Rise! Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 4 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
  • For 2 players
  • Approximately 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Resource Management
  • Worker Placement & Area Control

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • None


  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!


Before you stretches a land ready to be claimed! The only problem is, there isn’t much land to start with and you have a pesky neighbor who is looking greedily at what little land there is. What should you focus on first? Exploration? Building? Or maybe you’d like to squash the competition and drive your opponent into the sea? Be a warlord or a peaceful explorer. Build architectural marvels or crash them to the ground. All things are possible if you are skilled enough to rise to the challenge!

Rise!, by Crash Games, is comprised of 60 hex Land tiles (grass on one side and the game logo on the other), 60 wooden Worker tokens (30 in red, 30 in blue), and 18 wooden Tower cubes (9 per player; 3 large, 3 medium, and 3 small). All the game components are of high quality and very durable.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first create a starting Land formation using 12 Land hex tiles at minimum. We’ll call this the land map. The suggested “first time playing” land map separates the two players with a narrow land bridge, with each player being given a small section to start with. If the initial land set up is too easy or a new land map is required, there are a number of different ways the game can be set up. When creating your own, make certain the amount of land is equal and no one player has a stronger starting position.

Second, after the land formation is built, each player places one of their Worker tokens at opposite ends of the land map.

The initial land map, as suggested by the game rules

Third, each player now takes all the tokens and cubes of one color (that matches the token they just placed) and puts them in front of them. These are the game pieces the player has to work with during the game.

Fourth, the remaining Land tiles can either stay in the box (our suggested method) or can be dumped out and placed in a pile. Either way, make sure the remaining Land tiles are within easy reach of all the players and away from the playing area.

You are now ready to play Rise!

Rising to the Occasion

Rise! is played with each player taking a turn. There are no set number of rounds. On a player’s turn, they can take up to 2 actions. Any combination of actions can be taken and in any order, including taking the same action twice. The actions allowed are as follows:

Place a Land Tile

The player takes one of the Land tiles not currently played and places it on any location of the existing land map. The only rule is that the Land tile must be adjacent to another Land tile.

Place a Worker

The player takes one of their Worker tokens not currently played and places it on any Land tile that is not currently occupied by another token or cube and is adjacent to a previously placed Worker of the same color.

Move a Worker

The player moves one of their Workers on the land map to an adjacent Land tile that is not currently occupied by another token or cube.

Jump a Worker

The player “jumps” their Worker token over one of their opponent’s Worker tokens in the same way you would jump your opponent in a game of Checkers. The Land tile the Worker is jumping to must be on the other side of the opponent’s jumped worker and not be occupied by a token or cube. The opponent’s token is taken off the Land tile and returned to the owning player’s unplayed tokens.

Sacrifice to Eliminate a Worker

The player removes two of their Worker tokens from the land map and then selects any Worker token owned by their opponent. This token is taken off the Land tile and returned to the owning player’s unplayed tokens. A player cannot take this action if it results in them having no Workers on the land map.

Sacrifice a Worker Freely

The player removes two of their Worker tokens from the land map then places one of their Worker tokens not currently played on any Land tile that is not currently occupied by another token or cube. Unlike the Place a Worker action, the newly placed Worker token does not need to be adjacent to a previously placed Worker of the same color. Consider this something like a “teleport”. A player cannot take this action if it results in them having no Workers on the land map.

Remove a Tier from Tower

The player removes the topmost cube from one of their towers. The tower does not need to be surrounded by Workers to take this action.

Towers Big and Small

One of the two ways to win the game is to build towers using the Tower cubes. To build a tower, the player must occupy all six spaces adjacent to and surrounding an empty Land tile with their Workers. Once this is accomplished, their tower instantly beings to rise starting with the largest cube as the base. On the players’ next turn, if they still surround the space where the initial cube is placed with all six Workers, the next smallest cube is added to the top of the base cube. On their very next turn, if they still have the tower surrounded, the final and smallest cube is added to the top and the tower is built. Placing a Tower cube is not considered an action, but a player can only add a cube on their turn.

