Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Rising Sun By Eric M. Lang, Game Review


The Kami are not happy with what is happening. Therefore, they are calling on the clans to go forth at the beginning of the year to bring back the honorable traditions to the people across the land.

As the leader of your Koi Clan, you have heard the call. You've summoned the warriors and priests.  You have readied your people. The blossoms of spring are budding as you step in front of your people, your family. You have until the snow falls—three short seasons to fulfill the calling. You are prepared to lead your clan by following your sacred traditions to regain honor and your place as the head of all the clans.

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Rising Sun by Eric M. Lang is a strategy game for 3–5 players set in feudal Japan. I had the opportunity of playing Rising Sun with friends who purchased a Kickstarter version from a local game shop.

Winning the Game

Rising Sun is won by scoring the most victory points by the end of the game. That part is really straight forward. However, there are multiple ways to gain victory points. This range of possibilities varies as play progresses through the different seasons, phases, and turns of the game. Players also have benefits and restrictions, based on the clan they are playing, which influences their choices from the options available to them at the time.

Clans

Each player represents a different clan. The clans have characteristics that set them apart from each other. These differences include a unique ability, money, starting position on the board, and starting honor. The clan selection also determines the seating/turn order around the table.

After everyone has picked a clan and figured out where to sit, there is some basic setup to the game. This can be done prior to seat order determination. These are simple aspects like having tokens ready and determining which Kami and additional season cards will be used for the game.

Spring is now upon the land.

Sequence of Play

Rising Sun is three rounds of play: Spring, Summer, and Autumn. At the beginning of each season there is a Setup and a Tea Ceremony. Once these are complete, the Political Phase is followed by the War Phase.

Seasonal Setup and Tea Ceremony

Seasonal Setup is a when the board is reset to a point for the new season. This doesn't turn everything back to the beginning of the game. The setup allows a reset for the random determination of order for provinces, presenting the season cards that are available, and returning hostages.

The Tea Ceremony is a time when players can create alliances for the upcoming season. Alliances can provide benefits when choosing actions during the remainder of the season. Alliances can also be broken, depending on actions chosen in the Political Phase.


Picture taken from Kickstarter 

Political Phase

Each Political Phase has 10 events: 7 Mandate Turns and 3 Kami Turns. These actions allow each player to prepare their clan for the upcoming battles by placing, moving, recruiting, building, betrayal, and praying at the shrines.

The Mandate Turns are governed by the options presented to the player based on the mandate tiles they have to choose from. The Kami Turns are interspersed with the Mandate Turns and grant benefits to players who have gained favor by worshipping at the shrines.

When the Political Phase is complete the War Phase begins.

War Phase

The resolution of the provincial battles occur in the order randomly determined at the beginning of the season during setup. The battle in one province is resolved before moving to the next province. Players have several actions to choose from when going into a battle: Seppuku, Take Hostage, Hire Ronin, and Imperial Poets.

For the battle, each player involved (there can be more than 2 players fighting for control) secretly bids on their choices by using the money they have. They can also choose to hold their money for a later battle. The first three options influence the battle, whereas the Imperial Poets influences victory points.

The winner of the battle is determined by who has the largest army, in a tie, honor determines the winner. Each of the losing players discard all of the coins they allocated to the battle. The winning player then distributes their allocation of coins to the losing players.

Now you move on to the next battle. Once the battles are completed you start the next season.

Paths to Victory

There are multiple ways to gain victory points. This is not a game of area control from beginning to end. You need to win provinces, but you don't need to keep them. You can also gain victory points by seasonal cards, Seppuku, Taking Hostages, and Harvesting during the Political Phase.

This makes the strategy of the game fluid. Not only between the different phases or turns, but even in the middle of a battle.

In the middle of a battle my opponent was able to change our levels of honor, which gave him the advantage by switching the favor of the Kami. Because this happened in the first battle of the season, I had to change my strategy for the remaining battles.

Art

Oni of Skulls (not the one I saw, but a great paint)
The artwork for Rising Sun is impressive. Credit on the box is given to Adrian Smith (artstation page), but there is a team of people sharing the credits for the board and the pieces.

There are going to be game collectors purchasing Rising Sun just for the artwork. For people who like painting figures, the 3D printed miniatures have outstanding detail. I saw some pictures of painted Oni and was impressed by the detail.

Overall

We played several games of Rising Sun with three and four players. Each game was different, which speaks well to repeatability of play.

The variable aspects of the components available and the order of battles creates different options and pathways to victory, even when playing the same clan. This even allows for back-to-back play without falling into a situation of expecting the same outcome.

Once we got into the game it moved easily. During play it didn't feel like activity was slowed down or like you needed to be sitting around waiting for the other players. Some of the actions take place in turn order while others have everyone doing something at the same time. Because Rising Sun uses victory points all players are involved till the end of the game.

The variability and fluidity of the strategy makes Rising Sun suitable for more experienced gamers. It is recommended for ages 14+.

All of our games played in the expected time limit of 90–120 minutes.

I enjoyed Rising Sun.The game is fun and challenging. Rising Sun has repeatability of play—you can finish a game, reset, and play again and have a very different outcome.

Our group is keeping Rising Sun available for the game table.

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Snow is settling on the land as the year draws to its end.

You have led the Koi Clan to great victories and have also seen defeats. Your Shinto priests are praying at the shrines and the clan warriors stand proudly around you. Each of them fought to the best of their ability. At times, you were helped by the Oni and even the great Hachiman.

Now you lead them home. They are honorable. You have been honorable. All return with heads held high.

The battles are done. The fate of the Koi Clan now rests in the decision of the Kami.

Rising Sun is from Guillotine Games for 3–5 players of ages 14+ and is designed to last 90–120 minutes.

There are also two expansions available providing additional season cards and clans.

Rising Sun is available on Amazon (link).

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