It’s been a goodly five years or more since I turned a Tavern into a Cavern…curse that wind. I should never have experimented with chilli-infused, curried gunpowder enemas. Not withstanding, there is a shocking amount of lowly upstarts knocking about the kingdom…and they all appear to want a piece of the action! Frightfully obnoxious Elves and Dwarves all over the shop thinking they are nobility. What a bloomin’ cheek! Well not on my watch, matey-boy.
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Time to don my Guild of Long faces hat and start deploying my subordinate workers to do my bidding ‘like wot ha proper gent does’. While I’m at it I must pop down to the dock and buy myself some exotic freeze-dried liquorice…pound for pound it gives you a bloody good run for your money!
I spent ages fashioning a delightful pair of stereotype pointy-Elf ears only to find I am actually green…Green? A green Elf? Well it surly looks like that is the case today. Whatever next? Nauseous Half-sized drunkards called Barflings?
What ever this weird and wonderful world contains this time round, I have a fist full of dice and I am not only going to chuck ‘em, I am going to place them too. Oh yes, it’s worker die placement day here in the Kingdom of The Five Realms…
Before I plunge feet first into a rambling, nonsensical monologue about this title, I must point out that worker placement games are not really my thing…no, not my norm as they are often very dry, heavy affairs that; mostly require multiple players, require very long-term-number-crunching strategies for which my limited cerebral capacity is not suited and don’t always feel like the mechanics reflect a bolted on theme…there are some exceptions like the wonderful Dungeon Petz and Waggle Dance with its worker bee dice. The question now, however, is why did I back Rise to Nobility if this is the case?
So What’s All The Fuss About?
Life in the (now at peace) kingdom of The Five Realms has moved on some five years or so from the times of Cavern Tavern. Now the inhabitants are hell-bent on dragging themselves from out of the gutter, improving their prestige within society on a journey to the top.
Rise to Nobility brings the aesthetic charm of Cavern Tavern and explodes it exponentially. This is a lavish worker dice placement, resource management, house building, high-ish commerce, race for supremacy, wearing the fanciest pantaloons in high society.
Brand new from its Kickstarter campaign release, Rise to Nobility from Final Frontier Games supports….now get this…2-6 players…six….that is way mor than one…I never new numbers so huge really existed!
…but what has that got to do with the soloist you may well ask…I am assuming you asked it well, at this juncture…well let it be known…
It has its very own solitaire mode with a specialised deck of solo objective cards specifically for soloists to experience solo play.
This changes the game slightly in that competition with other players has been removed, replacing it with personal win conditions that must be achieved within a finite number of rounds and competition for dice placement locations has been altered and replaced with a simple AI.
So do these changes to the main game make for a good solo experience?…do they change the game dramatically, so we, the soloist, no longer experience the joys of the multiplayer game? We shall see!
As touched upon previously, my experience with worker placement juggling resources style of play is not really my go-to option (although I have Le Havre, Stone Age and a few others on iPad) so my point of reference may be weak and, sadly, upset hard core Super-gigantic-heavy-Euro players….meaning the games are heavy and gigantic, not the players…but I’m sure I can cope with their frustration by ignoring it.
Victory points win the game as would be expected but achieving them is where the complexity lies. A personal Dice pool is used by each player to secure spaces on a variety of locations around the Kingdom…but as this kingdom is over seen by Queen Tabita, it shall be from hence forth referred to as the Queendom. With me so far? Ok!
There are a number of guilds throughout the land, each offering opportunity to acquire resources…for a price. Resources are useful for trade (there is always some boat or other in port for such actions) but are vital in the process of allowing us to bring new citizens into our small urban developing corner of the Queendom, as each representative of a multi-racial society has certain resource demands that must be met for them to be happily ensconced in a rickety shack they can call home. Meet these requirements, build a rude house and your rude inhabitants will provide a lil’ ol’ meeple workforce. Here’s where things suddenly become interesting. The workforce of meeples can be placed within guilds as apprentices. This benefits us thrice-fold; by providing income at the end of a round, by aiding us build workshops for them to tinker about in (in their respective guilds) and by providing us with additional bonus rewards/special actions when we plonk a die at their doorstep. So keeping your workforce happy is always a good thing.
There is a circular, catch22 feel about this process. To get workers we need resources and cash, to get cash and resources we need workers…ad infinitum…their are ways and means to break into this cycle but this is where the brain hurting strategies come into place and optimising meagre resources is vital for success.
Further cunning game mechanics shove their oar into the works at this point. Those dice we threw earlier can be used to secure places at the guilds and, as would be expected, the higher the pip count, the better the spot at a guild and, of course, the better the rewards. Brilliant! Let’s just throw a load of 6’s and we are laughing all the way to the bank! No so it would seem. There is a certain ‘standing’ we have within court/the queen and this dictates the maximum number of pips we can call upon for a turn. Let me clarify! If my ‘standing’ was, say, 12 and I threw 6, 6, 3, 2, 1…I could use the two 6’s for placement but that would only equate to two powerful actions. If I used the 3, 2, 1, 6 it would also total twelve but would give me four dice to place for actions. Three would yield less rewarding actions but it would still give me greater options. So there is a delicate balance between reward and quantity of actions. There are always ways and means to mitigate unfavourable dice rolls, but again, these may come at a cost.
