Rise & Fall
- Designer: Christophe Boelinger
- Publisher: Ludically
- Players: 2-4
- Time: 45-90 minutes
- Played with preview copy provided by publisher
Christophe Boelinger is a prolific game designer – having over 60 titles to his name. He is a very versatile designer, creating a diverse collection of games. In the past, we have looked at Archipelago, 4 Gods, and Earth Reborn. This newest release, set to go on Kickstarter at the end of the summer, is a full control strategic game. Each player controls a civilization trying to expand and progress in a fantasy world. This world displays a unique landscape where glaciers live on islands and huge cliffs are common barriers and challenges to overcome.
In this gorgeous land each player starts with a small tribe including a village, a citizen and a ship and will grow to a full civilization with more of the pre-mentioned units but also temples, merchants and the precious highlanders, the only ones able to pass those astonishing cliffs.
According to the publisher: “Rise & Fall is a very immersive and addictive game, easy to understand, with no luck or randomness involved. The initial creation of the world by itself is a real pleasure and each game brings a different map to the table. The new players will enjoy the game for its “easy access” aspect. Since all the actions you can do are displayed on the six cards of a player’s deck, this makes the game really accessible right from the start. The more exigent strategist players will love the game for its full control aspect and the fact that the learning curve seems to be a constant line of progression.”
I was happy to accept a preview copy from the publisher in return for an unbiased (and unpaid) review prior to the Kickstarter. The prototype which I received was straight from the factory in China, and man, it looks as good as a finished version! However, keep in mind that any pictures here are still of a prototype and not the final product.
The starting water boards:
Then the full water level
Midway thru with the forests and plains:
And then the finished board:
To set up, each player takes all the components of their color (cards, nomads, cities, ships, mountaineers, temples and merchants). The world is created through an interesting layered system with the sea tiles going down first, and then the plains tiles on top of those. Forests are placed on top of the plains, Mountains on top of the forests and finally Glacier tiles on top of the mountains. You end up with a nicely layered landscape which serves as the board for your game. In turn, each player places one of their three starting pieces (Ship, City, Nomad) onto the board until everyone is in a starting position. Each player takes the three Civilization cards from their deck that match the three types of pieces they have in play – each card nicely summarizes the actions that are possible with that type of piece as well as the points scored for that type of piece at the end of the game. As you play the game, when you place a new type of unit onto the board, take the matching card from your Supply if it is there and add it to your hand.
The game is played in a number of turns – going until a set number of Trophies have been claimed in the game. There are 6 phases of a game turn: 1) Play Civilization card, 2) Take Actions, 3) Decline, 4) Purchase a card in Decline, 5) Recycle cards, 6) End of turn
1] Play Civilization card – Players secretly choose a Civilization card from their hand and then simultaneously reveal it, placing it face up on their discard pile (so that only the most recent card can be seen).
2] Take Actions – starting with the current Starting player, the active player can activate any/all pieces that match the Civilization card played. The units can be activated in any order, and each one can carry out any of the actions seen on the card. Each of your units can perform a different action if you choose; also, you may not choose an action unless you can fully resolve it. If necessary, lay the activated units on their side so you do not activate something twice. Continue until all players have activated their chosen type of unit. During this phase, if a player ever places the last piece of a particular type onto the board (and is the first in the game to do so for that type), they take the corresponding trophy for that piece.
The actions of each type of piece are outlined nicely on the corresponding card in your deck. Most of the pieces have two or three different possible actions; and most of them have a way to convert into at least one other type of piece. If this happens, the current shape is returned to the supply and the new form is placed on the board in its place. Otherwise, you place pieces, make new pieces, move existing pieces, generate income (gold or resources), etc.
3] Decline – if at least one trophy was taken this turn, a Decline phase happens. Each player must place one card from their hand/discard pile per trophy collected into the communal Decline pile. Any cards in the Decline pile are out of play and can only be regained if a player buys it back.
4] Purchase a card in Decline – Each player can buy back a single card; the cost is listed on the Trophy board, and is related to the number of Trophies that have been claimed at that time (anywhere between 5 and 80 GP). If you have units for that card on the board, the card goes in your hand. If not, the card goes in your deck. In the rare case that you have no cards in your hand, you must buy back a card in this phase or else you are eliminated from the game!
5] Recycle cards – if a player has no cards left in their hand, they Recycle their cards by picking up all the cards in their discard pile and putting them into their hand. If at least one player Recycles, then the start player token is moved one position to the left.
