Saturday, August 19, 2006

Is Ra broken?

There has been much discussion about seating position problems in games, usually but not always centred on Puerto Rico. This is usually a static seating problem, for example if you are an average Puerto Rico player, but sitting the left of a village idiot you will be enhanced to the status of Puerto Rico Grand Master, or so some of the discussions seem to imply.

Why is it that nobody has talked about the dynamic seating issue in Ra? In Ra you don't have the Village Idiot problem, you have the Junk Bidder problem.

The Junk Bidder is the player who has at least two low Sun tiles, usually with values under five. Let us say, hypothetically of course, that you are the player to their left with a God tile and one reasonable Sun tile left. You may, or may not hypothetically speaking, have six different monument tiles and no civilisation tiles.

Round after round, one of the two monuments you want, nay need, comes up. Every single time the bag reaches the Junk Bidder they casually dismiss it and call Ra, meaning that yet again you won't be able to use your hypothetical God tile to pick up that seventh monument type. With the God and a bid you thought that you should be able to pick up both a monument and a civilisation tile for an easy ten points before the end of the epoch without any problems. The first time a monument piece that you want is there the Junk Bidder calls Ra, but you need to pass so that you can use your God tile later. Unfortunately there is enough interest in the auction that one of the other players bids and the Junk Bidder is left with all torturous Sun Tiles intact. The third time this happens there is, again hypothetically speaking, one of the monuments you need and a civilisation tile. Of course the Junk Bidder calls Ra, this time you figure you will just take the two points for the God and bid. Of course you are outbid by one of the other players who both seem determined to leave the Junk Bidder empowered to do their worst against you.

Three vitally important monuments and a civilisation tile have now gone, you still have your God and Sun tile and the Junk Bidder is still sitting with their three and four Sun Tiles that are turning your life in one of abject misery. An epoch that started so well is heading towards an end with a whimper with you turned into a blubbering incompetent wreck who can't get anything.

If this hypothetical game had actually occurred you would have gone from leading in the first epoch with six different monument types to coming dead last at the end of the game.

I suppose I should not discuss this with MrSkeletor or he will campaign against "another broken Reiner".

Speaking of MrSkeletor I must commend him for raising general table banter and trash talking to a new height this week during a game of Beowulf. Has anyone noticed that a quarter of the board is missing? Or did Doug just get a dud copy? However, I digress.

As well as the usual "take the risk, it's only a scratch" and "you don't have three wounds yet" type of comments that seems quite common in our group, MrSkeletor elevated the experience by reading out his interpretations of the thematic descriptions for each encounter along the way. I'm still not entirely sold on the game and the monumental risk taking events that occurred did seem to encourage a little too much "speaking in Danish" from Anna and myself according to Doug, but I would play it again even without MrSkeletor's commentary.

How to spot a gamer child
I had opened up a new game this morning and when I picked up the counter sheet I noticed that all of the pieces except for one red one had fallen out in transit. Daughter the Younger wandered into the room, looked at what I was doing and said "You need to push the red one out Daddy". Now I must stop writing and play a game with her since she has been asking me so nicely (actually saying "please" without prompting). She is requesting the yellow one with red writing and the grey one.

Mmmm Meeples taste like...

10 comments:

Ryan Walberg said...

How did you get MrSkeletor to play Beowulf? I thought he hates that game.

Shannon Appelcline said...

But you've described *exactly* what makes Beowulf a good game: the balance between high and low value suns.

More directly, if the junk bidder keeps calling RA, you have two choices (1) if it's *exactly* what you want, take it with your god sun, and don't feel too bad about it because you got a lot of points -or- (2) let the junk bidder take it, and unless the Ras are very aggressively coming up, you should still have plenty of time to build up some good lots after he's gone.

Melissa said...

I knew you weren't going to forgive me for that game on Friday night :)

That's just what I like about Ra - that even when you *think* you are screwed because you have such lousy suns, there is plenty that you can do to improve your position (and to prevent others from improving theirs).

And it's quite different from the Puerto Rico situation, where you are stuck in that position for the rest of the game. In Ra, who knows? You might be the junk bidder yourself, next round.

Ra!

peer said...

Junk Bidding is a strategy - in fact sometimes its the best you can do! If you only have low suns, you have to wear out your opponents. What else should he do? Let you get the precious tiles?
No,Ra is not broken, just because its not played in a way you like :-)

Or perhaps everything was just satire and i missed the point? ;-)

Fraser said...

Ryan said How did you get MrSkeletor to play Beowulf? I thought he hates that game.

Possibly because we had played El Grande with him immediately before. Perhaps he secretly likes it, because he as actually played every game (or both games) of Beowulf that I have played and he might have even played it some more without me. It is a bit of shock to the system but MrSkeletor can actually play non FFG games :-)

I'll discuss the Ra comments later ;-)

Scott said...

I think your experience in Ra is not a player order issue, but a sun order issue, isn't it?

I really like Ra, but agree that there can be very frustrating hands. Just dream of turning the tables next game....

And as Shannon pointed out, every time someone calls Ra without a Ra tile and you pass, you are moving that much closer to that coveted position of sole bidder left.

Fraser said...

Yes it was a satirical piece. I am a master junk bidder myself, on this occasion I was on the receiving end of it and the other two players capitalised on the situation, didn't they Melissa? :-)

Oh and I was the sole bidder as the epoch came to a rapid close and I pushed my luck a tile too far :shake:

It was just one of those epochs :-)

Adam said...

Maybe the person to your left really didn't want you to be able to use your sun tile. In that instance, they might see calling Ra as a smart move.

Jeff Coon said...

Broken? Hardly! While the particular situation you described may arise, the "junk bidder" was playing effectively, and the player with the god tile poorly estimated its value. They should know they have a junk bidder sitting to their right, and that god tile may not be the "automatic monument" they want it to be - therefore, they should have devalued the god tile.

You've described one of my favorite things about Ra. The guy with the low sun tiles isn't necessarily screwed. With quick bids and some lucky Ra tile draws, he can be a powerful bidding force, even with those low numbers.

jwandke said...

Lucky you!

Play the gray one with her!!