Wednesday, 25 December 2019

boardgaming in photos: Ra, Coconuts

23 Nov 2019. I met up with Benz, Ruby, Xiaozhu and Edwin to continue our Betrayal Legacy campaign. The campaign takes 13 games, so it requires some commitment. That day, I also brought along Ra and Carcassonne. I thought it would be nice to have some variety. To my pleasant surprise, we had an absolute blast playing Ra. We enjoyed it so much that we played a few games back-to-back. I had originally expected to play the whole afternoon. Eventually we played all the way into the evening, only taking a break for dinner.

Ra is a 1999 game. It is a classic by Reiner Knizia. It is an auction game with an Egyptian setting. You compete in auctions to win various types of tiles. Different tiles score points in different ways, and these ways of scoring are all related to the Egyptian setting. The game is played over three eras. In each era there is a countdown. When time runs out, you may no longer collect any more tiles, even if you have unspent suns in hand (suns are your currency). In the photo above you can see that the Ra tiles have almost filled up the countdown track. One more Ra tile drawn from the bag and the era will end. At this time everyone with suns remaining is nervous. At any time the era will end and all unused suns will be wasted.

When I taught the game and played it, I was proactive in explaining how to evaluate the set of tiles on the board. I described the options available to the active player, and explained the pros and cons of each option. I wanted to make sure everyone understood the implications of the possible actions. Because I was so enthusiastic, I ended up sounding more like a used car salesman than a sincere teacher. I was convincing and my arguments were sound, but that only made me even more suspicious. Ruby said she had never seen me so keen and talkative, having known me for more than four years. I kept saying yeah this set of tiles are good, because of so-and-so, and then with another set I said again this is great too because of so-and-so. They all found it hilarious.

Benz said my #1 sun was the most powerful sun in the game. The #1 sun is the lowest valued sun in the game, and thus the weakest. When I had the #1 sun, I often invoked Ra, i.e. I triggered an auction round. In Ra, if your suns are weaker than others, you must not allow too many tiles to accumulate on the board. By the time a valuable set of tiles are gathered, the players with higher suns will certainly beat you in the auction for it. By invoking Ra early, you put them in a dilemma. There may be some tiles they are interested to get. If you succeed in making them win the tiles, you would be forcing them to spend their high suns without claiming too valuable a set. If you win the set yourself, you are only spending a low sun for a semi-decent set of tiles. I understood this principle and explained it to everyone. I used it to good effect, and everyone with high suns felt under pressure. That was why Benz said my #1 sun was the biggest threat.

We kept making fun of one another for being uncultured swine. In Ra, you need to collect at least one culture tile every era to avoid a 5VP penalty. This felt painful and everyone felt an urgent need to have some culture.

As we played more, we realised that fighting for pharaohs was important too. If you win the lead and stay in the lead for most pharaohs over three eras, you will earn 15VP, which is a lot.

Suns in hand are scored at the end of the game. Highest total scores 5VP, while lowest total is penalised by 5VP. In this particular game the suns I held were 1, 2 and 4, so certainly I came dead last and had to take the penalty.

21 Dec 2019. We celebrated younger daughter Chen Rui's birthday in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, my hometown. It was a family dinner event at home. I brought out Coconuts. I had brought the game to Sabah because I was going to give it to my nephew Oswald and niece Lauren. The occasion was a non-gamer occasion, so I taught the game without the action cards. It worked fine that way, probably better than it would have otherwise.

In Coconuts any coconuts which land in cups must not be taken out. If all coconuts are used up and no one has won a 6th cup, you compare the total number of coconuts in the cups you have won. Whoever has the most wins.

Chen Rui won this particular game. She got so excited that she fell off her chair. Literally.

The monkey-shaped catapult.

It was the first time Michelle's uncle played, and he won. In this game Chen Rui robbed a cup from him, and he became determined to take revenge and win back his cup. It was funny watching them play. This is what gaming is about - adults get to be children again.

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