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Subject: Calling out Ra strategy rss

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Patrik Strömer
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We played 4p Ra yesterday. In te second game one of the players got low sun tiles, and shouted Ra during the second epoche everytime it was his turn. I guess we should have given him all the auctions and then continued to draw more tiles, as he finally won the game. Comments anybody?

/Strömer
 
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Rene Wiersma
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Re:Calling out Ra strategy
Bergbau (#31923),

Calling Ra alot when you have low numbered suns is actually often a good tactic. Either you get something for cheap or you force someone else to use up a sun to take the row of tiles, which gives you some more chance to scoop up a (better) row of tiles later on.

Ra is all about timing. If the player using the above tactic won handily it is quite likely that the other players bid too early on a meager row of tiles, leaving a lot of time at the end of the round for the player to scoop up some juicy rows with low suns.
 
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Alex Bove
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Re:Calling out Ra strategy
That's *exactly* how to play when you have the low suns. I might not call Ra every time it was my turn, but if anything of value (one or two pharoahs, a civ, etc.) was up there, I'd call it. When you have low suns you cannot afford to keep drawing more tiles for the players to your left whose bids are higher than yours. If you simply draw, you will have to wait for three more players to draw before you get another turn, and by then your 2 or 3 sun will not be high enough to win all those tiles. So you've just drawn extra tiles for other players to take.

When you have low suns, you have to flush out higher bids so that you can then convert your low suns into tiles for you *and* higher suns.

A lot of beginners think Ra is a game of luck. They draw 7 or 8 tiles before calling Ra, and then they wonder what all the fuss is about. Playing Ra like that is akin to playing the slots: it's a waste of time. The key to winning at Ra is to use your bids properly. Sometimes that means bidding 16 for two pharoahs and a god if it gives you the pharoah lead (and perhaps the god will help you get that last monument you need). You'll lose a lot if you think that the high bids always must haul in lots of tiles and the low bids must just draw and draw and draw, hoping to outlast the other players and get a few "free" draws at the end of epochs.
 
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Gil Hova
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Re:Calling out Ra strategy
Bergbau (#31923),

It's a little late for me, so I'll try to make as much sense as I can...

There are a couple of implications of drawing or calling that aren't exactly obvious, but IMHO, they make this game one of my favorites.

First off, there's the choice of drawing a tile or calling an auction. Remember that every time you draw a tile, you will almost always improve the lot for the player on your left (you might draw a disaster tile or a tile he/she doesn't need... but the odds are more likely that it will be a tile that's needed).

Secondly, most novices only call an auction when they want the lot. My turning point for the appreciation of the game was calling auctions when I knew that at least one other player wanted the tiles. Don't be afraid to call an auction that you have no interest in winning; sometimes, the best result for you is for others to win auctions.

Third, if you have more Sun tiles than the other players, and there are at least a few free spots left on the Ra track, then you are in a great position, no matter how low your Ra tiles are. In fact, if you have low Sun tiles, you'll be in a great position to pick off small lots.

Fourth, and this follows pretty naturally, if a player spends all his Sun tiles, then the lots available to the other players will usually become much larger. If there's only one space left open on the Ra track, this won't be as likely, because the remaining players will have to seriously consider getting the lot before the last Ra appears. But if a player bows out very early in an epoch, he will massively improve the other player's auctions!

Let's consider a sample three-player game. Here's the Sun Tile situation...

Reiner: 3 - 5 - 6
Andreas: 12
Klaus: 9 - 10

(Six open spaces on the Ra track)

You might think that Andreas has the best position, because he has the highest tile. But that tile is his last; he's only going to spend it if he's positive it will help him. By bowing out early, he will ensure that Reiner and Klaus will have a huge selection of tiles to choose from for the remainder of the round.

So Andreas will only buy if a huge lot appears. That leaves Reiner and Klaus. Klaus is in a good position right now, because he can outbid Reiner on anything. But whatever Klaus takes, it had better be good.

