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Subject: Musings On... Ra (#20) rss

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Tom Vasel
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Musings On... Ra (#20)

Erik Arneson: Ra is the best auction game ever. The balance is incredible. The decisions are almost always tough, sometimes brutally so. And I absolutely adore the fact that something I wouldn't bid 2 for at a given moment could very well be worth 13 just a few moments later.

Wei-Hwa: While I can't disagree with the rest of your statements, Erik, I question the assertion that the balance is incredible. Let say, for example, that "most Pharoahs" is worth 6 points instead of 5. Would it really throw off the balance of the game that much? Or at all? I tend to believe that most auction games balance themselves because of the auction mechanics, and Ra is no exception there.

Erik Arneson: Good point. By "balance" I actually meant to refer to the mix of tiles. I'm convinced that the mix of tiles couldn't be improved.

Larry Levy: The tile mix in Ra lends the game a lot of variety and the Sun bidding counter mechanic is very clever. But ultimately, I find the game unsatisfying. The reason is that so much seems to depend upon correctly guessing how quickly the Ra tiles will come out. If they come out slowly, your strategy needs to be one of patience and waiting for the perfect collection. If they come out quickly, you need to grab what you can when you can. When only one player has Suns left, his success is greatly dependent on how many Ra tiles appear and this can have an enormous effect on the way the game turns out. To me, this is a huge luck factor which spoils what should be an entertaining game. I've never really had a particularly enjoyable game of Ra, and while I wouldn't refuse to play, it isn't a game I seek out at all.

Nick Danger: Sometimes Luck = Suspense = Excitement.

I've seen more people derive joy from the game while turning tiles and dreading the possible Ra draw whilst the other players are all chanting "Ra!, Ra!, Ra!" Luck factor? You bet. Spoils the entertainment? I dare say it provides it. If, and this is key, you're playing the game for a fun experience. If you're playing while wearing your super competitive T-shirt and have the month's rent riding on the game, then maybe the luck factor is ruining the experience for you.


Tom Vasel: I must say that I agree with Nick. I can't imagine the game having any other name, because the fact that players can stand up on chairs and shout "Ra! Ra! Ra!" in unison makes the game that much more exciting. I can see how some might be turned off by the luck these final tile draws bring, but without them the game would end up missing a spark - the "Fun Factor" that I seek in games. Modern Art and Medici may be better games, with clearer mechanics and no major luck factor, but it's this added bit that makes the game that much more fun for me.

Larry Levy: But there IS a middle ground, Nick.

Nick Danger: Whattaya talking about? It's black and white baby. Don't give me any of this compromising stuff!

Larry Levy: I can play a game to win AND have it be a fun experience AND forget who won five minutes after the game is over. My philosophy here is summarized by my favorite gaming quote (spoken by Knizia, as it turns out): "When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning." That common objective (winning) gives meaning to my (and everyone else's) choices in the game. It isn't the competition; it's the meaningful choices which I find important. And I usually like to be in control of how those choices work out.

Look, I love Can't Stop and one of the reasons is that you can hoot and holler at the way the dice come up. But that's a much shorter and lighter game (albeit still a skillful one). If I'm going to play a game of Ra's weight and duration, I want to have more control of my options.


Nick Danger: This is taking the thread off the road and onto a dirt trail but made me wonder... isn't the measure of a game's weight (a term that's probably open for a debate on definition) measured by the amount of control one has in the game? Or at least isn't it (control) a major factor in determining the weight/depth of a game?

Naturally I'm asking this from the position of thinking that the control/weight ratio in Ra is just fine. I should also note I like Ra best with three as that does give one more control, but that goes for most any game. Don't get me started how I think El Grande is actually
a better game for three than the way popular notion it's a game only good with five.


Morgan Dontanville: I believe that the weight a game is in direct relation to how much thought can be put into each turn. This has nothing to do with control. Maharaja
is on the heavy side, but has little to no control.

There is so much to consider in Maharaja, and when everyone reveals their actions and makes their selections everything that you had planned for can be thrown out the window. Things get worse if you are penalized when you can't take your actions.

If you don't spend the energy to make the best decisions, you will lose the game. Heavy weight, little control.

Ra, on the other hand, has no planning of your turn. It only gives you the decision to try to spend or pass. I consider the game very light.

I need floods desperately. Are there floods there? No. Pass.

I have buildings no buildings, but along with good stuff, there is the tile that destroys buildings. Bid.

Ra is a simple light interactive push your luck game, that pretends to have more game on the bone than it actually has. Because of this, I feel that the game comes off presumptuous. Ra is a paper tiger.

If I want to push my luck, I'll play the original Cloud 9 or Diamant (quick, light, fast, interactive); if I want to play a tough auction game, I'll play Medici. They aren't posers.

Ra isn't a bad game; it just isn't what I want from a game these days.

BGG rating: 5.


Erik Arneson: Morgan, your statement, "I need floods desperately. Are there floods there? No. Pass." It's not that simple. More like: I need floods desperately. Are there floods there? No. Well... What bidding tiles do I have left? How many Ra tiles have been pulled during this Epoch? What is actually on the board? Three monuments? Well, I could sacrifice short-term scoring for end-game scoring. Maybe this set is worth bidding on even without the floods. But maybe a flood will come out next! Aargh!!

Morgan Dontanville: Erik, I understand what you are saying. What the game comes down to is gambling. By getting those three monuments I am giving up my ability to get floods if they were to come up. Or worse, floods come up next along with the tiles that destroy monuments. Wheeee. To me that's not fun, it is random and frustrating. Back when I played Chrononauts and Cheap-ass games, I tolerated this kind of gameplay because I thought that was something that I had to put up with. Now, I've found games that better suit my taste. If I want to play a gambling game, I'll play Manila.

Jay: (adding to Morgan/Erik's comments) Need floods and no floods, but instead three Monuments? That could marginally help me, at best. Perhaps with long term scoring, but it helps the others more.

So I guess I can take one for the team by bidding on it "defensively" to keep them out of an opponent's hand or add small marginal value to my own hand with one of my precious few bids -- therefore reducing my options later this epoch, hurting my short term score *and* strengthening the options of my opponents all at the same time! This is especially frustrating when all these negative things occur on my turn through no decision/action of my own...

Meh. You say tomato, I say tomato (hmmm... somehow that doesn't quite have the same impact when typed out ... I can appreciate why some players find this interesting and engaging, but I can't wrap my head around where this is deep or overly strategic. Perhaps it's a combination of personal play style and the folks I game with, or perhaps it just boils down to personal taste.


Mark Jackson: Hmmm... I don't know that I'd ever try & defend Ra as "deep or overly strategic". Instead, I'd defend it as enjoyable to play.

In fact, I think it compares favorably in weight to Café International, another game I think that is unfairly trashed. Both games involve "press your luck" combined with some other mechanism. And, despite some rather loud complaining to the contrary, your
decisions do make a difference.


Wei-Hwa: While I definitely agree that someone who can guess correctly how quickly the Ra tiles will come out will easily win the game, the players I play with don't have psychic abilities, so I'm not too worried about that. :-)

Larry Levy: But you don't have to be playing with The Amazing Kreskin for this to negatively affect the game. At a critical juncture, you gamble that Ra tiles will come out, and I gamble that they won't. Our decision may have been based on a mental coin flip, but whoever guesses right might have a significant advantage. Just because one can't consistently guess this correctly doesn't mean that it can't spoil individual games.

