Genre: Hand-Management Card Game
Player Count: 1-6
Plays as of this Review: 6
- Are there spoilers? I don’t think so? As someone who has not read the books that the game is based on, I could not tell you a single thing about the story based on playing the game. Based on the cards, I don’t know who the main character is or who the baddies are. There are characters and elements that are mentioned in the story but there is no story telling here. Having read the story, you may find some enjoyment in seeing the characters come to life but as someone who was on the fence about reading Red Rising, this certainly did not sway me into wanting to pick up the book (or dissuade me as there just was nothing to connect me to the source material).
- Without the tie-in of the story, I never felt like I was doing anything thematically or with a purpose besides trying to win the game. I was just grabbing colored cards and pairing them with other cards. Only when a card told me to look for someone in particular did I retain the names of the individual cards. It was incredibly disappointing to not have anything pull me into the world of Red Rising. I have a preference for thematic games and the Red Rising universe just felt pasted on.
- As with other Stonemaier productions, the components and artwork are fantastic. The helium tokens look great (and I’m sure provide some type of immersion for fans of the book) and the character portraits on the cards give a sense of uniqueness and life to each card. That doesn’t mean it brought me into the world of Red Rising, it just means the cards are not an eyesore to look at.
- The game typically lasts over forty minutes. With more players, more time should be allotted. This isn’t necessarily due to the complexity of the game or the available actions per turn but more due to the text on the cards. There is a lot of reading that needs to be done by players and with the board in a constant state of change, a card you may have wanted on your turn will be covered or gone after two other players take their turns. The dynamic aspect of the board is great in keeping the pieces moving but introducing the game to new players or larger groups is an absolute nightmare as you slow to a snails pace to read the text on the cards in front of you to try and plan your actions. I just find the amount of text inexcusable for such a light game.
- Speaking of planning your actions, because the board is so fluid with the cards being taken and covered, it is near impossible to accurately plan out what you want to do in advance of your turn so your downtime is literal downtime. I found little value in watching what my friends were doing and it was hard making this a social game since the active player was busy reading card text.
- Thankfully, the rules are easy to learn and the rulebook does a great job of explaining everything in a clear, concise way. This is a lightweight game that follows a core formula. You either play a card from your hand onto the board which allows you to take an action and then replenish your hand with a new card or you will draw from the deck and add it to the board. The board is split into four separate areas and each provides different ways to score points and advance the end game conditions.
- Red Rising ends when players meet a certain criteria. Once those triggers are met, the game ends. Similar to Terraforming Mars, players could actively ignore the triggers and prolong the experience until they force the end of the game or one player could rush the end game triggers and end the game before other players are ready. There are positives and negatives to these types of triggers but the most important aspect is just to keep them in mind as this is where most of the interaction between players will come from. While there are some card actions that may block an opponents from performing an action, the only information you are going to want to keep in mind regarding your opponents is where they are in relation to ending the game.
- The crux of the game is that you will take actions until you are comfortable with your hand of cards, which then will result in your trying to trigger the end game criteria. The cards you play are sacrificed to the board as you will not be able to use them for their end game scoring bonuses (unless you get them back into your hand on a later turn). There is some interesting decision making that can be had as you try to maximize your end game points based on the information in front of you but unfortunately, it feels like luck plays too heavily of a factor. The starting draw can easily influence the entire direction of the game and with the abundance of cards, you just have no real way of knowing what will be entering the state of play from the deck with each draw.
- The main issue I have is that this game just isn’t for me. I obviously have a bias and do not enjoy games where I am circulating my hand and having to read so many cards over and over again. The lack of theme with my actions also hurts my immersion and my ‘why’ when playing. I am fine when the object is just to score the most points but when using an established IP, I had my hopes set for something more grand.
- I feel like there was a time when a new Stonemaier game would get me excited but the last few releases have quashed that hype that used to resonate inside me. Viticulture is one of my favorite games of all time and each expansion made the game more compelling and fun. Wingspan is a juggernaut that appeals to almost every type of gamer. Rolling Realms proved there was still magic behind the curtain but Red Rising, Pendulum, Tapestry, Charterstone and more have disappointed me immensely and it hurts to see a perennial favorite fizzle.