If at any time the circle of Workers is broken, the tower building cannot continue until the player has once again secured the tower’s surrounding Land tiles.

A tower can be destroyed if surrounded by the opponent’s Workers. A player can remove one of their opponent’s Tower cubes if they occupy all six spaces adjacent to and surrounding their opponent’s tower. One Tower cube is removed per turn until the last Tower cube is removed. Once done, the tower is destroyed. On the player’s next turn, if they continue to occupy the same space with their Workers, their own tower starts to rise instantly.

Removed Tower cubes are returned to their owning player.

Winning the Game

The game continues, with each player taking up to 2 actions per turn, until one of two conditions are met:

  • Player completes all 3 of their towers and wins the game
  • Player eliminates all of their opponent’s Workers from the Land tiles

To learn more about Rise! and read the full rules, see the game’s web site.


Like their mother and their father, my little geeks enjoy a good abstract strategy game. Throw in an element of combat, and you might as well serve this game with whipped cream. In other words, they are going to gobble it up and ask for seconds.

After reading the rules to Rise!, my first impression of the game was one of surprise. The game looked deceptively simple. I have played enough Worker placement and area control games to know that what was needed to win the game would take time, strategy, and skill. Rise! demanded all of these but in a way that was both easy to teach and easy to play. After running the rules several times in my head, I was convinced I didn’t miss anything. The game really was as simple to play as the rules described. I found this absolutely fascinating and was most eager to introduce it to my little geeks.

Gathering my little geeks to the family table, I pitched the game to them and explained the rules. They immediately understood how to play and what was expected of them. No questions, no concerns. Again, I was fascinated how easy the game was taught. Simple, elegant, and best of all, light.

As I created the initial land map, I asked my little geeks their thoughts on the game so far.

“I like this! I think it’s neat I can take my warriors and build up my castles, but also fight your warriors and attack your castles!” ~ Liam (age 7)

“Nuh-uh, Liam. Those aren’t warriors. Those are construction workers and they are building skyscrapers.” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

“Nuh-uh, yourself. Those are warriors!” ~ Liam

“Back off, Liam. Those are workers. Dad said so.” ~ Nyhus

“Boys, boys, boys! You are both right. Now, play the game.” ~ Me

How interesting is that? Both of my little geeks see two different things when they look at the same game! There is no theme or narrative to Rise!; no more than there is with Mancala, and yet, both my boys are seeing something deeper and more meaningful in the game itself! Oh, you just know this is going to be a good time!

Final Word

This geek is most pleased. Most pleased, indeed. Rise! plays brilliantly, is deep in strategy, tactics, and logical thinking, but plays light and fast. This allowed my little geeks to play immediately and enjoy themselves while the adults spent their time scrutinizing their moves and trying to outmaneuver each other. Regardless of the play style, be it aggressive war-like tendencies or peaceful building of towers, Rise! accommodated both and everything in-between.

Rise! plays like a war game. No, wait….it plays like an area control game. No, hold up, it’s a worker placement game. Then again, maybe it’s an exploration game? Actually, it’s all the above and then some. I liken it to the beautiful love child of The Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne, if such a thing was possible. The exploration, worker placement, and tower building elements all greatly appeal to the Eurogamer in me as I feel like I am actively participating in the expansion of the world and improving my standing in it. The tower destruction, Worker sacrifice, and ability to attack the other player’s pieces greatly appeals to the action gamer in me, as I feel like I can grab the bull by the horns and take the fight to my opponent’s front door. Build towers on my land will you? Not on my watch, buddy!

When my little geeks played it, something very interesting happened. We were all playing the same game but we all saw it differently. I have mentioned before how important a game’s theme and  narrative can be, as it allows the players to connect to a game on a more personal level. Abstract strategy games seldom have a theme or narrative that allows for such connection (take Blokus, for example), but with Rise!, which has no theme or narrative whatsoever, all the players “saw something” in it.

