Tricky and Imaginative- Red Rising
Designer: Alexander Schmidt (II), Jamey Stegmaier
Artist: Jacqui Davis, Miles Bensky, Justin Wong
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
1–6 Players | 45–60 Minutes |14+
Red Rising is based on the familiar but stirring dystopian book series by Pierce Brown. There are strong characters in the narrative-driven stories set in an extremely far future dystopian Mars where people are segregated into groups by color, not race. Each color, red, silver, gold, copper, etc., serve a purpose in society. Our hero is part of the very oppressed Reds. Darrow, is deeply flawed by his passion and anger with the currently constructed society, is tasked set to infiltrate the highest echelon group- the Golds, to break down the system and free his people. He recognizes that regardless of color group, that people are a product of society, and how they have been raised. These books travel from black and white and settle in the grey.
It is unnecessary to read the books to play Red Rising; however, we are fond of the book series and found a more immersed experience knowing the characters.
Players are trying to get points for their house, collecting a wide variety of characters that can work well together (higher points), weeding out cards that do not work well that accrue negative points. As in the books, you have to fight to rise to power.
End game: The house with the most points win.
Each player randomly draws a House tile, their Fleet token, Influence tokens, and reference card. The house tiles are Mars, Ceres, Apollo, Diana, Minerva, and Jupiter.
The Sovereign Token, Rising die, and the Helium tokens are placed on the board.
Randomly draw and place two cards face up in each section on the board overlapped so you can see the name and point value.
Players start with a deck of five cards. Now you gamble, spending characters in your hand to gain abilities and advance your position and collect characters along the way.
In turn, a player can Lead by Deploying (placing) a card from their hand to one of the locations on the board, Jupiter, Mars, Luna, and the Institutes. If the cards have a triggered ability, I played, gain that ability. Then acquire a card from another location and the location's bonus or gain a card from the deck and roll the Rising die to discern the bonus. The bonuses are moving up the Fleet Tack on Jupiter, gaining a Helium at Mars, acquiring the Sovereign Token at Luna, and placing an Influence Token at the Institute.
If a player does not want to place a card from their hand, the player can draw a card from the deck and put it in a location (not deploy) and gain the bonus for that location.
Play continues till the end game is triggered when all three conditions are met by a combination of players or two conditions are met by the same player.
The conditions are seven Helium, seven Influence at the Institute, and a player reaches seven on the Fleet Track.
There is a Scoring pad to assist in the totaling of all the ways to gain points. I am sure there will be an App for this eventually, but we love utilizing the score pads and the suspense of the calculating.
Mechanic That Worked for Us
We often say, "don't fall in love with your cards" because you can waste half a game searching for that perfect combination. Pivoting is key.
We found that bulking your hand proves to be more advantageous for points and not to stress over the negative ten points per card at the end.
Bits & Bobs
112-Character cards (21 of the Collector's Edition cards have gold foil)
6 asymmetric House tiles
1 Wolf-head tray and lid
60 Helium tokens (red gems)
60 Influence tokens (plastic cubes; these are metal cubes in the Collector's Edition)
1 Sovereign token (this is gold-painted metal in the Collector's Edition)
1 Crescent moon first-player token (this is gold-painted metal in the Collector's Edition)
1 custom Rising die
6 Fleet tokens (plastic ships; these are metal in the Collector's Edition)
6 cardholders (only found in the Collector's Edition)
1 score pad
6 reference cards
box (The Collector's Edition box has gold foil, spot UV, and individual numbering)
insert (cardboard in the standard version and custom plastic with lid in the Collector's Edition)
1 multiplayer rulebook
1 Automa rulebook
30 Automa cards
The Last Word
The book series is filled with complex characters that lend well to Red Rising, the board game's card mechanics. Hand management is the fundamental crux of the game. Finding the cards that when paired will result in higher points. Each card has a base value on the top left but bonus points.
The wealth of combinations bolsters the Replayability.
The setup is swift- especially if you shuffle the Character cards on your last play before putting the game away. (Yes, I do this, and there is no support group for this…yet)
The theme follows the books successfully. Have you not read the books? The depth in the description of cards, the art, and components transport you to their SciFi world.
When all the Nerdz at the Garage finds the same game fun- it ticks all the fun boxes.
The rules are simple. The complexity arises through the interactions and combinations of cards, purposefully banishing a good card, and thinking fast.
This is tricky and sometimes maddening, but that is what brings it back to our table.
The Nerdz Garage wholeheartedly recommends Red Rising!
* Review copy kindly provided by Stonemaier Games. Thoughts and opinions are my own.