6] End of turn – Check to see if the game is over. In the basic game, this would be when 4 trophies are collected. If so, move to final scoring. If not, play another round.
Final Scoring – There are 4 scoring criteria at the end of the game
- Treasury: 1 VP per 2 GP in their treasury at game end
- Trophy: ? VP per trophy collected – score the number printed on the trophy
- Development: for each Civilization card in your hand or discard pile, score points based on the number of units on the board at the end of the game, based on the chart found on the bottom of the Civilization card
- Territories – check to see who has the most pieces in each region of the board; that is contiguous spaces of the same type; score for each area if you are the sole leader. No points for ties
The player with the most points wins. There is no tiebreaker listed.
My thoughts on the game
There is a lot going on in Rise & Fall. What I have learned from my first few games is that you need to see this as an area control game first and foremost – and that is because the scoring at the end turns out to be dominated by the Territory scoring. So this should be a clear focus through the game – get your pieces into areas where you have the sole lead at the end of the game. Ties are brutal as no one scores points, and this could mean a lot of wasted resources!
But… there are plenty of other facets of the game strategy. There is some engine building going on. You need to get Nomads on the map to produce resources for you (wood and stone). It would be a really good idea to place your starting pieces on mountain and forest spaces so that you can immediately make the resources. There are many ways to generate GPs. You’ll need all three of these resources to power actions from your cards. Figuring out how to generate enough resources to do the things you want to do is crucial in the early rounds.
You also have to figure out how to leverage the flexibility of the pieces. All of the “people” pieces can be converted to other pieces (cities, ships, temples). Cities can produce more Nomads, but they can also convert Nomads into Merchants and Mountaineers. Ships can move between the different land regions and then convert into another unit type to get a foothold in a far away area. Use these conversions to move your pieces around the board efficiently – and then propagate new pieces once you have a foothold in a far away land.
The organic world setup at the start of each game is a nice touch. Most games should end us with a fairly different map, and this will help keep players from settling into a regular strategy. Each game, you’ll have to look at the terrain and decide what you would like to do.
Card management is important – you should always pay close attention to the cards in your hand as your options on which types of units can be activated are determined by which cards you have left in your hand! Additionally, when cards are put into Decline, you likely will want to retrieve them (if you can afford them) as you will not be able to activate that type of unit again until you have the card back. Also, there is a little kind-of loophole where you can put a card into Decline from your discards, and then if you can immediately afford to buy it back, then it goes back into your hand – and you get a free mini-recycle action out of it. Finally, make sure you always have the ability to buy a card back, if you ever have an empty hand/discard pile and you cannot buy back a card, you are eliminated from the game! Alternatively, you can put a card in Decline and leave it there, thus shrinking your deck size a bit – and this can also be beneficial so long as you can get away with not needing that Declined card. Be careful if you do this, as you can be eliminated if you ever end up with a situation where you have no cards left in your deck – remember that you lose a card in your hand if all the pieces of that type are removed from the board!
The arc of the game starts out small – you have only a few pieces on the board, so regardless of which card you choose, you simply don’t have that many things to take actions with… By the end of the game, turns can go on for quite awhile as you might have six or more individual pieces to deal with. Expect the first few rounds to only take a few minutes, but I would not be surprised if some individual turns near the end that 5-7 minutes per player. The time it takes to examine the cards that each player has available to play (to play your own strategy) grows as the game grinds on as well. Be forewarned that an AP prone player could take awhile for their last few moves!
Timing near the end is quite important, as going later in turn order has a serious advantage – you have the ability to pick and choose the areas of the board to target for some easy points. By the end of our games, players have different strategies, tempos and hand sizes such that the start player marker seems to move 2 out of every 3 turns! Trying to maneuver yourself into a favorable spot in turn order when the game ends is an art I have not yet mastered.
This is a neat exploration/expansion game which will challenge strategy gamers. Everything is laid out before you at the start of the game, and there are no randomizing factors once the game starts. Simply figure out how to best use the same cards that all players have access to! The version of the game that I have played is not yet finalized, but I am very intrigued by what I have seen so far. The organic board construction at the start of each game guarantees a different map each game. The physical components of the prototype are fantastic, and I really like the challenge of this luck-free game. I cannot wait to see the final version of this game.
The game should hit Kickstarter in September 2022.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor