J. David Koch
This is my first review, so please bear with me as I give it my best shot.
Author: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Uberplay Games
Theme: Ancient Egypt
(Although there is an excellent 2player variant available here at BGG)
Playing time: 60 minutes
(Does play quicker with experienced players: 40 minutes)
Look and Feel
Once you open the box you are struck with how nice the components look.
Quad-fold board that opens up to reveal some beautiful artwork that certainly is evocative of the Egyptian theme. This art style extends to every item in the game.
Included is the game board, 16 wooden auction tiles, 180 playing tiles, 1 wooden Ra figure, money "tablets" for keeping score, a black bag for holding the tiles, and the traditional plastic insert. The tiles are nice and thick and should bear up to multiple playings over the years. The wooden auction tiles and Ra icon piece are thick and solid and give a real sense of quality to the product. Kudos to Uberplay for the work put into this game.
Piece of advice: Throw the insert away and then see if you have a bigger drawstring bag for holding the playing tiles. With the insert in place it is hard to get everything to fit back into the box once opened and you just won't need it. Next, the black bag that comes with the game is functional, but probably not quite big enough to hold the tiles and allow you to root around in the bag for your next draw.
As always, for games that call for a bag, I recommend a nice Crown Royal bag if you can find one. If not, then see if you can sew up or obtain a bigger bag for the tiles. Some folks like to set up the tiles face down on the table and not use a bag at all. If that is your preference, go for it.
Game play is relatively straight forward. The only confusion for most folks is how the scoring mechanism works. Basically, it is a set collection game.
Each player is allocated a few numbered auction tiles (depending on players involved 3 or 4: These tiles are numbered somewhere between 2 and 16. Players get some high numbers and some low numbers so it is relatively even) and the number 1 tile is placed on the center of the board. Across the top of the playing board is a number of open Ra spaces. These blanks are ready to accept any red Ra tiles that are pulled out of the bag. On the bottom of the board are 8 open spaces to place the tiles that are pulled out of the bag that are not red Ra tiles.
The game is played in 3 rounds (different Dynasties)
On a players turn, they have a option of one of three choices.
1) Pull a tile from the bag
If it is not a red Ra tile, place it on the collection row. If it is a Red Ra tile, it is placed on the top Ra row and an auction starts immediately for ALL the tiles in the collection row and for the number tile that is on the center of the board (Yes the bidding tile from the last auction is part of the bid.)
When the red Ra tiles spaces are all filled up, that Dynasty comes to an end.
2) Play a god tile.
There are 8 yellow god tiles that can be used by a player to exchange one to one for any tiles on the collection board that they want in their set.
3) Call Ra and start an auction.
When someone calls Ra! an auction starts immediately. Starting with the player to the left of the caller, each player may suggest a single bid or pass. If they bid, they move their bidding tile so it touches the board to show what they are bidding. The next player can bid higher, or pass. Last player to bid is the player that called Ra. When all have had the chance to bid once, the high bidder gets ALL of the tiles on the collection track AND the bid number in the center. They tile that won the bid is placed in the center of the board and becomes part of the next auction. The bid tile you took in the auction is turned face down on your board and can not be used again until the next dynasty rolls around. So you see, you have to be very careful how and what you bid. It is light enough to not be brain burning, but you have to watch all the players and what they are acquiring.
As you can see there is a definite time crunch applied as the game goes on. You only have the opportunity to get tiles you want (or want to keep out of your opponents hands)until the Dynasty ends. Once it does, you score for that Dynasty and many of the tiles are returned to the box and you start again. Some of the tiles (like Pharaohs and Monuments) remain on your game board and add up through out the game to be scored at the end of each Dynasty or at the end of the game.
That is a very simplistic overview, but I hope it gives you enough of the flavor to see how the game would progress. You are constantly on the look out for tiles that help you with a maximum score while trying to keep other tiles away from your opponents.
The beauty of this design is that the tiles that are up for auction are worth more of less to different folks, so you really have to stay on your toes.
Who Would Like this Game?
At my board gaming group we have a nice cross section of heavy gamers, Medium weight Euro gamers, and some relative new comers to the genre. Although this is not everyone's favorite. It is a game that gets a lot of play across all types of players. And since the playing time is relatively short, I expect this one to hit the tables quite often. Even my wife who does not care for auction games at all, likes Ra and asks for it on occasion. So it really a game that once explained will appeal to a number of different types of folks.
This game is just fun! Everyone is involved on every turn so the down time is minimum. It is easy enough that even the younger ones in the family can play, yet deep enough that hard core gamers will not be bored while playing. It plays quickly enough that if you play one practice game to teach the game, there will be plenty of time for a couple more games that evening.
Solid "A" (Two thumbs up)
Even if you have other "auction" games in your collection, you might want to make room for Ra if you have even a passing interest in this type of game.
As you can tell, I really like this one and if I am not mistaken, you will too.