Red Rising

We have seen this game pop up everywhere and as big Stonemaier Games fans, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it! We must confess that we both didn’t read the books… But, before you all come for us, we are planning on reading the full series when we get the chance. We know it’s all about rankings in Red Rising where red is the lowest rank and gold the highest. It’s awesome to see all of those colors on the game box making this game stand out even more. We have the collectors edition which means a full insert, all metal tokens and outstanding quality as always. It’s moment like these when we know, we have the best hobby in the world.

How to Play.

For the setup place the board on the table, shuffle the characters and place the deck on the board. Reveal two characters on each location while placing each card on top of each other. Only the name, color and victory point are visible. Each player draws five cards from the deck and gains a random house tile, reference card, fleet token and influence tokens in the matching color. Your house fleet may be placed on the zero space on the fleet track. Place all helium tokens on the board and place the sovereign token nearby. For a two player game, place three influence tokens already on the institute on the right top of the board.

On your turn, you lead or scout. If you lead, deploy a card from your hand face up on a location. Most cards have a deploy ability, if this is triggered, resolve the action. If this is not possible, move on. Once the card is placed on the location you want, you can either choose the top card from another location while also gaining that bonus, or you can take the top card from the deck and roll the rising die to gain a bonus. There are four locations and the deck. Each location gives you a different bonus if you take a character from there. Jupiter makes you advance one space on the fleet track, gaining more victory points at the end of the game. Mars makes you gain one helium token. From Luna you gain the sovereign token, triggering the unique ability of your house. Lastly you have the institute what allows you to place one influence token on this location on the board.
Every house has unique abilities that are triggered everytime you gain the Sovereign token. Those abilities could be revealing and placing the top card of the deck, or rolling the rising die.

If you are completely satisfied with the cards in your hand and want to keep them, you can choose to scout. To do this, reveal the top card of the deck and place this on any location to gain that location’s bonus. Note that if you scout, you don’t deploy a character card from your hand or take one from the board. You just place a card from the deck on a location of your choice to gain that bonus. Some cards have blocking abilities. This is an optional ability that requires you to reveal one of your cards in order to stop an opponent from doing something to you, like taking the Sovereign token for example. Every character card scores you victory points at the end of the game those points can be found on the top of the card. But every character card also have endgame abilities or bonuses that can give you more points or resources if the requirements are met. These requirements could be having the Sovereign token in your possession at the end of the game or needing to have one gold card in your hand for example.

The game ends when three conditions are met at the same time, or when one player manages to fulfill both conditions at the same time. When a player has more then seven helium tokens, more then seven influence tokens on the institute and if a player has reached space seven on the fleet track. Make sure that every player had the same amount of turns and start the endgame. Every player triggers their endgame ability (if any), starting with the first player. Then add up all the core value of each card, endgame bonuses on the cards and the score points based on your position on the flee track. You also gain three points per helium token and ten points if you end the game with the Sovereign token. The player with the most influence tokens on the institute gains four points per token, the second player two points per token and all other players one point per token. Lastly, for each card in your hand beyond seven, lose ten points. The player with the most points is the winner.

Playthrough of the game.

We sat ready to play with our starting hand in our card holders. Tomasz had already gotten the chance to read all his cards and took his first lead action. But I saw so many possibilities that I froze to think what best to do. I had several cards with a deploy ability that would give me nothing now and possibly more after a couple of turns, but I needed to get rid of at least one card in order to evolve my hand. After careful consideration, I choose a card to deploy and chose what I thought was the best option for me. Tomasz looked like he knew exactly what he was doing and it made me nervous. So I just played along, seeing where the game would take me. Before we know it was the end of the game with me finishing it by gaining space seven on the fleet track and placing more then seven influence tokens. Tomasz was surprised the game was already over and didn’t look very happy with his end result. I just pretended that I knew what I was doing, but in reality I was so overwhelmed with all the choices that I didn’t notice the game would end until I placed my card. Don’t ask me how, but I beat Tomasz with over 100 points difference. Thankfully, the more we play it now, the better we (especially me) understand the game and consequences of the character cards. In our second game, we both improved ourselves with over 100 points more per person.

A game of Red Rising will never be the same with so many different character cards. The combinations in combining the characters is endless. The game is a little overwhelming at first with having to watch out for core victory points, the deploy action, possible endgame bonuses and abilities. Timing is important but what I learned after a few games is that it’s often not smart to just keep waiting for the best cards to pop up, but rather get rid of the cards that won’t give you a lot of points at the end, play in the moment. Many cards have a lot of potential if you happen to come across the perfect card to match it with, but the game itself is to short and before you know it, someone else will strike with victory. The quality of the components is excellent, we are in love with the metal tokens. The art is also amazing and it’s a nice surprise to see what card is revealed each time. No card is the same. The rules are also very easy and with the clear reference card you can play this game in five minutes. We did notice that with two players it’s more common to have empty locations which will give you less choices. With more players, there is more leading activity and more chances in the cards on the board, giving everyone more options. However, this was not the case in every game we have played so far. It depends greatly on the cards and it’s actions. Some houses also place more cards as an ability which create more options. We tend to play with that house more often if we play with two only. Otherwise we leave the house selection at random.

Final thoughts.

The Red Rising collectors edition is a set collection strategic card game. In order to get the best endgame possible, you need to collect the best cards in your hand. This might sound like an easy task to, but since there are many cards and each card is unique, you need to make the best choices possible. We have learned that it’s better to make choices in the moment, rather then wait until those matching cards might come along. We are improving our highest score with each game and with two players have rarely gotten the same cards so far. The quality of the cards and components are also excellent as we are used to of Stonemaier games. The collectors edition has card holders (my tiny hands thank you for this!) and metal components which we absolutely love. The art on each card is also awesome and there is just no dull card. Tapestry was our number one from Stonemaier so far, but it had to make space for this amazing game. Red Rising is officially our new favorite Stonemaier board game.

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