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Review: Rising Sun from CMON

Saturday was my first chance to break out Rising Sun, the Kickstarted game of diplomacy and battle from CMON. We played a five-player game using the standard five clans, Lotus, Koi, Bonsai, Turtle, and Dragonfly (me), but did include the Kickstarter exclusive monsters. Both the Kaiju and the Phoenix from the Kickstarter came into play.

This is a game that will absolutely reward repeat play- there’s a lot going on in each turn, and anticipating (or influencing) the other players’ strategies is critical. In the first phase of each of the three seasons of the game, the players have the option of forming bipartite alliances, which provide significant benefits later in the game. With five players, we always had an “odd man out” alliance-wise, which left that person more flexibility but cost in terms of actions. In particular, the Koi clan never had the chance to build strongholds, and so, by default, could only place one or two figures each turn.

In the political phase, players choose a “mandate”, basically one of five actions. This phase is where alliances matter most, because the ally of the player choosing the mandate also gets the bonus from that action. For example, choosing a “Train” mandate allows the player who chose it and the allied clan to purchase season cards (such as monsters or upgrades for shinto priests) at a discount of one coin, whereas everyone else has to purchase at cost.

At three points during the political phase, there is a kami turn, in which players who have invested some of their shinto in worshipping the gods can gain benefits, such as increased honor (the tiebreaker in the game), coin, or extra moves.

At the end of the political mandates, war happens in preselected provinces. Winning a battle in as many different provinces as possible provides a massive bonus to victory points at the end of the game. Battle resolution has an interesting bidding mechanic, where there are three possible actions before the battle occurs and one after, but only the high bidder gets to perform each action.

The first action is Seppuku, which kills all of the player’s own forces in a province but awards massive honor and significant victory points. Next is Take Hostage, which allows the winner to take a hostage from the battlefield, removing that figure from play and also gaining victory points; third is Hire Ronin, which allows the use of any ronin resources acquired earlier to bolster force in the province. After the battle is resolved, the winner of the Imperial Poets bid gains victory points for each figure killed in the province, regardless of side.

The bidding options make combat really tricky and make coin resources really important. Several times a clever bid changed the course of a battle, and clever bidding ended up being decisive for the end-game win.

In sum, Rising Sun is a complex game with a lot of challenge and strategy, and a whole lot of fun. The components from the Kickstarter are magnificent, and I’m already looking forward to my next game.

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