RA, a well-regarded classic amongst our hobby is a game that has been on my want to buy/need to play list for a long time. The trouble is that up until now, it has been very hard to find without paying over the odds for it. Step in 25th century Games and Gamefound and I now have one of the most beautifully produced games I have seen for a while. Will the gameplay live up to the hype and components though? Read on to find out. Ra, ra, ra ra ra!
I Invoke RA
RA by Reiner Knizia is a stone-cold classic. Over the five or so plays I have had so far I have slowly got to grips with its very nuanced tactics and strategies. It has the classic Knezia flavour of a very simple rule set but with a wide decision space and juicy hidden depths. In RA you are creating a civilization by bidding on various tiles and with a helping hand from the god RA, bullying your opponents. (More on that later)
Your turn is simple, either grab a chunky tile from the tile bag and add it to the auction row, hand in a God tile you may have to grab any other tile from the auction row or Invoke RA and start an auction. The auctions are the meat and potatoes of RA and is where most of the action will be taking place.
Bid, Bid, Bid
So why are you bidding for these tiles? It’s basically a set collection mechanic and varying tiles have varying scoring abilities from scoring in sets to scoring if you have the most and scoring depending on whether you have other tiles or not. You have a very informative player board that illustrates all this and shows which tiles score when and which tiles get removed each round. It’s how these tiles come out of the bag, in what order and how much each player values them that gets the gears of RA turning.
Each player has a number of chunky ‘sun disks’ ranging from 1 – 16. These are your bid tokens for the round and it’s a closed economy that sees them being passed around between players. You only get one bid, you know exactly what everyone has and this alone generates a lot of entertainment in every auction. When you win an auction, your sun token goes into the next auction to be won by the next winner. This not only makes the tiles something that need to be considered but also your sun token and the one you get for winning. Plus you can only win a certain number of auctions each round, depending on player count so timing is key
RA Tiles & The End Of An Epoch
Among all the tiles in the huge bag are RA tiles, they, instead of being added to the auction row, immediately start an auction. Not only that but they advance the round time by one space bringing the game ever closer to the end of the epoch (round). The game lasts three epochs and we have had rounds where players still have unused sun tokens at the end. This system not only creates a push-your-luck mechanism to the auctions, as you never know when the epoch will end but also allow for some really fun plays.
Bullying With My 1
In the last game I had, I was at the point where I had the 12, 3, 2 and 1 sun disks so you would think I only really had one ‘good’ bidding tile but you would be wrong. All I kept doing was after a few tiles came out, invoked RA, which started an auction. Whoever invokes RA goes last and therefore has most of the power. Due to everyone knowing I could get a few tiles by bidding my 1 tile, they had a hard decision, let me have them cheap or use one of their higher tokens to take a small number of tiles. Juicy. Also ,factor in that I will be exchanging my 1 tile for a higher one for the next round and the whole thing takes on a new perspective.
Set Collection With A Difference
The tiles you are collecting are scored at the end of every round apart from the Monuments, which are scored only at the end of the game. Not only this but your board, which holds your tiles is split into two sides, one where the tiles disappear every round and one side where they stay. This makes sure that every auction is valued differently by all players. Tie this to the open information basic bidding system and the auction really gets elevated into something I have not seen in a game before.
So, on the permanent side, you have the Monuments, which are scored at the end of the game. They are scored for complete sets and multiples of the same Monument, so they have two scoring methods giving your brain just enough fuzz to complicate things further. On the permanent tile side, you also have the Pharaoh tiles which are scored by the person with the most getting 5 points each round and the least losing two points. Further down that side are the river tiles which only score if you get a flood tile on the other side of your board, which gets removed each round. So, if you have a lot of river tiles you need to get a flood tile every round, which can sometimes be challenging.
On the temporary tile side, along with the flood tiles you have God tiles, which allow you to take any tile from the auction row on your turn, which can be very powerful indeed. You have the gold tiles which are just worth three points each, the civilization tiles which are scored for sets and if you have none you get a negative point deduction. All these different tiles, mixed with all the stuff I have mentioned above make every auction tense and unique.
He’s Chonky Boy!
Wow, what can I say, these are some of the most beautiful, thick and tactile components I have ever had. The box weighs a ton. I have the Pharaoh edition, where the components are thicker and has metal coins but I have seen the retail version and the components are still extremely nice. Firstly the updated artwork and design of the player boards from Ian O’Toole is fantastic. Everything is so bright and clear, the updated boards make looking at what points you are getting plus what gets discord and what gets discarded a massive improvement over the original game.
The actual pieces are lovely to touch. With a massive thick RA statue, chunky tiles and sun disks, the whole thing screams quality and feels great to play. Moving things around, delving in the bag for tiles and making bids all have an air of lavishness about them. It’s so beautiful.
Just go out and buy it immediately. Seriously, I had heard RA was good but I did not expect to think it was ‘this’ good. It’s so simple yet so full of choice and depth. The components are amazing, the gameplay loop and flow is brilliant and you can have a rip roaring time with friends in under an hour. What’s not to like? Ra, ra, ra ra ra!