Updated: Jan 1
Designed by Inka Brand and Markus Brand, and published by Huch!, this is a colourful thematically atmospheric game that evokes the pre-Colonial India of the Moguls. In Rajas of the Ganges, each player is a raja or rani developing their estates and provinces as they seek to increase their wealth and fame.
Asian setting notwithstanding, this is a light euro game. It’s a worker placement game where players are sending their workers to different locations to take the indicated actions. Players each start initially with three workers but they can add up to two more as they advance along the scoring tracks and/or the Ganges river.
Rajas of the Ganges is a game that looks good on the table, with attractive components that help to draw players in. Though there is a lot going on, it is nonetheless easy to teach and learn, thanks in no small part to the very clear iconography for all the of various actions on offer. The game plays equally well with 2 or 4 (the board is double-sided so that the two-player game is played on a subtly different board) and you can expect a game to run for just over an hour. The game comes with a couple of mini-expansions that vary the play by introducing additional options. They can also be used as a way of handicapping experienced players when they are competing with those new to the game.
Players are scoring their fame and wealth, each of which tracks around the board in the opposite direction. The winner is the first to get his fame and wealth to intersect. This mechanic helps to broaden the strategies that each player can choose to take: it is possible to win, for example, by focusing heavily on fame and barely making any net progress on the wealth track, and vice versa. It makes the game feel less like a 'points salad'.
There are occasions when wealth has to be spent (paying to place a worker out at a particular location) but the main ‘currency’ in the game is the dice. Most locations demand that the player spends a die to place a worker there. Some locations demand a die of a specific colour but showing any number, others a die with a specific number but of any colour. Players start off with one die of each of the four colours and, since dice are spent (lost to the player) every time they are used to place out a worker, one of the key actions players have to balance is the need to visit locations that will give them more dice. Every time a die is acquired it is rolled, permanently setting its numerical value.
If they are not careful, players risk running out of dice, but there is otherwise no shortage of desirable locations to visit. That includes locations that will usually require spending two or three dice of the same colour to choose a building tile to lay out in the player’s province (their individual board). The buildings on tiles mostly earn fame points, though players can increase wealth by building markets.
If you perennially complain that dice hate you because you always roll low, then this is a game that offers you some recompense. Though players will benefit more from high rolls when buying tiles, the Ganges river offers generous opportunities for earning bonuses and workers can only be placed to move along the river with die values of 1, 2 or 3. And there is always the option of spending ‘karma’ to flip a die to its opposite side (for example, turning a 1 into a 6). Karma is another element that can be earned as a bonus during the course of the game.
In play, Rajas of the Ganges is a fairly gentle game. This is a game where each player is forging their own individual path to victory. There will be occasions when an opponent takes a tile you wanted to get, or blocks you by placing a worker out at the very location you were hoping to go to, but that’s pretty much the full extent of the interaction. This is not a ‘take that’ game where you are attacking or deliberately sabotaging each other. For some that will be a negative but for many it’s a huge plus. This is a game you can enjoy with friends and family members without any risk of falling out.
And it’s a very satisfying experience. As you increasingly build up your province by acquiring and laying out tiles, so your progress along the victory tracks accelerates, making for an exciting climax. Definitely one to check out.