Let's say everyone's tied at one pharoah, and no one has a Civ. There are two Pharoahs and an 11 tile up for auction. This isn't enough for Klaus (greedy Klaus!), and he pulls a tile. It's a Civ.

This is great for Reiner, because as I mentioned above, by choosing to draw a tile rather than calling an auction, Klaus improved the lot that now falls to Reiner. And that improvement happened because of Klaus' choice to draw, not because he was unlucky to draw a Civ for Reiner.

Reiner calls an auction. Andreas passes; he's looking for mega-points, and he thinks he can do better than this. Klaus bids his 9, which Reiner can't beat.

Is it a good buy? Probably, because it gives Klaus the lead in Pharoahs, and he gets a powerful Sun tile for the next epoch. But it improves Reiner's position as well. There are still six free Ra spaces, and Klaus is now down to his last tile.

Reiner can keep calling Ra for these 3-tile lots, safe in the knowledge that the others won't want to spend their high tiles on something so small with so many Ra spaces open. And if one of the others does win an auction, he will be out of the epoch. Once the other bites on a lot, Reiner will be the only player left - and it won't matter how low his tiles are, because he'll fill the auction track until the Ra track starts to get crammed!

Klaus should have considered calling an auction. Even without the Civ, this kind of lot is perfect for Reiner as it is. If Klaus lets Reiner take the two Pharoahs and 11 tile, Reiner's bidding power is decreased.

So Reiner needs to call lots of auctions. But he can't automatically call an auction every chance he gets. If Klaus and Andreas realize what Reiner is doing, they'll just let him take his tiles, and push himself out of the epoch! Even if they let Reiner take the lead in Pharoahs, they might be able to get the lead back if Reiner bows out early enough.

So, to sum up...

- If you have lots of low Sun tiles, it behooves you to call many auctions, especially if you know someone else wants the lot. Let others empty their Sun tiles. This will let you slip in and steal some of the smaller lots, or even make you the only player left in an epoch.

- If you have only one or two high Sun tiles left, a player with many small Sun tiles keeps calling Ra, and there's plenty of time left in the epoch, don't be afraid to pass. Let the bottomfeeder have his small lot; better for him to get only a few tiles for that weak Sun tile now, than for you to overspend and allow him to grab a bunch of tiles later on.

- If you are out of the epoch, it has been proven that chanting "RA! RA! RA!" will bring more Ra tiles out.

Have fun!

~Gil
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Richard Wein
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Re:Calling out Ra strategy
IngredientX wrote:
Klaus should have considered calling an auction.


Perhaps he should have considered it. But he shouldn't have done it. If Klaus had called an auction, Reiner would probably have passed, forcing Klaus to pay 9 for just 2 tiles, instead of the 3 tiles he got by waiting for Reiner to call Ra.

Basically, your suggestion here is out of kilter with your good general advice that players with high suns should leave small lots to the "bottomfeeders".
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Alan Kwan
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Re:Calling out Ra strategy
tichtich (#55370),

Exactly. In fact, one should only ever call an auction when he wants to prevent:

1. improving a lot for an opponent who will buy it with a sun which is larger than one's own smallest sun;

2. the loss of all the tiles on the track due to end of epoch when the last Ra tile is drawn;

3. an opponent from taking a critical tile with a god;

4. an excellent lot from being ruined by an inopportune disaster tile.

There are occasional exceptions to the complicated condition in #1, but in general it is correct. This is because:

1a. If you call Ra, your opponent will not bid with a sun which is smaller than your smallest sun. This is because if he doesn't bid, he forces you to buy the lot; if he bids, he gives you the choice of whether or not to buy the lot. Thus by bidding, he merely gives you an advantage. (This is not always correct because Ra is not a 2-player game and hence not zero-sum between a two-player subset, but in general it is a correct rule of thumb.)

1b. Assuming that you will be forced to buy the lot, you probably should improve it by drawing. (This is not always correct because sometimes this will make the lot too good and bought by an opponent with a higher sun, which may be less desirable for you than being forced to buy the lot.)

