Slowly the jungle is clearing. The small forest path turns into a road and our small group can now move faster. The forest turns into large tea plantations. In the distance you can see the glittering of the Ganges, the big river that slowly flows through India towards the ocean. Its banks are lined with mighty fortresses and beautiful temples. Our way leads us further into this colourful and foreign culture, further and further towards one of the great palaces. For there we will meet the Rajas of the Ganges – the rulers of the Ganges – at a great festival this evening.
Rajas of the Ganges is a special kind of dice game. Dice are not used here for betting, instead they are used as currency. What else the board game with worker placement elements by Inka and Markus Brand has to offer, we are going to explain it to you in this article about the Rajas of the Ganges.
Rajas of the Ganges is as colourful as a Bollywood movie
The Indian culture is perceived in Europe as colourful and vibrant. Not least because of the opulent and long Bollywood films from India, which export exactly this image. Rajas of the Ganges makes no exception. The package with its large and colourful picture shows where the journey is heading. A double-sided game plan continues the colourful illustration. Semi-transparent cubes with their bright colours make your game table even more brightly coloured. The game figures almost fall out of their roles a little bit. They come in the standard colours of a Euro-Game, but at least they have an Indian touch – I think it should be workers with a turban.
The very strongly colored illustration also makes Rajas of the Ganges look confusing at first. But here the first impression is deceptive: Once you have played a game, you will realize that this concern is unfounded.
If you reduce the game to its basic features, there are actually only four actions. You can either expand your province, trade and earn money, exchange dice for other colors, or use bonus actions to help you with the first three actions. Inka and Markus Brand, however, manage to embed these actions in an exciting theme without compromising the gaming experience.
A Marco Polo from India
The first thing I expected when I stumbled across the Rajas of the Ganges was a new Marco Polo board game. After all, it has countless dice and you need the dice for almost every action. Then also the graphical realization is very similar. This could of course be due to the fact that it is the same illustrator: As with Marco Polo, Dennis Lohausen was responsible for the illustrations. This already puts an end to the similarities.
If the dice in Marco Polo are used to carry out actions, in Rajas of the Ganges they are more like a currency. In Marco Polo you have a defined number of rounds in which you must try to score as many victory points as possible. In Rajas of the Ganges this is completely absent. This concept is the one that surprises the most. Hoarding victory points and adding them up at the end of the game, who really won is completely eliminated. Whoever manages to get the glory marker and the money marker to meet first is the winner. Done! A simple and quick solution presented here by the Brand family.
It looks very confusing on the first game and an unidentified blogger, didn’t get it right the first time and was then quite perplexed when no victory points were counted. – Is something like this even legal in an Euro-Game? – Rajas of the Ganges is a race for victory. But how you win the race is up to you. If you focus on earning money or building buildings and earning glory points, different strategies will help you achieve your goal.
On the elephant, get set
Since Rajas of the Ganges is a race, you should not make a big mistake. Once your opponent has gained a lead here, it will be very difficult for you to catch up. You start the game with three workers. These workers perform the actual actions, which you pay for with the dice. In the process of the game you can get new workers by various actions. This is an important aspect of the game. New players should be made clearly understand this! Each round in which you have one less worker, makes it harder for you to keep up. We’ve seen that just two rounds are enough to build up an advantageous lead. You should make sure that the level of players is equal, and you may want to take it easy when you play your first game with new players.
Another entry barrier is the sheer number of actions available to you. This acts as a real deterrent for newcomers. You don’t know what a good strategy would be the first time. If you build the palace first or upgrade the palace. If you exchange the orange dice for two purple dice, which might bring you more. There is no red string for new players to follow.
Marco Polo should also serve as a comparison, but the pattern fits on many board games. If I want to travel from A to B in Marco Polo I need camels, if I don’t have camels I have to get them first. To get them from the khan, I have to save up exactly this pair of dice and cannot use them. With Rajas of the Ganges such a concatenation does not really exist. There are too many alternative possibilities you can use. That slows down new players for a while.
The Dice Karma
What I found pleasant about Rajas of the Ganges You can always do something and thereby actually always get a little further ahead in the race. You rolled bad dice? No problem! Of course there is the repeat throw as an action. This time you even get some money if you roll again. Very surprising for me, I have to pay in many other games to try my luck again.
But you are also at the mercy of the dice and a manipulation of the dice, as you might know from other dice games, is only possible to a limited number of ways.
For example you want to sail up the Ganges, but you haven’t rolled a one, two or three. Now you can spend karma to turn the dice to the opposite side. But if you don’t have any karma, there’s no other way for you to change the value. You would have to invest a precious action to get a new cube. If you are unlucky with the die again, you will need more actions, etc., etc. Here you can get lost very quickly, a bad roll can cost you the lead. This is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Rajas of the Ganges is nothing for players who want to build their foundation and want to minimize randomness.
Rajas of the Ganges – A wild board game curry
I must admit I had my starting difficulties with the game. But that was clearly due to the false expectations I had. It wasn’t until I realised that this was a race that it had clicked and I could really enjoy Rajas of the Ganges.
On top of that, there’s a really opulent equipment that appeals to me personally. You can never have enough dice! And on top of all that in COLOUR!
Additionally there are some minor modifications of the game. You can use these as soon as you are a bit tighter in the saddle. They make the game more challenging or even more chaotic, depending on your mood.
The successful mix of dice luck, gambling and thinking about what I have to do and when to get money or fame quickly is what makes the game so much fun for me.
All of this is played very quickly. The perceived personal downtime is very short. Especially because I have to look in the waiting time, which of the possible actions are still available at all. What alternatives do I have if one of my teammates grabs the field that I actually wanted to take?
In any case: If someone puts Rajas of the Ganges on the table and I’m nearby, I want to be part of the game!