Rising and Falling to the Occasion with Red Rising

July 3, 2021 | Sessions | 2 comments

Lead a house comprised of the best combination of characters with unique bonuses and abilities in Red Rising.

Perhaps I’m finally making progress with getting new games played in a reasonable amount of time! Red Rising only took a few months to make it to my table… And I claim I’m almost all caught up when I have plenty of new games arriving. Such is the joy of this hobby. Ha! I eagerly dove into this setting and mechanics, both of which intrigued me!

Game Overview

Game Name: Red Rising
Publication Year:
Alexander Schmidt and Jamey Stegmaier
Jacqui Davis, Miles Bensky, and Justin Wong
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game

In preparation for the release, I purchased the entire book series and made it through… A single book so far. Oops! The premise is focused on this dystopian setting, yet the goal is to advance along different tracks and put together a hand of character cards that works well together. Let’s go!

A Simple and Effective Play Area for Red Rising

First Play

June 26, 2021



Latest Play

June 26, 2021



Setup Time

5 Minutes

Lifetime Plays


Play Time

25 Minutes


High Score



Game Area

26" x 24"


Low Score


Simple Solo Rules

There is a solo opponent, yet this is a design I appreciate for its simplicity. Shown here are the only cards needed to understand the vast majority of the rules. Easy!

Setup involves a few small extra steps, yet the main game rules were where I spent most of my learning time.

For me, I find myself taken out of the experience with a solo opponent that needs constant upkeep and a lengthy procedure. If this, then this, and then that… Too much.

Here, this sequence takes a few seconds yet still features some interesting decisions about protecting cards.

Appreciating the Simple Nature of a Challenging Solo Opponent in Red Rising

A Grand Celebration

I was off to a slightly better start since I played before in the land of… Multiplayer. Goodness! Ha ha! So I had some ideas about what cards might work the best.

This was an awesome outing as House Mars. I took some penalties for picking up extra cards, yet they granted me an incredibly high score that was actually very good!

Gameplay went a little slowly as I made sure I was following the solo opponent’s rules. Was it that easy?

Yes, indeed. I still didn’t end up coming anywhere close to winning at a high difficulty level, though. Next time…

Putting Together Some Awesome Combinations in Red Rising

Family Connections

With Pax au Telemanus in my final tableau, the family granted an additional bonus of 15 points. Excellent!

Yet it was important to look at all of the different sources of final victory points. My cards played a major role, yet I also needed to move forward on the various tracks.

Without moving forward, the solo opponent may have more opportunities to collect cards of the matching odd or even value, or control the timing of the end game.

Talk about fancy components! This special edition also has gold foil on the gold faction cards. Fancy, fancy.

Making the Most of the Telemanus Family in Red Rising

Difficulty Difficulties

My only disappointment with the solo mode involved the way the difficulty could be altered. It revolved around the final game scoring, which I’m not a huge fan of.

I’ve never done well with setting a difficulty level for myself before play, so I hemmed and hawed to come up with a solution for myself. Easy enough!

All I needed to do was figure out which difficulty level I beat, with the ultimate goal of getting up to level 6.

There was a chance this wasn’t going to be enough for me, yet I wanted to reset and play again to see more cards.

Comparing Scores to the Difficulty Levels in Red Rising

Sinking in Helium

With 4 locations to place a card and move along various tracks, each turn is very important. A card is typically used for its immediate ability, or to save for final scoring.

Every card in the deck is unique. That’s right: All of them! Many grant bonus points for being with others, while some can deliver negative points for various scenarios.

The joy is in the randomness: Only about half or less of the deck is used during a solo play, for many combinations.

Figuring out how to make the most of a starting hand and evolve over the course of play is pretty amazing. And fun!

Digging Through the Helium in Red Rising

A Sample Turn

Not sure about how simple the solo opponent is? Example time! For the card at the very top, the steps are easy.

First, this tells me that the location marked with “B” will get a newly drawn card placed on it from the top of the deck. All locations get a random card labeled A-D at setup.

