Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Alea 1999

Awards: none



In the months after the Essen Games Convention in October 1998, the german top game-designer has been quite busy. The fruits of his work were showing in Spring 1999, when he release several good and interesting new games which were greedily accepted by his fans. Ra is one of these games, and in the game the Dynasties of ancient Egypt are struggling for eternal fame. They use the water of the Nile to grow the needed food, found Civilizations, become Pharaos, mine Gold and raise Monuments. And they are praying to their gods - above all others to Ra - the Sun-God. The Creator and Saviour of all Life choses, when the three phases of the game (old, middle and new Empire) will begin. After each of these Epochs, the players will receive Fame-Points for their progress. Diversity of Cultures, Monuments etc. will be evaluated, and players who were able to prevent Floodings, Earthquakes, Unrest etc. will receive additional points.

All the cultural needs of the egyptian people is symbolized by 180 tiles: The water of the Nile, civilizational advances, Pharaos, Gold, Monuments and Gods. These tiles are randomly shuffled and placed face down next to the gameboard. Also included with these tiles are 30 special tiles showing Ra´s Sun Symbol and 10 desasters like Earthquakes which destroy Monuments or Famines. Each turn, some of these tiles are turned over and placed onto the gameboard. Then the players may use Gold to bid for the tiles. The player with most skill in bidding for the tiles will surely be the player with most Fame after the three epochs.

The egyptian gameboard is designes like a human eye. In the center is the pupil, the sun-symbol of the Sun-God. It is surrounded by the 8 most important other egyptian gods. Around these are the eyelids. The lower lid forms a bent of 8 spaces reserved for the playing tiles, whereas the upper lid contains 10 spaces for the Ra-tiles. The eyelids are constantly in motion. In the lower lid the egyptians are placing their tiles, and their row is getting full and empty in short periods. By using Sun-tokens of different value, the players bid for the tiles on the gameboard in order to bring fame to the dynasty of the bidders. The upper lid is slowly filling with drawn Ra-tokens. When it is full, an epoch ends.

Players may start an auction in different ways: By drawing a Ra-token or by calling for "Ra" when drawing new Tokens or when the lower lid is full. In all of these cases, each player must decide whether it would be paying off to risk one of their valueable Sun-tokens in order to bet for the displayed tiles. Each player sees the values of the other players´ suns, and thus everyone can decide, whether to bet or to pass. A good evaluation of the displayed tiles will help deciding: So it´s always important to look whether there might be one or more desasters displayed. If this should be the case, the players are forced to calculate: Will they be able to solve a Famine which will destroy two of their Nile-tiles when they will simultaneously get several Monuments ? Or is it better just to pass bidding to the other players ? Are one, two or more Gods available ? These can later be exchanged for other benefits.

A player who doesn´t want to bid simply declares a pass. The higest sun bet by a player wins the auction and will be placed into the eye´s pupil (at the beginning of the game the sun with value "1" is placed there). Whenever a player uses a sun to win an auction, he must take the old sun from the pupil and places it face down in front of him. A player who only has face-down suns left cannot bet anymore and will have to wait until night has surrounded all players. The the next epoch will start.

After each of the three epochs Ra calls for the leaders of the dynasties to evaluate their progress. The tiles which the players have won in the auctions are sorted and will be evaluated into Fame-points. A key on the gameboard displays to all players the distribution of the Fame-points. Thus each player can see which tiles in which combinations will bring him most fame. So, for example, the player with most Pharao´s will gain 5 points, whereas the player with the fewest Pharaos will lose 2 points. Each Nile-tile will bring one point, provided the player owns a minimum of one flood which has made the land fertile...

After the last epoch the suns remaining with the players are evaluated as well. This makes the epoch of the New Empire most important, since players bidding for tiles in that epoch whould try to bid low suns and gain high valued suns in exchange. After all three epochs, the player with most fame wins the game.

Once again Reiner Knizia succeeded in creating a game with fascinating playing mechanics. But that´s not all: Unlike some of his other games, Ra finally belongs to the smaller group of Knizia-games which perfectly carries its background theme. Gameboard, rules and story are corresponding very well, and this certainly increases the fun of this quite strategical game. Okay, there certainly is a luck-element in the game by the random drawing of the tiles for the auction-display, but this element is relatively small compared to the strategical elements dominating the whole game. For this reason I cannot fully recommend the game from age 12 and up (like the box says), but instead I would recommend the game for a little bit older players. Grown-up players who have better insights into strategy games will certainly greatly like this game, since it carries a good connection between the rules and the background history.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany