Rising Sun – Review

As the Kami descend from the heavens to reshape the land in their image, it’s up to you to lead your clan to victory. Use your political skills and negotiate alliances to further your cause, worship the Kami to gain their favour, or recruit monsters of legend and bolster your forces, use your resources wisely to be victorious in battles across the provinces.

Rising Sun is 3-5 player board game set in Feudal Japan with a stunning art style, beautiful miniatures and great gameplay.

Players: 3-5
Age Rating: 14+

Time to play: 90-120 Minutes
Designer: Erik M Lang

Publisher: CMON
Price: £99.99 RRP

What do you do?

Take control of one of five starting clans consisting of 1 Diamyo (the leader), 6 Bushi (warriors) and 3 Shinto (worshippers), each with a unique look and unique bonuses. Make your way through the seasons as you try to gain control of land, fight in battles and recruit monsters to help you win.

The game is played across three seasons – Spring, Summer and Autumn with a final Winter phase acting as a sort of clean up and point scoring season. During each season you will go through a number of stages including a setup stage where you will place a set of cards that can be purchased, and the locations of warring provinces that you can fight over.

Anyone for some Tea?

Then it’s time for the Tea Ceremony and time for building alliances and negotiating. I’ve played both with four players and three players and found that things became a little more interesting with three players and the reason for that is because when you have an alliance with other players you gain additional advantages during the next phase of play. With four players it’s very likely that there will be two alliances, but with three players at least one player will always be left out on their own meaning they miss out on bonuses. It’s a these times when the negotiations become a lot more fun and meaningful.

During one game with three players I managed to negotiate two alliances in two consecutive seasons which allowed me enough room to go on and win the game. But you can negotiate at any point during the game which is something I really like. Say you want to stay in control of a province but another player is eyeing it up, well maybe you can pay them to stay away.

Politics

Once you’ve made or not made your alliances you move on to the Political Phase. This is where players will draw mandates to perform; mandates include five actions;

Recruit – Add Bushi or Shinto to the board, You & your ally can summon an additional figure.
Marshall – Move your figures, You & your ally may build a stronghold for 3 coins
Train – Buy seasonal cards, You & your ally pay one less coin
Harvest – Collect coin, You & your ally may collect the rewards from each province you have superior force in.
Betray – Remove and replace figures of the board with your own.

Each of these actions is carried out by all players bar the betray action. But the bonus (You & your Ally part) of the action is only applicable to the player taking the turn and their ally for this mandate. It creates interesting dynamics as you’re helping out someone else, but it benefits you just as much.

Every few turns there is also a Kami phase and this is where your Shinto comes in to play, when they enter the board they can be sent straight to worship and each Kami offers a bonus every time you reach the Kami phase. The Kami are normally decided randomly but offer rewards such as more coin, an increase in Honour and extra movements.

Touching on Honour quickly! Each clan has an Honour rating and this determines what order you start the game in. But during play your Honour can change from certain actions. Your clans Honour is basically used to settle ties, so a tie in battle – which we will get to, will be decided by who has the higher Honour.

We’re going to War

Once the Political Phase is completed, you then head in to the war phase. This is where all of your previous work carrying out Mandates comes to fruition… or not. Each season random provinces will be declared as ‘at war’ (decided during the season setup) and you’ll be able to fight over them in order to gain victory points.

The system for resolving battles is something that I’ve not encountered before, but I really liked the way in which they played out. It sounded a little confusing at first, but once a few battles had played out it all made sense.

You work your way through each province at war and depending on who occupies it will determine what happens. If no one occupies the area, nothing happens and the war tile for that province is discarded. If one player occupies it, then they simply get the war token. If at least two non-allied players occupy the space then a battle ensues.

During a battle you will first declare how many coins and Ronin you have, you’ll then be able to hide them behind your Clan card and distribute them as you want among a number of actions. This part becomes a game of bluffs as you try to outsmart your opponent to win the war.

The actions you can bid on are:-

Commit Seppuku – you can immediately kill all of your figures in this conflict. This action gains you glory and honour.
Take hostage – Capture an opposing figure and remove it from the map, reducing their force in that area.
Hire Ronin – Some provinces give Ronin tokens when harvested, and some season cards will also grant Ronin to their owners. The person who wins the bid for “Hire Ronin” gets to add them to their force.

You’ll secretly place your coin on each of the areas you wish to bid, then at the same time reveal your bids, the person with the most coins on an action ‘wins’ that action. They can then carry it out or decide not to if they wish. Once these actions have been resolved you total up the force in that area, the lower number are killed off and the winning clan will gain victory points for each kill.

But it’s not all quite as simple as just spending money to win, because if you win a battle you have to hand over any coin you’ve spent to the losers of that battle, meaning if you then have to fight them again for another province you might find yourself in a spot of trouble. It’s this balance and game of bluffing that I really like about Rising Sun. Knowing when to commit to and action can really sway the outcome of a season.

Pros & Cons

+Stunning visual style
+Great gameplay
+Interesting negotiating and battle mechanics
+Great Minis
-Feels a little incomplete compared to KS version
-CMON’s Boxes!!! Always bits left floating about unless you have loads of bags.

Conclusion

I thought I was going to enjoy Rising Sun before I’d played it, I’d seen a lot of people talk highly of it so had been eager to try it for a long time. I wasn’t really expecting to like it quite as much as I did. The more I played and the more I understood what my clan’s strengths were the more I loved it. The game is packed full of wonderful looking minis as always, but it’s not just the minis that look wonderful, the board is bright and bold with wonderful styling, the clan cards have nice details on them that make them feel unique and everything feels really good quality.

There is a real quality throughout the game backed up with some really good gameplay. My only real negative’s are that if you don’t have the Kickstarter version you might feel like you’re missing out as there was so much extra stuff with it including nicer components and that CMON’s boxes never have enough room to put everything away properly. But that’s not to say the core box feels incomplete, but if you’re looking around online at videos or other reviews you will probably notice how different it is.  

Rising Sun is a fantastic game and if you’re looking for something with a competitive edge with some interesting mechanics then I’d definitely recommend this game.

-Will

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