Quick Look: Avatar: The Last Airbender – Fire Nation Rising
Designer: Patrick Marino, Andrew Wolf
Publisher: The Op
Year Published: 2022
No. of Players: 1-5
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
Avatar: The Last Airbender Fire Nation Rising is a cooperative card and dice game for 1-5 players who take command of Avatar Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Zuko as they fight back against the Fire Nation to restore balance to the world.
During the first part of the game players will recruit Heroes from the four nations and battle a variety of Villains leading up to the Day of Black Sun, all while advancing their position on the Balance Track, while the Villains advance on the matching Ruin track. When either side reaches the top of their track, the Day of Black Sun event is triggered, giving a significant advantage to the side that reached the top.
In the second phase, players continue as before, but must also now fight the Final Battles at Wulong Forest, the Fire Nation Palace, and Ba Sing Se in an attempt to end the Hundred Year War. Players that stay ahead of the Fire Nation and succeed in all three battles will win the game. If any one team is completely defeated, or if 10 or more total Heroes are defeated, the players cannot stop the Fire Nation and have lost the game.
At the start of each turn, the active player will choose one of three locations to visit. The Fire Nation will then attack, activating villain abilities in one location, and damaging Heroes in play.
After resolving the attack the active player will assemble a pool of dice based on their starting set-up and additional Hero card abilities. Players will roll and assign these dice in order to match symbols on Hero and Team abilities, Hero cards they wish to recruit, Villain cards they want to attack, and in Phase 2 Final Battles they must complete. Players match all of the symbols shown on a card to complete the related task.
The difficulty level can be adjusted based on players’ familiarity with the game and the degree of challenge desired.
I am not going to lie, because that is not me. My kids and I are huge fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender. We devoured it in no-time on Netflix. We started watching it again with The Wife. We are halfway through The Legend of Korra, its sequel series. When The Op offered an opportunity to review their ATLA game, Rise of the Fire Nation, I couldn’t resist. When it arrived, the kids tore into the box and The Son immediately started reading the instructions, and The Daughter and I sat down to play it. Now, you need to understand that they are 10 and 4 years old, respectively. Well, let us see if this $50+ game has what it takes to impress its fanbase.
Rules & Setup:
The set up is quite simple. Put the three-piece circle board together and place it in the middle with Fire Lord Ozai in the middle. Next each player must select a hero from the show: Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, Zuko. Take the Team card (player mat), the matching character card, and team token. If you are playing with four or more teams, you will need to locate your hero’s first ally. Next, find all the villain cards (though some of these characters are not villains at the end), and randomly select the amount needed for your level of play. Shuffle all the character cards together now including the villains and the unused starting characters. Place three in each area around the board as shown on the board. Set the dice, the pai sho tokens, and the final battle cards next to the board along with the clear damage cubes. Lastly, select which Balance Track card you want to play (the easier the scenario, the less pai sho tokens are at the bottom left), and place it next to the Ruin Track card. Put the blue marker token on the Balance Track and the red marker on the Ruin Track. Setup complete.
The rules are well laid out and explain everything you need to know. Now, my advice is read through them and play the first few rounds with the rules right there. Once you get the turn order down, the game will speed up.
Theme and Mechanics:
The theme comes through in every aspect of the game. You are working together to recruit ancillary characters to your cause. You are trying to defeat the villains as they come out. If not, they wreak havoc when Fire Nation King Ozai attacks their third of the board. This is achieved by rolling the dice and placing the matching results on the respective cards. Match all the ones on an ally, the ally joins your team. Match all the ones on the villain, the villain takes a damage. The mechanics merge seamlessly with the theme to really enhance the feel that you are in the world of Avatar Aang and trying to strengthen your team before the day of the black sun arrives. Again, theme is prevalent. This event is the culmination of the show, and the culmination of the game.
Each turn, the active hero will go through 5 steps. First, place the team token in an area on the board that either has a hero to be recruited or a villain to be defeated. Next, flip over the top Fire Nation card. Two things could happen: Ozai rotates and/or the ruin track goes up. When he rotates, any team in the area takes damage, as does any allies. Simply place a cube on each hero card, any allies recruited, and any ally card in that location. If one ally has filled all their slots, they have been defeated. Remove that ally from the game and place to the side. If too many allies are lost, the Fire Nation wins. If any villains are in the area that Ozia rotates to, they are activated, and their action must also be resolved. Lastly for this step, the ruin marker might go up a certain number (0-2) on the track.
Now, it is time for the hero roll dice. Collect the appropriate amount of each color dice. It is important to read through all recruited allies as they could add more dice to your pool. You can never roll more of a certain type than there are dice of that type. Once collected, roll them all. To place them, you can place any matching symbol on any matching hero card to try and recruit them to your team. Or you could put them on a villain trying to attack them. Both are important actions. Lastly, check the Balance track, as you might be able to advance it with a certain die result. You can then reroll the leftover dice. If no die is placed, one is lost before the reroll. You can continue this until out of dice.
Any ally gained is placed into your team line. Pay close attention to special abilities and what triggers them. An ally might need to be next to a certain character or element to trigger. If the recruited ally has any damage, it is discarded. If a villain has been successfully attacked, discard that villain. Any cards removed from an area are then replaced from the character deck.
Take your team token back from the board, and it is the next hero’s turn. Play continues until the day of the Black Sun. This can occur one of two ways: you and your heroes worked your way up the balance track, or Ozai has reached the top of the ruin track.
When this happens, all character cards with black crescent moons are discarded (ally and villain). Place a final battle card in each of the three areas on the board. This is where the game gets intense. Each turn, Ozai still rotates. The ruin track no longer matters, but any wherever Ozai is facing, the top action on the battle card is resolved. And these are all bad. The teams are trying to attack each battle twice. Once a battle is defeated, it is flipped over, and a huge special bonus is awarded. These are always good. Defeat all three battles, and the Fire Nation does not rise. However, lose ten or more heroes during the game, you lose. If one team is completely wiped out, you lose.
Artwork and Components:
The artwork comes directly from the show. It is fine. Nothing fancy, but nothing awful either.
ALTA: Fire Nation Rises works on all levels. The gameplay feels as though are playing through the seasons of the show. The characters’ special abilities match well with their character from the show. The Boulder takes all the damage that would go to his peers on the left and right. He works as a human shield, protecting everyone. The villains are the same way. Azula removes one damage from all villains, like she is spurring them on. The balance of having to recruit allies or defeat villains is one of the best decision-making mechanics I have played in a while. Simple, yet very important.
Here’re the only complaints, according to The Son. The Balance track is not balanced enough for the players. It is too hard. There seems to be no real reason to complete it. The benefits from it are not enough to draw you away from working on the recruiting and the attacking on the main board. Then, the Fire nation deck should have enough cards to make it to the top of the balance track. Having to shuffle it is a bit awkward. Lastly, the King Ozai miniature (which is not that miniature) is AMAZING! Not having highly detailed miniatures for the five main characters seems like a missed opportunity. There is no reason not to have them and let fans have a chance to paint them. Honestly, what would it cost? A few more dollars? I think it would be worth it. Oh, and I HATE CUBES, so I would have liked to see something other than clear acrylic red cubes for the damage markers.
As a fan of the show Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was a bit worried that a game attempted to encompass this amazing IP. I have been kicking around ideas for an Avatar game, but I would never have come up with this one. The Op put all my fears to rest with this amazing game.
Players Who Like:
Avatar The Last Airbender, Cooperative games
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