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Subject: Comparing Medici and Ra - one group's opinion rss

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Tim Seitz
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Glen Allen
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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I have read a lot of discussion about the good doctor’s auction games, particularly Ra and Medici. There are clearly different opinions on which is the better game. In the end, it probably boils down to personal preferences, but since my gaming group had unanimous and strong thoughts on the question, I thought I’d share their insights.

These are people who by nature tend to be more analytical, so the bias would generally be on a game that is more calculating. And after playing both Ra and Medici several times this week, the clear consensus amongst them is that Medici is the better game.

Since, the games are well known to most readers, and even if they are not, there are several reviews already posted, I will focus on what we considered the key differences, in descending order of relevance:

1. Clear valuations. Scoring is much simpler in Medici so the values of the cards are easier to calculate. Also, you are paying for goods with victory points, so there is a direct correlation between cost and lost victory points. In Ra, the link between sun value and fame points is much more tenuous and difficult to calculate. Favors Medici.

2. Ease of learning. Partly because of the clear valuations, but also because of the round-by-round scoring, it’s easier for new folks to pick up on the subtleties of Medici; it really only takes one practice round for people to pick up the game. On the other hand, because a significant portion of the scoring does not take place until the end, Ra requires an entire play through (and maybe then some!) Favors Medici.

3. Tense auctions. Because players are bidding in discrete increments, many Ra auctions are largely foregone conclusions when the player calls Ra. In our games, we find a lack of tension in the auctions most of the way through. If it’s a good lot, the player with the highest tile wins it. If it’s not a good lot, it either passes, or the players with the 1, 2 or 3 can pick it up cheaply, still with no real contest. In Medici, virtually every bid elicits a groan from the following player as they are forced to make a tough decision. Every turn, the decisions were tougher in Medici. Of course, this results in a slower game, and some occasional analysis paralysis, but it’s much more fun for us. Favors Medici.

4. Screw your neighbor. There’s much more player interaction in Medici. You have two main ways to screw your opponents. One is by setting up the lots: lumping cards valuable to your opponent with worthless cards, or creating lots that multiple players are competing for, so they end up bidding higher – and using more victory points. There’s little to do to mess with an opposing player in Ra. Favors Medici.

5. Luck factor. Ra has a much higher luck factor because auctions happen much more randomly, with a much wider distribution of outcomes. In Medici, the luck is limited to the draws (and discards) of the cards, but since the deck is played through each round, you will almost always have access to the cards you need – you’ll just have to pay for them. Favors Medici.

6. Appearance. Ra gets the nod in appearance and presentation. The bits are better and the materials are easy to understand (especially if you use the available player mats from the BGG files). Favors Ra.

7. Speed of play. Because of the above noted attributes, Ra plays much faster in our group. This creates more value/minute, since the games are closely related – we can get our “auction fill” satisfied more quickly. Favors Ra.
 
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Billy McBoatface
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Note that this review is also posted to medici, where there is some discussion of it:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/129020
 
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Alex Rockwell
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out4blood wrote:
1. Clear valuations. Scoring is much simpler in Medici so the values of the cards are easier to calculate. Also, you are paying for goods with victory points, so there is a direct correlation between cost and lost victory points. In Ra, the link between sun value and fame points is much more tenuous and difficult to calculate. Favors Medici.


I disagree on this. Ra is far, far simpler. How the heck do I know what to bid in Medici. Say there is a 4 tile out there in a color I want. What should I bid? What about a 5 and a 2 together? I have no freaking idea.

In Ra, I can only bid what my suns are. Say I have 3, 7 and 12. Do I want it? Lets say I want it. A little, or a lot? I just bid the sun of the size that seems appropriate for the items.

Its much harder to determine what to bid when you can bid any number from 1 to whatever, than only distinct values.


Other than that I agree (except that I think of screw your neighbor as bad, not good
 
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Tim Seitz
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Glen Allen
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Alexfrog wrote:
out4blood wrote:
1. Clear valuations. Scoring is much simpler in Medici so the values of the cards are easier to calculate. Also, you are paying for goods with victory points, so there is a direct correlation between cost and lost victory points. In Ra, the link between sun value and fame points is much more tenuous and difficult to calculate. Favors Medici.


I disagree on this. Ra is far, far simpler. How the heck do I know what to bid in Medici. Say there is a 4 tile out there in a color I want. What should I bid? What about a 5 and a 2 together? I have no freaking idea.

We seem to be able to value things pretty accurately. What's "nice" about my group is that players sometimes talk through their valuations - partly to influence the bidding - but here's the way I generally approach this:

Regarding boat value - the median card is 3; anything above that is potentially valuable for boat value, anything below is not. Depending on where you are in the round, you can judge the potential value relative to your opponent's holdings. The potential value to you lies in whether it changes any of the positions. If I can go from 4th to 3rd in a 4 player game, that is worth 10 points. Anything less than 10 is a viable bid, the lower I can get away with it, the better. But, the less guarantee for a high total, the lower I bid.

Regarding commodities - additive to boat value potential is the commodity track potential. If I am high score already, the potential value is in being able to reach bonus territory. That might be worth 5 or 10, depending on where I would have been anyway. On the other hand, moving up form 3rd to 2nd in a "minor" commodity is also worth 5 points.

So a commodity you like with a high boat number might be potentially worth 15 points or so. You'd like to bid somewhere below that so you can extract as much value as possible (extracted value = potential value - winning bid). Other players may (will!) try to pump the bid up to force you higher, but potential values for players will diverge during the game. If they bid above their own potential value, you let them take it and they get zero value, or even negative value.

Earlier in the round, these valuations are more uncertain since you may not ultimately realize the potential. But understanding them and bidding accordingly even with uncertainty is key to winning.
 
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Damon Asher
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out4blood wrote:
4. Screw your neighbor. There’s much more player interaction in Medici. You have two main ways to screw your opponents. One is by setting up the lots: lumping cards valuable to your opponent with worthless cards, or creating lots that multiple players are competing for, so they end up bidding higher – and using more victory points. There’s little to do to mess with an opposing player in Ra. Favors Medici.


I disagree on this point. The best part of Ra, I believe, is that you can exert a large degree of control over your opponents. It's not too hard to set up very tricky decisions for them by calling Ra at a certain time or by pushing them into using a higher sun than they would have liked to. For this reason, I usually find Ra to be a more exciting and interactive experience than Medici.

I agree that Medici is more accessible and much easier to teach. It is also somewhat less dependent on luck of the draw than Ra. It's also a lot of fun when you bid exactly the amount that makes your opponent groan.

All in all, I'm very glad to own both of them! Ra is my favorite auction game, but Medici is a close second. Ra has the advantage of being a decent game with only two players as well. I'm very excited about the upcoming Medici vs Strozzi which will allow a 2 player Medici experience.

 
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