Review of Razzia!

Review Summary
Playtest Review
Written Review

December 8, 2004


by: Shannon Appelcline


Style: 4 (Classy & Well Done)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)

One of Reiner Knizia's best auction games, finally available in a new (but rethemed) edition.

Shannon Appelcline has written 681 reviews (including 203 card game reviews), with average style of 4.03 and average substance of 3.85. The reviewer's previous review was of Reiner Knizia's Samurai: The Computer Game.

This review has been read 8847 times.

 
Product Summary
Name: Razzia!
Publisher: Amigo
Line: Knizia Auction Trilogy
Author: Reiner Knizia
Category: Card Game

Cost: 9.49 €
Year: 2004

SKU: AM4710


Review of Razzia!
Razzia! is a new version of Reiner Knizia's hit board game, Ra, rethemed and slightly shortened & simplified.

Players: 2-5
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes
Difficulty: 3 (of 10)

This is a review of the German edition of Razzia!, put out by Amigo; it's the only version of Razzia! on the market, presumably since (according to reports) Uberplay has the rights to do a new English edition of Ra.

The Components

Razzia! comes in a small bookshelf box with:

Cards: The cards are all half-size cards, printed full color on linen-textured cardstock with rounded corners. They're a bit of a pain to shuffle because of their size, but conversely they're just the right size to display in front of you; if they were full-size instead you'd run out of room piling up all your loot.

120 of the cards form the core Razzia! deck. Each one features artwork, all somewhat cartoonish, but nicely done, and sometimes featuring some nice details. 21 are simply "Police Raid" cards, which each depict a police man shouting "Razzia!" The other 99 cards are booty cards, very clearly divided into six types by colored borders: purple bodyguards, green cars and drivers, blue thieves, gold coins, red trinkets, and brown businesses. Very helpfully, cards that must be discarded after an auction round are very clearly marked with an "x".

The remaining 6 cards are reference cards, which describe the scoring for each round. They're in German, and I've printed English translations off of BGG for my guests, but anyone who's played Razzia! before will be able to remember the scoring from these cards. (They're well designed.)

Checks: 16 cardboard chits, showing numbers from 1,000 to 16,000. They're simple, but well produced, printed full-color on linen-textured cardboard.

"Board": Printed on the same linen-textured cardboard, this cardboard strip shows you where to place the cards relevant to the auction: there's a row for police raids, a row for a check, and a row for auction cards.

Rulebook: A fine-looking full-color rulebook, useless to me because it's in German. Again, I printed a full-color translation off of BGG. There's a nice version of the rules there laid out as a booklet, so I have a 12-page English translation that fits right in my game box.

Missing Components: A few components are notably missing from this game. The first is a marker to show who started an auction round. Some of our players (who had never played the original Ra, which does have such a marker) got confused a couple of times, so I grabbed a nearby die for this marker.

Slightly less annoying is the lack of markers to show scores. I did it with pen and paper; ideal would have been a score sheet that you fill in, such as that included with San Juan or Seasons, since it could also have been a reminder for how everything scores.

Overall the components for Razzia! are good quality, attractive, and somewhat helped to play the game. I've thus given it an above average "4" out of "5" for Style.

And, if it's not obvious, there's zero language-angst if you're a non-German reader buying this game. Everything is language-independent except the rules and reference cards, and you can get those off the 'net.

The Gameplay

The object of Razzia! is to purchase valuable booty in auction--but what's valuable to you might not be to the other gangstersplayers, and vice-versa.

Setup: Each player is given 3 or 4 checks (depending on the number of players). These checks each have a unique value from 2,000 to 16,000, and each player gets a "fair" spread (e.g., in a 5-player game, one player will get 2,000, 7,000, and 16,000, while another will get 6,000, 11,000, and 12,000).

In addition, the game strip is placed in the middle of the table. It has space for: a row of police raid cards; a check (and the 1,000 check is initially set there); and a row of auction cards.

The set of 120 cards is shuffled and placed near the gameboard.

Order of Play: Each turn a player make take one of three actions:

Play a Card. A player draws the top card from the draw pile. If it's a booty card, it's placed in the auction row, and if it's a police raid card, it's placed in the police raid row. Police raid cards can force auctions or end a round of play, as discussed below.

Call an Auction. Instead a player can explicitly call an auction without flipping a card. A player must call an auction if the auction row already has seven cards in it.

Use a Thief. Last, a player may discard one or more thieves that he has previously purchased in order to take one or more cards currently up for auction.

Conducting An Auction: An auction may occur in one of three ways: if a player flips a police raid card; if a player decides to call an auction; or if a player is forced to call an auction because the auction row was full.

The auctions are simple once-around affairs. Starting with the player to the left of the auction caller, each player may either play a check (which must be higher than any checks already played) or else pass. The auction caller gets the last chance to bid.

If no one bids, what happens is based on how the auction was begun. If it was a result of a police raid card, nothing special occurs, and the play continues with the next player. If it was the result of a player choosing to call an auction, he must bid. If it was the result of a forced auction call because the auction row was full, the 7 cards are discarded and play continues with the next player.

Whomever bid that final, and highest check gets to take all the cards in the auction (which can include those aforementioned thieves, as well as the other 5 types of cards, exclusively used in scoring). In addition to taking the cards available for auction, the winner also gets to take the check that was in the middle of the board. He places it face-down in his area, and puts the check he bid face-up in the middle of the board (where it will become part of the next auction victory).

