- For ages 10 and up
- For 1 to 5 players
- Approximately 60 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Stop the Fire Nation from rising and burning the world!
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The Fire Nation continues to raid neighboring kingdoms and lands aggressively. Those who stand against this onslaught are quickly put down. A small group of heroes, led by the legendary Avatar, fight the Fire Nation on multiple fronts. But this is not a battle you can win alone. You must work with others, plan your strategy, and execute your tactics cooperatively. Do it right, and you’ll stay one step ahead of the Fire Nation, restoring Balance. Do it wrong, and Ruin will undoubtedly come to the world.
Avatar: The Last Airbender Fire Nation Rising, designed by Patrick Marino and Andrew Wolf and published by The Op, is comprised of 53 Character cards, five Team cards, three Final Battle cards, 15 Fire Nation cards, five Team tokens, five Balance Track cards, one Ruin Track card, 30 Pai Sho tokens, one Balance Track marker, one Ruin Track marker, 16 Hero dice, one map board, and 60 Damage counters. The component quality is excellent, with thick cardstock and cardboard throughout. The custom six-sided dice are solid and easy to spot at a distance. All illustrations are taken from the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon, colorfully and creatively capturing the many characters in the game and their personalities.
The Rule Book
(Congratulations! You are reading the first review that takes a different approach to how we view the games. Based on feedback from readers like you, it’s more important to understand how well the rule book teaches and explains the game rather than how a game is set up. We’ve heard your comments and couldn’t agree more! So, starting now, we’ll review the rule book, letting you, the reader, understand how fast you can get the game to your table and enjoy it. Let us know what you think in the comments, and thanks for reading. Now, back to the review…)
The rule book does an excellent job guiding first-time and long-time game fans. Step-by-step instructions are clear and short, making them easy to read and follow, with a clear definition of key concepts of the gameplay at the front. A visual example is also provided that shows what a completed game setup might look like on your gaming table. Included with the rule book are instructions on how to set up the game for solo play, which are conveniently placed directly after the setup instructions.
Directly after the game setup instructions are several pictures that identify the different information on the cards and the tokens. While there isn’t a lot to remember, having such a quick and easy-to-access key to the card information was handy when both teaching and learning the game.
The rules for the game are similarly well structured, providing the reader with sequential steps that detail how to play the game without being overly laborious or maddeningly vague in the interest of keeping things “light.” A new player to the game might be slightly intimidated by the details, but I encourage all to read what is provided for the first round, as the rules provide clarity and examples.
The endgame and additional rules are likewise easy to read and follow. A small section of the rule book includes variants to make the game easier or more complex that does not have many new rules to learn or forget.
The back of the rule book is of real value to all players, which includes a legend of the dice and icons, with bold print, color, and large images. A great addition to help the players move along with the game without the need to keep referring to the rules.
Overall an excellent example of a rule book that does its job well and puts the players right into the game as quickly as possible.
Avatar at War
Avatar: The Last Airbender Fire Nation Rising is played in turns and rounds with no set number of turns per game. A single player’s turn is summarized here.
Step One: Place Team Tokens
The first step for each player is strategically placing their Team token in one of the three areas on the map board. This determines which Hero and Villian cards the player will be able to interact with on their turn. It should be noted, however, that the cards visible to the player are only potential encounters. The player can also acquire special abilities during the game that allow them (and others) to interact with Heroes and Villains in other areas of the map board.
Step Two: Reveal and Resolve Fire Nation Card
The player then flips over the topmost Fire Nation card. These cards determine the direction the Fire Nation figure turns on the map board and the number of spaces the Ruin Track marker advances.
Once the Fire Nation figure is turned and the Ruin Track marker has been advanced, the players will know where the Fire Nation is turning its attention and planning to attack. The fact that the Fire Nation is attacking the world puts the Elements out of Balance. Thus the Ruin Tracker is advancing (it works both mechanically and thematically).
Having set its sites, the Fire Nation now attacks the Heroes currently located in the direction the Fire Nation figure is facing, which will not necessarily be the active player. One Damage counter is added to each “Hero” Character card, and any “Hero” Character cards the players are holding if their Team.
All Heroes and Villains can take damage, with some being able to take more than others. Once their Character card is filled with Damage tokens, they are considered defeated and removed for the game’s duration. All Character cards have the same layout, making them easy to read.
After resolving all damage, each “Villian” Character card in the location will activate. Read each of the Villan “Character” card abilities and resolve. Take special note of any “Hero” Character cards that take damage and their abilities. Some cards can take specific actions when cards they are next to take damage, for example.
Finally, if the end game is triggered, “Day of the Black Sun,” the Final Battle card’s ability is activated and resolved.