Wei-Hwa Huang: Saying that much depends on correctly guessing how quickly the Ra tiles will come out is a bit like exclaiming that backgammon games depend on correctly guessing what numbers will be rolled on the dice, to me at least. I think that players who can assess the probability of certain tiles coming out, and adjust their strategy to fit that, will tend to win more in the long run, even though they will hit "unlucky streaks" occasionally. For example, I've been in a game where near the end we were able to calculate that if a player did this action, his chances of winning were such-and-such, and if he did some other action, his changes of winning were so-and-so. It's those sorts of situations that make the strategy interesting -- making the best moves don't guarantee you a win, but they increase your chances of winning.

Larry Levy: This is a fine point, but it actually supports my concerns. Backgammon is a quick mix of skill and luck. I can play half a dozen games of Backgammon in the time it takes to complete one game of Ra. I'm much more tolerant of a high luck factor in a game of such length and weight than I am in a game like Ra. For example, I'm quite fond of It's Mine (which clearly shares a common ancestor with Ra). The amount of luck is just as great, but in It's Mine, it's quite appropriate, as this is a very quick, fast-moving game with a high hilarity factor.

{i]Wei-Hwa Huang: I think Larry has a good point when he mentions that he can play half a dozen games of Backgammon in the time it takes to complete one game of Ra, but my response to that is that either you're not taking each individual move in Backgammon as seriously as you do in Ra, or that you (or your opponents) are playing Ra too slowly for your tastes.[/i]

Ted Cheatham: RA is another game that has improved with age for me. I was not as initially impressed with game play the first time I played it. But, I felt over time that there are some good subtleties to using the bid numbers you have to best advantage. The big downside to RA in my opinion is a rather difficult learning curve for the different pieces. Some score and go away, some stay, some score at the end of the game, etc. I would not attempt the game with a new person with out the player mats out on the geek. All that said, and with everyone talking about when tiles come out etc., I still believe a strong player will win the majority of their games here.

Mike Siggins: Where would we be without Jason?! In fairness Jason, those are the elements that make Ra what it is. It would be like me moaning about the thief in Settlers. It's there, it isn't going anywhere, and it is a design choice. Is it a bad design choice? I don't think so. That it is a design choice you might not have made doesn't come into it. It just makes for a style of game you are not keen to play.

Larry Levy: Well, sure, Mike. I don't think any of us are saying it's a poorly designed game, just whether we like it or not.

Mike Siggins: The key thing here (and I can't make this point without appearing to drop names - sorry) is that if you playtested Ra, as I did, you would see how and why these elements are there and what Reiner was aiming for. What was most interesting was, as Alan Moon often observes, what was left out. In many ways Reiner is like those TV chefs who use every single part of the animal in cooking. Or The French, if you prefer.

Larry Levy: Yes, I know several chefs who like to use every part of the French while cooking. :-)

Mike Siggins: Anyway, some of what was trimmed off re-appears in other games, or is re-attached in an expansion, and to some extent Amun Re was where Ra was initially heading before another, different, game surfaced intact. With Reiner's output, and ability to vary titles slightly for different publishers, he knows the game you might seek will be slotting in somewhere real soon now.

Larry Levy: This is one of the great things about Knizia. In this case, I'm very happy it worked out this way, as Amun-Re is one of my favorites.

This kind of information is always fascinating to me. I'd love to hear more about which Knizia games led to which other ones, and the paths that certain games took during playtesting, but I don't think it's fair to ask you, Mike, as Reiner might sic his banking goons on you!


Mike Siggins: The key to Ra is the nature of the auction. You know there is a time limit, and you know the risks, and you need tiles. That's it really. Reiner likes his timing decisions - Medici, Lost Cities, Modern Art to an extent - and so do I. But unlike many lesser games, that might sell one tile at a time, in addition we are shown batches of tiles that we all want, and so which must be absolutely valued, relatively valued, and then competed for. I love valuation systems, and Ra always makes me think for that reason. The twist is you can only value broadly, because of your payment chips. It lays its entire enjoyment factor on these elements. Does it work? Yes, almost all of the time.

Overall, I can play Ra in my style - I play riskily, and sometimes win, but often lose. It is an approach I find enjoyable, and being largely uncompetitive, I feel it is me versus the game system (the system including the other players at the table). If a game permits 'left field' plays, all the better. I favor games that allow that to happen, as opposed to constricted environments like Puerto Rico, Goa and current hot topic, Caylus.


Larry Levy: This may be the crux of the matter, as I love PR and Goa and suspect I will like Caylus. I very much like the planning and the level of control those games provide. And it's control, not competitiveness, that's the issue with me. I gain no more satisfaction through winning by being lucky with the Ra tiles than if I lost in such a fashion. I just don't think there's enough control in Ra for a game of its weight and duration.

Jason Little: For me, Ra is a wholly unfulfilling experience. From the lack of information on the tiles, being forced into turns (rather than having decisions) and the lack of action variety makes this one of my least favorite Reiner Knizia games.

The only two things I really like about Ra are the production quality (especially the wooden blue Ra piece) and the zero-sum bidding (where all the money remains in the game and simply shuffles hands).

What do I dislike about Ra? Wow... There's so much to choose from. I'll try to just hit the main sticking points.

1) Being Force Fed Your Turn. There are far fewer decisions to be made, it seems to me, than there should be. Often you are forced to open up a set for bidding by either having the board filled (no decision on your part) or by drawing a Ra tile (again, no decision on your part). I like making my own decisions, rather than being forced into decisions on MY turn which end up (at least with the strong potential of) benefiting other players more than they do me.

2) Lack of Intuitive Information. The tiles desperately need some sort of icon system to distinguish buildings and civilization advances and their scoring impact. It amazes me that the game didn't come with scoring sheets like those found on BGG. The game drops a full rating point or two for this inexcusable oversight, especially given the horrendously non-intuitive scoring system. The tiles should also have had some way of denoting what tiles are discarded after an epoch rather than kept.

3) Knowing You Can't Win. With perfect information of the available bids, it's incredibly frustrating to be holding the 10 and seeing the 11, 12 and 13 in the hands of other players. Yes, there is some strategy into playing your higher tiles to try and force those upper bids into play, but you're still guaranteed to lose at least 3 bids in the round if you're the one holding the 10 tile... And in a game where there may not be many rounds of bidding at all (at least, bidding on lots with some value), being on the low rung when there's finally a good lot of items available stinks.

4) Wildly Variable End Game. Since all the Ra tiles are shuffled in with the other tiles willy-nilly, rather than having X Ra Tiles seeded into stacks of tiles, it feels like the wildly random end game often has more impact on the final results than the individual play of the players. Where some see a tense finish and push-your-luck element to try and grab tiles before the end of an epoch, I see a sloppy contrivance which further reduces player involvement. In Union Pacific, the Gold Car/Payout cards are at least seeded through the deck so there's a bit more focus and direction for the end game. I think that sort of seeding would work much better.

It's not uncommon (especially in later epochs where the Ra Tile:Non-Ra Tile ratio is considerably higher) to have *several* consecutive draws where a Ra tile is pulled. And when there is nothing on the bid track (or only something like say, Anarchy) it artificially shortens the game with no decision making or player involvement. In fact, the last round may consist of 1/2 as many lots being auctioned off as in the first round. Further exacerbating the impact of problem #3 noted above.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Oddly enough, I've done quite well at Ra, but for the life of me I don't know why. I certainly don't feel like I'm making better decisions than my more seasoned opponents, who understand the intricacies and the values better than I do.

In fact, in our last 3 player game, I won handily: 75-54-36... Which I think is more ammunition *against* the game -- how balanced and strategic can a game be when someone who makes worse decisions and is *far* less experienced than his opponents can have that sort of success?

