Designed by the powerhouse that is Jamey Stegmaier and Alexander Schmidt (II), this is a play a card, take a card hand crafting game. Your aim is simple, get as many points as possible by crafting the best hand possible and creating synergies. You play cards down to take advantage of their “deploy” ability, and then pick a card up to have it in your hand perhaps to score or perhaps to use its deploy ability. 

 Summary of Game

This game is based on the book series of the same name by Pierce Brown. These books are about a dystopian future set on a Terraformed Mars, where they have created an almost Caste-like society based on colours. The Golds rule society and are the highest colour, the Reds mine helium-three (the lifeblood of the society) and are probably one of the lowest colours. These people live underground with minimal access to luxuries and not much in the way of food. They work dangerous jobs mining the helium from deep in the mines which are plagued by deadly pit-vipers, explosions and fires are commonplace and in the Red society, life is cheap. 

The game features unique character cards, all the key named characters are present in the game, and each card has a unique deploy ability which you can use if you play down the card. These abilities and their end game scoring are both tailored to what happens in the story. If they have a fight with a particular character, then there will be negative points at the end if you have both these characters in your hand. 

Initial Thoughts

The first time I played this was on Tabletopia, and if I’m honest I was not blown away. I taught this to one of my fellow IG gamer friends and we played just one game. I prefer the tactile nature of an in real life board game vastly over a digital implementation, and so I definitely felt a bit disjointed from the game which didn’t improve my engagement in the game I guess. I felt like the card cycling wasn’t happening quickly enough. It felt like all the same cards were coming out without much in the way of powerful deploy actions available. 

However, looking back now I think that actually I was so hell bent on getting my cubes on the institute and my ship up the fleet track and on collecting helium, that I probably rushed the game unintentionally to a close a little. I enjoy the books and the theming of the game and it plays very unlike any other game I have, so I wanted to give it another chance, and so it was on my radar to pick up when I saw it at the right price. 

Buying Rationale

I actually bought this because I knew MJ would LOVE it. I wanted to get the retail version as it had bright plastic cubes, and I wasn’t overly fussed about the card trays and metal cubes and foil on the cards. The price point for me was better too for the retail version. I did have to wait about 2 months after release to get it, but it was definitely the right choice for me. I mostly play with him, so keeping him happy is of course a priority. As expected, Red Rising was a HUGE hit with MJ, with him giving it a 9/10 after the first game, which has only increased since then.

Solo Mode

As the pandemic has raged, and I have continued to work from home, I have found it is necessary for me to take a bit of time away from work and away from screens and do something just for me. Now I try to play a solo game a few times a week, and I go live on Instagram every Friday at noon (I’m in the UK so currently time zone BST). The lives are able to be watched on my IGTV @saggyhead if you want to see previous ones. So I feel like I have a little experience with what I like and what I don’t. I like to have a smooth and easy solo mode. I am playing for fun, I want the game to be about me, not about running a complicated bot character or automa. This is why I actually love the Automa Factory solo modes that have been put out. 

Why Do I Rate This Game? 

There are a few reasons that I am a big fan of this game. Firstly, the IP. Generally I find IP games to be a mixed bag, they often don’t live up to your expectations or else the game is mediocre and you only play it because you love the IP. Neither of these things are true here. The game is great on its own, if you don’t know the IP, so what. This game is still baller. If you do know the Red Rising books, then the theme really sings in this game. Which characters you are trying to put together makes sense and for me that makes it all the better as a game. 

The second reason is my age old reason for really enjoying a game, I love visually striking games with high quality components. If I am going to play a board game, I want it to be a visually pleasing and tactile experience and I want it to look good on the shelf. The box graphic design is pretty simple, but it is very pleasing to the eye. The card art is brilliant, the individual characters all seem to have personalities. The components feel great in hand and look cool on the table, also there is artwork on the back of the board – I love that attention to detail!

Gameplay here is my third reason for rating this game so highly, which seems like an obvious choice, but hear me out. This game makes me play better. I need to play smarter than I usually do to do well in this game, there are a lot of things to keep track of in your mind. How far up each of the tracks am I? What about my opponents? How many turns have I likely got left? Can I afford to lose this card because the deploy ability is so great? How can I take control of my hand? There are lots of different ways that this game pushes me into being a better gamer. I enjoy that stretching. 

What is Not So Good?

This game has a lot of cards to read, and as such players may get seriously struck by analysis paralysis. There are a lot of scoring abilities and a lot of combinations that you need to decide whether you can manage to achieve. There is also the decision about where to play the card and where to take from, which can hinder or help your opponents. It is tricky to decide what you want to do when presented with a lot of different options. 

For me, AP rarely strikes me so I don’t find this at all, but turns do move a touch slower than in some other games as there is a bit of reading to be done on any new cards you get. This also means that for me there is no down time, because I use the turn taking time of opponents to read my cards again and formulate a plan for my turn. 

Round Up 

First of all a book recommendation, if you like dystopian fiction that is easy to read, then I can thoroughly recommend the Red Rising series. But, back to why we are here; board games! Red Rising is a different experience to any other game in my collection. Hand crafting has its basis in traditional card games like Happy Families and Rummy, so it probably isn’t a surprise that I enjoy this mechanism immensely. The exceptional component quality and artwork puts this a step above the rest. I think this game deserves a place in anyone’s collection. 

SaggyScore: 90/100


● Solo mode is smooth and sleek

● High component quality and artwork you would expect from a Stonemaier game

● I thoroughly enjoy the theme and it is well integrated into gameplay

● Game end is controlled by the players, so the game length will vary too


● The teach of this game is not easy

● This will induce AP in some players