Two block buster games from CMON. Both are area control games with beautiful miniatures. Is Rising Sun just a re-themed Blood Rage? If you already own Blood Rage do you really need Rising Sun? What does Rising Sun offer that Blood Rage doesn’t? These are the types of questions I’ve seen since the launch of the Rising Sun campaign on Kickstater. The questions died down for a while, but since Rising Sun has been manufactured and delivered to (most) backers, I’m starting to see a lot of questions about the game again.
The short answer is: Rising Sun is a stunningly beautiful table top board game that stands on its own. It doesn’t need to be compared to any other game. Seriously, the game is gorgeous. But, a gorgeous game doesn’t necessarily equal a great playing game, worthy of your time and money. In the case of Rising Sun, however, you’re getting solid game play to match the great looking components.
So why is Rising Sun even compared to Blood Rage at all? Well, for starters, they are both designed by renowned board game designer, Eric M. Lang. Both board games contain fantastically detailed miniatures and have an area control mechanic. And, both games are produced by CMON. This makes it easy to think that Rising Sun is essentially Blood Rage with a Japanese theme instead of a Viking theme. But, that assumption would be wrong.
Both Rising Sun and Blood Rage are fantastic games. I recommend owning both games, as they play different enough from one another to fill different gaming needs. Aside from the thematic differences, Blood Rage being Viking themed while Rising Sun is set in Japan, the play style of both games is different as well.
Blood Rage is a phenomenon all to itself. With all the memes and online high jinks that surround the game, it is difficult to dismiss the appeal of Blood Rage. And, memes aside, there is a reason Blood Rage is so popular: it is an absurdly fun game. The different strategies that can be employed to achieve victory are numerous, and each lends to a completely different play style. There’s the ever present “crush your opponents by might” tactic, used by Tyr, and then there’s the opposite “losing is wining” tactic employed by Loki. Monsters, upgrades, and expansions alter gameplay dramatically, ensuring each play of Blood Rage will never be the same.
Playing Blood Rage is fairly straight forward. Sure, there are different tactics that can be used to achieve victory, but they all feel very thematic; it always feels like you are playing a board game about Vikings. Game play is fast paced and brutal. A defining mechanic of Blood Rage is card drafting that occurs at the beginning of each Age. This drafting mechanic is not a part of Rising Sun.
Rising Sun, on the other hand, is a more elegant game. Instead of card drafting, Rising Sun offers action selection as a mechanic. This means the active player selects which action will be taken by all players that turn. The active player gets a bonus for selecting the action, but all players perform the selected action. This presents its own layer of strategy, but combined with forming an Alliance, which cannot be done in Blood Rage, and the level of strategy can get very complex. Forming an Alliance means you and your allied partner will both get the active player bonus whenever either of you are the active player. Breaking an Alliance, or having your Alliance broken by another play, perhaps a trusted friend, adds even another layer of strategy to the game.
In both Blood Rage and Rising Sun, players will need to be on their toes, but Rising Sun provides more subtle, perhaps even more ruthless, ways to gain the advantage. Where Blood Rage lets each player secretly select and play a Battle Card, each Battle Card having a unique, often core-rule changing effect, Rising Sun presents a bidding mechanic where players secretly bid on a War Advantage. The four War Advantages for each player are exactly the same, so there aren’t any true wild cards in the War Phase for Rising Sun like there can be in Blood Rage. But, which player will win each War Advantage and how that will affect the outcome of the battle is always a surprise.
One thing that Rising Sun brings to the table is player negotiation. This can be an important part of Rising Sun, or depending on the players involved negotiation might not play that big of a role. Negotiations between players is different from forming an Alliance and creates a living, evolving type of strategy in the game. Blood Rage lacks this element.
Another thing that Rising Sun offers that Blood Rage does not is harvesting. It can be easy to overlook the act of harvesting or to downplay its importance, but harvesting can be an easy way to gain ronin, coins, and victory points. As with Blood Rage, the different Monsters that can be recruited, the various upgrades, and the expansions that exist for Rising Sun will keep things interesting long after other games have gone stale.
Hopefully, it is clear that Rising Sun is not just a re-themed version of Blood Rage. Each game is worth owning and each stands on its own merits. The gameplay of each title is different enough that the two games don’t feel much alike at all. Rising Sun is elegant and encourages high tension between players. Blood Rage is more quick paced and brutal. Both are amazingly fun and one does not replace the other. My love for Blood Rage will never die. But, Rising Sun has managed to carve out a special place in my heart as well. Rising Sun is truly a different game than Blood Rage and my fondness for each game only grows the more I continue to play them.