Daniel had all three of his Sun pieces all to himself at the end, and the Ra track was not close to being filled. Thus, his racked up a lot of tiles and I think he even avoided disasters during his drawing.

Definitely, avoiding the situation that gave Daniel the advantage is important.

Josh won a bid that got him a lot of Nile River pieces during the first epoch (pronounced either epic or e-pock, epoch at dictionary.com). I had the right moves during the first and second epoch, but screwed up the third. Michael got 20 points at the end for monuments, 15 for the 8 different ones, and 5 for a match of three in one of the categories. Unfortunately he lost 7 points for lowest sum and least pharaoh. It's interesting that gaining pharaoh is good, but losing pharaoh isn't a big deal. So if you lost in all three epochs that's only 6 points lost.

It's good to get points in pharaohs and Niles early in the game (first epoch), since they carry over and continue to net points. Say you had 5 Niles, and 5 pharaohs early game. Then even picking up one flood per epoch, you will have 18 points (for Niles) and 15 points (for pharaohs), for a total of 33 points. Of course you'll need one civilization per round to avoid loss of points.

Since getting the sum bonus can help, you might consider not having the three top in hand at the end of the second epoch. Or perhaps the top number minus 2, top number minus 4, top number minus 6. So in a five player game, 14, 12, 10. Or go for a total of 34 to 36. I'm not sure. But I went into the third epoch with a low and two highs. The low was good, but the highs were too high. I didn't feel I had enough leverage.

The four-player game we played went faster than the five-player one. Obviously there were less players and the track is one shorter, but perhaps also because Josh and I had played one game and knew the rules. For sure with less people, the auction track comes back around before being filled up more often. Thus, you can gamble to get more on the auction track before a forced invoked Ra.

The game went smoothly now that we know the rules. Although the Ra auctions caused me to forget whose turn it was. We could use a turn marker in addition to the Ra marker. I, like the two other games, get hooked on trying to collect all 8 types of monuments. While this time I was successful, the benefit wasn't too great. Though I should have known the benefit was small, because in the last game, Michael also collected all 8. Daniel also played a monuments game, but was a bit better in getting scores in other areas. Michael and Stephanie played Niles, which is where Josh got ahead last game also. 15 of Michael's points came from securing Pharaoh each epoch.

Lol, I just realized that I had written Niles and pharaohs as the way to go above, i.e., yesterday. Though I guess I didn't realize we were going to play Ra, and hence didn't try to remember the strategy. It's so important that I will repeat it here, as it even guesses the points in the right ballpark (Josh got 30 last game, Michael got 39 this game):

It's good to get points in pharaohs and Niles early in the game (first epoch), since they carry over and continue to net points. Say you had 5 Niles, and 5 pharaohs early game. Then even picking up one flood per epoch, you will have 18 points (for Niles) and 15 points (for pharaohs), for a total of 33 points. Of course you'll need one civilization per round to avoid loss of points.

Of course, there's the suggestion to don't play a strategy that another is playing. But once a person plays pharaohs and Niles, then he/she has an edge to winning. Playing civilizations isn't as easy, because it disappears at the end of a turn. However, you can attempt to deter others from getting a civilization. But I find it hard to prevent someone from getting a civilization. All he/she needs to not lose five points is one civilization. Either directly or with a god. Then the monuments, it seems that a typical big score is 20, for 15 and 5. Though I guess if you did it well you can squeeze up to 25 on average. I think the strategy of being able to take negative points first round and starting the second epoch with 0 is a fail. Unless part of that is investing into pharaohs and Niles instead of civilization. In which case, you're probably going to be in the positive at the end of that first epoch. I think I started 0 going into the second epoch. Stephanie started 0 in the first game going into the second epoch. Steve started 0 in the second game going into the second epoch. We have too small a sample size to know for sure, but the question is, how do you go 0 going into an epoch. If you didn't have a civilization, that's -5. If you had lowest pharaoh, that's -2. So you had at most 7 points on the board. This means you have less than or equal to 7 Niles. Assuming you had 5, and things turn better for you on the next turns, then you get 12 points in floods and Niles, possibly 10 points in monuments, and minus 4 points in pharaohs. That's 26 points. Note first, that the emphasis is still on floods and Niles.

Josh, having played online, pointed out two things we did incorrectly (my bad, I was tasked with reading the rules and explaining them):
1) Each player starts with 10 points which allows you to lose points during the first epoch.
2) If a player chooses to play gods, he/she can play as many as she wants during that turn.

But I already commented above, that even without, it's still a big enough disadvantage that you shouldn't use that strategy (accepting negative points which converts to zero going into the second epoch). However, putting in the 10 points, it makes losing points in the first epoch something you want to avoid completely. Now the rules say you can't be in debt. But the only way that can happen is if you lost pharaohs and civilization in the first and second epoch. At which point you'd be so screwed, I don't think it would matter if you went negative.

