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Rising 5: Runes of Asteros Review – Bring Back Mastermind!

OK, who’s bright idea was it to bring back Mastermind as a modern game? That must have taken some serious pushing past the executives to get a green light surely? Not that I dislike Mastermind, on the contrary, but of all the old games to pick, it’s an unusual choice. However we’re starting to see a resurgence lately of old games being given a new lease of life and not just from Restoration Games, I’m talking in general. Now in modern days I think simply reprinting Mastermind would not work, it’s too basic. So how can you dress it up to make it stand out as something new and unique? Make it a co-op and set it in space of course and you get Rising 5: Runes of Asteros!

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Designer: Gary Kin / Evan Song
Publisher: Grey Fox Games
Age: 12+
Players: 1-5
Time: 30-60 Minutes
RRP: £34.99

 

From the publishers website:

Rising 5 : The Runes of Asteros is a cooperative adventure/puzzle board game supported by a Digital Application.

In this 1 – 5 player adventure by Gary Kim and Evan Song, you play the Rising 5; a talented and colourful group of agents sent to investigate the nefarious events occurring on the far flung world of Asteros. The planet’s denizens have been corrupted by Silk, an alien energy source leaking through an interstellar Gate. It’s up to the Rising 5 to seal the breach and save Asteros before time runs out!

With a vibrant sci-fi universe brought to life by Vincent Dutrait laid out before you, you’ll use a simple action card system to control your heroes and explore, battling it out with the corrupted citizens of Asteros, and discovering amazing treasures!

As you explore more of the planet, you’ll uncover its secrets, helping you to decipher the ancient runes that will allow you to seal The Gate.

The Gate is managed by the App, which will generate a new puzzle for you to tackle each time you play as well as providing you with clues as you interact with it throughout the game.

Time is of the essence however and if your bravery and wits fail you the Red Moon will rise and the world of Asteros will descend into darkness forever…

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TECHNOLOGY DOESN’T ALWAYS HELP

Component quality is adequate throughout. Nothing really stands out as great unless you have the Deluxe version that I believe was on Kickstarter for cosmetic upgrades. There’s a few cards, some opaque green cubes and some cardboard tokens, but nothing to really sing home about.

However what will appeal to some is the artwork on the cards and board provided by Vincent Dutrait, a renowed artist in the industry. His style is not one I tend to go for as a personal preference, but as I said, that’s just a style preference. There’s no denying his artwork in general is solid and it shows within Rising 5. If you’re a fan, you’ll get what you want here – I just personally prefer a photo-realistic style like you get in a lot of Fantasy Flight Games or the embodiment of beauty that is Abyss.

The one letdown I did have however was the app itself. Most of it is great, it has good ambient music, a cool intro and an easy interface with a built in tutorial and rulebook. The camera gimmick however is another story. You have two choices of how to let the app know the current configuration for the rune puzzle – take a photo or input manually. I always input manually ever since it was revealed that unless the lighting is pitch perfect in your location, the app frequently mistakes what colour runes are on what position. In our first game, I kid you not, we were perplexed why we weren’t close to solving the code only to discover the app had switched out two colours without warning after a camera shot. We had to reset and go again as a result. It’s no big deal as you have a manual input function, but yeah, don’t throw in a camera function if it’s going to be that sensitive and prone to error.

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PERFECTLY SIMPLE

One thing Rising 5 definitely has going for it is its simplicity and streamlined flow. Nothing jerks or feels disjointed and there’s no “right stop everything, let’s spend 5 minutes scoring this” phrase uttered throughout. Turns are quick and everyone is debating what to do as you basically have all your cards out in front of you for everyone to see (the rules don’t actively say that, but let’s face it you do it in Pandemic, so why not this too?). If anyone is slowing the game down, you have my permission to give them a gentle slap as there is no excuse here.

Some of the theme is a little lost in some aspects though. You fight monsters, but it’s literally just moving to a spot, rolling a single die with modifiers and pass/fail result. The monsters themselves don’t actually do anything, they just sit and wait for you to come by and smack them around. Helpers are basically “take this reward” and the artifacts/relics are in limited supply. There’s not a lot of cards in each of the three piles either so you’ll see every single card in two games max. But on first glance you get the impression this is going to be an epic adventure game, when in reality it’s really Mastermind with some added card play elements.

It’s a game that everyone can get involved in though, even if you’re not suggesting ideas for the character actions, you can at least be looking at the code and trying to figure it out, although that’s only going to take you so long before you hit a wall and need more guesses on the app. An Alpha player can be a little directing in this however so be warned if you know someone like that.

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ADD A PLAYER – ADD TO TIME!

Don’t try to take Rising 5 too seriously – at most even with 5 players this should take you no more than an hour to finish including the usual co-op debating scenes. 2-3 of you could wrap this up in 45 minutes with ease, but unless you’re playing solo or as a 2 player, I think 30 minutes is pushing it; especially with setup and takedown. You have the flexibility of going for it in solo mode, but in case you get that unwanted 5th player turning up late, you can still wrap up Rising 5 in decent time, but it may overstep the mark of being a filler game at this point – don’t even think of having this played and wrapped up in 30 minutes with 4-5 players.

The big issue however is that for experienced gamers, there’s not going to be enough in Rising 5 to keep you engaged for repeated plays. The Mastermind code is not difficult at all to figure out even by a small child in the time you have so the biggest issue you have to deal with is drawing too many cards or failing to kill monsters and thus causing a red eclipse, the latter of which comes down mainly to die luck. People I’ve played Rising 5 with have enjoyed their experience, but have said that after a few plays they would be done. So it works well with new people or younger gamers as a result, but not so much with adult gamers.

 

VERDICT ON RISING 5

Rising 5 is a very straightforward, light co-op game that will certainly entertain for a short while with families or new gamers. It has decent artwork, a cool app gimmick and the chance to go it solo as well as cater for that unintended 5th player. So it certainly ticks all the boxes for a gateway game that should feature in gaming cafes. It is however too easy to beat so playing on Hard mode is essentially the only way to play to have any sense of a challenge.

The audience for this is strictly going to be new or light gamers though. For those with more experience, this isn’t going to last long before the repetitive nature sinks in. There’s very little variation in the cards, tactics become set in stone and the biggest threat to your survival is the die luck and the deck running out as opposed to not figuring out the rune code.

Take it for what it is, a simple, light, quick co-op and enjoy every now and again.

 

Personal Rating – 6/10

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YOU WILL LIKE RISING 5 IF:

You’re after a really quick Co-Op that’s suitable for all ages and experiences.

You love Vincent Dutrait’s artwork and want to see it everywhere.

You want a game that can cater well for the dreaded “5 player” issue.

YOU WILL NOT LIKE RISING 5 IF:

You get a kick out of using the camera functions on integrated apps – it’s too buggy to be reliable.

You’re looking for a more difficult Co-Op – playing on Hard difficulty isn’t that hard!

You want a game with epic scope – it looks more “grandiose” that it actually plays out.

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Luke Hector

I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.

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