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A First Look At NAGA RAJA: Hands-On Impressions from Gen Con

A First Look At NAGA RAJA: Hands-On Impressions from Gen Con

Every year I went to GenCon before 2018 had been to work for an exhibitor in some capacity. This year, I was a rogue agent for Geek & Sundry which has its own kinds of perks. One such perk was the joy of getting to sit down with Théo Rivière who worked with Bruno Cathala to make the game Naga Raja! He thoroughly trounced me when we played but made sure to mention that Bruno beat him even harder than he beat me.

Nagaraja is a 2-player head to head adventure game where the person who receives 25 points first wins. Gaining points requires you to place tiles, similar to Tsuro, to connect you to the outer edges of your potentially changing temple! On these 9 edges, artifacts exist for the taking, but you’re managing your cards as resources to collect them and competing against your opponent all the way.

Playing The Game

Gameplay is surprisingly simple, but involved, and allows for depth of strategy. You begin with a hand of cards that have 3 key factors to them. They have a family, which can be found in the top two corners of the card. Between those two symbols are going to be a picture of dice colored green, white, and brown. These dice are what will be rolled when bidding for cards. Finally, at the bottom for the card is just some sort of activable action the card can be used for that can be anything from moving tiles around, adding extra gold value to win tiles, peeking at artifacts, or swapping the locations of your opponents artifacts to trip them up.


To gain access to these artifacts, each turn players simultaneously select some number of cards from their hand that shares the same family to bid for a tile that has been placed face up. This tile may have a secret on it that can be picked up once found that has 1-2 points or some immediate effect, but are kept hidden unlike revealing found artifacts. Once cards have been selected, you roll the number of 4 sided dice specified on the cards played. The green dice have either a single gold value towards winning or the ability to be discarded to use a card ability. White dice only have 1 ability generating side and a value of 2 or 3 on their other sides. The biggest dice, being brown, only have a value between 3 and 5 and no ability to play cards for their effects. Once dice are rolled, values are tallied, and cards are played, whoever has the most gold wins the tile and places it on their board next to an entrance or an already placed tile.

If that tile connects from an entrance to an artifact along the other 3 edges of the board, that player flips over that artifact and considers those points theirs. Of these artifacts, 3 of them are worth 6 points. If you manage to flip all 3 over then you immediately lose! Thankfully, in playing Théo this did not happen to either of us. He did, however, throw that smoldering crater into my temple which I had to try and get creative with! It didn’t do me much good in the end.


Once tiles are placed, artifacts are seen, and all is set the loser of the round gets to draw 3 cards. They select 2 for themselves and give the other to the person who had just won the round. As mentioned above, the first to 25 points wins.

Final Thoughts


I absolutely loved everything about my experience and not just because Théo is one of the kindest people I’ve met. His sense of style is to die for. I wish I could rock jean shorts and shark shirts like he can.

This game plays amazingly well and has tons of depth. It’s definitely hitting a great place for 2-player games of which there are many amazing ones out there, but they don’t scratch all the places this game does. It feels like a story every time you play and no 2 games will be the same which is immensely important. I put it between Patchwork and 7 Wonders Duel in regards to the kinds of things I want out of my games. The components look crisp and clean, the rules are tight, and it’s engaging.

It was also great to just hear the stories about the game. It underwent about 3 iterations to get where it is now, starting with a dice-taking kind of risk management game to a game with coin flips to here. It’s absolutely stunning to hear about how games evolve and to get to talk to a developer who is excited about the work they do. Seeing his eyes light up when he spoke about getting to work with Vincent Dutrait who did the art for the game was simply humbling. I, amusingly enough, did not know who Théo was before playing the game, but after talking with him realized I owned and had played other games he made.

Finally, if this game seems like something you’re curious about, it is coming soon! It’ll be releasing early next year in 2019. Hurrican is producing the game, though if you can’t speak French neither can I. The game was all iconographic so you’ll be good to go. I cannot wait to get it on my shelves.

What are your favorite two-player games or favorite stories talking with designers? Let us know in the comments!

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Image Credits: Jackson Wood

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