For bidding games, I far, far, far prefer Traumfabrik, Modern Art, For Sale and Goa. I rate RA a 4.5, dropping it down to a 3.5 without the excellent player mats found on BGG.


Greg Schloesser: I am in agreement with Jason here. While I recognize that most folks in the gaming community adore Ra, I have always been lukewarm, at best, concerning the game. 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.


Wei-Hwa Huang: Greg mentions that he dislikes Ra because on so many turns there is no real strategy decision. This is very true, and yet, for some reason, I have encountered many players who will reach these points where it should be "obvious" that they should just draw a tile, and yet they take a minute before they reach that conclusion. I agree that Ra played that way is not very fun.

In one group I play with, those "obvious" decisions are made instantly, and the game really does flow as smoothly as a casual backgammon game. When the lot is too small, people quickly draw tiles and pass the bag, and when there's a forced auction on a worthless lot, everyone quickly passes. Only at critical junctures do players slow down to give some thought to their turn, and occasionally I've thought that an opponent's move was "obvious" when they suddenly pause and think, and then I look at it more carefully and am pleasantly surprised that the move is not obvious at all. And vice versa.

Ra in general is a longer game than Backgammon, but I've been in Ra games that took shorter than some Backgammon games I've been in. It's all about how serious players take their individual moves and whether they can reject poor moves quickly.

This is in general something I've noticed about German-style games over the last few years -- players who would instantly make a move in chess or backgammon will take minutes to decide on their move in a game like Ra or Carcassonne, where the branching factors are much smaller and (to my mind) should be less justified in spending more time on each individual move. Perhaps it is the unfamiliarity with the game that does it, or is it the theme? Certainly It's Mine could be played with the same amount of deliberation and slow strategizing that people tend to bring to Ra, and vice versa.


Aaron Fuegi: I completely agree with Wei-Hwa and just don't get this objection. Yes, most turns are "obvious" but they also take literally 2 seconds as you flip a tile. The meaty decisions are when you actually think it may be worth calling an auction and when you think a set may be worth bidding on. The rest of the game should race along till it gets to these points of decision. If it is not with your group, you should really try to change your style of play as I fully agree this game would be exceedingly painful if everyone was taking like 30+ seconds for every decision and not 2 seconds 90% of the time and 1 minute the other 10%.

People also seem to be really simplifying the decision of whether to call an auction. All of the following are very good reasons to call an auction.
1) I really want this set and have a tile high enough to get them.
2) I'd happily take this set for my X but know if I call an auction an opponent will buy if for his Y (Y>X) but that is good for me too as next time he won't be able to interfere with me.
3) I actually don't want this set (although would live with getting it if I had to) but know person X really does want this set and won't be able to afford to pass on it, even though he'd rather it had another tile or two in it. Call an auction and force his hand and again have him out of the way for the next set which I might really want. I for example love having the low tiles and am an expert at using them to call auctions which I'd be happy to win but instead other people buy with higher tiles because they know they may not get a chance at a better set. On the other hand, I, like many others have a problem when I have the very highest tiles as there is never a set good enough to buy, and I end up just sitting with them, getting nothing and having the round end. I have not gotten anything with my 13 MANY more times than I haven't gotten anything with my 3.

I also have a problem (and very bad luck) with the Russian Roulette feature at the end of rounds but some of the complaints about this game, particularly the speed of it, I think are coming from groups that are just taking far too long to make simple decisions. Save the time for the interesting decisions.
My rating: 7 out of 10
[/i]

Morgan Dontanville: I'm gonna have to park my car in Jason's garage (Yes, I know he's married).

When I first discovered Ra, I was immediately enamored. I played the heck out of the game, thinking it was innovative and exciting. I couldn't win, but was compelled to keep coming back to the table.

Then a dark cloud came over Ra. I won. I was just along for the ride and was talking to people and not paying any attention to the game. Certainly, if you play a game enough you can play on auto-pilot, but in this instance there was something strikingly irritating about it. I played worse than any of the other players.

I didn't care what I was bidding on, only randomly screwing people. If there was something that I wanted, I'd try to buy it, but didn't try too hard; this left me with suns at the end, and I cleaned up on the random draws.

Over time, I've seen people go for the last pulls and lose the game, but I've certainly seen other people win from these pulls. It just feels lame.

Anyone that has gotten into either the Disco scene, or more recently the Rave scene, will tell you that when they first get into it there is a high level of excitement, with all the innovative sounds there are so many new records to explore -- and, then there is the sex and the drugs. Virtual enlightenment. Pretty soon, the records sound the same, and the sex and the drugs are shallow and empty.

I can't argue that Ra may be fun for some people, it certainly was for me, but now it just feels shallow and empty. Next time I play Ra, I'll just draw some tiles from a bag and compare it to the ones that people had played for. Perhaps that will be more exciting.


Mike Siggins: Jason, your strongest comment is on the scoring, but this is just Reiner as we now know him - a designer's flourish, signature if you prefer, that may not always sit well with his fans. It is not 'horribly unintuitive', in the same way that no decision is agonizing; it is just a bit fiddly. There is a logic to what is going on, and the flood tiles make a great deal of sense. To me.

Larry Levy: I agree. They're also very clever and make valuation more difficult (which is a good thing). In fact, I think the different types of tiles in the game are very well thought out. All of which increases my frustration with the Ra tile mechanic. This is a game I should like, but don't. Certainly it is this approach that gives games like Ra and Traumfabrik their thematic appeal, such as that is. Without that, no sexy Egyptian graphics. Or, indeed, it becomes Razzia.

Mike Siggins: I also agree that being in the 'can't win' position, often beyond your control at the start, is not an ideal game mechanism for truly balanced play, but is a clever twist in terms of German Game Technology generally - which is all some gamers are seeking. The weakest point is combining the coarse granularity of the payment tiles with the finely tuned tile batches.

Are there better auction games? Of course. Modern Art and Medici spring to mind. Traumfabrik too, though there is nothing really clever there. Ra is okay. Is hasn't dated well; but if it came out today, it would still represent a big hit and would get people talking. It is by some distance not one of my favorite Knizia games, but I am always happy to play it. I currently rate Ra at 8 out of 10.


Wei-Hwa: I have heard -- and this is third-hand, so I don't know how true it is -- that Ra was originally designed as a card game. However, Alea (and Stefan Brueck) was a very new division of Ravensburger trying to prove themselves, and Ravensburger's infrastructure was such that printing tiles was cheap, but printing good quality cards was expensive (as you can tell from many of their titles at the time). So, both the tiles and scoring chits were, well, tiles. I don't know if anyone on this list can confirm or deny.

I personally feel that the tiles would be more natural and work better as cards. Certainly it would be easier to randomize. What do others think?


Jason Little: As someone alluded to, my issues with Ra are not so much what I consider flawed or "broken" game design -- it is a working system that provides a certain gameplay experience based on an auction mechanic. It's that game experience I find lacking.

In the discussion about depth, weight and involvement that followed, I think I discovered the biggest disconnect for me with regards to Ra. Often when I dislike a game, I find that it's because the gameplay experience I take away from the game doesn't "match up with" the time or thought investment the game requires to achieve that experience.

That is certainly the case for me with Ra. With the light decision making and limited control, the gameplay experience tells me that this is, at most, a "light, filler" game for my tastes. But the game plays much, much longer than I'm willing to invest in something that is either light or filler. For the time required, I can play 2 or 3 better light/filler games, or a true medium/meaty game.

And Morgan -- with our uncannily similar views on certain games, there's always room in our garage to park your opinion... Just don't block in my wife...


