Board Games, Reviews, Shaymurai Reviews, Solo

Red Rising: A game of hand management (solo mode included)

Based of the Red Rising novels by Pierce Brown, but don’t be fooled, this is a Euro through and through. I had no knowledge of the source material, I decided to start reading it after playing this however!
But at the same time, there is no need to have any knowledge of the source material, this is a tight and “dry” game.

At its heart this is a game of hand management and set collecting.
The aim of the game being to have the highest scoring hand at the end of the game, each card having a base score, and also bonus points if your hand or the board contains the right combinations/suits/specific cards. In addition there is 4 ways to score bonus points, helium, influence, fleet and Sovreignty. Make no mistakes, these are only bonus areas though. The vast majority of your scoring will come from your cards, with most cards averaging around 30-40 points.

I’ll start by saying, this has been a big hit with my light-medium complexity loving wife finding it an absolute hit.

The premise is simple:
Each player starts with 5 cards and a unique ability that will (usually) aide in one of the bonus scoring items, turns are simple, the majority will consist of playing a card, activating its ability, taking a new card and receiving the location bonus which will aide you in one of the bonus scoring areas.

The push and pull with other players is very noticeable here, do you risk playing Down a card that will score you big in the end game to get its useful ability now, with the risk you might never get it back. An opponent might take it, or they might simply bury it under other cards.
Having a back up plan of how you might get a card back, or adjusting to losing a card you might have planned to get back is all part of Red Rising’s charm.
After all, each card is unique, and there is 14 different colors, I.e. suits

What row will you play your card in to attempt to block an opponent from grabbing a card that seems be suiting the plan they’re going for?

And when do you call your hand “done” and decide to rush the end, as you can also take an action without playing a card.

The game length can change quite dramatically depending on/when someone makes that decision to bring the end of the game due to the ending of the game being triggered when either all 3 of the bonus objectives hit the “7” threshold – unless one player completes 2 of these thresholds, that triggers the end aswell.

Solo Mode

Solo plays a bit different.
The automa factory provides the solo here, as per usual for a stonemaier game.
The solo bot is quickly and easily operated with the flip of a card, allowing you to focus on managing your own hand.
Each game with the AI will have her receiving different priorities for each row as well as a different primary bonus objective, on top of that each game she will be prioritizing either odd or even scoring cards, part of your game plan will be trying to limit her collecting her prioritized cards.

The AI action cards

Instead of the back and forth pull of cards with an opponent the AI acts like a bit of a black hole.
When she takes cards they’re gone forever (with very few exceptions)
However playing against her does give a reasonable amount of card churning, you will see a decent amount of cards. I’d say about the equivalent of a 3 player game, maybe closer to a 4.

With plenty of difficulty levels you’ll be able to find a nice challenge that suits the level you feel like.

The solo game also plays very quickly, somewhere between 20-30 minutes.
It is also quick to set up and put away, making this a fantastic choice for a slightly longer solo filler that can still provide some interesting decisions.

Components – initially I was expecting this to be a “well as per usual stonemaier” but no, this is not the standard Stonemaier quality. Plastic cubes, some slightly damaged cardboard in my copy. And cards that just don’t feel like regular finish of stonemaier cards. However I was pleasantly surprised at how well the cards have held up after numerous plays, while there is some wear, its mostly to the edge of the face of the card so it’s not providing spoilers to the top of the deck.

Some slight damage to the board

Occasionally some of the colors can look a little alike aswell, however each card also states what color it is so this is only a mild issue.

The board prescence is nice during the game, with everything sitting nicely in its place. This game stays compact and will fit well on any table

It is also worth noting there is a “collectors edition” which I would imagine has a bit more of the standard Stonemaier feel.

A game that hasn’t received as much love as others in the Stonemaier catalogue, and while I can understand why; It’s a more niche theme, a lesser quality production.
However, there is a solid game in here!
Something that gives me reminders of playing Gin Rummy, but more involved.
More high stakes.
Most games coming down to a single card difference, forcing you to pay attention to the cards your opponents are taking while staying focused on your own.
This has been a hit with my group, providing simplistic enough gameplay for the more novice player, but deep combo abilities for the more experienced gamer.

Do I recommend this for solo only players?
I’d be a little more hesitant, however I do also think this is a game that has a perfectly fine solo that you will be able to enjoy plays of between getting games in with your group. But for the “pure solo” experience, there is probably better options out there for the price, and the shelf space. However if your a fan of the books, or hand management in general there is definitely enough going on to warrant giving it a try!

Thanks to Stonemaier for the review copy!

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