Step Three: Roll and Assign Hero Dice
Time to roll those dice!
Each Team card displays the Team’s icon, their starting dice, and a unique ability. Take the same number of dice and matching color from the dice pool as shown on the Team card. Be sure to scan for additional dice provided by “Hero” Character cards and spent Pai Sho tokens (that we’ll discuss in a moment).
Once the player has all the dice in hand, they roll them all at once. After rolling, the player needs to decide to take one of two options:
- Assign one or more dice
- Discard one die back to the dice pool
If the player decides to assign the dice, they match the dice icon to a “Hero” or Team Leader card. The icons on these cards show the cost that must be paid in matching dice for the ability noted to be available. The player may assign as many dice as they like, as long as they use at least one. Each die can only go to one card, but any card the player controls in the location and on their Team can take dice at this time. Dice can also be assigned to the Balance track, advancing it one space per turn by paying the cost, and to the Final Battle once triggered during the endgame.
After assigning one or more dice or discarding a die, the player takes up the dice not placed and rolls again. Keep rolling and assigning or discarding dice that are available to roll until none are left.
Step Four: Resolve Hero Dice
After all the dice are assigned or discarded, it’s time to resolve any abilities that have their cost paid in full.
- Heroes in the exact location at the player’s Team token are recruited if a die covers all their symbols. Next, take the recruited “Hero” Character card and add it to the player’s Team in a row, removing any damage it may have. The Hero may be added to either end of the team row, but once placed, they must remain unless they are moved through other means. Take the time to review the “Hero” Character card in full, as they sometimes have triggered abilities if adjacent Heroes are damaged or attacked.
- Villians in the exact location at the player’s Team token take one Damage token if a die covers all their symbols. The player also earns one Pai Sho token and a bonus Pai Sho token if any Damage token is transferred from one Character card to another.
- The Balance Track is advanced by one space if the requirements listed on the track have been met.
- Final Battle cards in the exact location as the player’s Team token take damage if all the symbols are covered by the dice
Step Five: Conclude Turn
The player’s turn is now over! Return all the dice used back to the dice pool for the next player to use on their turn, with the one exception of any cards that keep the dice once placed.
Then the player removes their Team token from the Map board, and any “Villan” Character cards or Final Battle cards that have taken full damage are removed and placed in the discard pile. Do the same for “Hero” Character cards, but put them in a separate discard pile. Shift “Hero” Character cards to the left or right in the Team row if there is an open space to close the gaps.
Finally, any open spaces on the map board are refilled by drawing new Character cards and placing them on the map board spaces.
This concludes the player’s turn. The next player in the turn order sequence now takes their turn, as noted above, unless the endgame has been triggered.
Those Wonderful Pai Sho Tokens
The Pai Sho tokens can trigger special rules during any player’s turn during “Step Three: Roll and Assign Hero Dice.” Players can share and pass the Pai Sho tokens as much as they like but should keep those they currently possess in front of their Team, as some abilities are triggered based on Pai Sho tokens. Otherwise, the Pai Sho tokens can be used to do any of the following:
- Add one extra Earth, Fire, Water, or Air
- Add one extra blue, red, or green die
- Remove damage
- Move Ruin Track marker
- Re-roll dice
Pai Sho tokens are drawn randomly and include a unique ability on the back.
Day of the Black Sun
If the Ruin or the Balance Track markers reach the top, the endgame is triggered at the end of the current player’s turn. Depending on which track hits the top first, the game is played differently until the end.
If the Balance or both tracks hit the top on the player’s turn, remove all “Villian” Character cards with a crescent moon icon from the game, along with any new “Villian” Character cards revealed as the game continues.
If the Ruin track hits the top of the player’s turn, remove all the “Hero” Character cards with the crescent moon icon from the game, along with any new “Hero” Character cards revealed as the game continues.
Then remove the Balance and Ruin tracks from the gaming area, as they will no longer be used.
Finally, draw and reveal one Final Battle card for each of the three spaces on the Map board.
The Final Battles and Winning the Game
Once the three Final Battle cards are in play, the players can win the game if they can place enough dice to meet the Final Battle card requirements. However, dice can only be placed on the Final Battle cards if the location they are currently located on the map board does not also contain a “Villian” Character card.
Which the players will want to do as quickly as possible. When the Fire Nation figure faces a Final Battle card, the Final Battle card will be triggered and resolved!
Each Final Battle card requires two damage to be completed. If the players can do so, they flip over the Final Battle card to reveal the reward, collect what is noted, and then remove it from play.
The players win the game if they can complete the Final Battle cards. The players lose, however, if any of the following is true during the Day of the Black Sun endgame.
