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Review: Reiner Knizia's Ra

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
Current Price: $3.99
Developer/Publisher: Codito/Sage Games
Version: 1.4
Size: 22.7 MB
Multiplayer: Online Multiplayer, Pass and Play.
AI: Yes.
Itunes link:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/reiner-knizias-ra/id400213892...


The Good:
A great translation of the board game. It is Ra on the go.
There are may options with AI to provide a high solo replay value.
The Bad:
The async multiplayer system does not work well. There are some errors in the interface.
Some of the text buttons are difficult to read.

Summary:
The bottom line is if you like Reiner Knizia and Ra you can stop reading right now and go buy this app. It is a small price to pay to have one of your favorite games in a portable form. If you are on the fence and/or are seeking a great online multiplayer experience that can be found with other apps, you may want to be cautious.

Gameplay:
Ra is a classic tile and auction game by Reiner Knizia. In some ways it seems to inspire abstract civ building games such Roll Through the Ages and 7 Wonders. It is a game that seems the be one of the staples of our hobby.

In Ra players take turns either drawing a tile from the bag and putting it on display or initiating an auction for the tiles that are on display. Also if a Ra tile is drawn an auction is initiated. In auction players bid using sun tiles that are numbered from 1 to 13. After 14 Ra tiles have been revealed that epoch (or round) is over. There are pharaoh, god, gold, monument, and development tiles. Different combinations of these tiles will score players varying amounts of points. There are also disaster tiles that will force players to discard tiles.

The Ra app offers a solid single player game with up to five players. There are several AI opponents to choose from of varying difficulties. You can play pass and play on one device as well. Through open feint (which is fairly easy to set up) you can play online with either friends or random players either in real time or asynchronous(how well this actually works will be discussed later). There are many ways to enjoy Ra.

Implementation:
Codito is a great developer and I for one am grateful for the great board game apps to the iOS. I don’t say this to pander, I just want to point out that despite some weaknesses in this app, overall Codito is meeting the challenges of delivering complex euro games to the iOS audience. They try to deliver the full board game experience in a thematic package.

Ra is no exception. It delivers a solid single player version of the game that moves quickly and is easy to play. The varied play styles and skill levels of the different AI characters add a lot to the overall longevity of the game. I have yet to win on a regular basis, though I have heard some users on BGG complain about the AI difficulty. As opposed to Medici, Ra has many random elements that make the game feel much less calculated and, in my opinion, more interesting.

The graphic design of Ra is consistent and thematic. Much like Codito’s other apps it feels like a complete package. The character avatars are all egyptian gods, and there are deserty animations that happen each time an auction is called. All the tiles are clickable and will tell you how many are left of that tile and how it is scored. I found this very helpful. I did find that some of the text was hard to read on certain screens. Oft times the text will blend in with the images behind it. This is a minor nuisance but could use some polish.

Ra has been strongly advertised for its multiplayer. If you have read my previous reviews you will see that I feel that almost every iOS game should offer multiplayer. Ra offers many multiplayer modes that will offer you lots of options to enjoy the game with real people.

When played on the iPad the pass and play version of the game works really well. The layout is nice and in many ways emulates the physical game. In a game like Ra where there is not secret information a pass and play system is awesome. The pass and play feature of this app is invaluable.

As for online multiplayer there are several options. You can play against strangers or friends that you add on Open Feint. You also can arrange times with friends and play the game realtime online rather than using the asynchronous features. This real time works great but the asynchronous multiplayer strangers is not as smooth. I am glad it has online asynchronous multiplayer, I only wish it worked a little better. There are a few issues with the system that I will try to address.

The first issue is that asynchronous multiplayer, in my opinion, is not a very good fit for Ra. The reason for this is that the decisions made in a turn of Ra are very minimal, meaning I either draw a tile or start an auction. Progress in a game played in this style is very slow and in almost every case my opponent has lost interest. Perhaps a realtime system like Carcassonne uses could alleviate this problem. There may be a way to build a sort of pause system that players can agree upon to delay the game for a few hours. I know gamers (me included) love asynchronous multiplayer, and it works great in games like Carcassonne and Scrabble, however I feel that Ra is not a great fit for it.

The second issue is, at least currently, a lack of a player base. I have tried to join and host several games and only a few go past the first turn. Finding an active game has really been a challenge. This is not a problem of the developer, but rather the sign of newer game. Hopefully as interest increases the player base will also increase. I do, however, wish the game did a better job of notifying you when it is your turn, currently it does it sometimes but will not at other times. This could be a problem with Open Feint.

The third and final issue is that I have still managed to encounter some bugs after the last update. Gabe and I are currently trying to play a game and it has been my turn for the last day. Last night I drew a tile and completed my turn, a few hours later it said it was my turn again. When I went to the game again the whole board was blank. I tried drawing a tile and nothing happened. I have reset the app and my phone, nothing has worked yet. I have had games that work, but it appears there are still some bugs floating around. These are just my experiences with the app and I would love to hear about your asynchronous multiplayer experiences in the comments below.

Conclusion:

Ra is a great reproduction of the board game. It runs smoothly as a single player experience and has a multitude of multiplayer options to expand the game. There are other apps that have done online asynchronous multiplayer well and stably but Ra is not one. If you are a fan of Ra or strategy games pick it up, it will not disappoint, but if you are seeking an online multiplayer experience, you may want to exercise caution.

Rating: 3/4 Good
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