|"Should I attempt to boot without RAM?"|
A system won't boot without RAM installed, but if the board has a built-in speaker or you have the case speaker connected, it should beep like mad. If it doesn't, there are several possibilities - board is bad, CPU is bad or improperly installed, 4-pin/8-pin ATX12V plug isn't connected, board is installed improperly & shorting out, etc. That's why the bench test step is so important. The idea is to rule out problems before final assembly.
You should have placed the board on a non-conductive surface, installed the CPU & heatsink, one stick of RAM, connected a monitor to one of the onboard video ports, the power supply, & a keyboard. A case speaker & power button would be helpful if the board doesn't have them built-in, but the board can be jump started using a flat blade screw driver. Nothing else is needed. If the system fires up & you're able to access the BIOS, you'll know the base components are good & assembled correctly.