Rise to Nobility Review

Rise to Nobility board game Review

There are things in life that are perfectly understandable. Things like buying German cars because they’re well made and can go round corners; wearing a crash helmet when riding a motorbike; sacking work off to go to the pub and drink in the beer garden because it’s a nice day or avoiding old people on the pavement as they dawdle and you’ve got places to be. There are also things that make less sense. Like Brexit or Donald Trump.

I feel that the subject of this review falls into the latter category, although purely in name alone. Rise to Nobility for me conjures images in my mind of a pleb trying to become more than they are. Earning money, working hard and gaining a title. A bit like Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale. What doesn’t spring to mind on hearing the title, is the strife involved to become the next Town Clerk to manage the organisation of inhabitants in a new city in the Five Realms and succeed a particularly bungling, but delightful old chap called Berk. Perhaps “Rise to Administration” would be more appropriate.

But, like a drunk trying remain focussed on explaining the finer points of Quantum Theory, I digress.

Rise to Nobility, Final Frontier Games

Rise to Nobility is the second in the “Five Realms” series from Final Frontier Games, the first being Cavern Tavern which I personally enjoyed. Steve and Jon didn’t find it as enticing, but they’re clearly idiots. Although I will admit, a bad roll in Cavern Tavern did leave you a bit screwed. Thankfully in Rise to Nobility, that issue doesn’t exist as there’s always something you can do.

If it’s not obvious, Rise to Nobility is another dice placement game and you take on the role of a random individual in the town’s administration office set to climb the ranks and take over the Town Clerk’s job to organise the influx of people to a new city. This involves the creation of workshops to produce materials, building houses and having the new people contribute to the city by learning new crafts. Rise to Nobility follows directly on from Cavern Tavern and expands upon many of its ideas. As a consequence, Rise to Nobility is a little heavier than Cavern Tavern, but not to its detriment.

Rise to Nobility, Final Frontier Games

There’s certainly the same feel to the game, mostly due to the artwork being done by the The Mico, so it keeps the same unique aesthetic. Since I've got the Kickstarter version, the playing pieces are all lovely wooden counters too, which really add to the feel. The insert however was a bit bobbins so I've chucked it in favour of the ever-reliable baggies.

Each round, players roll their dice (up to five of them by default) and they can spend them on spaces which depend on the values. But this is where the game differs and also one of the reasons I love Rise to Nobility; you can only spend dice with a total no higher than your current reputation. So you’re relatively free to choose which ones you want to use, but you’re limited to a maximum value; although you can of course increase your reputation as the game goes on. 

Rise to Nobility, Final Frontier Games

On top of that, the resource spaces on the board depend on the value of the die you put there, so you can spend a higher die to get more stuff, but you’re consuming more of your limit, which is a great counterpoint. During the game players can improve resource areas (there’s six) to get them more for their money, but again, there’s an offset as the owner of the improvement (a workshop) gets a benefit too. So there’s lots to think about.

Players choose cards which tell them which people want to join the city and which resources are needed to attract those people to the city to settle them. It’s simple in principle; buy resources, build a house, settle people and get rewards (points and Nobility) and workers for doing so. Workers then become apprentices to learn crafts then become Masters if a workshop improvement is built, which get you more resources in future actions and so on.

Rise to Nobility, Final Frontier Games

Of course, it’s not that simple and there’s a hell of a lot going on. Perhaps too much if I’m honest, at least the first few times you play. Because you can change each resource area by building workshops, these workshops give the user more stuff in their action and the owner gets a benefit if their workshop is used….but all this depends on the die placed as that governs just how many workshops are activated…and you can see how this can escalate. Once you’re used to it, Rise to Nobility makes a lot of sense, but it’s easy to miss a free benefit if you’re not paying attention. 

Like all placement games, Rise to Nobility tries to scale according to player count and for the most part it does a decent job. It’s definitely better with more players as you’ll see more workshops and effects in play at once, although to play with six, you need the expansion which feels a little tacked on. It’s not bad, but having played with two, four and six players, I’d say the sweet spot is probably four to five.

Rise to Nobility, Final Frontier Games

It’s fair to say that I rather like Rise to Nobility and I’m even going to say that I think it’s better than Cavern Tavern, both in terms of heft (I do like heavier games) and also in terms of balance. It seems practice does make perfect and Final Frontier are definitely showing signs of improvement as they go. Both Cavern Tavern and Rise to Nobility are great games and I can’t wait for the next instalment set in the Five Realms.

I expect it’ll be something like “Progression to Civic Ordnance” or something equally mystifying.

This review is based on a full copy of the game purchased via the Kickstarter campaign.
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