Certain actions gain you popularity, certain actions reward us with victory points but whichever route is taken, it is a maddening economic stewpot that we must constantly stir.
Immersion or Subversion?
This is a tricky one to quantify. This is basically a theme of economic growth in a fantasy setting that, I must point out, is lavishly illustrated but the fantasy element, to me is almost incidental. Don’t get me wrong. The fantasy setting is most certainly necessary to justify the whole commerce ecosystem, but it is the slightly lighthearted comical illustration style that you should not be fooled by. Deep within is a devious black heart pulsating away. The focus on building a workforce, managing resources and damage limitation become all-consuming. But such is the road to an all-encompassing power when rising to Nobility. We are, to an extent, completely exploiting our villagers as a workforce and all for our own petty social standing…but isn’t that what the game is about?
What I mean to say is the illustrations can fool you in to thinking this is some light ‘filler’ dice game but it most certainly is not that at all. Admittedly it isn’t a super-heavy-Euro but it has a vast array of dilemma deliberating decisions to be made every step of the way. This really does feel like we are building up our own corner of the world to springboard us to the dizzying heights of the arrogant wealthy Nobility. In doing so I felt thoroughly immersed in the ‘down-treading of lowly workforce’ word Final Frontier have created.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits
I felt the weight of the box and…wooooooooow it was a hefty thing to loft above my head. Big mistake by the way as various vertebrae sprang loose. Inside the box there is so much going on. There are hundreds of really thick, sturdy tokens with crisp, well executed illustrations/graphics on them.
There are colourful wooden resource cubes and meeples and houses and place markers (the custom cut placeholder tokens such as little castles have a printed image on them which felt a little less professional compared to the quality of the cardboard/playing card elements. The illustrations as outstanding throughout and the pallet chosen is vibrant, exciting and really pulls you in to this rather strange world. The large game board is a wonder to behold.
There are split, plastic storage trays as part of the insert which double up as player aids…such a handy idea for the resource cubes. “A nifty idea” as @katiesgamecorner commented when I posted a photo earlier.
I did come across someone not happy with the insert saying they couldn’t get everything back in but as you can see…
…It does so and I have only admiration for a job well done.
Meeples and Standees
- Game Design: Vojkan Krstevski, Ivana Krstevski, Maja Matovska, Toni Toshevski
- Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
- Game Publisher: Final Frontier Games
- Boardgamegeek Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/218293/rise-nobility
- Playtime: 25 mins perplayer (my solo games last quite a bit longer)
- Gangs of one: 1-6 players
- Age of Consent: 14+
- DOB: 2018 (Kickstarter version)
So the all important “how does it play as a solo game?” part. I have only watched a multiplayer game in action so have no first hand experience, but my solo game felt it had all the elements of multi-player games.
There is a deck of solo objectives giving us certain goals to achieve for our victory which I like, as this gives a huge variety of game plays without repetition, and each requiring different styles of play to achieve success. This will fully utilise the entire game system as a soloist player works their way through the many objectives developing a wealth of strategies to overcome them. So already a bonus for replay-ability. The over all solo game has similar restrictions to the two player in that there are reduced choices at each location…no that is not strictly true. The number of action options are the same, it is the number of dice that can be placed at each location that is limited (this is a feature that helps scale the game up to its maximum player count). There is a single die from each other player colour used in solo mode.
Two are re-rolled every turn but always placed at the recruiting area and the construction area. As sequential placement of die in these areas require equal to or greater than the pips on the previous die, this has a significant influence on our die placement. Another die is repeatedly rolled for the building guild area and always blocks one building available for purchase. The remaining two are rolled every turn and, depending on pips, block off a corresponding guild
(only one die may be placed at each guild). It can be frustrating blocking us out of a location but if you have been canny enough to build a workshop, you get bonuses from the AI using that space, so it is not all bad.
So the solo game is fundamentally us trying to use every die to its utmost efficiency, mitigate nasty, underhand rolls/blocking from the AI and striving to achieve the oh so coveted win conditions laid out on the solo objective card. In some ways I feel that this is actually a more involved game played solo that the multiplayer game, especially as it is completely objective/goal driven. My only regret is that the Chancellor expansion is not compatible with the official solo rules so quite an exciting area of commerce cannot be explored. I have no doubt a budding gamer over on BGG will produce something to facilitate this in the near future
The Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: Obviously speaking from a solitaire perspective is this a winnable game? I honestly can’t say! …because I haven’t managed it yet. I was 3 victory points from winning once but there are a vast number of solo objective cards and it is these that govern your chance of victory and similarly govern your style of play. This feature is probably the most impressive element of solo play despite some of the objective appearing ludicrously hard, they do test your ability to adapt to different strategies…to use the game in different ways. So I am unsure how winable it is but it is a fun challenge getting there and a different game style each time.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: There is a lavishly illustrated 24 page rule book but when you consider that most of the space is dedicated to game illustrations and explanations of situations, the actual body of rule text is pretty small. The basic format of game, rules and method of play is very simple, as are the rules for the most part. The game’s complexity comes from the players decision making. This is not a game that will take long to learn but mastery…that will take a good many plays, I suspect.
