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Subject: Nice and Short...But Not Much Fun rss

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Dave G
United States
Illinois
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El Chupacabratwurst
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I’ve not posted many reviews on this site, partly because I’m relatively new to the hobby and many of the games I’ve played are either a) classics that don’t need yet another glowing review or b) “hot” new games that don’t need yet another glowing review. In the interest of avoiding posting the 417th review of Small World or Dominion, I’m trying to review some of the older games I’ve played instead. That said, let’s take a short look at Raj, a simple bidding/bluffing game:

Overview

Raj is a very simple game on the surface. Face down in the middle of the table, you have 15 animal tiles, numbered -5 to 10 (skipping zero). Each player is given bidding cards numbered 1 to 15. On each turn, a player turns over one of the animal tiles, and the players choose a card from their hand a lay it face down in front of them to bid. On the positive tiles, the high bidder wins. On the negative tiles, the lowest bidder gets the dubious “win” and takes the negative point tile into their collection. Once you’ve played a bid card it goes face up in front of you for everyone to see, and it’s out of the game. Ties negate each other—only the highest (or lowest) unique bid wins the tile, adding an additional layer of bluffing and guesswork to each bid. Once all the tiles have been auctioned, the player with the most points wins!

Impressions

This is a short and harmless filler game, but not much more. The unique bid mechanism introduces some aspect of “skill” to the game, but frankly it feels like an awful lot of the game is determined by lucky guesses. While there’s certainly some opportunity to strategize and outguess your opponents while using the open knowledge of who has which cards left in their hand, I don’t think the game is fun enough to make the effort worthwhile. There is a fun “screw your neighbor” aspect to ties, but it all ends up feeling very random, and it’s not unheard of in our group for someone to end the game with no positive or negative tiles at all. I don’t hate it, but I’d rather fill a 20 minute free time with some Dominion or a Roll Through The Ages. Rated a 4.5.
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Dan Schaeffer
United States
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Illinois
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djgutierrez77 wrote:
The unique bid mechanism introduces some aspect of “skill” to the game, but frankly it feels like an awful lot of the game is determined by lucky guesses. While there’s certainly some opportunity to strategize and outguess your opponents while using the open knowledge of who has which cards left in their hand, I don’t think the game is fun enough to make the effort worthwhile.


I view it a bit differently. If the players don't know each other, then yes, it's not much more than a guessing game. But with people who know each other relatively well and have gamed together for a while, it actually becomes more of an analytical game, as the players use their knowledge of one another to predict their likely choices. I will point out, Dave, that in the games we've played recently, one player has done very well, and I believe he has done so by making well-informed predictions of what the rest of us will do.

To me, this game's biggest pluses are the speed and the inter-player vituperation (another reason to play it with people you know well who won't take it too seriously when you swear at them like a drill instructor).
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Dave G
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El Chupacabratwurst
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I'll give you that it's fast, and I'll give you that one player has done well in a couple games, but I'm still not totally convinced that's all brilliant guessing and not a little bit of luck.

And yes, I'm willing to admit this review may partly be colored by the fact that I've done really, really, really badly in all those games....
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I Am Sparcatus
United States
Danbury
Connecticut
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I agree that there's nothing too deep here, but Raj is one of those games that is VERY thematic to me - I can almost imagine myself in some seedy colonial tavern gambling away my railroad money or whatever. For that aspect alone (and the decent if somewhat shallow game play) I'll definitely keep and regularly play Raj.
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Daniel Hurst
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Perhaps more fun the more you play it with the same people over and over. One of my favorites, but I understand why people might not like it.
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