I tried out the Niles and Pharaoh strategy and barely won. Michael tied for Pharaohs on the second and maybe the third epoch, though he could have won Pharaohs had he not taken a bid that included a funeral. However, he had many niles, not nearly as many as I had, but he had enough to be competing. What Michael triumphed in was with monuments. Again, he got all 8 and he completed a same in monuments in at least one monument type. In that last epoch, he also got a set of three different civilizations. Luckily, I got the bonus for sums. There were some other end game decisions for Michael that could have gotten up to tie, and perhaps a win if you go back a couple more steps, thought that is more uncertain. Oh I remember now, I believe he could have invoked Ra on the last turn and tied for Pharaoh, thereby tying the total game. But instead he pulled a tile, showing a Ra, ending a game, which he feels is still the right end game decision. My game ended with six pharaohs, seven Niles, three floods, and 3 1 1 1 monuments. I believe I had one civilization to avoid negative five points.

I also have to thank Josh and Michael for letting me withdraw a bid, for which I overvalued; I forgot that Niles go before floods when paying for drought. It wouldn't have even been worth my lowest numbered Sun.

As much as I wanted Nile and flood pieces, I was able to get enough monument pieces to cover part of my loss in strategy. Kevin was always close in Pharaoh. Stephanie played Niles strongest and then Josh had second in Niles. Actually, because Kevin went into negatives, i.e., less than 10, after the first epoch, and I think perhaps he was also there after the second epoch, I viewed it very beneficial for him to get points over Josh. I could let Kevin have bids that allowed him to get Pharaohs, as going into the third epoch, I had five and he had three. Or perhaps I got the fifth during the third, but regardless, I felt, even if Kevin got two Pharaoh and tied, he would catch up but not enough to win. Well, in the end he got highest sum and I got lowest, that's a ten point catch up for Kevin. His monument spread was also awesome. He tied with me for most Pharaoh. Had the Ra prolonged its final appearance and a Pharaoh came up in the last round, Kevin could have won. I finished with 5 pharaoh, 2 Nile, 3 3 1 1 monuments, 1 civilization, and lowest sum. Stephanie thought she had the lowest sum, but my sum was lower than Stephanie's sum by 1. However, I still think I left the game at an appropriate time, two Ra's were waiting to be put down, and I accepted getting lowest sum. As such, I knew my total gain on my final bid was about five points.

I ended with 6 pharaoh, 5 Nile, 2 floods, 1 2 3 1 2 monuments, 2 civilizations, and lowest sum. I didn't have floods in the first two epochs. I kept highest pharaoh throughout all three epochs at the cost of the lowest sum. Phuong was able to obtain 15 from having five different civilizations during the second epoch. This was very powerful. So in the last game and this game, I see that I have to be much more careful about lowest sum. It really puts me on the edge. Since Josh was so behind at the end, he had to take the risk of pulling tiles. But he failed the risk. Prior to the last Ra, he would only have gotten 12 extra points. Hmm... I don't remember who I lost the 3 monuments of one kind to... had I won that auction, I would have had 4 monuments of one kind. I guess I have to revamp my strategy to include obtaining the right split of suns. While it was Phuong's first game, he was invoking Ra at the right moments. At one point he forgot that invoking Ra means you have to take it. But that should almost be obvious, because otherwise, it would almost be like trying to pass on a turn. And if everybody kept doing that, then the game would never end. But the mechanics of the game are such that the game WILL end either by the Ra track being filled or by the use of all the Sun tiles.

I like the shortness between coming back to my turn of a three player game, and thus reducing the abuse of the same player invoking Ra. On the other hand, I like that for a five player game, the chance of the third epoch (or any epoch for that matter) ending because of Ra is lower.

07 05 07 00 Pharaohs
05 06 08 01 Rivers
00 00 00 00 Niles
02 01 02 00 Civilizations
3,1,1,2,1,2,1; 2,2,1,3,4,1,1; 1; 1 Buildings
LS XX XX HS Sun Tile
37 55 46 04 Final Scores

In this game, I went into the third epoch like Josh went into the third epoch last game. Except, instead of seriously getting points, I wanted to have 11, 12, 13 because I went into the epoch with 10, 12, 13. Though when the 11 finally went on the board, Josh pulled the last Ra before I could claim it.

Lesson here: get a civilization when you can. Stay in the running for pharaohs. Civilization and building bonuses kicking in can be game winners. Rivers are great investment first epoch. I guess that makes buildings better investments during the second and third epoch. You want to go into the third epoch with an even spread. One low, one medium, and one high sun tile. Then don't vary much, so that you either are in the center, or win highest sum. Also, make more use of invoke, especially when you know other players will continually invoke. Better to get out early than to deal with the Ra gamble.

Haha, I just read my "Lesson here." I wish I read that before I played. Oh well. At the end of the near end when I was the last to draw tiles for myself, I took some gambles and lost. Though the gain would have only been 6 points and still put me in at last. If I took what was there, I would have gotten a monument and a civilization to prevent a loss of five points. Instead I lost the gamble and loss five points. Though the gamble was necessary in hopes to bypass Michael.