Andy Daglish: Let's cut the crap. The reason why RA is the best is that against a *good* player you'll tend to lose all the time. What has been written here gives me the impression that most of you haven't had or aren't willing to address this experience. However, even with simpler games, and Cathedral springs to mind, and [God help me] Thoughtwave, the same thing happens. There's nowhere to hide and no excuse with games as simple as this, and no guides to read, so the unwelcome message that invites the usual retaliation is that we may be good, but there are one or two out there whom we won't beat unless we get lucky. But when playing RA the nature of the opposition is not just the human element but a combination of this and the game itself. We have all seen the game beat the player who ends the round without having used his 11, 12 or 13 suns. Hence it is the Knizia meisterwerk.

Perhaps opponentry could be the topic of a future discussion, as this has a large effect on what we write. Also the quality and inherent worth of games produced recently: why do people pay so much money to produce rubbish? I feel a certain familiar poignancy when a covert Essen attendee secretly emails to say that the new games on top of the Geek hotlist are definitely ones to avoid and somehow we just know he -- or she -- is on the money. Or rather off it...we played Parthenon last night. Ancient game, trading primary produce, been there, done that. Initial slight worry that everyone was in the exact same position after a few turns, superseded by a quick realization that hazards, harbors and Wonder difficulty would be the only differentiating factors. Nice game, just the thing to impress chaps at Z-man, whose rep has apparently been confirmed by Castle Merchants. I mean, what's the point in putting up a "No Dogs" sign in the sandpit if the dogs that defecate there can't read? Of course the little boys who play there can't read either! It may be worth playing once more; Mare Nostrum was worse.


Larry Levy: Andy, I'd love to respond to your post, but I haven't the foggiest idea of what you're talking about. It sounds as if you're contending that you can win at Ra despite playing like crap and that that's a good thing, but I'm really not sure.

Erik Arneson: Would you consider Ra to be heavier than Web of Power, or vice versa? My initial reaction is that I find them to be about equal in weight.

Larry: I'd agree with that; they're both on the heavier side of middleweight games. WoP plays quicker and feels a bit lighter, due to the restricted player choices, but I think the decisions are equally involved, so I'd assign them the same weight.

Erik Arneson: Reading some of the comments so far, it's becoming clearer to me why I love Ra so much. I think the random elements in Ra are more pronounced than in some of the other auction games, which I view as a good thing. There's more ability to take big chances -- and either succeed grandly or fail miserably. Mike Siggins' comment -- "I play riskily, and sometimes win, but often lose." -- put this in focus for me. I also quite enjoy Traumfabrik, but the possibility of big swings is greatly reduced as compared to Ra. Some will see that as a negative; for me, it's a very strong positive.

I also enjoy the need to adapt in Ra. If you win three separate monuments in your first auction or two, it may feel obvious that a strategy focusing more on monuments is the way to go. But if you stick to that strategy without regard to the tiles that actually do come up (in a given game, monuments could be rather sparse), you're setting yourself up for failure.


Shin Yoo: I generally do not like games that use auction as the main mechanism, but Ra belongs to the few exceptions. What I first heard about Ra was that it was a great 3 player game. I thought "Ok, but that's still an auction game. An auction with 3 people does not sound that fabulous to me. Pass". It took about a year for me to actually try Ra. And I instantly liked it. I think I actually won my first game - maybe that helped

What I like about Ra is that it is really hard to estimate the exact value of your bidding. First, you are not using the currency in their absolute values - they are ordinal. This alone makes a lot of interesting decisions. Second, you're always getting another sun tile
with other tiles, and it's even harder to estimate the value of the sun time because that depends on how the future tile mix will turn out to be. Is there any other auction game which uses a similar mechanism?

Shannon Appelcline: I'll generally agree that Ra is a superior auction game, but I stop short of Erik's original statement that it's the "best auction game ever". I find Modern Art to be a more intricate & economic game, while Amun-Re has a lot more depth to it. Still, Ra's a lot of fun.

I've been surprised by the couple of complaints from Jason and Mike about the problem of being in a "can't win" position, such as where you have the "10" sun, and the 11-13 are in the hands of 3 other people. Part of the beauty of Ra, I think, is that there is *no* can't
win position. If you have the 10 you need to try and set up an auction that's worth your sun and isn't worth the 11-13 by calling Ra early. Or else you need to call Ra on a set that's sufficiently juicy for the 11-13 players so that they'll be forced to take it, even though it wouldn't be worth your 10. The way that the sets, the optional calling of Ra, and the variable bid tokens fit together is wonderful.

One other thing that Ra has taught me is that we too frequently state that Knizia's games have a "paper-thin theme", as if that made them less interesting. I think people have complained about this aspect of Ra as much as anything else, even saying that the "theming doesn't make sense". However, now having played both Ra and Razzia!, I find
that the first always draws me in while the second sits on my shelf, unplayed, and never gets tossed into my game bag, even though it's so small.

I currently rate Ra an "8" out of "10".

There seems to be a general tendency in the designer game community to deride press-your-luck mechanisms. Right out the gate I saw Beowulf taking similar flack because of its "risk" opportunities.

Generally I find these mechanisms quite rich. I usually lose the games by being overly liberal (pressing my luck), but I nonetheless find the extra dimension of choices to be interesting, and to add a lot to a game.

I wish that people would just admit, "I don't like press-my-luck games" when that's their actual problem.


Morgan Dontanville: Well, that is just silly, I love Cloud 9 and really like Diamant because they are social. I like Sunken City, because it is tactical, and you have a high level of control.

I don't like Can't Stop nor do I like Pickomino, because there is so little interaction and to me they feel more like a statistics puzzle. I don't mind Gold Connection, because at least you can make some choices in how you move around.


Larry Levy: Like Morgan, I enjoy push-your-luck games, but my preferences are pretty much 180 degrees from his. I LIKE the probabilistic designs like Can't Stop and Pickomino. They're energetic, they feature lots of decisions, they're short (well, Pickomino is if you don't play with too many), they're very social, and there's actually
a good deal of interaction (at least, there's no way you can describe them as multi-player solitaire). I recently played Gold Connection for the first time and was very impressed, although the end game looked problematic. Easy Come, Easy Go is a simpler version of these games, but as a three-player filler, it's pretty good as well.

Diamant is okay, but the decisions are pretty straightforward, so I find it much less interesting--it's all social and no thinking (well, very little). And Manila is just straight gambling, so that's a total non-starter for me.

The key thing with the press-your-luck games I like is that they're short and have a narrow focus. Ra is longer and much more involved and a good deal of judgment can and should be used on deciding which tiles to purchase and when and how to bid. For this to then rest upon a press-your-luck foundation is inappropriate to me and greatly
diminishes the gaming experience. Like everything else, it's the context that ultimately matters.


Morgan Dontanville: My feelings about liking or disliking these games have nothing to do with the push your luck element, rather the level of control that you have in pushing your luck, or if they are just socially active. Certainly the funniest part of Ra is screaming RA! RA! RA! RA!

If the game were 10 Minutes and you just pulled tiles and screamed RA! I may like it more, now.


Wei-Hwa Huang: I know this is very contrarian, but I find the chanting of "Ra! Ra! Ra!" very annoying and irksome. It's a silly pun ("rah" to "Ra") that reverses meaning -- people chant "rah, rah" when they are happy for the active player, not trying to hope that
they lose. Someone who chants "Ra! Ra! Ra!" on my turn is telling me two things: "I think puns are fun" and "I'm hoping that my chanting will affect what tile will come out next."


