What a night of gaming! We were honored to have three renown gamers in town for the approaching Gulf Games convention: Jay 'Rio Grande Games' Tummelson, Ty Douds and Jonathan Degann. These three are great individuals and we had a wonderful time gaming and socializing with them.
As a special treat, Jay brought along ALL of the new games he plans on releasing in the United States during 1999, in addition to a couple that he may be releasing. We managed to play a handful at the Westbank Gamers session, and ALL of them were played during the subsequent Gulf Games convention which lasted throughout the remainder of the week and weekend.
While Jay Ouzts, Ty Douds, Jonathan Degann and Lenny Leo were vying to score Top 10 hits in Evergreen, Jay Tummelson taught John Moore and I this latest Reiner Knizia release.
The theme, which is another loosely based Knizia theme, is set, of course, in Egypt. Players bid to collect sets of various tiles, ranging from civilization advancements to monuments. Each tile scores in various manners, some immediately at the end of each round, while others do not score until the end of the game. Some require a certain number before it begins yielding points, while others require that you have the majority of the tiles before it scores. Of course, there are also penalties for having the fewest tiles in a category, or having none at all. Further, there are tiles which cause players to lose previously collected tiles.
Problem is tiles are auctioned as a group. On each turn, a player turns over a tile and places it on the board. On a player's turn, he has the option of turning over a new tile, or calling 'Ra', in which case the group of tiles which have been placed on the board so far are auctioned to the highest bidder. There are also tiles which automatically force an auction when revealed.
Each player has four tiles with point values ranging from 1 - 13. One of the tiles is placed on the board and will be included in the group of tiles which are bid on. The remaining tiles are distributed at start in a manner to insure play balance. In turn order beginning with the player to the left of the player who holds the Ra token, each player places one of his tiles face up as a bid. The next player must either place a higher valued tile as his bid, or pass. The player with the Ra token has the final opportunity to bid. The player who placed the highest bid receives the tokens, including the tile placed on the board at the beginning of the game. The tile he bid now takes that tile's place on the board and will be included in the next group when it comes up for bid. An interesting mechanism.
The game continues in this fashion until the track for the 'Ra' tiles is filled. Scores are then tallied and certain tiles must be returned to the counter mix while others may be kept for future rounds. The monument tiles, for instance, are kept, as they only score at the end of the game. Thus, one faces a decision on whether to concentrate on collecting monuments in hopes of acquiring the necessary amounts and sets to yield healthy points at games end, or go for the easier to collect, albeit lower scoring tiles which yield points each round they are collected.
Three rounds are played and final points are tallied to yield the victor. The mechanism is interesting, but does grow a bit stale as most turns are simply turn a tile and place it on the board. It is certainly a game I would never object to playing, but don't know if it would be one which would be requested very often or see repeated playings. It certainly is not one of Knizia's best efforts, but still a reasonably enjoyable game nonetheless.
In our game, the experienced Jay Tummelson taught John and I a lesson. The first round was close between Jay and I, but Jay stomped us in round 3 to take an overwhelming victory.
Jay 26 6 47 = 79
John 14 10 20 = 44
Greg 23 2 15 = 40
Ratings: John 6, Greg 6 (Jay, for obvious reasons, didn't rate the game!)
A second game of Ra was held later in the evening involving Ty Douds, Lenny Leo, Jay Ouzts and Jonathan Degann. Again, Jay took the notes and I hope for a report soon.