What Are You Getting Into
Red Rising was not the game I expected it to be when I first played it having read the books. It works very simply and is based around you managing your hand of cards so that, when the end game is triggered, you have a hand of cards that works well together in order to outscore your opponents. It's a game of efficiency rather than the in your face attacking that I was expecting. Let's show you how it works.
How To Set Up
Unlike some other Stonemaier Games, there are not a mass of components to go through here so setup up is quick and straight forward. First of all, crack the board out in the middle of your play group and I would try and ensure that no-one is reading the board upside down as the text on the cards will be important. Shuffle up the large deck of cards and deal two cards to each of the four locations ensuring that the name of each is clearly visible, then deal everyone 5 cards and pop the deck onto its designated spot on the board.
Next, randomly give each player one of the cardboard House tiles and give all of the coloured components of a single colour to each player, this includes a really helpful reference card. Get every player to place their rocket onto the 0 of the blue Fleet Track, put the red Helium tokens onto the the designated space on the board. If House Apollo is in play then they take the first player token, otherwise dish it out randomly. Put the die and Sovereign token within easy reach of every player.
There are some slight adjustments when playing with 2 players but this is simply popping 3 cubes of an unused colour out to act as a 3rd player.
Now you are good to get playing Red Rising.
How To Play
So what do you do on you turn? Well, I told you it was simple, let me explain just how simple it is. You can do one of two actions and it goes back and forth until the game end condition is met. The way the game ends is when any combination of players have 7 or more helium Tokens, have 7 influence on the track and are on at least 7 on the fleet track. It does not have to be the same player that has all of these. Let’s take a look at the two actions you might take.
1. Lead Action
This is going to be your primary action based on my experience and will be the one that you will take more often than not. This consists of two stages. First you play (deploy) a card from your hand on one of the four locations. If the card has an ability that triggers when deployed then that occurs straight away. You then pick one of the remaining three locations to draw a card from and you gain the ability of the location.
The abilities of each location are referenced on your player card and they will help you gain Helium, move up the fleet track, place influence in the institute and gain you the the sovereign token which enables you to do different things depending on your house. If you don’t take a card from a location you can draw blindly from the top of the deck and then roll the Rising Die to see what bonus you get
The other thing you can do is to scout: a good way to try and reveal more cards onto the board in the hope of finding the one you want. Instead of playing a card from your hand you draw from the top of the deck and choose which location you are going to deploy that card to. Once deployed you take the action of the location that you deployed the card to.
That is the choice of action you have on each turn and each of the actions are quick which helps the game move at a nice pace. The difficulty comes in trying to make sure you have the best combination of cards to score. Speaking of end game scoring…..
Did You Win
When it comes to it, the goal of Red Rising is simply to outscore your opponents. Be sure to trigger any end game effects that you may have in your hand before everyone starts counting up their final score. The cards in your hand will all have a certain amount of points that they will score as indicated in the top left corner.
However, at the bottom of the card there will be a condition which, if met, will give you either additional or negative points to your total score. Then add the points for your position on the Fleet track as marked on the Fleet Track, 3 points per helium token, 10 points if you have the sovereign token and then each of your influence tokens will score a set amount depending on who has the most on the board.
But, if you have more than 7 cards you are also going to lose 10 points for every card over 7. The game does come with a pad of handy score sheets which helps remind you of all the little bits that will score so you can all add up each aspect at the same time and jot it down before totalling it up.
Once you’ve totalled everything up, you will compare with everyone else and the person with the highest score will be the winning house of Red Rising!
Setup Time - Very quick. 5 minutes is more than enough.
Ease of Learning - Rulebook is clear and to the point. Simple to learn but takes time to master your strategy.
Play time - Less than an hour and does not outstay its welcome.