Jason Little: I would agree with Shannon's assertion than often Press Your Luck elements are seen as a drawback instead of as an engaging decision point. However, I prefer PYL as it's represented in games like Can't Stop, Sharp Shooters, Beowulf or Medici -- where I feel that the risk is still more in the hands of the acting player. In Ra, I just felt that this was overshadowed by some of the other game processes.

Rick Young: Ra is another game I've not yet had a chance to play, but it's interesting what you glean just from a discussion of this sort. It would appear that the game is all about bidding for and collecting items of differing and/or variable value with the aim of having the most valuable collection at game end. The Ancient Egyptian theme hasn't been discussed much probably because, like most Euro's, the theme is mainly for the box art. Is it possible that the folks who claim to like Modern Art better as a bidding game find that the theme of collecting potentially valuable art works results in a feeling that what you're doing in the game makes more sense in relation to the theme?

In any event, it sounds like I would not be a good candidate for this game, as I don't get a lot of satisfaction from games that are just about bidding on things for its own sake. Yet the bidding mechanic appears in many games that I do enjoy where the process is just one of the devices to drive the game along.

Bidding for turn order is fairly common in games where it matters in what order players take their actions. El Grande would appear to use a similar system of assigning bid cards as a game driver and many of the considerations people have ascribed here as to what cards to use when in Ra will have a familiar ring to an El Grande player. Yet El Grande is far from a pure auction game.

Martin Wallace has woven some form of bidding into several of his games. The turn order and alliance structure in Struggle of Empires is based on an auction format but is only one of several things you have to think about when managing your income. Age of Steam has a somewhat similar initial auction to determine player roles for the upcoming game turn and thus will have a significant impact on most of the game's phases without being the only thing there is to do (the theme is about running a railroad). In Princes of the Renaissance he leans heavily on the auction mechanic, but, again, it is not entirely what the game is about. In each of these cases, the bidding portion is to accomplish a piece of the game's business, but does not totally dominate the experience. Bidding becomes a means to an end rather than the end in itself, in other words.
Personally, I am much more inclined to see the value of the bidding mechanic in those terms but readily accept that a pure auction game will have its audience. However, I would have thought that a more integrated theme, or reason for all the bidding, would appeal to those folk. This does not appear to be the case for those of you who rate this game so highly. Is this another one of those Euro versus non-Euro cultural things when it comes to the importance of theme in a game?


Larry Levy: I think so. In fact, I'd say that theme is even less important in a pure auction game, because auctions themselves are such a strong game mechanic and there are very few real-life situations that involve nothing but auctions. I'd say most pure auction games have pasted on themes and can't really think of one where the theme is at all strong.

Some gamers think Modern Art has a strong theme, but while I'd say it's a reasonable fit, it doesn't feel particularly strong to me. Maybe the strongest themed pure auction game that comes to my mind right now is Industria.


Morgan Dontanville: I'd say that Heart of Africa has a pretty strong theme, and that is just auctions for actions and scoring.

Mike Siggins: I think Rick's 'theme/mechanism applicability' point is a very good one. I certainly don't have any problem with an auction if I am buying art, or buying goods dockside. I would love a game about buying collectables or antiques. But buying some nebulous crop of benefits (and hindrances!) really makes me wonder why I am bidding at all - I quickly see through the conceit. The simple answer is that bidding makes for an interesting game, is an accepted mechanism in 'clever' German games, and is of course a simple, fair way of distributing desirable objects. I believe eBay may have had some success in this area. But does it make for a believable or enduring game? Personally, despite some of my favorite games being auction games, I am always looking for the alternatives.

I really don't like any game in which we have an auction for turn order. I really, really don't. At their worst, auctions are slow and dull, and when we are doing it for something trivial (though admittedly not always), I am just not interested. Give me a chit draw, give me a ZooSim stack, or anything except five minutes arguing over one or two pennies to go first.



Thomas Cabalzero: I've only had the chance to play RA once so far, but I will say the experience did NOT disappoint. With the recent Uberplay re-release, I'd been anticipating my chance to try this game simply because, like some other Knizia designs (Medici, Taj Mahal for ex), Ra seems to generate some strongly divided opinions. I played the new Uberplay edition; it will certainly be a part of my next order. As to theme, while it may be thin, I found it at least beautifully rendered. For those who have played only the older edition, you'll be happy to hear that the scoring is very simply broken down right on the board itself (facing BOTH long board-edges), so player mats are no longer necessary. The suns and blue Ra tile are satisfyingly chunky, and the "auction-lot" tiles (pharoahs, monuments etc.) are thick and colorful.

Gameweight-wise, I'd place it in the light middleweight range. While the decisions are not TOO tough, they are NOT always immediately obvious. The game revolves primarily around the bidding tactics--to use the above examples--"Do I throw down my 10 tile on an average to "draw out" other players large-value "suns", or do I bide my time and try to clean up the scraps before that last Ra tile ends the epoch?" Another aspect I find interesting is the fact that players are often motivated to win an auction NOT for the actual lot of tiles in question, but in order to obtain a high-value "sun" for use in the next round. The ability to balance the value of the lot vs. your very-limited resources is the central conundrum, as in most auction games. Because both games utilize "once-around" mechanics, the game Ra is often compared to is Medici. No one will argue, I think, when I say that Medici is a much "drier" game. The main differences lie in the set-collection and the degree of control. Because in Medici players are bidding their own VPs, each bid has long-term consequences. In Ra, the bid only has the POTENTIAL for long-term consequences. And that potential can change with each auction and/or each Ra tile drawn. It is precisely this uncertainty which makes Ra a more fun and challenging game experience for me than I find in Medici. I found both Medici and Ra to be very "interior" auction games; not a lot of player interaction, but a lot of silent calculation. But while Medici feels like a mathematical points-engine, Ra feels like a tension-filled high wire act. The variety that the random element of the Ra tiles and the potential losses from Catastrophe tiles, along with the added element of "bidding for suns", kept me chewing my lip throughout the game. Because of the greater variety of lot-types and the uncertainty of the Ra tile's appearance, players must constantly perform a delicate balancing act throughout the game. I find trying to walk that treacherous path (in Ra) to be a more fun and fulfilling game experience from the one I get from Medici. I enjoy the fact that, like Taj Mahal and Modern Art, victory feels more elusive and less predictable in Ra.

Of the (admittedly few) Knizia auction games I've tried, I ranj hem as follows (favorite to least fave)--Modern Art, Ra, Traumfabrik, Medici.

My current BGG rating: 8. But it could easily become a 9 with more plays.


Larry Levy: My experiences with Ra have been somewhat disappointing. If someone can show me that the way the Ra tiles come out doesn't make this in large part a massive crap shoot, I'll be happy to change my mind, as I find most of the design very interesting. But right now, if I'm going to walk like an Egyptian, it'll be away from this game.

My rating is 6 out of 10. That means it's a game I'll never suggest, but will play, although I'll probably try to come up with an alternative.


Alfred Wallace: I think Ra is one of those games where I like the mechanic that's being shown off more than the game as a whole. I really like the bidding mechanism, but I think that the "push your luck" element dilutes it. Speaking off the top of my head, I wonder if I'd have preferred some sort of Medici-style system, where the player auctioned 1 to no tiles. That'd necessitate other changes in the game, 'course...

Ra's not a bad game, but I'd rather play Medici or Amun-Re. I have it as a 6/10 on BGG, which seems about right to me. I used to play it all the time--a few times a week, for a while there--but I don't think it's a game I'd pull down off the shelf unless everyone else
was a big fan.




