Anyone familiar with Geeky Hobbies will know that I am a big fan of both board games and video games as those are the two things that are covered the most on this website. For this reason I am always curious to try out video games that try to implement board and card game mechanics. Most board game video games are basically digital adaptations of a physical board game. There are some games though that are unique experiences that try to merge board and video games. I was hoping that today’s game Rising Lords would be one of those games. I was initially intrigued by the game because it honestly felt like a combination of a Civilization style game with some board and card game mechanics. This seemed like an interesting combination as I thought these mechanics would work well together. Rising Lords shows a lot of potential to create an interesting blend of Civilization style city building mechanics with board and card game mechanics, but at this point it could use some more content and polish.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Argonwood and WhisperGames for the preview copy of Rising Lords used for this preview. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to preview, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this preview. Receiving the preview copy for free had no impact on the content of this preview.
In a lot of way Rising Lords is what you would get if you combined a video game with a board/card game. The game shares a lot in common with games like the Civilization series while adding in some mechanics more common to board and card games. The gameplay basically breaks down into two main mechanics.
I would probably say that the main mechanic in Rising Lords is something that will feel familiar to those who play city/civilization building games. At the beginning of each game you are given control over a region of the map. In this region you are given the start of a city and a number of villagers based on your current population. Each villager is capable of taking one action per turn/season. Your kingdom consists of a number hexagon tiles which form a grid. Some of these spaces will be resource generating spaces while others can be turned into a space that generates resources. The game has a number of different resources that you have to manage. To gather resources you need to assign your villagers to the various spaces that generate resources. Resources like food are used to keep your civilians alive and grow your population giving you access to more villagers. While other resources are used to expand your city or build up your army. In addition to gathering resources you can use your villagers to build additional sections to your city which uses resources but gives you other benefits. In addition to gathering resources you need to monitor your people’s happiness and health so you don’t lose people to neighboring cities or they die due to poor health.
In addition to building up your city you have to deal with your neighboring Lords who are not always peaceful. You will occasionally have to raise an army or hire mercenaries to defend your own kingdom or attack a neighbor’s kingdom. Moving your army is simple as you can basically either move it to the region’s city or to the outskirts of a region. When two armies are in the same location a battle will be triggered. Unless you let the AI handle the battle, you will be taken to another screen which features a grid similar to the game world. In this screen you will place your troops onto spaces in the grid. Based on each unit’s initiative the units will take turns taking actions. For each action you can choose where you want to move the unit and whether you want to attack a nearby enemy. When you choose to attack or your opponent attacks you the outcome is determined by the strength of each army, the benefit of one type of unit attacking another, boosts from the terrain of each unit, and what cards were played. Before each battle you construct a deck of cards which offer various special abilities to your units. At the beginning of the game you are dealt four of these cards and you receive another card every so often. When you choose to use one of these cards you select the unit you want to use it on and the benefit is applied to that unit.
At this point the game has a couple different game modes. The main modes allows players to choose a map as they compete against other players or the AI. This mode involves balancing between building up your city and fighting the other Lord’s armies. The other main mode is just a quick skirmish. In this mode you and the other player/AI are given an army. The city building is eliminated as the only goal is to defeat the other player’s army.
I began this review by talking about how I was intrigued by how Rising Lords felt like a combination of Civilization style mechanics with more traditional board game mechanics. After playing the game I would say that this first impression was pretty accurate. The city building aspects in particular reminded me a lot of a more simplified/streamlined Civilization game. The game keeps the resource gathering elements while adding in a couple of the building upgrades. The research and some of the more advanced building mechanics have been removed though. At this point the game is mostly focused on building up your resources to grow your armies as there really aren’t any other ways to win. Some people might think Rising Lords has streamlined these mechanics too much which might turn them off. I think the game could develop this area a little more, but I don’t mind that most of these mechanics have been streamlined.
This streamlining seems to be a main emphasis in Rising Lords. Instead of having to deal with tons of troops and micromanaging other aspects of your kingdom, Rising Lords tends to focus mostly on the main mechanics. Instead of spending a ton of time choosing which actions you want to take, the game presents you with just a few options allowing you to make quick decisions. Outside of fighting battles you could finish most of your turns within just a couple minutes. The game even has players simultaneously take their turns so when playing with other players you don’t have to waste a bunch of time waiting for the other players to make their decisions.
As for the combat it is a little basic at this point, but it shows quite a bit of promise. In a lot of ways it plays like a grid based board game that features combat. You move your troops around the battlefield to position them for attack or defense. Certain spaces give units stat boosts so you need to strategically place your units. There is some strategy to the combat as you choose where to position troops and when to attack. The combat is streamlined though as you don’t have to consider a bunch of different factors. This makes the combat move pretty quickly. The other interesting addition to the combat is the use of cards. These cards give your units various benefits from increased attack power, avoiding certain attacks, and other special abilities. While the game doesn’t have a ton of different cards at this point I am really curious to see how this aspect of the game will develop through the early access process.
