Red Rising is a game based on Pierce Brown’s Dystopian book series based around Darrow and his journey to overthrow and infiltrate the class system he was born into. Darrow lives on Mars as one of 14 color castes, a Red, where he spends most of his days underground mining in dangerous conditions. The Earth is dying and those in charge (Golds) are trying to make other planets inhabitable. Saying anything else would be huge spoiler territory for those who have not read the books, so I’ll leave it at that. Once it was announced that Stonemaier would be making a game for this universe I was intrigued by how many into the board game hobby were also ecstatic about the series. This caused me to immediately devour the first book in the series in anticipation for the inevitable game release.
Red Rising is an engine building hand management game. You will start with 5 cards in your hand and will spend most of your turns playing a card for its benefit, then picking up a card from one of 4 columns, each representing a different location and giving a different bonus. Most of your end game points will come from the cards in your hand at the end of the game, but you will also receive points from various things, such as the fleet track, helium and the sovereign token. When you grab a card from Jupiter, or various card actions you can advance on the fleet track. The further up the track you go, the more points you receive. Grabbing a card from Mars will give you Helium, each are worth three points at the end of the game. Luna will let you grab the Sovereign token, awarding 10 points at the end of the game if you have it and letting you activate your house tile for a different bonus. Finally, going to the institute will allow you to place a cube on the institute. Whoever has the most cubes on the institute is awarded 4 points per cube, second most will receive two points, etc. You play until end conditions are met and then you tally up points to see who is the winner. Cards are worth various amounts of points and most also have end game points to tally based on different conditions.
I found myself usually overusing a 2-3 card combo until the AI stole a card I needed until an end game condition was met. While doing this combo I would seek out cards I wanted in my hand at the end of the game. This is not a very heavy game, but I still had fun with my little mini combo engines I was able to create. Keep in mind an exceptional score is 300 and I have not scored that high yet after 6 games. My highest score is 263, so I could definitely be missing something strategically. Keeping in mind I was playing an AI that only interrupted my combo a few times, where a human opponent would definitely put a stop to my nonsense much earlier. End game scoring would make much more sense to somebody who has read the books, why a character would score extra points if paired with a specific character, or lose points of paired with another.
Art and Components
Everything is as expected if you are familiar with Stonemaier games. There is an insert included, the rule book has a high quality texture, cubes are heavy and metal, the Gold cards have a very nice foil accent and there are plastic card holders included in every player color (for the collector’s edition.) The symbols are nice and clean and the rulebook is concise without leaving out anything necessary.
The art style is great, I enjoyed looking through all the cards, however It’s not what I pictured while reading the books. The art is slightly cartoony and the books are very dark. Almost every character is not how I pictured them while reading. Art is subjective in general and now I am talking about how one person envisioned a fictional character.
Solo Thoughts I Think
The Automa Factory is back at it again with an automa that requires you to flip a card and fully act out actions another player would take, both playing cards (from the deck) and taking cards from different locations based on what the AI card says. It is very easy to run and definitely got in my way multiple times a game, ruining an otherwise perfect combotastic plan. It uses a priority system and simple arrows to help with which direction to go if a location does not have any cards on it. Ever since I played Euphoria and saw how the Automa Factory addressed needing two AI opponents I’ve been a fan and this game did not disappoint in the AI department.
One Round Playthrough