Four players: Andy, Jacob, Zirak and I.
Played following a game of Mexica and before a game of Tigris & Euphrates (then after that it was Samurai - a much favoured Knizia-fest!!).
Firstly, we were playing Ra based upon someone else's suggestion. After a very close and intense game of Mexica, Zirak suggested the lighter and more easy-going Ra. Excellent choice, my friend.
In my first eight games of Ra I only won once; that was when I was teaching two newbies. As much as I kept losing I was still enjoying the intricacies of this auction system greatly. Ra locks you into your nominal auction chips. As opposed to, say, Modern Art, where you can bid in 1s (despite in my group where one player insists in bidding in 5s, see my last Modern Art session report!) here in Ra, due to your previous bidding lots won, you will have also mixed up your bidding strength for the following round/epoch. Also, you're locked into that nominal amount, you can't combine your tiles to overcome someone else: if you have the 5 and they have the 7, they will beat you no matter what... and this is where the beauty of calling Ra and making an auction lot not so appeaing comes into it!
One large factor in me losing all those initial games was being too scared too bid away my high chips, so I'd be left either scrambling to spend it near the end of the epoch in fear of winning nothing or I'd be too greedy, hold it into the next epoch and lose out on tiles.
So, I decided to get into the game and mix it up a little more. I've won my last two games, including this game, I believe, because I wasn't so afraid to hold the lower chips (around 6 and less). Calling 'Ra' on your turn is uncannily powerful and I think in early games of Ra is hard to see the real benefits it has. It lends great assistance to those low chips, so you won't be able to win the 8-tile auctions; but that is okay for an epoch or two. Often it is that one crucial civilization tile that wasn't won, leaving the player with -5 at the end of the epoch that can be the difference. Those early 'Ra' calls leave the players with high chips passing as they want to protect their high expectations of what they can win later in the epoch.
So, the session. The first epoch was very short. In fact, I've never seen so many Ra tiles come out of the bag in such a short space of time. This worked well for me as early on I had picked up three pharaoh tiles and a civ tile, enough to secure me the +5 pharaoh points and keep me safe from the -5 'no civ' situation. Andy managed to score 3 civs to get him 5 points, both Jacob and Zirak were left with negative scores as had no civs or pharaohs. I had acquired 5 monument tiles also, with two sets of two.
The second epoch was where I decided to call Ra often. Zirak was sitting to my right, so was calling Ra every time my desired monument tiles came out of the bag, to prevent me getting 4+ sets. Once again, similar to the first epoch, I got in and bid on some 'average' auction lots. Ones that weren't bad, but also weren't amazingly great. However, they held the necessary pharoah and civilization tiles, ensuring that I'd be amongst the points at epoch's end. I also acquired a god tile and 4 rivers. I used to god tile to take a flood from the board, scoring me 5 points there. Once again the Ra tiles started rushing out of the bag, the epoch quickly drew to a close, leaving (again!) Jacob and Zirak with little to celebrate.
The third epoch saw me with relatively low tiles left, so my auction power was low, I needed to maximize my Ra calling as above. I made a mistake that could have been crucial: one auction lot had 3 different coloured civilization tiles; ie. an easy 5 points right there. I took the punt that I'd pull a civilization-killer from the bag. What was I thinking!? I ended up pulling out a fourth different civ colour! Andy then called Ra and won as he held the top-ranking 13 tile. I managed to secure a river and another god tile, using the latter to complete my second monument set of three. I used my 6 and 7 tiles to bid for the middle range lots, with Jacob and Zirak once again holding their 10, 11 and 12 chips close to their hearts... and it would seem too close. Once again we rushed towards the end of the third epoch.
Zirak had the highest set of suns and Jacob eventually had the lowest. This left the final score 47-38-20-12: Me-Andy-Zirak-Jacob.
A not-so-close game of Ra, but for a game where some people claim there is little chance to play with tactics; I felt I went in with some tactics, applied those tactics and ended up winning because of them. Very satisfying!
As always, I look forward to my next game of Ra. However, I think Zirak will be back.