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Subject: A comparison to Roll through the Ages rss

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J. Jefferson
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Ra the Dice Game and Roll Through the Ages: A comparison between two dice games

History: Both games are quicker, lighter, dice variations on major games. Ra Dice is a dice spin on Ra, also designed by Reiner Knizia. Roll through the Ages is a dice spin on the behemoth Through the Ages—however, Roll through the Ages is by Pandemic designer Matt Leacock, rather than Through the Ages designer Vlaada Chvatil. Both games maintain some elements of the original games. For Roll through the Ages, this is mostly in its theme. Ra Dice maintains the light theme of the original Ra, and also maintains much of the scoring system used in Ra. The scoring systems in Ra and Ra Dice are not identical, but those who have played Ra will find a very similar system in Ra Dice.

Overview: The two games share striking similarities. Both are dice games based on other games. Both are playable in about 30 minutes. Both challenge you to score the most points using a variety of possible scoring methods. Despite these similarities, the games actually feel and play quite differently. Initially, I expected them to occupy a similar position in my game collection. I suppose that they do, but I find myself pulling them out in different settings. I prefer Ra Dice when there are more than two players, and as a filler between games or when I want to play it three or four times in a row. I prefer Roll through the Ages when just my wife and I want to get in a single quick, light, yet strategic game.

Ra Dice: In Ra Dice, your goal is to accumulate the most victory points. These points are tracked on the scoring track running around the board. AS in Roll through the Ages, you score points by rolling specific combinations of dice. After your initial roll, dice other than those that turned up suns may be re-rolled up to two times. If you decide not to re-roll a die on your first re-roll, you can not re-roll it on your second. The challenge of Ra Dice is in deciding, based on your initial roll, which of the possible scoring methods to go for. Each scoring method has its own unique attributes. One is cumulative over the entire game and is not scored until the end, two others have the potential to subtract points from your total. Some scoring areas allow you to move towards scoring points with just a single die, others require multiple dice to score. Balancing the different scoring methods is critical to success.

Four of the six sides of each die correspond to four different scoring methods. One is an ankh, which is wild, and the sixth side is a sun, which is immediately removed and put on the epoch tracking line until the next player’s turn. After all players have rolled a certain number of these suns, the epoch is over and players score most of the scoring methods. The game consists of three epochs. This inelegant description makes it sound somewhat complicated, but it is not, and the rules lay it out better than I have.

Roll through the Ages: Roll through the Ages is similar in that the goal is to score victory points, there are multiple ways to score, and players need to choose wisely between them. However, there are fewer general ways to score, but a lot more variety within each scoring method. For example, the main ways to score in Roll through the Ages are by building monuments, building developments, getting bonuses, and by causing other players to have disasters (which subtracts from their score). Developments take a number of different forms and each different development gives a different number of victory points and a different special privilege or bonus. Roll through the Ages does a pretty good job of feeling like a civ game in a lighter package. You may build additional cities (i.e. roll more dice) to give yourself more food, more workers, and more goods.

Rather than simply balancing scoring possibilities, Roll through the Ages forces you to plot your own course to a high score, choosing to focus on certain elements in favor of others. As in any good dice game, the victor is the player who makes the best decisions with the dice that they roll.

The basic dice-rolling mechanic in Roll through the Ages is pretty similar to Ra Dice. You roll your dice, and may choose to re-roll up to two times. The real difference between the two games is that Roll through the Ages allows you to plot your own course, but Ra Dice requires you to focus more on getting the most out of limited choices.

Components: Both games have pretty nice components, but the styles of the two games’ components are very different.

Ra Dice: The game consists of a nice looking, multicolored, Egyptian-themed board, a bunch of brightly colored wooden cubes, a wooden Osiris piece, and five brightly colored dice. The components and their bright colors nicely complement the lively feel of the game. This is a quick game to wake you up, and its components make that clear.

Roll through the Ages: Compared to Ra Dice, the Roll through the Ages components are muted and classy. The dice are very nice engraved wood. Resources are tracked on very nice wooden boards. Players move wooden pegs along holes in these boards, similar to a cribbage board. Developments, monuments, and cities are tracked in a less fancy way. The game comes with a pad of score sheets on which players mark these items with a pencil. While another big wooden board would be nice, that would make the whole package way too big and expensive for a relatively quick game. The paper scoring system does have the advantage of being easily expandable and customizeable.

Overall, the components feel substantial and high quality. The box, though small, is heavy. This is probably the densest game box I own.

Time of play: Both games play in about the same amount of time. Two-player games take about twenty minutes. Three and four player games can take thirty minutes or slightly longer. Neither game wears out its welcome. Often, after playing Ra Dice, I want to play it one or two more times, but this is not the case for Roll through the Ages. I think this is because Ra Dice feels slightly lighter. The decisions are more constrained, so it feels like with a bit more luck, a losing game could have been a winning game. In Roll through the Ages you have a little more leeway to plot your course, so it feels a bit more unforgiving.

Interaction: Both games have good amounts of indirect interaction and few opportunities to really derail your opponents.

