Saturday, April 09, 2005


This week we celebrated the new.

We ate food we've never had before (Lamacun, which is turkish pizza which turns out to be both very cheap and pretty good).
We had snacks we've never eaten before (the latest sprite concoction, Dill Pickle Doritos).
We were introduced to Ian, Kozure and Tili's new baby boy
We played with people we've never had at WAGS before ("Agent Oral", a university friend, and "Jaywowzer", a new aquaintance I met through Boardgamegeek).
We played two new games (Witch Trial and Ra)

First off, I'd like to point out that Jaywowzer is a madman. And he is very dedicated to gaming. Despite a flight arriving in Toronto at 7:30pm, he made it to his hotel and found Kozure's place in less than 1:30 hours... we hadn't even made it through our first game! Nice that he came though, it was a pleasure meeting him and I look forward to having him come again!

On to the games... Witch Trial was first up. This is another Cheap Ass game from Kozure's seemingly endless collection of them. As with most of these games, the game is humourous and relies on players involvement to really work. In this case, you have the Salem witch trials as a theme. Players all play lawyers trying to get as rich as possible by trying or defending a series of suspects on various charges. It's a card game, with everyone managing a hand of cards representing suspects, charges, motions, evidence, etc. There is a series of face up cards on the table, and players must choose to either draw one, pair a suspect or charge from their hand with it's counterpart from the face up cards, or take a case to trial. A trial basically comes down to adding up the "suspicion level" of the accused with the "likelihood" of the charge to get a number from 1 to 12. Then players alternate adding evidence and motions to increase or decrease that number in their favour. Once all cards are played, the dice are rolled and the result is added to the total. If the result is over 12, the prosecution wins. We all got into it, making an effort to "present" our cases, reading the card texts and generally haming it up. Bluffing can be usefull, but the bulk of the strategy seemed to revolve around timing you cases such that no one is in a position to defend it properly (negotiation skills are also usefull if you want to make a plea bargain to split the settlement without getting a verdict). Also, since the defending lawyer always gets a minimum retainer whether he wins the case or not, it doesn't really hurt to do a lot of that, too (as long as you don't use up lots of otherwise good cards trying to defend a hopeless case). I won the game, but as with most first attempts at a game, it was entirely luck. It was pretty fun, and I think that the game mechanic is strong enough that this one would be fun for quite a few more plays (even moreso than unexploded cow, which I also liked).

Next up was Ra. Since this is only a 3-5 player game, we split out into two game groups (4 and 2). I played Ra with JayWowzer, Agent Oral and Luch, while shemp and kozure played "Lost cities".

Ra was excellent. I really enjoyed this one, and I'm really sad it's out of print. This is an auction game set in Egypt. Each player is trying to build the most impressive dynasty by accumulating the most pharoahs, the best civilizations, the most temples, etc. Over the course of three "epochs" (rounds), players take turns either drawing from the pile of tiles to add to the board, or to call an auction to see who gets to keep the tiles which have been drawn so far. There is a clever mechanism for the auctions, though: The players start the game with three "sun" markers with number on them (2-16, no two are the same). and a value 1 sun tile is placed on the board. Whenever an auction occurs, players can choose to offer up one of their numbered tiles for the lot, and the highest bid takes them. There are three tricks, though! 1) Because of the unique scoring mechanism, the same face up tiles will be worth differently to different players 2) disaster tiles can turn up which actually destroys existing tiles if you win the auction, and this can make an otherwise desirable lot much less attractive if you hold the type of tiles which will be destroyed, and 3) one you've won an auction, you have to trade in your sun tile and take the one present on the table. The sun tiles you take are the ones you'll use to bid in the auctions on the next epoch, so you have to carefully consider the tile you'll be aquiring as part of the auction when bidding. There are two other ways an auction can happen... if the board fills up or if a player draws a tile and gets a "Ra" tile, an auction is immediately called on whatever is on the table. Each "Epoch" ends once all players have used up their bids or once a preset number of "Ra" tiles turns up. This can lead to some real tension as players try to turn up the tiles they need to complete their sets, but debate whether they should just bite the bullet and bid on what's there so that the round doesn't end before they get the chance to aquire anything. the scoring seems a little finisky at first, there are a lot of case like "you get this many points if you have the most pharoahs, and you loose this many if you have the least" or "you get one point for each river tile, so long as you have at least one flood, otherwise they are wortless". Plus, some items are scored every round, others only at the end of the game. Some tiles are thrown out at the end of the round, others go to the end. Still, a logic quickly emerges and it soon becomes pretty smooth. A cheat sheet which Jaywowzer printed out from Boargamegeek really helped visually organizing the sets, their scoring, etc.
All in all, I found the game moved quickly, had a nice balance of randomness and looked great. I'd put it right up there with my favorites, if i could get my hands on a copy!

for the record, JayWowzer creamed us on the first go around, and in the second game (with Kozure and Shemp in, but with Agent Oral out playing Lost cities with Tili), Kozure beat me by a nose through a consistent lead in the pharoahs in each epoch. JayWowzer played chicken with Ra and lost on a couple of occasions in the second game, accounting for his loss.

Witch Trial : 7
Ra: 9


  1. Thanks for catching up with the info from the previous session, Easy. I've been pretty occupied of late.

    Occupied is a good word... a new baby really "takes over" the house.

    Fortunately, no resistance movements are evident yet, though that cat looks a little shifty.

  2. Curse those RA tiles! I blame it on a bad tile mix between games... yea...that's it...a bad tile mix .

    Thank you all for your hospitality in opening your home and gaming group to me. Including gaming opportunities into my Toronto travel agenda is a welcome addition and I look forward to further opprotunities for more gaming.

    And lastly Congratulations to Kozure, for the beautiful new baby (and the win). When I heard the news of the birth, I was certain that the game session would be postponed, but (lucky for me) it was not. Now that's dedication! I remember our first days home with our first newborn, but only vaguely as they are blurred by the haze of sleep deprivation. Congratualtions again and best wishes for your family.

  3. While pondering our difficulties remembering who drew the RA tile which initiated an auction, I perused the Ra comments at BoardgameGeek and came across this tidbit posted there by IngredientX which resolves the problem:

    "If a player draws a Ra tile, he puts it on the Ra track. In our games, he then takes the Ra figure from the board and places it face-down in front of him. This indicates that all players are allowed to pass.

    Once the auction ends, the Ra figure is returned to the board.

    If a player calls Ra, he takes the Ra figure from the board and places it standing up in front of him. This indicates that one player must win the auction. If everyone else passes, then the player who called Ra must buy the lot.

    Again, once the auction ends, the Ra figure is returned to the board.

    We find the Ra token invaluable. It's very easy to lose track of turn order after an auction, and think that the player who won the auction is the player who just took his turn."

    Seems clear in print and is a simplification of Miguel's idea of passing the Ra to the minimum actually required... in the event of an auction.

  4. Yeah, I read that too. Makes a lot of sense once you see it (I wondered what that piece was really for)...

    We'll have to try it again sometime, just to be sure we get it right!

  5. As part of a very late comment blitz, let me just say:
    Witch Trial, 6 (which seems to be the natural level of CHEAPASS games.)
    Ra, Provisional 7 (I think it needs further assessment)
    Lost Cities, 8