That’s Priests of Ra (published 2009) on the left and the first version of Ra (1999) on the right. Ra is a game with special meaning to me. It is one of the games I played when I first got into the hobby. At the time it was out of print. I read about it, read the rules, and was so intrigued that I hand-made a copy. Now that I think back about it, it was a crazy undertaking. So many tiles to cut one by one. I no longer have the stomach to do something like this now. My Taiwanese friends and I loved Ra and we played it many times using my ugly home-manufactured copy. They later secretly found a second hand copy on eBay Germany, and bought it for me as a birthday present. That day when we played Ra, they insisted that I be start player. I didn’t suspect anything then. When I drew the first tile from the bag, I was stunned. Why is there colour on this tile? We were playing a real copy of the game! They had borrowed the game from me about a week earlier, and secretly swapped the tiles to surprise me. That’s why Ra would be high on the to-save list if my house ever catches fire.
Priests of Ra is also designed by Reiner Knizia. The bidding mechanism is exactly the same as Ra. However the tiles you win and how they score are very different. Since my copy of Ra is a second hand copy, I never saw the tiles fresh in their sprues. My copy of Priests of Ra is new. I was thrilled to see the fresh tiles, even though I’ve seen fresh tiles hundreds of times before. I don’t usually do unboxing posts. This time I can’t resist.
I think the prettiest tile of all is the Ra tile (top).
These are the citizen tiles. They are double-sided. I’ve only taken photos of one side.
The purple tiles are the priests. They have special abilities and work differently from regular citizens.
These are ankhs. You may collect up to four of them, and they score points.
This is the Priests of Ra board. Compared to Ra (below), it is more colourful. It lists all the scoring methods too. The text is rather small though, and not easy to read. The background is a papyrus pattern, and that makes the small text harder to read. Although at first sight this newer board looks more attractive, after a while I feel it looks busy. Maybe I’m being a stubborn old-timer who can’t let go of old stuff.
The Ra track is colourful. At first I thought that is bad. In the older board below, it is not coloured. When you place the Ra tiles (which are coloured) on the track, the visual experience is pleasant because you can easily see the progress. Also there is this feeling of filling up a colouring book. However the Ra track in the newer board has a green background, while the Ra tiles have an orange background. So it will still be easy to see the progress.
In contrast, the Ra board looks a little plain.
I found the bag that comes with Priests of Ra rather small. After putting all the tiles in, it is about two thirds full. It is hard to shuffle the tiles. So I found a bigger bag.
I got this blue bag at a friends gathering three years ago. I think this was the bag for a whiskey bottle. We drank the whiskey and nobody cared about the bag. So I kept it, knowing sooner or later it would be of use with some board game. So here we are three years later.
These are all the tile types in Priests of Ra. The tablets at the top are the victory points. The tiles in the first row are single-sided, or to be more accurate, both sides are the same. The rest of the tiles are all double-sided. Yellow is always on the other side of blue, red always on the other side of green. Whenever you draw a double-sided tile, you immediately decide which side to use. Whenever you claim a priest tile, you may use it to flip one tile in your play area. The double-sided tiles is a new mechanism introduced in Priests of Ra.
The game components on the left are from Priests of Ra, while those on the right are from Ra. At a glance, the Priests of Ra components do look more colourful and attractive. The Ra tiles in both versions (falcon head with a sun on top) work the same way. The priests (purple tiles) in Priests of Ra is roughly equivalent to the gods (yellow tiles) in Ra. They both have special powers. The priests can be used to flip double-sided tiles and also to remove plagues. Gods are used to directly claim a tile on the board without initiating any auction.
The plague tile in Priests of Ra looks similar to the funeral tile in Ra, but they work differently. Plagues simply deduct points. Every additional plague tile costs you more points. Funeral tiles only target your pharaohs. You lose two pharaohs that you have collected.
The citizen tiles in Priests of Ra give you points if you have more of them than other players, but you need at least two. All four types of citizens work the same way. In Ra, there are five types of civilisation tiles. If you have none, you lose points. If you have three or more types, you gain points. You don’t need to compare with others though. The one thing that’s common between citizen tiles and civilisation tiles is they are discarded after being scored at the end of an epoch. Next epoch you start collecting all over again.
In Priests of Ra you have buildings and you also get to build a stepped pyramid. These are not lost at the end of each epoch like the citizens. The rough equivalent in Ra is the monuments, which are only scored at the end of the game. In Ra there are a few other tile types which cannot be found in Priests of Ra – coins, pharaohs, the River Nile and disasters. Disasters in Ra all target specific tile types you have collected. You are forced to discard them. The only disaster type in Priests of Ra is the plague.
The numbered suns (used for bidding) and the Ra token in Priests of Ra are the same as the first edition of Ra. That’s great news. They look good. In later editions of Ra, these components were not as good as the first edition.