Musings On...
Edited by Tom and Laura Vasel
November 5, 2005

www.thedicetower.com


 
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Mario Aguila
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After the great deception of the boring Shadows over Camelot, the following game of which I am regretful of buying is Ra. I coincide with that said by Greg Schloesser: turn actions are very limited, boring, repetitive, take the tile in less than 1 second until one player calls for an auction. Stop: think something and again, all the players...take the tile, etc......stop....auction....Very boring.

In fact I was the one in charge of taking out the tiles. My hand always in the bag and asking: Tile?, yes, tile?, yes and so on.
Sometimes i make the question but before the answer the tile was put in the board, asuming an obvious answer. And i never was wrong in my assumptions.

During the same week that we learned Ra we were learning Santiago and Tower of Babel. What a difference!
 
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Jim Cote
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Ra was my #1 game until I played Taj Mahal. Now it's my #2 game. I can appreciate why some people would not like Ra, but for me, the decisions are full of force (I'll discuss forces in an upcoming blog article).


- ekted

http://ekted.blogspot.com/
 
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David Seddon
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Interesting stuff. It's a game that I'm thinking of buying given that several of my Geek Buddies rate it highly. Some of the comments here almost put me off...but not quite.
 
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Miguel
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Hi,

I'm sorry, but I found this "musings" very dissapointing.

Everyone is allowed their own opinion, but it honestly felt like many of the people involved in this discussion didn't play the same game I did.

I can accept that one player can enjoy the same mechanic that another doesn't like, that's not the issue here.

Comments like "I can play 6 games of Backgammon in the time it takes to play one game of RA" tells me that this guy is playing wrong, or with the wrong players. A game of RA takes 30 min. Backgammon can't be played in 5 min.

Similarly, saying that holding the 10 means you will lose 3 auctions to the players holding the 11,12 and 13 is ridiculous. This person clearly doesn't understand the game (dare I say, not even trying), and that's not the game's fault. First, that's an unusual situation... not the fairest way to criticize a game. Second, part of the beauty of the game is that "lots" are worth different things to different people! You can have the lowest 3 tiles and still get what you want if you play well (and luck is on your side).

Ooops! Did I say luck? Yes, there is luck in this game. This is where we start talking about preferences... Many people don't like luck. That's absolutely fine by me. In this game, the "press your luck" aspect is necessary, though. The game wouldn't work without it. (If everyone knows whent the game will end, then the high sun tiles actually DO become too powerful. Every auction would see the set of tiles go to 8, and the highest number would pick it up. As it is, holding our high tiles for a better set of tiles is a valid strategy, but risky because you don't know if you'll get a chance to play it). There's no sense in spending too much time on the topic, however, because it's just like the Settlers of Catan argument all over again... Some people don't mind that you can set yourself up for the best odds and still lose, others think it's a great way to have people of varying skill levels stay competitive while giving the win to the most experienced player most of the time. Obviously, I subscribe to the later philosophy!

I personally love RA. I find that it's the perfect mix of strategy, tactics, luck and short(ish) playing time. I consider it to be the board game world's equivalent to a great card game... Do the best you can to make up a solid hand, watch what the others are doing and hope things swing your way. Very exciting!
 
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Alex Bove
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Quote:
3) Knowing You Can't Win. With perfect information of the available bids, it's incredibly frustrating to be holding the 10 and seeing the 11, 12 and 13 in the hands of other players. Yes, there is some strategy into playing your higher tiles to try and force those upper bids into play, but you're still guaranteed to lose at least 3 bids in the round if you're the one holding the 10 tile... And in a game where there may not be many rounds of bidding at all (at least, bidding on lots with some value), being on the low rung when there's finally a good lot of items available stinks.


I'd also like to chime in on the notion that the player with the 10-9-5 set of suns (here we're talking about a 4-player game, BTW) is at a disadvantage because he/she is guaranteed to lose three auctions.

First off, that theory assumes that every player is in direct competition with every other player for every bid, which is seldom true in Ra. The beauty of Ra is that the tileset being auctioned almost always has a value that is entirely relative. It may be valuable to everyone at the table, or it may be detrimental to three players (it has a drought disaster, for example, and three players have one flood a piece), marginally valuable to one, and incredibly valuable to the final player (it contains the fifth in a set of monuments). So if I have the 10 and have no desire to take the current tileset but the person to my left bids 12 for it, I did not lose an auction. I was never in the auction to lose it. If we describe not getting what we don't want as losing an auction (as Jason Little’s post seems to suggest), we're going to have to rethink every auction game we play.

Second, every player in Ra gets three suns, and we must look at the relative power of each if we are to judge them properly. I like to think of Ra suns as being in three tiers. The person with the 13 also has the 6 and 2. So he has the highest bid in the high tier (13-12-11-10) but has the lowest bid in *both* the middle (9-8-7-6) and low (5-4-3-2) tiers. The person with the 10 has the highest sun in the low and middle tiers and the lowest sun in the high tier. Frankly, I'd rather have the 10-9-5. I hate having the 13 (or the 16 in a 5-player game). I'm forced either to over or underbid. The 10 and 9 are both powerful bids, much more powerful than the 13-6 or 12-7 combos, and the 5 trumps the 2 or 3 that go with 13/12 respectively.

Third, everyone is forgetting that Ra is a game of psychology more than it is a game of mathematics. If you think Ra has no interaction or hard decisions, you're not playing well (or against strong opponents). The fact that players have a choice of whether or not to call an auction guarantees tension and player interaction. In most auction games (Traumfabrik, Goa, Amun-Re, and even Modern Art, to an extent), the conditions for the start of an auction are pre-determined. Even Medici places a very narrow limit on the number of items that can be auctioned. In Ra, the players themselves decide when auctions happen (even when a Ra tile is drawn, the decision to draw the tile carried with it the probability that drawing the tile would start an auction, end a round, etc.—good players have to factor that probability into the decision to draw or not to draw) and how big the “kitty” will be. The ability to invoke Ra, moreover, is the single most important factor *mitigating* the game’s luck.

Strong Ra players will use the power of calling the auction to increase the value of their bids. In fact, the simple act of forcing an opponent to use a bid increases the value of all bids at the table, regardless of their numeral amount. It’s not always the number on the sun that matters: how many suns (bids) you have left, relative to the other active players, is also extremely important.

A final important concepts that beginners and weak players do not understand is that if, on your turn, a set of tiles is in play that you’re reasonably sure another player wants, and if that player can outbid you, it is generally extremely bad to pull another tile from the bag. Unless that tile is a disaster, you’re only giving more tiles/points to a player who will outbid you anyway. Many players, especially beginners, make the mistake of only invoking Ra when they have an interest in bidding on the tiles in play, neglecting their opponents’ boards. So they feed opponents rather than calling Ra and either taking tiles their opponents need on the cheap or forcing their opponents to burn precious bids (which, as I said above, increases the power of all remaining bids). Winning at Ra depends as much upon denying others what they want/need as it does upon getting what you want/need.

While it is true that no amount of strategy can overcome extremely bad luck in Ra, it is not true that the game is too reliant on luck. Ra is a lot like poker. The same people make it to the final tables at poker tournaments year after year, just as they do in Ra tourneys. I’ve been to three straight final tables in Ra at the WBC (not the be-all-end-all of gaming but a strong field of competitors), and I’ve faced Tom Dunning twice in those matches. Tom has won twice at WBC and once at EuroQuest. On BSW, the top players win about 50-60% of their games, which is on par with the best Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence players). I’m pretty sure I’m not *that* much luckier than the other players of 300, 400, or even 500 games whose win percentages are much lower than mine. The point is that luck alone cannot explain the consistent success of the best Ra players.

