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Red Rising – Review

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Quick Look: Red Rising


Designer: Jamey Stegmaier, Alexander Schmidt (II)

Solo Designer: Morten Monrad Pedersen
Artist: Miles Bensky, Jacqui Davis, Justin Wong
Publisher: Stonemaier Games 
Year Published: 2021

No. of Players: 1-6
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes.
 
Find more info HERE.
Foreword:
I received a copy of the game from Stonemaier Games, and decided I was most interested in writing about the solo variant. I don’t have a whole lot of good solo games. I do have a lot of games that say you can play them solo, but, well, that doesn’t always work well. When I tried out Red Rising’s solo play, I was excited by the Automa (named “Tull Au Toma” in the game) play and rules. It was clever how they gave them sets of predetermined actions that you resolved through cards and made it actually feel like you were playing against an opponent.
From the Publisher:
Enter the futuristic universe of Red Rising, based on the book series by Pierce Brown featuring a dystopian society divided into fourteen castes. You represent a house attempting to rise to power as you piece together an assortment of followers (represented by your hand of cards). Will you break the chains of the Society or embrace the dominance of the Golds?

Disclaimer: The publisher provided the copy of Red Rising. The opinions expressed in the review are completely my own. 

 


Review:

 

Initial Impression/Components:

If we want to jump right to the highlight, the custom Wolf-head shaped tray and the helium tokens. The box and rulebook were well above standard quality and the cards and other components were above average. This is a full list of components in the Red Rising Collector’s Edition:

112 character cards (65x100mm; 21 of the Collector’s Edition cards have gold foil)

6 asymmetric House tiles (65x100mm blackcore)
1 board (410x284mm)
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 (22mm)
6 fleet tokens (plastic ships; these are metal in the Collector’s Edition)
6 card holders (only found in the Collector’s Edition)
1 scorepad (50 pages, double-sided)
6 reference cards (65x100mm)
box (296x296x70mm; 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 (25 cards are 57x87mm and 5 cards are 65x100mm)
Favorite:

I enjoy how the castes each felt uniquely different and interacted with their own or others accordingly. You can stay class specific, shoot for odd-ball alliances, look for strong abilities, or you can go all out for flat points. The end of game abilities are especially cheeky to move around the final score totals.
Least Favorite:
You can be limited on your options based on the cards you maintain in your hand and what’s on the board. There are 112 unique characters, so that’s bound to happen. However, with only one action per turn, I felt a little stuck or flat on a few turns. On the other hand, turns are all fast and it’s your turn again before you know it.
Mechanics:
Dice Rolling
End Game Bonuses
Hand Management
Open Drafting
Set Collection
Solo / Solitaire Game
Take That
Variable Player Powers

Zone of Control 

 
Rules:

The ruleset is very straightforward but the combos and card interactions make for interesting twists. You get one action per turn; your choice between two. Basically, you can lay a card from your hand and use its placement bonus if applicable and have control over your turn’s bonus, or, you can lay a card from the top of the deck without access to its placement bonus and roll for a random turn bonus.

The full rulebook for Red Rising – and any other Stonemaier title – can be found in this dropbox link:
Areas they did well:
– Great art and visual delivery
– Component quality and interesting pieces (Wolf-head tray/helium tokens were my highlight)
– Excellent use of individual powers and abilities with over 100 characters
– Massive number of possible combinations
– Relationship between Character types as well as Names
– Exciting finish with end game bonuses
– Fast turns
– Quick setup, short rules with clear directions.
– Solo Mode
– Unique player powers
– Game end triggers to keep the pace
Areas they could have improved:
 
– Heavy reliance on hand management but no way to hand sculpt other than playing one card a turn. I felt that was a missing aspect
– More luck involved than I’d prefer, but you can shift strategies easily by adjusting the cards in your hand.
– I can think of reasons why you can’t but I’d like to be able to activate abilities when playing a card from the top of the deck. If you were stuck on a card to lay, that felt like a double punishment. Meanwhile, if you were ahead or already had great cards that would deny other players opportunities to catch up.
Interesting moment:
On the last turn of a game, I chose to take from the top of the deck because I didn’t have any cards that I was willing to part with, but I really needed a card on LUNA in order to activate an end of game ability by another character. Because you can activate end of game abilities in any order, I could use a card to gain a character from LUNA, another to pay 3 helium to get the top card from any stack. One of those cards was worth a bunch of points by itself and the other had the ability to be a card of any name, earning me an additional 20pts when used with a different card in my hand that required a specific character. This little chain of events resulted in a huge boost in my points. I still lost by 2 pts! 249 to 251, but what a photo finish. It could have gone either way. To have that true engagement with a solo game felt great and was the reason I felt compelled to center this review mainly around the solo variant.
Overall:
I’d describe Red Rising as a game centered around making combos that heavily relies on hand management and a healthy dose of luck to pull it all off. They did a really good job of bringing over 100 characters into the design and still have them feel different.
 
Final Thoughts:
I never got the opportunity yet to get 5-6 players to the table with this title but I’m not sure whether that would do anything to change the experience. Where the turns are so quick, I’d feel confident that more players wouldn’t drag the game out. Personally, I think I’m likely to play it most solo where I was missing better solo play titles in my collection. That isn’t to say it didn’t go well at other player counts though! This game would be a good title to use as a transition during your game night such as a nightcap after a larger title.
I’ll see you next time, back here at The Game Table,
Brad Hiscock, aka Zerility
 
After reading Brad’s review, if this sounds like a game for you at the time of this posting Red Rising is on sale (27% Off!!) in the United States via Amazon for only $15.59.  Get yours HERE or you can use our Amazon Affiliate Link (Won’t cost you anymore and it’s a way to support us here at Everything Board Games!!)

 

 

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Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”, is a construction project manager and electrician by trade who was the owner of a 6-time award winning electrical company. His passion for board games has led him from playing hundreds of original titles to creating a design and publishing company of his own, Convivial Games. As an up and coming collaborator on many projects, he is always eager to try new games and meet new people.

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All of Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”‘s reviews can be found HERE.

 

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