Rising 5: Runes of Asteros is a co-operative deduction game for 1-5 players. It has been developed from the simple concept of the classic game Mastermind. Mastermind is a game many people know from its iconic box cover. However, it would be anything but iconic by modern standards! I used to love playing Mastermind as a child and also enjoyed the later digital incarnations on the PC, so the idea of a board game which elaborated on this with beautiful Vincent Dutrait artwork and an integrated app was an exciting prospect for me.
Rising 5 combines many elements we enjoy. It's co-operative, app-driven and based on a game I have fond memories of. I have a love-hate relationship with deduction games though, typically not enjoying hidden movement games, but, recently I really enjoyed Sonar and we've enjoyed Alchemists in the past, so I was interested to see what we would think of Rising 5.
In Rising 5 each player has a hand of cards, depicting one of the five heroes in your command. On your turn you may play multiple cards of a single hero in order to activate them once per card you play. After doing so you must draw at least one card. You can draw up to your hand limit if you desire. After performing a character's action each character can use their special power. Powers range from delaying the red moon eclipse, to getting a free strike against an enemy. Perhaps the most important is the ability to swap the locations of two runes.
The runes are very much the key to victory in Rising 5. While you can fail in a couple of ways, success can only be reached by successfully arranging the correct four runes in the correct location. This is where the app comes in. At the top of the game board there is a location to pace the four runes you currently wish to test. When you are ready to do so you can scan the runes with the app and the app will give you an amount of information.
Each rune is assigned to a constellation symbol. The app tells you which four constellations are present, which of them are correct, but in the wrong position, and which are correct and in the right position. Should all four be correct, and in the right position, then you have won the game. However, until that point, you'll have to use deduction to work out which runes are related to which symbols, and where they should be placed.
Of course, it's not that simple. In order to use the app, you must first light four beacons, and upon using the app these four beacons go dark. It feels much like getting the next stab at the puzzle is your reward for doing well in the body of the game.
As you move about the game board you will interact with six locations. Each one can contain helpful creatures who may light a beacon for you, or give you a clue by telling you which constellation is associated with a certain rune. However, you can also face hostile monsters. Killing these will reward you with the ability to light the beacons. However, failure to beat them can result in the eclipse drawing nearer.
When you fight a monster you simply roll the die. If your roll equals their strength, you win. If a monster is particularly tough, then you may need help. Should another hero be in the same space you will gain +1 to your die roll. In addition, other players can discard cards matching your hero to give you further benefits.
Fiona’s Final Thoughts on Rising 5
What is really striking about Rising 5 is how it combines very traditional deduction with a very luck-heavy co-operative dice rolling element. At times it wouldn't matter how good you are at the deduction puzzle if you just kept rolling failures on the dice. This will definitely be off-putting for some gamers, but for me this is just a part of co-operative gaming.
In all co-operative games you need something to compete against and more often than not you're competing against luck, either with dice, in games like Flash Point Fire Rescue, or drawing from a deck, in games like Pandemic. In Rising 5 there are plenty of ways to mitigate this luck, although if you don't have the artefact that gives you a re-roll, there is always the chance of complete failure.
For those who like to really challenge their mind, this may not be enough. The deduction puzzle here is quite simple. In some ways it's tougher than Mastermind because there is a second layer of information hiding the rune colours. You must determine which astrological symbol matches which colour as well as which colours belong in the puzzle in which location.
However, on the flip side, each colour only appears in the puzzle once. This means there are limited possibilities and we've found that the puzzle is often solved in three or four guesses. However, the simplicity of the puzzle does make this a family weight game. Also, the fact that you can compare back to Mastermind when teaching gives me hope that I might even be able to introduce this to older family members.
As a lighter weight game, I love Rising 5. However, I'd also love to for an expansion that adds more elements and difficulty.
Amy’s Final Thoughts on Rising 5
Rising 5 is a game that I really enjoyed. The puzzle is a fresh take on an old classic. There is enough restriction on changing the tiles to keep it difficult, but enough clues available to keep it solvable.
The game in-between is a solid card-driven adventure game, though the combat being dice-based did surprise me. For example, you can assign a large amount of resources to a fight, only to roll the eclipse icon. This means you assigned those resources for nothing. That kind of luck seems out of place in a puzzle game.
The major issue is that the app's scanner can suffer from certain lighting. It uses a small piece of cardboard to reference what each colour looks like in the current light. This should provide an accurate scan, however a light above your table can cause shadows. This can break the system.
This, in turn, can completely ruin the game. If you thought you swapped the purple, when it was actually blue, things are going to get confusing. However, the app does keep a manual record off all scans, which can be reviewed. You may also manually place the runes in position on the app if you're in poor light.
Overall, this slight issue isn't enough to ruin a really unique game. Rising 5 is well worth picking up for its unique take on the co-operative genre. I enjoy the extra challenge of solving the puzzle without reviewing the app history. Having to remember which runes you have placed, and where, makes the puzzle a far greater challenge over the 60 minutes or so you will be playing.