I think you Ra-haters are off-base. It’s your right to dislike the game, but I think many of the criticisms you have posted here are not sound.
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Chester
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I don't know about all this analysis mumbo-jumbo. I just know the game is a lot of fun to play and provides great end-game (and mid-game) tension. Its also (with the help of some handy-dandy player aid placemats) extremely easy to introduce to casual gamers. When it comes down to it, sometimes I prefer my enjoyment of a game to be a black box. I don't always care to deconstruct it all. Good hell, I just really love playing this game!
 
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I'm with Arneson on this one (Siggins is right too, as usual). Ra is the perfect light-middleweight game. Most naysayers here seem to be either basing their opinion on a poorly played specific game that didn't go their way (or did, but for reasons they don't care to think about) or analysis paralysis hounds who like to overthink their actions.

The silly comments about it being boring seem to come from those obsessed with control or who think it should be a perfect information game. I don't think there is a more exciting pure auction game out there. If you are bored by the choices each turn, you are not recognizing the strategic possibilities.

Fussing over the variable epoch lengths seems comical, too - this is only a 'problem' with poor players who leave one player to buy full lot after full lot. Skilled players should have no trouble. Does this mean the strategy of Ra is deeper than it should be for a light middleweight game? Probably not, but a good player should be able to adapt as the game changes and assess values based on the epoch, positions of the other players, and number of Ra tiles out there in addition to their own actual take so far. I think Ra is like T&E in that it rubs some people the wrong way initially because the rules seem simple but the strategies are a trifle elusive.

Furthermore, are people seriously having trouble keeping track of the tiles? Playmats? I'm utterly puzzled that people would really need these. I've taught Ra to dozens of people and never had players be confused after the first play or so. I think one of the strengths of the game is that the tiles all work differently and have a strong iconography which makes them so easy to discern.

As you can tell, Ra is definitely one of my favorite games. I can think of few games I enjoy more - a three player game for me means thirty minutes full of surprises and nicely varied play with the most elegant design Knizia has done.
 
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cornjob wrote:
I don't know about all this analysis mumbo-jumbo. I just know the game is a lot of fun to play and provides great end-game (and mid-game) tension. Its also (with the help of some handy-dandy player aid placemats) extremely easy to introduce to casual gamers. When it comes down to it, sometimes I prefer my enjoyment of a game to be a black box. I don't always care to deconstruct it all. Good hell, I just really love playing this game!


What corny said, and I'm also with Siggins. Some have fun with it. Some don't. RA isn't Reiner's thinkiest game, and it's not meant to be. And I don't know what got into Mario's group, but pulling your tile out of the bag is part of the fun - having one person doing it is bizarre to me. Just like in Clash of the Gladiators and High Society, Reiner knows how to make very nice light games. Fast, furious, fun, but definitely not mindless. You want a game like that, you want RA in your collection. Of the Knizia auction games, RA is surpassed only by Traumfabrik in my book, and that's only because of the theme.
 
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Mark Edwards
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Here here Alex!

One thing I'd like to comment on is the big deal that's made in the musings about the "push your luck" element in Ra. Diamant and Can't Stop are push your luck games, Ra is not. A good player doesn't rely an end of epoch windfall to win his games. Oh sure, it happens, but more often than not it's all about the decisions that were made prior to that last "Ra" tile coming up.

Of course it's not for everyone, but I urge any fence sitters out there to try it a few more times. My experience with Ra was an initial "meh" feeling which slowly grew to adoration. YMMV.
 
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Jay Little
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agent easy wrote:
Similarly, saying that holding the 10 means you will lose 3 auctions to the players holding the 11,12 and 13 is ridiculous.


Wow -- there's a set I really want to bid on... I call for Ra... You know I want it and it's valuable to you, so you push forward your 11... Drat, with my 10, I'm out...

3 rounds later, Ra comes up and I *really* want this set, because there's lots of great stuff. I bid my 10... The next player bids his 12. I'm out. Again.

4 Rounds later, Ra comes up again and I *really, really, really* want this set, because of all the tiles and great scoring potential. I bid my 10... the 3rd player pushes forward 13. I lose. Again.

What mistakes did I make when a valuable set came in by bidding the absolute most that I can? Or do I need to simply accept that I can only use my lower bids to win less valuable items? Do I resign myself to playing for half-empty, half-useless lots? Where is the fun in that? Where is the balance?

agent easy wrote:
I consider it to be the board game world's equivalent to a great card game... Do the best you can to make up a solid hand, watch what the others are doing and hope things swing your way. Very exciting!


If the game took as long as an average hand at cards, such as a deal of Cribbage, Tichu or Wizard, I'd completely agree. But when one game of Ra takes 40 minutes, if you're dealt a bad hand, then you have to sit there and suck for 40 minutes. If I'm dealt a bad hand in Tichu, I'm only a few minutes from possibly getting the killer hand or calling Grand Tichu.

I really wish I could share this outlook, but considering the lack of control, the limited decision making and the rampant luck of the draw, Ra is far too long to balance these chaotic factors for my tastes.
 
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Brad Miller
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So if you are holding the 10, and you see three other people who can beat you, why are you waiting so long to call Ra? It's all about timing. Get the other people to bid their 11, 12, or 13 on something they may want, but not really, really want.
 
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Eddie the Cranky Gamer
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There are a lot of words here. I'm still hungover from the weekend.

Has anyone discussed forcing auctions for ONLY high sun tiles to purge lousy tiles from your hand? I've found that can be a very useful trick in moderation.
 
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Jay Little
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Windopaene wrote:
So if you are holding the 10, and you see three other people who can beat you, why are you waiting so long to call Ra? It's all about timing. Get the other people to bid their 11, 12, or 13 on something they may want, but not really, really want.


This actually sorta' is part of my argument -- resigning yourself to calling Ra for things of lesser importance to you so you can at least win them... If you're calling Ra, you're going to be the one stuck with it. If it's of marginal value, I'd gladly pass on it, letting someone take it for 10, thereby giving me an even greater advantage in bidding, as my 13 is now top dog, and I know I don't have to worry about their highest bid anymore, which is now lower than 10...

Regardless, the one thing this Musings On did convince me of is that I should at least try Ra again, with a different group, or at least while it's still fresh in my mind. Perhaps the group I play with alters the gameplay, and thus alters my appreciation. Perhaps it's personal taste and play style. Perhaps it's just not for me and my group.
 
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Jim Cote
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There are other forces at play here as well. In the last round, the players with the high suns (eg 12, 13) may want to keep them to gain the +5 suns bonus rather than use them to bid with. The sun up for grabs also affects your bids. I would devalue a great set of tiles if I had to buy the 1 sun with my 13 sun. One game, I went into the final epoch with the 1, 3, 4, 5 (I think, 3 player game), behind the leader by 5 points, and won.
 
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Alex Bove
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East Lansdowne
Pennsylvania
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ynnen wrote:

What mistakes did I make when a valuable set came in by bidding the absolute most that I can? Or do I need to simply accept that I can only use my lower bids to win less valuable items? Do I resign myself to playing for half-empty, half-useless lots? Where is the fun in that? Where is the balance?


I think I addressed this in my post above. The balance is in the other suns. You're looking at the 10, 11, 12, and 13 bids in a vacuum without considering that you have two other bids (both of which are higher than the bids your counterparts hold).

