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Subject: Praying to the sun god and getting toasted rss

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Joe Grundy
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Preamble

From time to time my wife and I have a game or two after work at my office with a couple of folks there. This time one of the guys requested another go of Power Grid. Being probably (at least) two hours that's a bit of a squeeze after work for some people so during the afternoon I explained the rules to the person who hadn't played before and got everything set up.

But the Gods thought ill of our plans. They contrived a traffic jam that delayed my wife almost an hour, making Power Grid an impossible choice. So I packed it away and, heeding the divine will, got out Ra instead, which all of us had enjoyed together many months ago.

As it turned out, we had a random ring-in fifth player so I still had to run through the rules again. Folks, let me tell you, if someone is learning rules and they ask no questions at all then you know something's not getting through. Fortunately, Ra is a game that having someone muddle through unsure of the rules doesn't break the game or the fun.


If you haven't actually played or watched games of Ra, then I can't really adequately portray the locking of wills, sizing up of motives, the intense scrutinizing looks between players as they try to read each other's minds. Nor can I explain the tension/release cycles this game has you all sharing as the last player in the epoch draws another tile, another tile, another tile, with only one space left on the Ra track. And if you have already played, these words are wasted.

So you can consider the time you just spent reading that paragraph as your devotion to the god for today.



The Game

With five players I'm as green as the next stick... we usually play with two or three so my sense of timing is somewhat wrong with five.

In this particular session, in spite of me bringing the greater sun god to the notice of a novice devotee, the gods frowned upon me. I have no idea what ill favour they saw in me to punish me with that first round, but I ended the epoch losing three points, with only three monuments, and with the sorriest batch of suns for the next round as you could possibly imagine. Our new player was last with a sun, and, yes, there was only one Ra space left, having us all on the edge of our seats while he pushed his luck all the way to the end of the auction track... ... drawing Ra as his last tile and blowing the whole lot!

The second epoch fared little better for me as I felt a keen need to push the odds to close the gap. Having all low suns, I called Ra almost every time around to try to clear the bids from the table and hopefully leave myself last in for a full auction track. The tactic worked, but though I found myself with two remaining slots on the Ra track as I entered that solo run, they both turned up before the auction lot was half full and I got nothing.

The third epoch the weight of Ra was heavy on our shoulders. Two players bid out fairly early, and I was faced (again) with three of us remaining with two suns each and my two being the lowest two at the table. With only two Ra slots left I used my two God tiles then quickly bailed out and took two fairly mediocre lots. This time, we all held our breath as the final player worked along the auction slot and nearly completely emptied the bag. He kept saying "we drained all the red tiles" (flip) "we drained all the red tiles" (flip) and at each flip I'm earnestly assuring him there really was another Ra tile in the bag while silently praying hard to the god under my breath. At last I convinced him there really are enough "red tiles" to last out the game, and he stopped to claim the lot with (I think) three tiles left in the bag and one empty slot left on the auction track.


Post Thoughts

All through, I think our new player enjoyed himself but never quite comprehended the full flow of the game, eg he was flipping Ra tiles but dropping them on the auction track even in the third epoch. (We did explain a couple of times how and why he was pushing his luck at the end of the first epoch. I'm pretty sure he understood what he was doing at that time.)

He did actually ask, with all curiosity, how this game came about and was it an ancient game from Egypt.



Final Scores

There were a couple of times I passed up claiming gains of about ten points and then lucked out at the end of the round. I could've pushed my score up by maybe fifteen more points if I hadn't been trying to play catchup. However...

Winner: 36
Me: 18
The other three: about 30.
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