Rauha, a recent board game published by GRRRE Games, entrusts the players to use their powers to create a bountiful, harmonious land filled with life energy. It’s a tall order, but nothing you can’t handle.
Designed by Johannes Goupy and Théo Rivière, recognizable from Nautilus Island fame the Rauha board game combines elements of drafting, set collection, and combos as you attempt to fill up your board with biomes and be the most successful at your crucial task
So prepare to get your hands dirty as we shape this land in Rauha!
The turn sequence in the Rauha board game is very simple. Each turn you will be drafting Biomes from an alternating stack to the left or right of you. Then, you will either place that card onto your Player board or discard it, and both are advantageous for their own reasons.
If you choose to place the Biome card onto your board, you must pay any costs associated with that card. This could be a placement restriction or a Crystal cost, while some cards are entirely free. On the other hand, discarding the card lets you either take 4 Crystals or place a spore on a Biome that doesn’t have one yet.
Spores are the mechanic that takes this game and amps it up to the next level. At the end of every turn, you activate the row or column that has your Avatar token in it. However, you can also activate any Biomes that also have a spore on them, which will contribute to a cumulative benefit as the game goes on.
Eventually you’ll be drafting from Age II cards instead of Age I, which offer a different mix of cards that are more geared towards civilization instead of natural restoration. Once your Avatar makes it back to the beginning of the Player Mat, the game ends and the final scores are tallied.
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Rauha!
Just to kick things off about Rauha‘s components, I’d like to point out that the layout of the board and Divine Entities makes the game really stand out on the table. We live in a world that contains a hefty number of rectangular boards, and the way everything slots together is really pleasing, especially with the global reminders in the middle of the scoring for everyone to see.
I also really like the Spore tokens, which are double-sided wooden discs that are designed that way to aid in scoring. That way, you can flip them over as you score so that you prevent yourself from scoring the same tile twice.
All of the cardboard chits for the crystals are perfectly fine, and the square Biome cards are my favorite kind of card to use (looking at you, Wild Space). I also appreciate the notches in the player boards for the Avatar tokens, which help keep track of the current turn. All in all, I’m very happy with the components for Rauha.
There’s actually a decent breadth of strategy in Rauha, mainly centered around claiming the Divine Entities’ powers, dealing with Water, and proper utilization of spores. The Divine Entities are awarded when you complete a row or column of a given set, and offer a variety of useful benefits like earning crystals, gaining extra points for every Spore, or counting as additional Water Sources. If you time these right, you can upend someone’s careful drafting strategy by claiming the Entity right after they earned it.
Water Sources are sort of a passive icon on the Biomes for you to keep track of. Every Scoring Phase, you earn points by comparing the number of Sources you have to the number that the person with the fewest has. Concentrating on Water can be huge if one person is punting it, but has less impact when everybody is relatively equal.
As with any drafting game, there’s an element of ‘hate-drafting’ in which you draft cards specifically because you don’t want your opponents to have them. What I really enjoy is the balance that you can only impact the players immediately beside you. In a four player game, there will always be one player that you’re not directly interacting with, meaning that the other players have to step up their game.
Overall, there’s a lot of taupe in the Rauha board game, giving this sort of old-timey feel of expeditions, maps, and discovery. Personally I wish that the colors on the Biomes were a bit more vibrant, because that would really help connect to the theme of the game. After all, we’re supposed to be invigorating the land with Life Energy, so there should be a lot more contrast between the tan backdrop and the colors of the land. I just don’t really get that vibe.
That being said, I really like the Divine Entities art and the hand-drawn illustrative feeling of the art in general is quite good. I just feel like a bit more pop would take the table presence to another level.
So what kind of board gamer would be interested in Rauha? From a straight mechanics perspective, I think that this is one of the better drafting games that I’ve played. This is primarily because you’re really only managing two sets of four cards at a time. Instead of something like Magic: the Gathering where you’re passing around a handful of cards around the table, you are doing these mini little draft parties with your neighbors that helps keep it snappy and reduces the cognitive load that comes with normal drafting games.
There are some similarities to some other titles under the Hachette umbrella, like In the Footsteps of Darwin, or even something like Vivarium. Both of these are a little bit different but they all have the same kind of ‘fill up the board in front of you’ goal while considering set collection. Strategically this game is deeper than both of those, so if you are looking for something along the same lines but meatier, then you can’t go wrong with Rauha.
Rauha doesn’t have the most thematic ties to the gameplay, but it certainly creates all of the agony and triumph that comes with drafting games. You can plan ahead, hoping that you’ll get that other card, but be prepared when your opponents draft it instead. Now you have to pivot and make the rest of your gameplan work accordingly.
I do feel like varying player counts can impact Rauha in a decent way, mostly in the way that the Water Sources are impacted; they mean a lot more when you have more players. I am particularly fond of the three-player game, since everybody is always impacting everybody else, which feels more fun to me.
Rauha: All the Life Energy!
I really enjoyed playing Rauha. When I first looked at it, I thought it wouldn’t have much in terms of strategy from game-to-game, but I was wrong on that. You have to pay attention to the other players, changing your strategy to accommodate changes in the gamestate. Should you grab a Spore, or would you be better off laying that Age II card on your board?
So let’s give it up for Rauha, recipient of the Nerds of Earth Seal of Awesomeness award! By balancing two mini-drafting games, Rauha reduces the amount of mental bookkeeping while allowing you to put together a satisfying engine, all in the name of nature!
You can pick up a copy of Rauha from your FLGS, or you can pick up a copy from Hachette Boardgames directly.
[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Rauha from Hachette Boardgames in exchange for an honest review.]