Other than being a board game/video game hybrid, I was initially intrigued by the game’s graphical style. It is kind of hard to describe the art style as it feels like a mix between a cartoony and realistic style. Much of the artwork feels kind of old timey. The art style might not appeal to everyone, but I thought it worked really well for the game. It is a unique style that fits the historical setting of the game quite well.
At this point Rising Lords has a lot of potential. As the game is expected to stay in early access for about a year, I think the game is in pretty good shape right now. Rising Lords does have a few issues that I hope get addressed through the early access process though.
The first problem is that the game has some technical issues/bugs at this point. At one point while playing the game the sound suddenly stopped working. I didn’t encounter any game breaking bugs, but there are minor bugs like this that impact the overall experience. My biggest problem with the technical issues is that the game doesn’t run as well as I would have expected. The computer I played Rising Lords on is significantly better than the recommended settings and yet the game still encountered some issues. The load times were kind of bad at times and the game would occasionally hang where it felt like the game was locked up. This is to be expected to a degree as the game is in early access after all. If your PC is closer to the minimum settings though you may have some performance issues that may impact your enjoyment of the game.
The next problem that I had with Rising Lords is that the computer AI could have used some work. The game features multiplayer so people that prefer playing with other players probably won’t have an issue with this. If you are relying on the computer AI though I found it to be a little disappointing at this point. The computer AI seems overly aggressive and kind of cheap as they for some reason seem to be able to acquire resources quicker than you. The biggest problem with the AI though is that at times its decisions make no sense.
To illustrate in one of the games that I played one of my neighboring Lords started attacking me pretty early in the game. As they somehow acquired resources considerably faster than I did they were able to amass a much larger army than me. They were able to quickly decimate much of my army as my only remaining troops were archers that I positioned inside the walled section of my city. The enemy could have easily wiped out my archers but they didn’t attack them for some reason allowing me to pick off some of their troops with my archers. After a couple turns the enemy decided to randomly retreat giving me the victory for the battle. Then at the beginning of the next turn the same army attacked again. This continued turn after turn until I was able to finally finish off the army. The same Lord immediately replaced their defeated army with a new army though. After a while this got a little repetitive as I couldn’t attack other Lords or really build up my city as I had to spend almost all of my time defending against this Lord that wouldn’t stop attacking me.
My final complaint at this point comes from the game not having a ton of content at this point. The game has quite a few different maps and seems to have most of the main mechanics. The problem is that the number of things that you can do on each turn is kind of limited. Outside of battles each turn basically consists of deciding what to do with your villagers. At this point there isn’t much to do with your villagers. Except for when I finished a building, I rarely even touched the villagers as I just kept them on the same tiles as I needed them in those locations in order to gather resources. Quite a few turns boiled down to just pressing the next turn button without doing anything else. There would be several turns in a row that I would literally do nothing except hit the next turn button. This got a little repetitive after a while and it showed me that the game needs to give players more things to do. Rising Lords has a good framework but it needs to work on building it out in order to give players more to do. Based on the game’s roadmap I am guessing this will be addressed as the developers plan on adding quite a bit to the game.
As a fan of board games and video games I was intrigued by Rising Lords as it looked like an interesting combination of the two genres. Playing Rising Lords feels like what you would get if you combined a streamlined Civilization with a board/card game. Basically the gameplay revolves around building up your city to gather resources. You use those resources to further develop your kingdom and to raise an army to attack the other Lords. The combat is a combination of a tile based combat game and a card game. These two main mechanics lead to an interesting gameplay experience that shows a lot of potential. At this point in the early access process though the game has a couple issues. The game has some performance issues and the computer AI could use some work. The biggest problem is that more needs to be added to the main gameplay loop as in many turns you won’t really do anything.
With Rising Lords expecting to be in early access for around a year, my recommendation for the game kind of depends on your opinion of the premise. If the idea of combining a Civilization style game with board and card game mechanics doesn’t sound all that interesting, Rising Lords is likely not going to be for you. Those that think the premise sounds interesting though will have a more interesting decision to make. The game shows a lot of promise and is pretty fun, but the game has some issues and could use some more content. If you would prefer a more polished experience I would maybe wait a while until the game is developed further. People who don’t mind waiting for the game to reach its full potential though should consider picking up Rising Lords as I think it has the potential to be a really good game.
Buy Rising Lords online: Steam