Ra Dice: The interaction in Ra Dice comes from two mechanics. First, on the pharaoh scoring track, the player who is the farthest on the track receives points, and the player who is the least far loses points. It’s painful to lose those points, so you’ve got to watch your opponents and stay ahead of them. Second, certain scoring areas can only be occupied by a limited number of players. In both the monuments and civilizations scoring areas, it is possible to strategically place your cubes to make it harder for others. This is a stronger element the more players involved in the game. Usually, it doesn’t present an opportunity to screw an opponent and ruin their carefully laid plans, but to just make it a bit more difficult for them.

Roll through the Ages: Roll through the Ages has slightly more direct interaction in that certain rolls create disasters that can hurt opponents and detract from their score. This isn’t a huge part of the game, but it can make the difference in a close one. Roll through the Ages also has some more indirect interaction. Monuments that players may build are worth more for the first player to build them than they are fro subsequent players. You must watch which monuments have been built when considering which ones to work on.

Scaling: Both games work very well with 2-4 players, but I find that Ra Dice is best with 3 or 4 and Roll through the Ages is best with 2. Roll through the Ages also has a solo variant that I have not tried. In Ra Dice, more players makes the board more crowded and limits your options, which I find to be fun. The interaction in Roll through the Ages doesn’t change much with more players, so adding a third or fourth really only adds downtime. When it’s just two of us and we’re looking to play a single game, I turn to Roll through the Ages.

Strategy: Both games have it. Both games have a nice push your luck element, and both games require you to balance different scoring methods. As discussed, this balancing is at the core of Ra Dice, while Roll through the Ages allows you to plot your own course a bit more. Both games have similar amounts of luck. Sure, they’re dice games, but they’re about what you choose to do with what you roll, not just about the luck of your roll.

Fun: Both games are fun. It’s a close call, but I think Ra Dice is a bit more fun. I almost always want to play Ra Dice again after the first game and have often played three or four games in a row. Roll through the Ages is also fun, but it doesn’t have the same addictive replayability that Ra Dice has. I think this is because of the greater indirect interaction in Ra Dice. Neither game approaches multiplayer solitaire, but Roll through the Ages comes a bit closer.

Overall: At first, I thought these two games would be redundant members of my collection, but this just hasn’t turned out to be the case. Both are relatively quick and fun dice games, but Ra Dice is more structured, while Roll through the Ages allows you to build your own path. Ra Dice is a game where you can usually make your decisions quickly, while Roll through the Ages supports more extended analysis of how a move fits in with your overall plan. Ra Dice works best with multiple players, but I prefer Roll through the Ages with just two.

Comparison:

Components: RD: A; RttA: A+

Interaction: RD: B+; RttA: B-

Strategy: RD: B+; RttA: B+

Fun: RD: A; RttA: A-

Ovarall: RD: A-; RttA: B+
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Jim Wilde
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Nice review. I've been considering both these games in the last week or so, and have been trying to analyze the differences. Your review helps immensely. Thanks.
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Sheamus Parkes
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Teloric wrote:
Nice review. I've been considering both these games in the last week or so, and have been trying to analyze the differences. Your review helps immensely. Thanks.


I have to agree with the original post. They are both solid enough to share places in my collection.
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Maaike Fest
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Ra the dice game also has disasters
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Curt Carpenter
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I have never been able to see a disaster in RD. Despite trying.

While I agree with eth conclusion, one point I feel differently toward is the components. I don't feel that the bulky blocks of wood in RttA are particaularly "classy". I also don't particularly care for players having to write stuff down on paper. Makes it hard to track what others are doing.
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Pieter
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curtc wrote:
While I agree with eth conclusion, one point I feel differently toward is the components. I don't feel that the bulky blocks of wood in RttA are particularly "classy".

Seconded. I skipped buying RttA because I was turned off by the wooden dice. I know they were probably expensive to make, but they just feel cheap. I mean, wooden dice... these will get damaged quickly, won't they?
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Mystery McMysteryface
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
curtc wrote:
While I agree with eth conclusion, one point I feel differently toward is the components. I don't feel that the bulky blocks of wood in RttA are particularly "classy".

Seconded. I skipped buying RttA because I was turned off by the wooden dice. I know they were probably expensive to make, but they just feel cheap. I mean, wooden dice... these will get damaged quickly, won't they?


Thirded. I was not impressed by the RttA components either. The pegboards and the dice looked cheap--to me. The colors were hard to distinguish as well. Plus, I understand that the price is not inexpensive to boot.
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J. Jefferson
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Quote:
curtc wrote:
While I agree with eth conclusion, one point I feel differently toward is the components. I don't feel that the bulky blocks of wood in RttA are particularly "classy".

Seconded. I skipped buying RttA because I was turned off by the wooden dice. I know they were probably expensive to make, but they just feel cheap. I mean, wooden dice... these will get damaged quickly, won't they?


