It’s wild that in the board game hobby we can refer to a game that is 6 to 8 years old as “a classic”. I found myself explaining Sagrada to a non-gaming friend as “a beautiful classic dice game”. Wait, wasn’t that published only 5 years ago?
RA however is a classic that was originally published “back in the day”. As a senior in high school in 1999, I wasn’t hip to the hot new board games. I was still gathering my friends around Hero Quest and running Star Wars RPGs at our local comic shop. In the 23 years since the first printing of RA, it’s become a quintessential bidding game for many.
Reiner Knizia is the designer of this Egyptian themed bidding game where players are collecting artifacts and resources. Whether you played the version that was published in 2016 or an earlier version of the game, RA feels timeless because the mechanics still hold up decades later.
A Modern Classic
25th Century Games is publishing this new version of RA, complete with all new artwork from award winning artist Ian O’Toole. I’m not going to dig very deep into the gameplay since nothing has changed here. If you’ve never played RA before here’s a quick glimpse into the game.
Each player is giving sun tiles with bidding numbers on them along with a player board. On your turn you make the simple decision to pull a tile from the bag that is being passed around or to “Invoke RA”. The bag is filled with architecture tiles which score at the end of the game, culture tiles which score as you collect more unique symbols, gold which is straight points or pharaoh’s which award points to the player with the most and remove points to the person with the least.
Tiles are placed on the track in the middle of the table which is also tracking how close players are to finishing each of the 3 epochs (or rounds). If you feel like it’s a good time to bid on all the tiles sitting on the track, you can “Invoke RA”, forcing players to bid on the tiles they see. Timing is everything here as you try not to give your opponents too many valuable tiles. Since all the information is visible at the table, players can really bait others into bidding on tiles they need for their collection.
Some tiles are scored each round, some at the end of the game and some even get discarded at the end of each epoch. As players win a bid, their sun token is swapped out for the sun token sitting in the middle of the table. You’re bidding on more than tiles because the sun tokens you win are used in the next epoch. After 3 epochs, the player with the most money wins the game.
If you’ve purchased a game from 25th Century Games in the past, you know that they don’t skimp on production value or style. This new edition of RA is exactly what you’d expect. Beautiful art, great iconography and top-notch components. The RA statue that is used when a player invokes RA is a chunky wooden piece that demands attention! Invoking RA on your turn should to get everyone’s attention.
An addition to the game that I love is the player boards for everyone at the table. Not only do they dictate your starting sun tokens that you’ll bid with, but these board also keep everything nicely organized. These sun tokens sit nicely in the middle of the player board, allowing others to quickly survey what every player is working with. Icons on the boards remind each player when artifacts are scored and gives everyone the necessary info on their collections.
After the first game, we immediately understood the icons and what they meant. This is a big win for anyone who plays a decent amount of games each month. I feel like I could step away from the game for 6 months and come back to it without any issues with forgetting the iconography.
The tiles are nicely illustrated and keep a consistent feel throughout. I was impressed with the use of colors in a game that in previous versions could easily be described as “brown”. The use of teal, red and gold really make things pop with the art. It’s easy to see when a player pulls a RA tile from the bag because of the bold red used on these tiles.
Who is This Edition For?
While I had watched others play RA over the years, this isn’t a game that we have on our shelf. Bidding games can be a hit or miss with our family. It usually revolves around the theme of the game. RA is still being published 23 years after its original release because it’s a great game. The mechanics still hold up and the flow of the game moves so quickly.
I had no idea what to expect when sharing this edition of RA with my kids. It honestly took me by surprise when they told me how much fun they had! It was even more shocking when I asked “what game do you all want to play?”. RA was the first suggestion from my 18 year old daughter.
This is the definitive version of Knizia’s classic bidding game. The art, iconography and overall production make game even more special. If you don’t already own a copy of RA, it’s time to correct that mistake (I know I will). If you have a previously published version of RA, hopefully it’s well worn and time to upgrade. Your family and gaming group will thank you.
RA launches on GameFound on May 3, 2022. Join the campaign and get a copy of this modern classic when it finishes production.
A prototype of the game was provided for this coverage. Components and rules covered in this preview are not finalized. Read more about our preview policies at One Board Family.