Finishing a Round: Each player will only get the opportunity to win either 3 or 4 auctions in a round; when he's used up all his checks (meaning that all the checks he has left are ones that he's won, and thus are face-down), he's out of the round and no longer gets to take turns.

A round ends when either all of the players are out because they've used up all their checks, or when 7 police raid cards are revealed. In the latter case, any cards that were in the auction row are discarded.

Now, scoring occurs. Each player gets point as follows for cards remaining in front of him:

In addition, at the end of each round some cards are discarded after scoring, specifically: thieves, drivers, trinkets, and gold. These cards are marked with "x"s.

Ending the Game: After the third round of play a final scoring round is conducted. The first five types of cards are scored as usual, but then there are two more scorings:

The player with the highest score after 3 rounds of play wins.

Relationships to Other Games

Razzia! (2004) is a variant of Reiner Knizia's Ra.

This game has been rethemed. The original had Ra tiles (Police Raids), Gods (Thieves), Lands & Floods (Cars & Drivers), Pharaohs (Bodyguards), Gold (Gold), Civilization Advances (Trinkets), and Monuments (Businesses).

The previous edition was also produced as a more expensive board game rather than a cheaper card game. It had a board, the cards were tiles, and the checks were nice wooden pieces.

Finally, the original was a bit longer and more complex. It had 50% more tiles (180 v. 120), spread over the current categories, and also had a new type of tile, catastrophes, which caused you to lose tiles of the depicted type.

Personally, I like the original Ra better. It's really not much longer (60-90 minutes rather than 45-60), it's got higher quality components, and it's got a bit of additional strategic complexity due to the catastrophes. The only things that Razzia! has going for it over the original are: it's kind of neat having a different theme, it's smaller and easier to carry around, it's cheaper, and it's in print. (The original Ra is out of print in the U.S., though Uberplay is supposed to do a new edition in 2005.)

Reiner Knizia has produced many auction games. His traditional trilogy of auction games includes High Society (1995), Modern Art (1992), and Medici (1995). They all follow pretty standard auction tropes, though their gameplay is unique and interesting. Knizia later released more auction games, including Ra (1999), Taj Mahal (2000), Traumfabrik (2000), and Merchants of Amsterdam (2000) and even more recently Amun-Re (2003), a second Egyptian auction game, matching Razzia's original theme. Theme aside, I don't think Razzia! plays much like any of Knizia's other auction games (though I've yet to try Traumfabrik or Merchants of Amsterdam).

Razzia! is generally different from most other auction games in that it's full of open information. You can always see what will be valuable to other players, and likewise what they'll be able to bid. The fact that you can only use one check at a time helps make sure there are no surprises, and keeps the whole game at a very tense level of logical play where you can constantly try to guess and second guess your opponents. This makes it a lot less of a crap shoot than most auction games, and instead introduces a lot of tactical play.

The Game Design

Razzia! is overall a well-designed auction game. Here's some of the things I like best:

Great Tactics: The tactics are the core of the game, particularly in deciding when to call for an auction based on what other players have and how much they might bid.

Solid Strategic Possibilities: The baroque scoring system gives you opportunities to walk down many different strategic paths in this game. You can go for quick points round by round or save up businesses for the last round. You can go for bodyguards, or just ignore it from the start, accepting your -2 points every round.

Lots of Hard Choices: I've often said this is the core of any good game; Razzia! does it better than most. When to call for an auction, and when to bid which check can be utterly agonizing choices.

Money System Very Clever: I think the whole auction system in this game is clever, but find the inclusion of the checks in each bid to be particularly so. It's a whole orthagonal level of strategy, as you have to figure out not just if there are items you want up for bid, but also what the results of increasing (or decreasing) your check's value will be.

Good Brinkmanship: The police raid cards also offer a great element of brinkmanship to the game, as waiting too long can cost you the usage of valuable checks, or even auction items that you thought you'd be able to win.

Acceptable with Fewer Players: Most auction games tend to work well only with 5, maybe 4, players. This is a rare auction game that's still OK with 3 or even 2 players. I prefer the 4+ player game, because you can concentrate on a lot more things and there's usually more competition, but I'm still perfectly happy to play it with 2 or 3.

I have little to say bad about the game. The draw of cards does introduce a random element, but you have to (and can) adapt your strategy to fit that.

I have a bit of trouble rating the game's Substance, because it's hard to consider it without comparing it to the original. I think Razzia isn't quite as good as Ra; this new game is shorter, and some people might like that, but I've never found the original game long, and don't think the change in timing is that large. Conversely, the loss of the catastrophe tiles costs the game a bit of additional strategy, and another set of hard decisions. On sum I think I'd call Razzia! a low "5", while I suspect the full version of Ra will be a full "5" when I review it on re-release.

Conclusion

Razzia! is a new edition of one of Reiner Knizia's best auction games. It's shorter and cheaper than the original, but most importantly it's in print. I wouldn't suggest it if you already have Ra, unless having a smaller version to carry around would be helpful, but if you've been wanting to play one of Knizia's masterpieces, I'd suggest picking this up while you wait for Uberplay's rerelease next year; after all, it's not very expensive.

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