Also, having the highest sun is often a curse rather than a blessing. I've seen many players refuse to take even a good lot because they don't want to use that gigantic bid. This is exacerbated by the fact that the player holding the 13 knows her other two bids are lousy. So if you have the 10, there's actually a good chance you'll get exactly what you want because the player who bids 13 to beat you has to accept that you're going to beat her later with the 9 when all she has left is the 6 or with the 5 when she's got the 2.

Ra is about using bids in coordination, not each individually. The player with the 13-6-2 has a total of 21 bidding "points" while the player with the 10-9-5 has 24 points. In other words, the advantage of having the highest single bid is balanced by the disadvantage of having less overall bidding power over the course of the round.

I think its asymmetry actually saves Ra. If everyone had the same bidding power (like in Medici) there would almost never be a reason to call Ra. Now that would be a boring game.
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Miguel
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First off, thanks for participating in the converation after the fact. We might not change each other's minds, but it's more fun that just speaking in a vaccuum!

ynnen wrote:
agent easy wrote:
Similarly, saying that holding the 10 means you will lose 3 auctions to the players holding the 11,12 and 13 is ridiculous.


Wow -- there's a set I really want to bid on... I call for Ra... You know I want it and it's valuable to you, so you push forward your 11... Drat, with my 10, I'm out...

3 rounds later, Ra comes up and I *really* want this set, because there's lots of great stuff. I bid my 10... The next player bids his 12. I'm out. Again.

4 Rounds later, Ra comes up again and I *really, really, really* want this set, because of all the tiles and great scoring potential. I bid my 10... the 3rd player pushes forward 13. I lose. Again.

What mistakes did I make when a valuable set came in by bidding the absolute most that I can? Or do I need to simply accept that I can only use my lower bids to win less valuable items? Do I resign myself to playing for half-empty, half-useless lots? Where is the fun in that? Where is the balance?


All I can say is... you seem to be talking about a theoretical situation without actually taking the game in context. There is no good reason why ANY of that would happen. Here's why:

1) Bids are valuable! You only get 3 (or 4) per epoch, Rarely can they be wasted just to deny another player a "lot", unless there is some gain there for that player, or letting them get it would be devastating.

2) Since "lots" are worth different things to different players, a mediocre "lot" to one player can be a "must buy" for another. Disasters increase this situation: If one player has no civilization tiles, but another has just payed dearly for one, having the civ disaster show up makes the "lot" very unatractive to one and not at all for the other.

3) Knowing that "lots" are worth different things to different players, and knowing what you've got, means you can try to manipulate the market... If you see a tile the player holding the 13 is waiting for (say, a flood or a missing monument tile), you can call RA on your turn to see if he will bite. This is particularly effective if the RA countdown is approaching the end. Just make sure it's not a "lot" you mind getting if you are left with it!

4) The random end is CRUCIAL to avoiding the situation you describe. Why? Because there will rarely be a perfect lot with experienced players. Don't assume that an 8 tile "lot" is what you want. Most games the board doesn't often get past 4 tiles, because other players with lower tiles are forcing RA to pick up the tiles they need or preventing high suns from getting winfalls. Without the random time limit, high sun players would just wait it all out and get the big lots when it suited them. As it is, waiting is risky.

5) If only an 8 tile, mega lot is satisfying to you, and only perfect information is satysfying to you, this is the wrong game (that's not a criticism, it's a personal preference). There is gambling, there is luck. There is also quite alot of strategy, agonizing decisions, risk taking and excitement (IMHO). Look at it this way, your comments sound like the Poerto Rico player who was dissapointed because "just as my crops really started producing, the game ended!", or a Settlers of Catan player who might say "I find it frustrating that I can't choose to rely on my own crops and not negotiate with other players"... The game is expecting a certain style of play and you won't get any enjoyment if your goals/ expectations are for something else... in this case, a game where every player is gunning for huge lots of tiles every time.

ynnen wrote:
agent easy wrote:
I consider it to be the board game world's equivalent to a great card game... Do the best you can to make up a solid hand, watch what the others are doing and hope things swing your way. Very exciting!


If the game took as long as an average hand at cards, such as a deal of Cribbage, Tichu or Wizard, I'd completely agree. But when one game of Ra takes 40 minutes, if you're dealt a bad hand, then you have to sit there and suck for 40 minutes. If I'm dealt a bad hand in Tichu, I'm only a few minutes from possibly getting the killer hand or calling Grand Tichu.


You'll only know that you got a bad hand when the game ends, so I'm not sure what you mean here. At the beginning, everyone is equal. As the game progresses through the epochs, the ebb and flow of who is in the lead can vary quite a bit. Maybe in the 3rd epoch you'll determine you don't have a chance of winning, but then there's only 8-10 minutes left (You'd have to be quite afatalist to draw that conclusion and have 40 minutes left!). Other than those rare occurences, there is usually hope for a comeback! Again, your threshold for such things might be lower than mine, but I wanted to point out the differences.

I do hope you try the game again with a different group (or at BSW... give me a shout I'm WoweeZowee), because it's a really great game in my book (I rated it #1!!!)
 
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Miguel
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Another quick note:

Since RA is not only called by players, it's quite possible that other players have PASSED before it gets to you. If they are waiting for bigger spoils, or different tiles, you might pick that set with the tiles YOU need pretty cheap!
 
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Miguel
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Also, if the 11, 12 or 13 are the player's last sun tile (or even 2nd last), they are not likely to spend it just to thwart you (particularly if they don't have their mandatory Civ tile yet!)
 
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John McGeehan
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Manchester
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If you have the 10, you need to invoke RA on tilesets that have a tile or two others might want. The problem the others have is that they know they can win with their 11/12/13, but they also know that they HAVE to use those if they want to win. They can't bid some other lower tile, because others around the table could surpass them - their lower tier tiles suck. I don't like starting with the 13 tile. I'd rather have either the 10, or 11. Maybe I won't get the one largest set of tiles that I want, but it means I can bid my 5 and force someone to use a tile from the 6-7-8 or 11-12-13 tiers that they'd rather not use if they want to beat me.

You, however, have the 9 and the 10. Those tiles FORCE others to use their BEST Suns to beat you. Someone with a 7 tile, or a 3 tile, knows they could lose to another Sun of the same "tier" (2-3-4-5, 6-7-8-9, 10-11-12-13). Which means if there's a mid-range set of tiles, one that they might judge borderline worth their 11/12/13, they have to bid with their 11/12/13, because their lower-tier tiles are lousy - if they don't bid their best Sun, you'll win a good tileset with a cheaper Sun! And as the epoch goes on, the value of any individual Sun changes (after a few RA tiles come out, they're suddenly going to have to use that Sun to get fewer tiles, in case the epoch ends).

T.
 
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Chaddyboy
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Olathe
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What ever happened to the good musings, where there was a valuable discussion between 3 or 4 people? These most recent musings are like a free-for-all where everyone just blurts out their opinions of the game. It kind of loses it's charm in it's current format. I want the old Musings back!
 
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Kane Klenko
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Ridgeway
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[BLURT/] I love RA!!! [/BLURT]
 
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Myke Madsen
United States
Salt Lake City
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Those musings hurt my eyes to read.

As others have said, I get the impression that some of those people are playing a different game than I am. It also sounds like their expectations of the game are drastically different than mine. I think of Ra as a quick, fun, auction game with a push-your-luck element where trashtalk, taunting and chanting 'Ra' is almost required. I'm not expecting Princes of Florence-level control with this game.

I have never not had fun playing this game, and I would play it any time it was suggested. I don't think the decisions are as simple and as scripted as some of the detractors have suggested. It is, after all, an auction game -- and everything is worth exactly what someone will pay for it.

I'm with Erik: best auction game.


 
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