Thus in general, if your smallest sun is larger than your opponent's largest sun, you should never call Ra for reason #1. You should sometimes call Ra for reasons #2, #3 or #4, though.
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Matthew M
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Alan Kwan wrote:

1a. If you call Ra, your opponent will not bid with a sun which is smaller than your smallest sun. This is because if he doesn't bid, he forces you to buy the lot; if he bids, he gives you the choice of whether or not to buy the lot. Thus by bidding, he merely gives you an advantage. (This is not always correct because Ra is not a 2-player game and hence not zero-sum between a two-player subset, but in general it is a correct rule of thumb.)



This doesn't follow. Yes, you give the RA caller an option if you bid your small sun, but presumably you wouldn't mind winning the lot if you bid in the first place. So if the RA caller opts not to bid you get what you want and if the RA caller does bid his smallest, which is larger than yours, he's doing the same thing he would have done if you didn't bid in the first place.

-MMM
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Alan Kwan
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The point is, in most cases (but there are some exceptions) I can't call Ra and count on somebody else to bid a smaller sun than my smallest sun, to save me from being forced to bid.

If I want another player (who doesn't have a small sun, etc.) to call Ra to let me bid, I make a verbal promise that I'll bid. If a player doesn't ask me for such promise beforehand, I'll assume that I have nothing to gain by bidding below his sun, so I don't bother to bid. Although in some cases, I have nothing to lose by bidding either.

If we look at formal game theory, a move which allows an opponent to choose a good result (for me) and a bad result is not considered usefully better than one which forces the bad result. Because the opponent will not let me have the good result. The issue is, in practical Ra play, it is somoetimes difficult to judge whether the choice I'm offering to my opponent is better or worse for me (and, I do sometimes see players offering a choice which seems bad). So why bother offering the choice at all?
 
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Matthew M
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It's not difficult to imagine a situation if you assume more than 2 players. Any game with more than 2 players eliminates the zero-sum nature of your argument. Consider the following 3 player game:

Player A doesn't think what's out there is worth his lowest sun, but doesn't want Player B, the current leader, to get a turn because he'll use a god-tile to poach the one good tile that's in the set. Player A decides it is better to call Ra than to let that happen. Player C sees the situation and plays his lowest sun, which is lower than Player A's lowest sun, because C does want what's out there and his lowest sun is worth that.

-MMM
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Allen Doum
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Mathew brought up the subject of God tiles, which complicates all of the above.

A player with a God tile has a choice that will niether cost him a Sun, or improve the line for the next player. This gives another motive for another player to call Ra, so as to prevent the player with the God tile from "cherry-picking" a Civ, for instance.

Another complications is the presence of disaster tiles on the line. A player with no Civ tiles will not care if they take Civil Unrest, while others would see their score decrease if took the line.

This is, of course the beauty of this game. While all players start roughly even with equal motives, as soon as the first line is taken, the situation shifts, and you have to consider the subjective values both for yourself, and for the other players. And except for gold, none of the tiles is worth the same to every player.

As to the original question, my general advice is the same as the previous posters:

When you have high Suns, add to the line.

When you have low Suns, call Ra.

But the point of the game is being able to give the other players more dfficult decisions than they give you.
 
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Adam Smiles
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Alan Kwan wrote:

If I want another player (who doesn't have a small sun, etc.) to call Ra to let me bid, I make a verbal promise that I'll bid. If a player doesn't ask me for such promise beforehand, I'll assume that I have nothing to gain by bidding below his sun, so I don't bother to bid.


Ra isn't a negotiation game. Many would consider making deals with the active player to be cheating or collusion.
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Allen Doum
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asmiles wrote:
Alan Kwan wrote:

If I want another player (who doesn't have a small sun, etc.) to call Ra to let me bid, I make a verbal promise that I'll bid. If a player doesn't ask me for such promise beforehand, I'll assume that I have nothing to gain by bidding below his sun, so I don't bother to bid.


Ra isn't a negotiation game. Many would consider making deals with the active player to be cheating or collusion.