I can't speak directly to the longevity of the dice having only played the game roughly 20 times, but no wear yet. They feel tough, but I suspect over decades they will show some wear.
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Remus Rhymus
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Don't forget that RttA has a free P&P variant/expansion: Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age which adds some nice elements like shipping and trading which kicks player interaction up a notch. Also, end game is 7 developments, instead of 5; which gives a feeling of the civilization coming to fruition, instead of ending just as it's getting started.

That's just something else to consider when comparing the two. I think the RttA expansion improves the original game a good bit.

Check out Ender's So you're wondering about the official variant for Roll Through the Ages: our favourite civilization dice game gets upgraded to Version 1.1
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Scott Caputo
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How would folks compare these games to the Catan Dice game? Better? Worse?
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Sheamus Parkes
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scottwildcatman wrote:
How would folks compare these games to the Catan Dice game? Better? Worse?


Catan Dice never even sounded interesting enough to try. I mean, I kept looking at it, re-reading the rules to see if something was there.

It always just sounded like a themed Yahtzee. These 2 games are much more.
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Christopher Dearlove
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curtc wrote:
I have never been able to see a disaster in RD. Despite trying.


It's a reasonable strategy to try for a disaster, or failing that three points for three suns (which I think of as gold, though that's not in the rules) if you roll two or more suns on your fisrt roll, and not otherwise. But let's put that on one side and just try rolling a disaster no matter what you roll. Bad strategy, but it will give us an upper bound on the probability of a disaster. We can try the reasonable strategy another time.

That turns out to be a probability of P^5 + 5 P^4 (1-P) = P^4 (5-4P), where P = 1 - (5/6)^3 = 91/216, in which case P^4 (5-4P) = 91^4 x 716 / 216^5 = 0.1044.

Or in other words if you ignore all else and just go for the disaster, you'll get it slightly more than one turn in ten. As I said, in practice - playing sensibly - it's lower than that. But that's another posting, if I get to it.

I have of course rolled a few disasters over all my games.
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Curt Carpenter
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Yeah, I finally saw a disaster in RD. Two in one game actually, and by the same player! That was bizarre. I'm not sure I like how disasters work in practice, but they're rare enough that it's not worth getting too worked up about.
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David K.
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Quote:
Ra Dice:
...
After your initial roll, dice other than those that turned up suns may be re-rolled up to two times. If you decide not to re-roll a die on your first re-roll, you can not re-roll it on your second.


I'm trying to find in my rules where is states this (bolded emphasis). Is this correct? We play that you can re-roll any dice you want on the 2nd and 3rd roll. (except for suns obviously)

:confused:
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Chris Dorrell
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The rules on page 1 in the "Play" section clearly say that for die rolls 2 and 3 after placing any Suns on the Ra track:-

"He may reroll any of the remaining dice".

I take that to mean any, including any you did not reroll previously.

Chris

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David K.
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Yep Chris, that's how we are playing it and that's how I interpretted the rules. So we are doing it correctly. Not sure why the review says you can't re-roll die on roll #3 if you already decided not to re-roll it on roll #2.

Thanks.
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Yep Chris, that's how we are playing it and that's how I interpretted the rules. So we are doing it correctly. Not sure why the review says you can't re-roll die on roll #3 if you already decided not to re-roll it on roll #2.


You may not be sure why the review says that, but it's pretty obvious to me. The review says that because I got it wrong, and I've apparently been playing it wrong too (and playing it wrong kind of a lot).

blush

Anyways, after confirming with my rulebook, I'll update the review.
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Ergin Artesia
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I have been playing rtta for a while and it's a great filler game. I love the wooden pieces ... the wooden board, pegs and therefore the dice too, all feel and work so well together. Anything but wood dice would simple feel like an afterthought. I have seen reviewers worry about the colors wearing down over time and becoming hard to read, but I doubt that. That's more likely to happen wtih solid dice, if at all.

I just bought Ra dice by accident, meaning to buy Ra. Now that I've read this review I'm undecided. I'm considering starting a lunchtime game group at work and this game might actually be a good choice for that venue.

What do you all think? Should I return for Ra? Any reason to play/learn Ra before playing this game?
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J. Jefferson
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When I first played Ra Dice I had played Ra maybe two or three times. It's definitely not necessary to play Ra before the Dice game--they have a similar scoring system, so knowing either one will help you learn the other, but that's it.

Personally, I prefer the dice game. I think it's perfect for a lunchtime gaming group. I wouldn't make the switch, but both are good games.
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Kathy Sheets
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Jefforama wrote:
Ra the Dice Game and Roll Through the Ages: A comparison between two dice games


Overall: At first, I thought these two games would be redundant members of my collection, but this just hasn’t turned out to be the case. Both are relatively quick and fun dice games, but Ra Dice is more structured, while Roll through the Ages allows you to build your own path. Ra Dice is a game where you can usually make your decisions quickly, while Roll through the Ages supports more extended analysis of how a move fits in with your overall plan. Ra Dice works best with multiple players, but I prefer Roll through the Ages with just two.



Your review is the reason I just purchased both of these games and we love both of them. Thank you so much!
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