First Impression: Red Rising

Red Rising Cover

Yesterday, my copy of Red Rising arrived. We almost started drooling over the nice materials of the CE as we unpacked together. It’s what I expect of Stonemaier games though. Also: a really nice insert. Big improvement since Wingspan.

I immediately played two solos. The automa actions are somewhat random but they still provide a challenge. My first game I lost badly with 191 to 220 for the automa. 300 is a good score the rulebook says. Second game I did much better with 341 vs 240 for the bot. Before I get into the rest of it: The automa is easy to learn and easy to handle.

Red Rising Solo Setup
Red Rising Solo Setup

It’s not a difficult game to learn. In a huge contrast with Rocketmen, this one has a lot of cards and in a game against the bot I got through maybe half of it in the second game and a third in the first?All the cards are unique and while some have similar effects there is a lot of text to read and a lot of puzzling to be done in how to best combine everything. It should in theory be a fast playing game: The core loop goes like this:

play a card to 1 of 4 locations, resolve card deploy effect, take another card from one of the other locations and take the location bonus

Game end: when either 2 or 3 of the location bonusses (fleet meter, influence cubes, red crystals) hit the magic number of 7 for either one player or combined for all players. Note: The fourth location bonus is faction specific.

VP are a combination of the achieved bonusses and whatever is on your cards. Each card has a base value and gets bonus points (sometimes a malus) depending on what other cards you hold or what conditions on the game board.

I spent the whole first game flailing about trying to optimize usage of card effects versus bonusses gained. Second game I had more luck with the cards as I got a triple of gold cards (representing the named characters of the Gold ruling class in the series) that went well together.

I am glad this game comes with card holders that allow me to look at all the cards without having to put them on the table. In a solo that would be fine of course but not so much when playing with others.


  • I liked the book series and find myself in need of rereading.
  • I like the combo-nature of the card puzzle
  • As with all games with huge card stacks, there is a luck element in play (joker colors grey and orange help with that one)
  • I can already see how my partner is going to get stuck on this one. There is a lot of text to read and much possibility for optimization and hence AP.
  • the game state changes an awful lot between turns (the automa simulates that by doing two turns for each of yours) and longterm strategy becomes much harder when it is very likely a card you want is no longer there.
  • while very beautifully designed, the gameplay itself is not exactly evoking the theme (for me). I don’t mind but a direct comparison with Rocketmen makes the latter way more thematic driving home the huge difference between pretty art and thematic gameplay. (is the art then evoking the setting? this it does very much)

For now an 8/10 but that goes with already liking the setting from the books.

By Yashima

Writer of code and stories

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