All Hail Mighty Ra!

In boardgames on January 3rd, 2007 at 3:48 pm

I got a copy of the Überplay Ra for Christmas, and it has become my game group’s new obsession. It’s been played five of the last seven nights (not game nights, actual nights — vacation time for the holidays and unusual schedules are syncing up just right), including two nights I wasn’t free — they borrowed it so they could play without me!

I had played a lot of Ra already on BSW, so I knew that it was very good, and I expected it to go over well, but this is the hottest reaction to a game ever from my group.

A few observations

  • This game is incredibly simple and straightforward. The core rules systems take less than two minutes to explain, and the scoring takes, perhaps, another minute and a half. I can’t explain Carcassonne or other “family” boardgames that quickly.
  • The box and included draw bag need to be about 10% larger, or the tiles need to be marginally smaller. It is extremely difficult to mix the tiles up in the bag at the start of the game, and it is awkward storing the tiles in the bag inside the box, since they tend to prop up the board and, in turn, the top of the box.
  • I have heard reports of the draw bag splitting along its bottom seam, but mine seems sturdy so far. My board has warped slightly, though, possibly due to the open design of the cardboard box insert or being propped up on top of the tiles. Publisher’s take note — I am perfectly happy to pay another dollar or so for a well-designed, blown plastic insert that supports the gameboard well.
  • While deciding whether to reprint Ra, Überplay considered changing the theme to the free agent market in professional (American) football. This would have been a gigantic mistake. Although I am a sports fan, a lot of game geeks are not, and would have been actively turned off by the new theme. The Ancient Egypt theme is more abstract, and less likely to actively grab anyone’s attention, but it is even less likely to turn anyone off in the way a sports theme would. I doubt a change in theme would draw in enough new, non-gamer, buyers to offset the number of gamers that would be turned off by it.
  • Ra is underrated as a gateway game. Like I said above, the rules are extremely straightforward and easy to grasp. In addition, the graphics are eye-catching and the screwage is just about perfect — sufficient to avoid any feeling of multiplayer solitaire, but indirect enough to avoid bad feelings.

So All Hail Mighty Ra!, king of the middleweight auction games.

  1. While I had played Settlers of Catan previously, I consider my *real* entry into the world of German games to be when I was introduced to Ra. This is still one of my favorites.

  2. Ra is my favorite game. I hear you can even be competitive while drinking. 🙂

    After every game, I throw all the tiles in the box and mix them up before I put them back in the bag. This way they’re ready to go for the next game.

    My bag split on the top, and I’m looking for alternatives.

  3. I still prefer the Razzia version for its portability, but it’s a great game no matter what the form factor.

  4. Iain,

    I just can’t see the game being as good without the disasters. Without them, I think pushing your luck at the end of an epoch (or the Razzia equivalent) would be too strong. I’m also a tad dubious about 7 monument types versus 8, but the effect that would have would vary by number of players.

    I haven’t actually played the Razzia version, though, so that’s just speculation on my part.

  5. Geez, it took ya long enough.

    Ra never struck me as being a good gateway game, though, or at least not with the non-gamers I know. The scoring is going to seem extremely complicated if you’re not a gamer, and there’s just something very abstract about the whole game in general. Maybe the problem is that there isn’t any immediate gain for your choices. I can just hear my family saying “monuments, rivers, leaders: who cares?”

    However, I do think that if I could somehow convince them to try it a couple of times (perhaps a gun might work), I’m sure they’d end up liking it.

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