I find the idea of a guardian angel a bit odd, it must be said. The concept of some ethereal being constantly watching over you to stop you from being hit by a bus weirds me out a bit – if I screw up, I screw up. It happens a lot, mostly when I’m playing Agricola online. Where was that bloody angel when I played all those occupations instead of focusing on building a decent food engine, huh?
Ragami, a new release from Mesaboardgames (the folks who brought you the rather splendid Vintage last year) sees between two and four players take control of these winged protectors who – after a couple of plays – really aren’t as virtuous as you might expect. The story of the game is simple; these angels (known in the game as Ragami, surprisingly enough) patrol a city where dissent is rife on every street and trouble can explode at any moment. Ably assisted by saints, they travel about, quashing conflicts and smushing demons that spring up on a regular basis.
What this really means is that you’re pushing pieces around a board in what’s a pretty solid Euro. At the beginning of each round, a set of black Conflict dice are randomly positioned while those already on the table have their values increased by one. The player who is last in turn order then rolls three Action dice, potentially having the chance to add demons to the situation should they roll a 1. They then allocate the three dice to the available actions – a nice idea which means you get to have an element of control over what your opponents can do, as every time an action is chosen the appropriate dice value is decreased. If that runs down to zero, tough… time for Plan B.
The actions are as follows:
– move any player’s saint up to four spaces around the board, then move or add a demon into the mix
– take three power cards off the draw deck, keeping only one (up to a maximum hand limit of three) and discard the other two
– have your Ragami deal with a conflict, potentially scoring you some victory points
Each of the action selections can also be used to move your Ragami about, hopefully getting them into position sort out trouble next time play comes round to you. This is done primarily by spending Power Cubes that you collect throughout the game (mostly by pushing saints into conflict zones or having your Ragami in a space when someone tries to sort out some trouble) – match the amount shown on the conflict die and it’s removed from the board, gaining you that amount of Victory Points. The amount of cubes you need to spend can be altered however; another player’s Ragami removes two from the target, while any saint gets rid of a further one. Virtue Dice also help get the number down, but only affect certain areas depending on where you choose to position them. Demons in that space add one to the number, so the game can become something of a masterclass in the manipulation of pieces around the board when you’re trying to stop an opponent from getting a big points haul.
At its heart Ragami is a race for Victory Points, with the game end triggered when some reaches 30 VPs or the location tokens (used to say where conflicts flare up) run out. Bonuses are handed out depending on how many conflicts have been solved, so the tension does actually run all the way to the end of play, and barring disaster I’ve found it to generally be a pretty close run thing as to who takes the crown. Or halo, I suppose.
A four player game takes about 90 minutes, even with a rules explanation, and I reckon it sits firmly in the light to middleweight division. It’s not until you get a few plays under your belt that you realise the possibilities for stomping all over your opponents’ plans (the fact that the same coloured saint and Ragami can’t end up in the same space gives plenty of opportunity for messing up other people’s ideas, for example). It’s definitely a game that rewards multiple plays, and infinitely more accessible than the mildly terrifying Vintage…
I’ve got a couple of gripes with the game but nothing major, both centred around the Ragami pieces themselves: while everything else is lovely and wooden, these bits are cardboard standees that look a bit incongruous. It would have been great to have had some slightly larger meeples to represent the Ragami instead of these out-of-place bits. Something like the megameeples you find in Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals, perhaps? The art for the Ragami themselves is also pretty strange, curious besuited, sunglasses-wearing enforcer types with massive wings sprouting out of their backs – it just feels a bit odd, strangely dated, like something out of a heavenly version of The Matrix.
Aside from that, production throughout is of a pretty high standard, with everything from the cards to the board having that built to last feeling. Aside from the Ragami issue, the art is grand with clear iconography and a well laid out map where you will battle against the dark forces. Or wee red meeples and black dice, anyway.
As you can tell, the theme didn’t grab be that much, but looking beyond that I honestly reckon Ragami is a solidly entertaining game that is worth checking out. Saints and angels do nothing for me, but then again, that allowed me to look past the theme and see the game itself in a much clearer fashion. It’s well worth giving it a try, so why not give it a got?
Ragami is published by Mesaboardgames and will be officially released at GenCon in August this year. Designed by Gil d’Orey with art by Pedro Soto and Gil d’Orey. The game plays with between two and four people and will take ninety minutes at most. For more information, check out the Mesaboardgames site.