Next, the solo opponent will take the top card from Luna to keep for final scoring. If there were no cards here, I would move to the right to find the next card.

Lastly, the star at the bottom says that the solo opponent would get the bonus from Luna’s location. Done!

A Simple Example of How the Automa Works in Red Rising

More New Cards

I just kept on playing since play time hovered around just 25 minutes and there were so many possible cards to discover. Plenty of unique combinations, too!

When Darrow showed up, I knew he would stick around to the end. I picked him up and made the most of all the red faction cards I could locate. It all worked out!

It may be a little hard to read, but the bonus above him shows 40 points if all cards have core values of 10 or less.

Guess who succeeded?! I still didn’t have my best outing, but I wanted to keep on playing after this nice victory!

Making the Most of Darrow and the Reds in Red Rising

Losing Focus

Maybe I was a little too excited about how well I was doing… The next play turned into a bit of a disaster.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough card choices. On the contrary, I could have had some amazing things had I gone in a different direction early on. Not this time.

My characters worked well enough, yet I was a good 100 points away from my best score. House Mars would not have been proud of my efforts here.

All the same, this was exceptionally fun even as I found myself failing. So much to learn from and put together!

When Things Don't Quite Align with the Cards in Red Rising

Session Overview

Play Number: 1-4
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Outcome: 305-293, 295-285, 208-235, 289-260 (1 L, 3 W)

I managed to reach victory at levels 3 and 4… But also suffered a loss at the lowest difficulty level. Definitely no guaranteed victories here! There will always be a lot of variety and randomness with entirely unique cards, yet that’s a big part of the allure for me. I have to figure out how to maximize my final victory points, yet this often involves using some of those cards for their deploy abilities. So many choices! Definitely a great game for me!

An Official First Printing and High Scores on the Fleet Track in Red Rising


1 Play


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • Every card features unique artwork, abilities, and scoring requirements for a highly variable game experience.
  • There aren’t too many components to keep track of and the general play area is kept in a compact space.
  • Managing the sources of victory points changes with each play, and might change after drawing a new card.
  • Only a few seconds are required to manage the solo opponent during a round, allowing play to focus on the cards.
  • No single strategy will work, yet the fun comes from evolving with every card and adjusting before the end.
  • A card is often powerful in both its deploy ability and scoring bonuses, but the challenge is deciding how to use it.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • Although not a detriment for purely solo play, many of the different player color cubes are very similar in color.
  • Keeping a neatly organized play area is a little difficult with the way the cards overlap in single columns.
  • The solo mode difficulty level is only based on final scoring, which is still a challenge, though not as exciting.
  • Reading every card is required to find the synergies, which can lead to some extra downtime each round.

More Red Rising

Explore related posts about Red Rising!

Victory Conditions

Defeat the Solo Opponent

  • Overall Goal Progress 71% 71%

Goals and Milestones


Score at least 300 points.


Win at least 1 game at difficulty level 1.


Win at least 1 game at difficulty level 2.


Win at least 1 game at difficulty level 3.


Win at least 1 game at difficulty level 4.


Score at least 350 points.


Win at least 1 game at difficulty level 5.

Continue the Conversation

What do you think of Red Rising? Are there any excellent card combinations or strategies you’ve come across? I feel like there is a lot more to explore here, particularly since I still have yet to draw every card! The uniqueness and randomness allow each play to be different, while the rules remain straightforward. I’ll certainly be returning to play!


  1. Oddly, I had the first of these on my list of audiobooks to read on the road… and then quarantines happened, so I still haven’t got to it. And then the game came out.

    I haven’t played this, but I have played Fantasy Realms which I understand uses quite similar concepts. Have you? I found it very disconcerting to keep having to switch goals, though that may just have been my incompetence. 🙂

    • Apologies for taking so long to reply. I’ve heard of Fantasy Realms but know that there are plenty of similarities. Makes for a good comparison for those who have played both! Switching goals was a bit of a challenge, yet interestingly, it made sense to me. Not that I played perfectly well… Far from it! I enjoyed this as a different kind of game with ever-changing priorities and scoring opportunities. Lots more to explore!


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