Robot Rise!: Preview

Behind every great robot take over of humanity is an evil scientist. And, today, that’s no different. Fairway prepares for the inevitable robot takeover by pretending to be the evil scientist in today’s review of Robot Rise!

Robot Rise! is a two- to six-player card game by Happy Harpy Games. In the game, players are trying to be the last surviving evil scientist in the whole world. The game is quick, taking less than 20 minutes even at higher player counts. Robot Rise! is coming to Kickstarter in August.

Initial Impressions

  1. Building the giant robots is fun in it’s own right.
  2. The game is easy enough to learn and teach. Flipping through the cards makes it pretty apparent that there isn’t a lot of variation in what happens.
  3. The game plays quickly and tended toward people wanting to play another game.

Game play

In Robot Rise!, players are competing mad scientists trying to protect their hidden layers while destroying their enemies. The game consists of a set of hidden layer cards–three are given to each player– and a deck of Robot Rise cards.  The deck of cards is shuffled and each player is dealt a starting hand of five cards.

There are essentially four types of playable cards: giant robot cards, utility cards, defense and attack cards. To form one of the giant robots, players need three parts: head, body and legs.  In addition, there are a handful of event cards that when drawn act like an attack on the drawing player or all the players.

To play, players will play a card or cards from their hand, resolve its effects and then draw from the deck. There are essentially three types of “playable: cards: lethal attacks, nuisance attacks, utility cards, and giant robot cards.  Most of the game is spent trying to deploy lethal attacks against your opponents. When played, you target the lethal attack against another player. That other player must deploy a “defense” card (or a giant robot) otherwise one of their lairs is destroyed.

The nuisance attacks aren’t lethal to an opponent’s lair, but forces a targeted player to discard cards or similar action. The targeted player can defend, but doesn’t have to.  Similarly, utility cards are general purpose action cards. Some utility cards establish temporary defenses, let you reuse discarded cards, and draw new cards.

The most interesting set of cards in the game are the giant robots.  Giant robots, when completely formed, can be used either as a lethal attack or a defense. To play a giant robot you need to have all three parts (head, body and legs) in your hand. The parts do not need to match, but when they do are capable of double attacking. The robot cards are then played as a unit. Players can also form “temporary alliances” in which an attacking player can ask the table for a missing part. The first player to “join” the temporary alliance is then immune from the attack.

The game continues like this clockwise until only one player has a lair left.  He or she is the winner.

On the green

Robots.  We liked building robots. A lot. Even without playing the game. There’s a lot of combinations of interesting robots.

Play time and player count.  The game doesn’t take too long, even with higher play counts.  Even though this is a strict player elimination game, there wasn’t a long time between first player out and winning the game.  On that point, we also appreciated that the game went up to six players without a lot of lag time.

Most of the time, when we played, we played a few games in succession. It’s perfect for that.

Teachability.  This game is easily playable and teachable to younger players. The game is simple enough and there isn’t a lot of teaching necessary.  Even the “three robot parts to form a robot” is intuitive enough that everyone got it. The fact that some of the cards required reading eliminates the use of the game with non-readers though.

Where it comes up short

We really wanted to like Robot Rise! a lot. But there are a few things that let us down.

Giant Robots.  We really wanted the Giant Robots to be something “more.” In game, you need to draw three cards to make a giant robot.  These three cards then are played as a single attack (or heaven forbid a single defense). That’s it. They’re played face up in the discard pile and that’s it. It’s somewhat of a letdown. We actually went back to the rules a few times to figure out if we were doing it wrong.

Most of the game, players were just hoping to draw the Lethal Attack and Defense cards. Robots cluttered your hand.  In those cases, a single card did the equivalent of the three cards.

The double strike would have been nice, but in all our games, we had a single double strike and then only when a player used a utility card that could substitute for any part — we treated that whole thing as a complete, matched set because we wanted to have a double-strike attack.

Ganging up & Player Elimination. Let me start by noting, as I did above, that this game is quick. Still, at higher player counts, one consequence is that a player might even be eliminated before they get started. This is never fun for that player. Players are only given three bases. In a five or six player game, that means there’s a chance the fifth or six player is eliminated in a very early round or, worse, before playing a card.

To counter this, for the games with more than three players, we made a house rule after one play that a player can lose no more than one base per round.

Strategy. There isn’t much in the way of strategy other than just hoping for draws of Lethal Attack and Defense cards. But even when those didn’t appear, the game was reduced to playing the “best” card in your hand even if it didn’t really help all that much. There wasn’t much in the way of long term strategy or planning. Likewise, absent a defense or giant robot, there’s not much you could do to stop an attack on your lair.

In the hole

Robot Rise! is a neat alternative to some of the mass-produced light, filler games. The game is quick and easy to teach. You can play out your evil-scientist, robot-building dreams in a quick game.  The robot building cards, even without the game, are also fun. If you’re looking for something light and quick or just enjoy building robots, Robot Rise! is worth a look.

Robot Rise! is in the hole for one over par.




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