03 02 10 05 Pharaohs
05 05 04 06 Rivers
00 01 01 00 Niles
01 02 02 00 Civilizations
2,2,1,2,3,1; 1,3,1; 2/3,2/3,1/2,1,1,1; 1,1 Buildings
HS LS XX XX Sun Tile
35 26 55 13 Final Scores

I can't remember if I've played two-player online or not, but for sure I like three-player Ra over four-player Ra. I might even like five-player Ra over four-player Ra. Somehow, four-player Ra more easily screws things up. Turn order is also slightly more critical in Ra than in other games. Now that I think about it, games in which turn order is nonexistent or constantly changing or just two-player are the ones I hold, in general, with higher regard. Agricola, Power Grid, Race for the Galaxy, and Caylus are some examples.
I think I do in fact like five-player Ra more than four-player Ra.

I didn't manage my numbers well early game. Knowing the strategy is much easier than executing it. In this game, I sort of tried a different sort of bidding strategy than in other games I've played.

X2 X4 X6 X5 X3 Lowest Starting Tile (Lowest and highest add to 18, middle and highest add to 23, difference of middle and lowest is 5)
-02-05+05+04-02 First Round
N00-02+11+07+02 Second Round
00 03 06 04 08 Pharaohs
04 04 06 00 06 Rivers
01 01 01 01 01 Niles
1,1,1,1,1,2,2,3; 1,1,3; 1,1,1; 1,1,1,1,1,1,2; 1,1,2,2,2 Buildings
4,5,16; 2,7,8; 9,10,14; 1,12,15; 6,11,13 Ending Tiles
41 28 43 29 28 Final Scores

For once I pull up my blog post and give it a read through before playing. I think it helped. I tried to stick to the following ideas:
1) Try to get Pharaohs and Niles early. Focus on keeping the lead in Pharaoh.
2) Don't underestimate the value of the civilization.
3) Go into the third round with a good spread of numbers, and try not to shift.
4) Start considering monuments in the second and third epochs.

I couldn't adhere to the third, because I accepted a possibly low sum for something else. I ended up tying for lowest sum with Chris. In hindsight, it was a bad move, because I'm pretty sure whatever I gained in the process wasn't worth five points, meaning I came out at a loss. Luckily, while the move narrowed the gap by two or three points between second and first, I still came out ahead.

My last move also gave way to Stephanie playing the gamble. After we tallied up the scores, it became clear that she needed to gamble enough to get at least six points, but the last Ra came up and there were only four on the board. Of course gambling was the right strategy, because there must have been only 1 Ra for every 4 or 5 tiles. That's pretty good odds. I still think I made the right final move. I was ahead in points, and I invoked on something that gave me a couple points, and couldn't afford to let the auction track grow, because Steph had a larger numbered tile than I had (perhaps hers was 12 and mine was 6) and so would have priority to win any auction worthy of points. Better she taking the gamble than me taking the gamble. Although, with her high numbered tile, I would not have gotten lowest sum. In hindsight, I could play it out. If she gets a good auction, that would still give me 5 points for not getting lowest sum. It's a simple and yet complicated game. I made decisions fairly quickly in this game. Thinking about it, I also made fairly quick decisions during Bang! also.

This was Chris's first time playing.

I kept less information than usual. This time I just kept track of the score at the end of each epoch (round) and who went first during that epoch. Also who got lowest or highest sum.
12 15 08 11 JK
12 20 15 16 TT
27 37 31 21 SH

I won Pharaohs all three epochs, Josh tied for Pharaohs on the last epoch. I barely got any points for floods and rivers. Stephanie got a lot of points in floods and rivers in the last epoch. Chris mainly focused on monuments. Josh on several occasions invoked Ra. This cuts my winnings down by 1 tile, but I would take into account how far the Ra track had progressed and often decide the auction tiles were worth taking. I mentioned in previous posts about modifying my invoking strategies based on other players invoking behaviors. I think I was able to do that well in this game.

Played 20091225 Josh (..) Kevin (..) Me (..) Daniel (..) Stephanie (..). Daniel won.
Played 20091225 Josh (30) Steve (09) Michael (21) Me (24). Josh won.
Played 20091226 Josh (07) Michael (39) Stephanie (23) Daniel (20) Me (12). Michael won.
Played 20091227 Josh (38) Michael (62) Me (67). I won.
Played 20091228 Josh (32) Me (48) Kevin (46) Stephanie (32). I won.
Played 20100103 Josh (14) Phuong (45) Me (43). Phuong won.
Played 20100104 Josh (46) Me (04) Phuong (37) Kevin (55). Kevin won.
Played 20101223 Josh (55) Me (13) DanielS (35) Michael (26). Josh won.
Played 20101228 Josh (43) Nikki (29) Me (28) Steve (41) Kevin (28). Steve first. Josh won.
Played 20110705 Josh (27) Me (37) Stephanie (31) Chris (21). Josh first. I won.

Relevant Links:
Ra (BoardGameGeek.com)

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