For some, all games are negotiation games. If a situation like the one Alan describes comes up, where it might be beneficial to both players to make such a deal, how could you prevent it?

That being said, I haven't played Ra that way, and would prefer not to, as such negotiations might slow the game down. There are plenty of negotiation games.
 
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Eric Brosius
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How can you prevent it? The same way you'd prevent opponents from discussing their hands in contract bridge---by telling them you won't play with them any more if they do.

Whether you should prevent it is another question; some people enjoy the game more if it's played with no side comments (like bridge) and other people enjoy it more if there's a lot of negotiation.
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Mark Edwards
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Just out of curiousity, has anyone ever seen negotiations take place in Ra? Obviously it's possible, but it just doesn't seem to lend itself to deal making. I've never seen it occur.

Mindless, blithering banter, yes. Cut-throat negotians? Not so much.
 
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Allen Doum
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DangerMouse wrote:
Just out of curiousity, has anyone ever seen negotiations take place in Ra? Obviously it's possible, but it just doesn't seem to lend itself to deal making. I've never seen it occur.

Mindless, blithering banter, yes. Cut-throat negotians? Not so much.


Add whining to your list of things heard.

I've never seen negotiations either, and was just commenting on the suggestion. Since the only thing you have to offer in a negotiation is whether you will call Ra, there doesn't seem to be much opportunity for it. Alan's "if you call Ra I'll make sure that you don't have to bid" would be the most obvious thing, and it wouldn't often be beneficial to both players, IMO.
 
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Alan Kwan
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A most simple situation:

It is player B's turn. Player C has the high sun, and the current lot is getting very good for him. Perhaps too good. But it is not very attractive to player B (because of a disaster or because the tiles aren't useful to him). Player A doesn't want player B to pull one more tile for player C, but player B doesn't want to (be forced to) buy the lot. So A says to B, "Please call RA, I'll bid." With this reassurance, player B calls RA.

I can't imagine how a group can consider such short comment "illegal". IMO RA is more fun when it is noisy. Of course, Ra is supposed to be a fast-paced game, so if some players spend two minutes negotiating, I would consider that bad, too.
 
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Allen Doum
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Alan Kwan wrote:
A most simple situation:

It is player B's turn. Player C has the high sun, and the current lot is getting very good for him. Perhaps too good. But it is not very attractive to player B (because of a disaster or because the tiles aren't useful to him). Player A doesn't want player B to pull one more tile for player C, but player B doesn't want to (be forced to) buy the lot. So A says to B, "Please call RA, I'll bid." With this reassurance, player B calls RA.

I can't imagine how a group can consider such short comment "illegal". IMO RA is more fun when it is noisy. Of course, Ra is supposed to be a fast-paced game, so if some players spend two minutes negotiating, I would consider that bad, too.


I don't have a problem with that. It's not like there is much to negotiate over, and player C in this example could still bid, knowing that he is not going to get that one more tile, anyway, once Ra was called. A disappointment perhaps, but not worth going nuclear over.

Of course, you have to realize that player A may have set player B up for this.
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Bart Wright
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I'm a few months late on this thread, but what the heck. As for those situations that might call for negotiation, if you are playing with people you think are good, or just people you have played with before, you can do what was suggested without negotiating, just knowing (strongly suspecting) that player A will do what you want anyway.

Another couple reasons to use a sun below the lowest sun of the person who called RA are psychological. If he thinks you're any good, he may question his own judgment about whether he should have been willing to bid that much. On the other hand, if he doesn't know you, he may conclude that you're a less astute player than you are. Suppose there is a set of tiles most people will believe is worth 9 or so. The only tiles I have are 13, 5, and 2. A person who called the RA has a 9. If I bid 2, he might think my judgment is pretty poor. I won't bother to use my 5 because I know I'm not getting it anyway. (He also may just think I am making a joke...)

A few more remarks on strategy I didn't see anywhere above:

There are a couple slight advantages to taking your lines of cards later rather than sooner:

One is that you get to see what your opponents are up to. At the start, pharoahs are worth a lot, but if someone already is ahead of you by five pharoahs, they have become not very interesting cards to you.