For example, I saw a game where primitive civilizations were competing on a small land mass to obtain dominance, my 7-year-old saw a fantasy game where the players were building castles and fighting wars, and my 4-year-old saw construction workers making skyscrapers. All this in the same game! Each player brought to the table their own interpretation of what the game represented and how they connected with it. It didn’t matter how different those interpretations were, as the game played the exact same!

Parent Geeks really enjoyed this game with both their peer groups and their little geeks. A number of times, the Parent Geeks would mention how easy the game was to play and how much fun they were having, even if they were losing. One Parent Geek suggested that Rise! was going to replace their copy of Checkers in the house as soon as possible. Non-gamers also greatly enjoyed it, but they were a bit confused at first about their actions. However, within only a few minutes of the game, they were playing like champs.

Gamer Geeks couldn’t stop saying good things about the game. They saw it as a simple abstract strategy game that provided a deep game play experience and was different every time they played it. It didn’t take them long to start creating their own land maps and trying out new tactics on each other. One winning strategy was that of dual tower building and area control with creative Land tile placement. One Gamer Geek was able to successfully create a chokepoint that kept his opponent at bay while he built his towers. Needless to say, all Gamer Geeks wanted a rematch whenever they lost.

Our second game of the evening and my little geeks were already racing me to the finish line!

Gamer Geeks, this is a fantastic 2-player strategy game that provides a great deal of “meat” for such a small game. You’ll be working your Geek Skills to play this one but never to a point where you’ll suffer a nose bleed. The game is light but deep, allowing for some very interesting and challenging game play against opponents that are your skill level or higher. The game is also highly re-playable and different every time. It all starts with the Land tile placement that makes the world the Workers must traverse and build on. From there, your game tactics will shift if you or your opponent place Workers with the intent of peaceful building or for combat. You’ll enjoy playing the game you want and being able to shift gears whenever you like without loosing ground.

Parent Geeks, this is a wonderful abstract thinking game that provides a good deal of critical thinking without being a brain burner. The challenge comes from the skill level of your opponent as the game is light and easy. This makes it highly accessible and immediately playable by both the experienced and inexperienced alike. Even though the game is abstract, it is visually appealing which makes it fun to play with and welcoming to even non-gamers.

Child Geeks, get ready to build an empire! Rise! is a fun game of exploration and building as you create the world and place your Workers to raise towers that scrape the sky. Or, if you are feeling a little more aggressive, send your Workers to invade your opponent’s territory and cause chaos and delay! Better yet, do both! The game let’s you play the game you want to and it can be as difficult or as easy as you like.

This game is not complex in its execution. As you can tell by the rules, this game is light and plays fast. But like Chess, the ease of play is deceptive. Within the folds of the game is a surprisingly deep level of tactics, strategy, and logical thinking that the player engages in. This allowed my little geeks to jump into the game and play it well based on their own skill level. It was a joy seeing them learn how everything worked and how they could further their own goals to achieve victory. My oldest little geek played very well, mixing both defensive and offensive play styles, while his younger brother  just focused on the building and exploration. These are both tactics of play that could lead the player to victory. From an adult perspective, I saw Rise! as a complex abstract strategy game where every choice I made was going to put my opponent or me in the lead. This caused me to pause many times to play-out moves in my head to determine the best action to achieve the greatest outcome. Ultimately, it was my little geeks who told me to “hurry up” because their Dad was taking too long to make his moves.

My final word on Rise! is “outstanding”. It provides a wonderful game experience, is challenging, deep, and feels very rewarding. It plays fast and smooth but without simplifying or reducing the amount of tactics and strategy a player can evoke to turn the game in their favor. Without a doubt, Rise! will be replacing my copy of Chess and Checkers and is already a huge hit with my little geeks. Rise! is a game worth getting excited about and playing!

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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