- If ten or more “Hero” Character cards are defeated
- If all the “Hero” Character cards on a team are defeated
Game too easy? Too difficult? No problem!
The rule book provides two different ways to make the game more difficult for those well-practiced in the mystical arts of elemental bending or reduce the game’s difficulty for those just starting. A word of caution, however. The game is very well-balanced right from the start. So making the game more difficult or easier won’t necessarily upset the Balance. Still, you are throwing in additional requirements to adjust how the players interact with each other and the game itself. Tread lightly here, as the adjustments can make the game feel a bit “wonky.”
To learn more about Avatar: The Last Airbender Fire Nation Rising, visit the game’s web page.
The Child Geeks enjoyed the game! They found their gaming experience challenging and engaging, but never to a point where they felt overwhelmed by the turns or underwhelmed by the gameplay. According to one Child Geek, “I like the cartoon, and I like this game. It was like playing the cartoon on the table!” Another Child Geek said, “I thought the game was a little hard at first, but when you work with others and work as a team, you can beat the Fire Lord!” The learning curve for our youngest and least experienced Child Geeks did require the older and more experienced players to remind and help. Still, since this is a cooperative game, such assistance felt natural and welcome. Just make sure you don’t play the game for the Child Geeks. That said, once the Fire Nation was put down, the Child Geeks all agreed that Avatar: The Last Airbender Fire Nation Rising was worth getting up for.
The Parent Geeks, less enamored with the show and the characters, found the gameplay entertaining. According to one Parent Geek, “I would say you get more out of the game if you know the characters and backstory, but the game itself was pretty interesting without knowing such things. I liked playing it with my kids and the adults who joined in. The game worked and was enjoyed at our table.” Another Parent Geek said, “Good game for those who want a cooperative and great game for those who love the show. I would play it again, and so would my family. It did feel very luck-driven, and the dice placement sometimes was either obvious or limiting.” When the final battle was fought and won, the Parent Geeks voted and found they had mixed minds about the game but always agreed they enjoyed it.
The Gamer Geeks found the game to be a mixed bag of exciting game mechanics, but the overall game was riddled with unnecessary actions and too many luck-based outcomes. Thematically, they found the game spot-on, praising it for putting so much detail into the game based on what they knew of the show and its characters. They felt the placement of the Heroes in relationship to others was a fun exercise in managing their team resources and rather enjoyed the shifting board of new challenges to tackle. However, they didn’t like the dice and how a random role determined if your turn was helpful to the cause or fell flat. They also found the Balance and Ruin track – while thematically enjoyable – to be somewhat unnecessary to the endgame. According to one Gamer Geek, “As a cooperative, I think the game works fine, but I would have liked to have seen more player interaction and dice manipulation other than what was provided with the Pai Sho tokens. The game was very well produced, and stayed loyal to the series. Overall I’d say it was just an OK game.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Too much luck for my taste and not enough player interaction at times to make it feel like I was truly working with others. The Balance and Ruin tracks were interesting, but you can still win if Ruin hits before Balance. The real way to win is to keep placing those dice to take out bad guys. Gets a bit stale.” When the last Pai Sho token was passed, the Gamer Geeks took a vote resulting in a mixed result.
Does it help to know the story and characters from the Avatar series? It sure does, but only because you get more excited about who you interact with. Consider it a “game enhancer,” like adding salt to your meal. Some of our players had no idea what the Avatar series was or incorrectly assumed it was based on James Cameron’s movies. However, regardless of the player’s interest or knowledge of the cartoon or its adaptations, all those who played the game didn’t have any issue knowing or not knowing who the individuals were.
Like most dice games, you are not stuck with your roll but are limited by the results provided. For those who like such games, you won’t find anything to be grumpy about here. I think there is just enough dice manipulation and decision-making to make each turn a thoughtful exercise. You will, however, encounter times when the dice don’t go your way, which can feel frustrating. Those players who like complete control over their destiny at the gaming table will feel a bit put out.
The game is well-balanced and plays quickly enough to keep everything interesting. The new card reveals and meaningful placement of team members on the row certainly kept my attention as I attempted with my Team and fellow players to build a fire-proof group of warriors. Thematically it felt great. Mechanically, it felt obvious. Overall, the game left me feeling pleased with what I had done and the time I spent playing the game. Most of the players I enjoyed the game with felt the same, with the others simply shrugging their shoulders but never in disinterest or disgust.
Try this game, especially if you are a fan of the series. For those who are not, expect to find and play a solid cooperative game that pits you against a looming threat that can only be overcome with luck and strategy. Either way, you won’t get burned for giving this game your time.
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.