Another is that if you don't have your civ or pharoahs or flood yet, then you don't mind disasters, and you can get good cards that other players don't want to pay for. (People in the real world who own a lot are the ones who need property insurance -- 90% a tangent).

An advantage beyond those I saw above to calling RA is that you get to bid last. That not only saves brain cells, it gives the players before you a dilemma if they don't know what kind of a player you are or how you're thinking. For instance, if I have a 2 and an 8, and the player before me has a 3 and a 9, which should she use? If I only think it's worth 2 but she thinks I think it's worth 8, then she may waste her 9 tile.

It may seem dangerous to use your last sun tile when there are still 6 open RA spaces and your opponents have two suns each, but consider this: no matter how long they wait, they're never going to get more than 8 cards for each sun, and obviously the larger a set gets the greater the chances it will contain a disaster. If there are five good cards out there, it still may be worth your while to use your last sun.

There was a time when I thought that if I held the 2 I should be prepared to call RA most of the time, figuring that someone else would take it if it was worth more than 2. However, you start out holding 3 or 4 sun tiles, and if you have 13, 9 and 2 and you think it's worth about 5 already, you may want to let it go so you can get it with your 9 (or 13, if it keeps getting better). It's a matter of getting the best deal for your tiles. I've had it happen that the first time I see the row I don't think it's worth calling RA to waste my 2 on, but the next time I see it, I think it's already worth my 13 so I keep adding to it.

A common mistake I have seen in poorer players than me (I surely make mistakes that are evident to better players) is to think their 13 is worth more than it is and not use it in time. And the fact that it is in the first instance worth less in this round means it is also worth less next round, so they should worry less about letting someone else pick it up, and in turn in picking up a high sun themselves (the last epoch is different, since the sun total counts for points).

More generally players wait too long to use their suns.

 
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Brad Durandetta
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There are a lot of excellent points in this thread, but I'm going to attempt to sum them up in one sentence...

Call Ra to put pressure on your opponents.

There are myriad ways this can manifest itself in a game, many of which are pointed out above. However, that's what it almost always boils down to. If you're not forcing a difficult decision on one or more of your opponents by calling Ra, you've very likely picked a poor time to do so.
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Martin Moyer
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I agree with that synopsis. Generally you want to call Ra when you have low suns because you want to force your opponents to spend their higher suns. I wouldn't call it when there is a single farm tile, but once there is something of value on the board it is good to force your opponents to use up their stuff.
 
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The point is, in most cases (but there are some exceptions) I can't call Ra and count on somebody else to bid a smaller sun than my smallest sun, to save me from being forced to bid.

Why would you need someone else to bid smaller to save you from being forced to bid? No matter how they bid, you are not forced. The player calling RA is only forced to bid when all other players pass.
 
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Brad Keck
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native_son wrote:
The point is, in most cases (but there are some exceptions) I can't call Ra and count on somebody else to bid a smaller sun than my smallest sun, to save me from being forced to bid.

Why would you need someone else to bid smaller to save you from being forced to bid? No matter how they bid, you are not forced. The player calling RA is only forced to bid when all other players pass.

He was saying, if your opponent only has suns lower than your own, it is risky to call Ra on the assumption that they will bid, (and not force you to bid).
 
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Alan Kwan
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native_son wrote:
The point is, in most cases (but there are some exceptions) I can't call Ra and count on somebody else to bid a smaller sun than my smallest sun, to save me from being forced to bid.

Why would you need someone else to bid smaller to save you from being forced to bid? No matter how they bid, you are not forced. The player calling RA is only forced to bid when all other players pass.

If someone would/should bid a higher sun, that falls into my case #1 above, so I should call RA to avoid building the lot for him. The risk of calling RA is that it gives my opponents the choice of forcing me to bid my smallest sun. If they force me to buy a lot which is more than the sun is worth, it's a good result for me.
 
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