- Lucky Buggers: This is first and foremost a worker dice placement game so there is a fair bit sweaty fisted dice chucking. No major surprise there. The dice can hate you but there is nearly almost something that can be done with your worker dice no matter how poorly you roll. The Game/AI dice rolling act as blockers for the guild areas so, just as a live player may take a place you were thinking of, the random dice rolling adds to the realism. The dice rolled for the Tavern and the building plot (acquiring new villagers and new village huts) hindrances as hindrances…one giving a random score that needs to be bettered to use the placement space, the other requires a lower die roll. So again random luck just adds to testing your worker dice placement skills. The final dice acts as a building blocker, blocking a single choice in the building structure buying area. There is of course random selecting of replacement building tiles and villagers but as there is always a tableau of 6 or so, there is always choice. My experience with the game makes me believe that the majority of luck lies with the AI….how does it manage to roll for just the location I planned to use…but this isn’t a dice fest where luck kills the fun. There are ways and means to get round most situations. The fun is finding out what they are
- Highs and Lows: Without a doubt this is a supremely “feel-good” game from the nature of the gameplay, building a local fantasy village community to the beautiful illustrations. The board and card art work very well together and, although fantasy, it really is a humorous, pleasant fantasy world…even the more dubious looking characters are fun. It is not childlike in gameplay or looks but has a whimsical pleasant uplifting atmosphere to it…little do you realise how hard you will have to concentrate your strategies to succeed.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: This game comes with a pretty hefty sized gameboard of around 72cm x 48cm. Take the player board, an area for cards used by the player, space to layout the villagers that can be recruited and the score board, and it all becomes a very snug fit within a 1 metre x 1 metre area and calls for some creative layout so I advise finding a decent sized table to sit at, even for the solo game.
- Build It Up Just To Knock It All Down: Bagging up cards, tokens and the like into similar sets makes set up and teardown easier but even then, there are a surprising number of tokens and meeples. Populating the board for a solo game is not complex but certain tokens/tiles require locating on the business end of the board as existing guild buildings, there is the villager offer to line up, score tokens and the trade ship tokens to sort. once the basics are in place, coloured dice are located in their respective locations (in accordance with setup rules) and finally, and probably the longest part of set up is populating the Trade area with the numerous tiles that require placing. The over all setup is not too complicated and probably wont exceed 10-15 mins (depending on how well one stores items and how familiar a player is with the board/components. Packing up should be significantly less and the included storage system (once a suitable arrangement has been established) helps speed this process.
Me, Myself and I
I backed on a whim…(much to the alarm of me and myself) perhaps taken in, in part, by the great illustration style and the promise of solitaire options…and I have been suitably impressed. The look, feel and solo mode are very well done in my opinion. I have a lighter worker placement/resource management style game that turns out to be a very entertaining yet sneakily difficult.
Without being too complex, there are still a huge number of very tricky decisions to be made and linking numerous actions/abilities together brings some fantastic results. The rulebook is nicely laid out and the rules are ridiculously simple considering what sort of game it is. The complexity and enjoyment come from the intricacies and nuances of the many interaction locations. It is really interesting to see how a basic game layout will have to be played in so many different ways as a player works through the wide choice of solo objective cards. Not a Bot, as such, and not an Automa but a very clever way of adapting a multiplayer game of this nature for soloist accessibility. All credit to Final Frontier for that one!
Notes About Feet…or Foot Notes: (4th May 2018)
I recently communicated with Final Frontier after they announced a potential expansion to Rise to Nobility arriving late 2018. My previous concern that the Chancellor Expansion was not accessible as a solo component to the game…great news…
@BSoMT, Thanks for the great review! And most definitely! 🙂 The new campaign we are working on will come with an expansion for the normal mode, the night mode, the solo mode and integrating the solo mode with The Chancery. With that, the idea is to integrate all modules and give you the ability to mix them all.
So great news or the soloists amongst us and something excellent to look forward to at the end of this year.
Yay or Nay?
Well Rise to Nobility has defiantly risen to high standing for me and through cunning deployment of worker meeples, earns a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (7). I highly recommend this for solo play, if only to scratch that worker dice placement itch. The solo objective cards not only give us, the soloist, a real challenge but also provide some focus…some meaning to play beyond the tired old “beat your own score” nonesence.
But none of that helps with my wooden shacks…I have some uppity dwarves complaining about rising damp, some obnoxious green elves moaning about work conditions at the blacksmith guild and all expect me to solve their problems
Me? A Lord? You must be stark raving bonkers to think I’m going outdoors to some mucky, dirty field to look at a rotten wood hut in my tartan slippers.
You’d think these lowly upstarts would be grateful I have given them shelter and forced them to work for me!
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