Ra – A Classic Resurrected
Almost 25 years ago, Reiner Knizia created Ra, an unusual auction game with an Egyptian theme.
Now, publisher 25th Century Games has revived this game, unwrapping its potential and breathing new life into it, with new art by Ian O’Toole.
Ra is for 2-5 players ages 12+, and plays in 30-60 minutes.
How to Play
Each player receives a personal board, two five-point tokens, and four numbered sun disks (as indicated by their board).
Place the Auction board in the center of the table, with the sun boat, epoch marker, and “1” sun disk. All 155 Auction tiles go into the cloth bag.
The player with the highest-numbered sun disk will take the first turn.
On a player’s turn, they may choose to either draw a tile, invoke Ra, or spend god tile(s).
Draw a Tile
Draw a tile from the bag. If it’s anything other than a Ra tile, place it in the next available spot on the Auction board.
If it is a Ra tile, discard it, and move the sun boat one space. Then take the Ra statue and begin an auction.
Auction (Invoke Ra)
Instead of drawing a tile, you may choose to take the Ra statue and begin an auction.
Whether you started an auction on purpose, or were forced into it by drawing a Ra tile, the player to your left goes first.
Each player may bid once on the current set of tiles, placing one of their face-up sun disks in the center of the table. Or they can pass. The player who called the auction is not allowed to pass if they can bid a higher number – unless they were forced into the auction.
The highest number wins the auction, and goes onto the Auction board face-up. The winner takes the former Auction board sun disk and puts it face-down on their player board – then they collect all the current auction tiles as well.
Any player who bid, but did not win, takes back their sun disk.
If any Disaster tiles were part of the winnings, apply their effect immediately. Add all other tiles to the appropriate area of the winner’s board.
Spend God Tiles
A third option for your turn is to spend god tile(s) – if you have them. Each god tile can be discarded to take a single item directly from the Auction board. Use as many god tiles on a turn as you like.
End of an Epoch & Scoring
Players may no longer take turns if they have no face-up sun disks. There are two ways an epoch ends: either every player has run out of face-up sun disks, or the sun boat reaches the end of the track on the Auction board.
Now it’s time to score! Each type of tile scores slightly differently, and Monuments only score at the end of the game.
After epoch scoring, discard all the tiles on the right side of your player board – God tiles, Gold, Civilization tiles, and Floods.
Update the epoch marker, and start the next epoch.
End of Game
When the third epoch ends, score one last time. This time, you’ll also score your Monument tiles.
You’ll get points for each unique monument you have, with a bonus for having seven or eight types. You’ll also get bonuses for sets of three or more identical monuments.
Each player also adds up the total value of their sun tiles – the highest total value gets a bonus, and the lowest value loses points.
Who will be the wisest ruler of Egypt?
Ra is one of Renier Knizia’s earliest games. I’d heard it praised by many old-school gamers. But it looked boring and I’d never felt drawn to play it – and it was out of print anyway.
All that changed when 25th Century Games picked it up.
Everything was upgraded in this version. There’s a linen-finish rulebook, a deluxe bag for the tokens, and chunky wooden sun disks. Everything in this game is just nice. Although the Ra statue, for calling auctions, is a little over the top.
For the wealthy Pharaoh, there’s also a deluxe edition with wooden tiles and metal point tablets. But even the standard components feel “extra”, as my kids say.
Why it’s Classic
But nice components don’t necessarily mean the game is fun.
Ra delivers on the promise made by its components – it feels like a classic: simple to learn and hard to master.
The auction is only one time around the table and you can only bid your sun disks, but it provides the tension I’d expect from an auction. You’re still trying to get the most you can for the lowest price.
Every time your turn comes around, you ask yourself a question: How much do I want what’s on the Auction board? Most turns, I push my luck and pull another tile. When I delay the auction, I am hoping more good tiles will come out, or maybe Disasters that won’t affect me – because if my opponents don’t want them, I can get a better value for my sun disks.
I don’t want to spend all my sun disks too early, because then I’ll be shut out from the rest of the round. But not calling auctions often enough means that someone will get a lot of tiles while everyone else gets nothing.
When an auction is called, it’s still a delicate balance – I can bid my highest sun disk, but then not only will I lose it, but it will become part of what is being bid on in the next auction. This cycling of sun disks into other player’s discard adds another layer to bidding that we really like.
And don’t forget the sun boat! Drawing a Ra tile forces an auction but it also moves the sun boat. So even if no one is interested in bidding, the epoch will move towards its end.
Good for Families, Mostly with Teens & Adults
Although Ra felt pretty simple to learn, it’s still going to be very challenging for younger kids. The well-designed player boards smooth the way to understand all the scoring, but it’s still a lot to keep track of. We think the 12+ age range on the box is about right.
Our nine year old was happy to play, but he struggled with the numerous ways tiles score, as well as some of the bidding. But he also really enjoyed playing it! So don’t discount trying it with younger kids. The player board really helps here, with spots for each of the seven kinds of tiles and reminders about how they score. You’ll see analysis paralysis start to creep in as your kids start to understand the ramifications of all of the moving parts (or if you have an AP prone player) but it’s worth it for the enjoyment of the game.
Ra is fastest at two players, but the simple (but not easy!) choices keep the game moving even with four or five players. And, let’s not forget – the game is an absolute feast for the eyes, so you’ll have something gorgeous to look at while waiting for your turn.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Ra from 25th Century Games for this review.
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Age Range: 12+ (although our 9 year old loves it)
Number of Players: 2-5
Playtime: 30-60 minutes