intricately wrought and having a more finely differentiated scoring system whose balances present the players with a steady steam of hard decisions. I speak with some ruefulness here, since I have yet to come close to getting this game right.
The board is a very simple one, showing nothing more than two shortish tracks on which tiles will be placed, a central space for a wooden token and some information at the edge about the scoring system and the tile distribution. The tiles are the things that you collect and they come in seven sets of different sizes, six of the seven being collectibles and the seventh a set of "Ra tiles", which help drive the game clock and give the players a sense of urgency.
There are 180 tiles, 30 of them Ra tiles, and on your turn you have two main options: you can either declare an auction for the tiles currently sitting on the collection track or you can draw a tile and add it to the board. If it is not a Ra tile, it goes on the collection track; if it is, it goes on the Ra track and an auction is held anyway. The epoch ends when either all players have bought a certain number of sets of tiles -- the number being dependent on the number of players -- or the Ra track is full. There are three epochs and the players score points at the end of each of them -- much as you do in Medici.
Not at all as in Medici is the way you pay for the sets of tiles. There it is done by dipping into your store of victory points; here it is done using a special set of wooden tokens known as "suns". There are sixteen of these, numbered 1 to 16, though the last three are only used in the 5-player game. At the start, the token numbered 1 is placed in the centre of the board and the others are distributed in balanced sets to the players. Auctions, when they are called, are "once round the table" affairs, ending with the person who either called the auction or drew the Ra tile. Any player who wishes to bid for the set of tiles on offer places one of their face-up sun tokens on to the board and the highest numbered token wins. The successful player then collects the tiles they have bought and places the token they have used as payment into the centre of the board, taking in its stead the one that was already there. This newly acquired token is placed face down in front of them, where it stays until the end of the epoch, when it is again inverted ready for re-use. The result of this is that each player always has the same number of tokens, but the numbers on them are constantly changing. This is one of the things you have to bear in mind when you are making your bid: it is not just the tiles you are getting; it is also the sun token that is currently in the centre and that will affect your ability to compete in the auctions of the next epoch.
The tiles that players collect fall into six groups -- pharaohs, bits of Nile, civilization advances, monuments, money and divine favours -- and each is scored differently. The first four are the important ones; the other two just being there for spice. It is always difficult to rationalise what is basically an abstract game, but the best approach here is to imagine that you are a noble family playing the prestige game and doing so over a very long stretch of time. Pharaoh tiles represent influence with a particular ruler. The prestige that comes with this is cumulative and the tiles that you get from this group stay with you until the end of the game (barring disaster tiles, of which there are a couple in each of the four main groups). At the end of each epoch, the player(s) with the most pharaoh tiles gain prestige points and those with the least lose some. Nile tiles represent land and this is something that, again barring disasters, also stays in the family. However, land in Egypt is no use unless it has irrigation and so you only score points for this group if your collection of Nile tiles includes at least one of the special flood tiles. Nile tiles also score at the end of each epoch, but this time it is not a matter of best/worst, but simply one of how many and although the basic land tiles stay with you into the next epoch, the precious flood tiles are lost. Civilization tiles represent family members who made special contributions in these areas. Such fame is more transitory and so these are tiles that you score at the end of the epoch and then lose. For a positive score from them you need to have at least three of the five different types, but just to make sure that this is not a category you can ignore, there is a fairly hefty penalty if you have none. Finally, there are the monuments. These only score at the end of the game, where it is a combination of number of different types and sub-collections of three or more of a kind.
The sun tokens also come into the scoring at the end via a clever extra idea that stops players having a "no tomorrow" approach to bidding in the last epoch. What happens here is that each player adds up the numbers on the sun tokens they finish the game with and there are then bonus points for the highest total and a penalty for the lowest.
The first review of Ra that I saw appeared on the Net before the game had even been released -- the writer having played it at a convention to which Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande had taken a copy. He was a bit disappointed with the game, feeling that it was repetitive and that players were not given enough options on each turn. "All you do is turn over tiles and bid" was the gist of his argument. He put his case well, but I feel that he was missing the point. After all, you could also say of Poker that all you do is turn over cards and bet, but that doesn't stop it being one of the greatest and most skillful card games ever invented, because those two little words "and bet" cover some subtle thinking in which the players have lots of factors to take into account. The same is true here of "and bid". It is not just a matter, as it usually is in collecting games, of deciding what to concentrate on and not worrying too much about the rest. The penalty points in this game are pitched at a level that, though not decisive, is still enough to hurt and so you can't ignore categories. You might not have a chance of first place in Pharaohs, but it is still worth trying to avoid being last. Then there are the points that come for spread in some of the groups. These can make a set of tiles very valuable for an opponent and mean that you don't want him to have them. Is stopping him important enough to justify the expenditure of one of your precious sun tokens? If so, how high are you prepared to go? Is it likely that someone else will also have spotted the danger and be willing to do the job for you? You also have to consider the probable influence on people's thinking of the number on the sun token currently in the centre of the board. How valuable is that to various people, given the tokens they have face-up in front of them? Even what seems like the straightforward matter of deciding how to use your high-numbered tokens turns out to be more complicated in practice. If you have the highest face-up token, you feel that it ought to be possible to wait until a large set of useful tiles has built up on the board and then take it by force. Unfortunately, the opposition soon learn how to stop the collection getting too large and how to take the shine off your purchase by manoeuvring a low-numbered sun into the centre. Meanwhile the number of tiles on the Ra track is building up and the looming "end of epoch" threatens to leave you empty-handed. With a less finely-tuned and subtly differentiated scoring system, without the constantly shifting balance of the numbers on the sun tokens and without the "time is pressing" mechanism of the Ra track, the game could have been repetitive in the way that that first reviewer claimed, but as things are it is not. The bidding rounds, like the betting rounds in a game of Poker, each present you with a new set of circumstances and the fact that you know exactly what each opponent's options would be were a bidding round to be called means that you can create situations that will present the opposition with decisions they won't like.
As you will have gathered, I like this game.