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The Dark Lord or the Mad Titan: Surveying the Rising Games from The OP

The folks over at The OP have a series of IP-driven board games centering around what they are calling the “Rising game mechanic.” In each variant, a franchise’s biggest of big bads is running amok and must be stopped! Players work cooperatively to recruit a team of franchise-appropriate heroes to put an end to the ne’er do wells.

At the time of the writing of this post, three titles have been released under this banner: Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising, Thanos Rising, and Dark Side Rising. Sadly, Dark Side Rising, the Star Wars variant, is EMEA (Europe and Middle East) only; Bummer! The big bad is none other than Lord Vader, and you command a slew of Rebel forces to prevent the construction of the Death Star. I’m so into that, but licensing matters are a thing.

We’ll give a quick rundown of the two available more widely, comparing and contrasting along the way!

The Rising Mechanic Explained

The Rising mechanic features a mix of cards and dice, each of which determine the actions of all players and enemies.

Turn orders for the games are nearly identical:

  1. Players will choose to travel to one of three locations on the board. Each location features a mix of heroes to recruit or villains to attack – a mix of three at all times at each location.
  2. The big bad’s die (or dice) is rolled and resolved. This determines which of the three locations he attacks; dealing damage to all heroes at the specified location and triggering any villains’ abilities.
  3. Players then have a chance to roll their dice, assigning them to either recruit new team members, damage villains, or trigger the abilities of members of their team. Once all dice have been spent, their effects are resolved, all dice are returned to the general pool, and the next player takes their turn.

All dice in a player’s pool are rolled once at the start of each turn. The player must then assign one or more die to cards at their location (recruit or damage) or on their team (to trigger special effects), or forfeit (read: remove from their pool) a die if one cannot be assigned. Any unassigned dice still in the pool can be rerolled until all dice are spent.

The big bad’s dice always move him steadily towards his win condition, so the game has a built in time factor. Players cannot expect to dawdle and win! They will have to strike a balance between building up their team – which grants all sorts of bonuses like healing effects, extra dice, and more – and damaging villains.

But players also earn bonus, single-use tokens for assigning damage to villains. This gives players a small dose of resources otherwise relegated to the hero cards they could have spent those dice recruiting. That keeps the choice between building up your squad and thumping villains from feeling like you’re doing one at the total expense of the other, and I like that balance quite a bit. Plus, a good series of rolls could mean you’re able to recruit a hero (or multiple heroes!) and damage a villain or few (although each villain can only be damaged once per turn). They’re not mutually exclusive options.

Components shine across the titles, with cards featuring stills from the featured IP’s movies and photos of the actual characters (as opposed to likenesses). And you get a sweet and imposing 5-inch statue of the big bad for the center of the board!

Thanos Rising

In Thanos Rising, you will champion a team of the MCU’s greatest heroes to prevent Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones. As he races to gather the stones, you and your teammates lay siege to his Outriders and the members of his Black Order.

Thanos Rising

Thanos will gain at least one shard of one of the Infinity Stones with each of his turns. Collecting five shards of any one stone grants him the stone and a power that will then trigger any other time that stone’s color is rolled on the Infinity Stone die. He wins if he collects all six stones (SNAP!), if a total of 10 heroes dies in his pursuit of them, or if the entirety of a single player’s team is killed.

The heroes win if they can defeat 7-10 of the Outriders and members of the Black Order – depending on their desired difficulty – before either of Thanos’s win conditions happens.

Read the rulebook here and catch an eyeful of all of the components!

Death Eaters Rising

Death Eaters Rising has members of the Hogwarts School, Order of the Phoenix, and Dumbeldore’s Army combining their magical might to fight off He Who Shall Not Be Named and his Death Eaters.

Voldemort leaves a trail of Corruption everywhere he goes! If five Corruption tokens populate any of the available locations at the end of a turn, they are officially corrupted and their nefarious dark magic effects trigger if Voldemort rolls a Dark Mark on his die. He wins if he defeats 8-12 Wizards (dependent on the number of players), if four or more places are corrupted, if a single location is completely corrupted (meaning its two cards and its spot on the board), or if the entirety of a single player’s team is killed.

The heroes win by defeating Voldemort himself…but they can only assign damage to him equal to the number of defeated Death Eaters. The noseless one sports five health, so the players will have to defeat a minimum of five Death Eaters before they can take him out for good.

Read the rulebook here and take a gander at everything that comes in the box.

Will It Be The MCU or The Wizarding World For You?

Each game plays in about an hour and can be taught with relative ease given the simplicity of rolling dice and matching their faces to iconography on cards. The cooperative nature of the gameplay and the ease with which you can scale down the difficulty make it a suitable game for kids as young as 10.

The game mechanics are so similar that this decision will wholly come down to which IP scratches your particular itch. I am a bigger fan of the MCU than I am of all things Harry Potter, so you’re more likely to find Thanos Rising on my shelf.

Teaching Death Eaters Rising at our weekly Taps and Tabletop game night.

But that’s not to say that fun can’t be had playing “against your preference.” The Rising mechanic is one I ultimately enjoy playing, so I won’t be disappointed sitting down to wands over Wanda Maximoff.

Superheroes, science fiction, and fantasy flavors drawing upon three of the most wildly successful franchises in history is no mistake. The OP knows what they’re doing!

Snag the variant that appeals to you using one of the links below. Both retail for between $40-$45.

[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Death Eaters Rising in exchange for an honest review.]

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