Review: Rising 5: Runes of Asteros

Designers: Gary Kim and Evan Song

Artwork and Graphic Design: Vincent Dutrait

Play: 1-5 Players

Play time: 60 minutes

A copy of Rising 5: Runes of Asteros, was provided by Grey Fox Games for review. I would like to thank them for their support of Jambalaya Plays Games. This does not mean I am being compensative for positive reviews. If a game is good, okay, or a pass for me, you will know.
In Rising 5: Runes of Asteros, player taking the roles of  a five character space team named the Rising 5. Their mission is to seal a rune gate that will prevent monsters from taking over Asteros. This is a deduction game similar to the classic board game Mastermind, but there are more gamey (hello, made up word) elements added to round out the experience. The goal of the game is to reset the gate and seal the monsters away before an evil power takes over. Players will cooperatively move around the board to encounter monsters, and hopefully find enough clues to solve the code before they run out of time. The type of runes and placement all have to be in the right place to win. Is this game any fun? Could the cooperative play drive your gaming group crazy? Here are my thoughts. If you don’t want to read the entire review, there’s a solo gameplay video that covers the entire experience below.

 The Recipe

  • Hand Management
  • Deduction
  • Cooperative play
  • Action Point allowance (by character cards)
  • App Integration
  • Solitaire mode 

A Tour of Asteros

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Introducing the Rising 5

Each hero in Rising 5 has a special ability that can be used on the same turn they are activated. I’ll probably mention this a couple times. No character is owned by anyone. This is a fully cooperative game, which means the gameplay scales so well from 1 to 5 players. Since no player has a specific character to be responsible for, what’s most important is how players choose which character to activate on their turn and how to use there special ability their abilities at the right moment.  Here are the special abilities for each hero:

Eli moves the Eclipse marker one space up. She is essential to keeping the sum marker as far away from the bottom of the Eclipse track as possible.

Orakl is probably the most important character of the game. He can swap two runes or swap out a rune for another one.

Nova can encounter a monster with a strength of 4 or less anywhere on the board. If she rolls and wins, you’re good to go. If she fails, she does not receive the negative benefit.

Hal is the copy cat character. If it is next to an ally, it can copy that characters ability. This is huge when you want to double team an encounter or replicate Orakl’s ability to move runes around.

Ehko can transfer one of his teammates to any location. A extra movement is essential to gathering teammates together.

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Gameplay

On a player’s, they may take any of the three actions as many times as they want with any one of the five characters. They can move any character across the board, encounter the card at their location, or seal the gate (solve check for the solution). The amount of actions you take and who will take them is based on the amount of matching character cards in your hand. If you have three Ekho cards, then you can take three Ehko actions AND have the option of using his special ability. For example, I could move him to a location, encounter a card, and move again.

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 Movement is simplest action in the game. All characters start on their picture at the bottom of the board and can move to any of the locations two spots near the Region decks I, II, and III. Characters can share spaces and it will benefit everyone during encounters, which I’ll touch on later.

When you arrive at location or use a character currently at a location, you may encounter a card there. There are Helpers that will offer no resistance and reward you with clues, eclipse track movement, or Silk cubes. You may find an Artifact Cache that has more silk cubes, sun track movement, clues, and combat re-rolls. The very light sense of adventure you get Rising 5 is the combat. Each region deck has monsters with combat values ranging from 1 to 5. To beat a monster, you must roll the value or above on the card. If you roll an Eclipse symbol, you  automatically fail and the marker moves down the Eclipse track. The spaces are determined by the icons on the card and expect Monster Cards with values of 3 to 5 to have two or more Eclipse icons. One of two losing conditions is the sun marker reaching the bottom of the Eclipse track, so you have to time your attacks.  For players who can’t stand games that use dice, you have a couple ways to mitigate the negative results. The acting player can ask for assistance from the team to help win an encounter. They donate matching character cards to add +1 to the die roll. Players also get a support bonus of +1 for sharing the same space as the acting character. Both benefits stack, so you have plenty of options make combat rolls almost useless and really one bad result in most cases. Combat is pretty light in this game, but using cards on off turns is a little risky, the other losing condition is running out of character card deck. The support mechanics are highlighted in the video below.

The seal the gate action involves the app and thankfully it makes the gameplay smooth. The app gets every player involved instead of one person sitting behind the box checking the solution (#boringmode). When the team gathers four silk cubes from multiple encounters, they place the cubes on the altars in the middle of the board and open the free app. The app is used to scan the runes in the middle of the board and inform everyone how close they are to the solution. There are seven runes and each of the seven constellations shape represents one of the runes. Your task is to cut the choices down to four and place them in the proper spots. The constellations will show up as outlines, dark, shining or bright to show the current state of the solution.  Look at the pictures and the video below to get an idea of how it works.

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The last and mandatory part of a player’s turn is drawing one or more cards. You may or may not want to draw to your hand limit. Why would a player only grab one card? When an Eclipse card are drawn, it will activate all of the Eclipse markers from all of the Region deck locations. For example, if there are multiple monsters at  each of the locations across the board, you could potentially have the track move down one or let’s say six spaces all at once. My biggest negative is that the game can end abruptly based on your early choices, the monsters available at the locations, and lack of communication. If you reach the bottom of the eclipse track or cannot draw anymore character cards, then the game is over. At some point, the amount of cards you draw needs to be discussed or you’re risking ending the game. I would say there is a healthy dose of anticipation, which I like. Considering the weight of the game, I like a little bit of pressure on the players.

Overall, the players choices are fairly. You’re playing cards to encounter location and gather enough silk cubes to manipulate the runes to seal the gate. It’s all about how players manage their hands and deduce which runes go where. I think some players are better at the deduction part, while other players will shine more at the hand management and character movement side. There is enough for everyone to shine and feel part of the experience. Is the gameplay as exciting on your own solo play? Let’s take a look.

 

Solo Gameplay

 The solitaire mode is a bonus to the cooperative mode. You’re playing the same game, except with a maximum hand size of six support cards at the bottom of the board. The support cards can be used at your leisure, so it feels just like having players next to you. You can use the character cards to power you up for encounters, but it presents another challenge. You must draw cards like normal and replenish the support cards back to six, so a solo player has more responsibility of making more efficient use of character cards. Is there a downside to solo play? Sometimes it helps to have another set of eyes and opinions, but overall this is a solid solo mode. I happen to be a person who likes to play books and video games with a large amount of puzzles, so having a solo mode in Rising 5 is totally up my alley. I could recommend this as a solitaire only purchase. You also have a decent go to game to welcome someone to join in at any point, which is always a bonus. A second player can pick up the six support cards, toss one out, and jump right in. You have the option to add more Eclipse cards if you’re thinking this mode is too easy. Check out the solo mode video below.

 The Good

  • The table presence is off the charts, which is easy to say when Vincent Dutrait’s art is involved. Love that man’s art! It actually makes me think that Grey Fox Games cared about character development, when this is really an abstract game.
  • A more gamey version of Mastermind. I wasn’t sure if a cooperative game Mastermind would work, but  the encounters and hand management update the gameplay.
  • The solo game is just as good as the cooperative mode. Definitely worth a purchase for solo only play
  • The app sells the game big time. No errors or crashes

Any Concerns?

  • If you don’t like coop games, this is not going to be your thing. Rising 5 is a family weight game, but it can be pretty brutal to a novice audience.
  • Learning the app and rune hints was confusing to me for the first couple playthroughs. It’s part of the game to figure it out where things go, but the combination of tiles, runes, and app together made me a little confused.
  • Alpha gaming will happen and that totally relies on your group. I’m not sure players can do it based on how much discussion there is over the rune placement and how to coordinate bonuses on encounters.

Not So Good

  • Games can end rather suddenly if players do not cooperate or you happen to get unlucky with drawing moon track cards.

 

Final Impressions

I enjoyed my time with Rising 5. Sure, the game is basically Mastermind with some gamey sheen to it, but what they added to make the gameplay makes it feel more like an adventure. The biggest plus for this game is the app integrations works so smoothly. If this app didn’t work, I would tell you to steer clear of this game. Personally, I had a little issue with using the app correctly, but you might have a smoother experience me. I figured out how to scroll back and look at my previous guesses, which opens makes it easier to make more calculated choices. If you’re worried about Rising 5 overstaying it’s welcome, I would say max player count is a little bit more than an hour. After one playthrough, it should be in the 45 minute range. I see no reason why this couldn’t be played back to back and enjoy your time with it. One actual negative to the game is how quickly this game can end with a little bad luck and poor decision making. Failed encounters, misuse of powers, and pulling your first Eclipse card can lead to a very quick loss. I think it’s important to note that this is an abstract game and not deep adventure with a story line or campaign. I feel like there could be a euro game sequel in this world. The combination of the video intro of the app and the pronounced presence of the characters on the board, make me feel like there is more to explore in this world. Maybe I’m just a Vincent Dutrait fan boy and got lost in the art, which is totally possible. What’s most important here is Rising 5 is a keeper for me. It’s staying in my collection because it provides an equally enjoyable cooperative and solitaire experience. I tend to favor games that have enough range to be played with my family, game night crew, and  decent solitaire play. If you’re in the market for a coop/solo game with a decent amount of challenge, puzzly gameplay and stunning art, I suggest you give this one a look.

You can find a copy every for around $29 to $32, which is worth every penny in my opinion .

I hope today’s review was informative and helped you make a decision about the Rising 5: Runes of Asteros. If you have any questions, please check out the links below.

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