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Uprising: Curse of the Last Emperor Review

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Board Game Review by::
Tony Mastrangeli

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On Mar 5, 2024
Last modified:Mar 5, 2024

Summary:

We review Uprising Curse of the Last Emperor, a cooperative 4x game published by Nemesis Games. Uprising will pit you and your fellow players against the legions of the empire and the hordes of chaos.

Uprising Curse of the Last EmperorWelcome to the Isles of Azuhl—a backwater of the known world and one of the last remaining pockets of civilization. You are the leader of a rebel faction leading your tribe in an uprising against the Empire. But that’s not all, beyond the frozen wastes are the hordes of Chaos, ready to destroy everything in their path—you, your allies, and the Empire itself.

Uprising: Curse of the Last Emperor, designed by Cornelius Cremin, Pawel Mazur, and Dirk Sommer, bills itself as the first fully cooperative, 4x game. And that may be true, because coop and 4x (an abbreviation of Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) don’t usually go together. But here we are. Did it work? Let’s find out!

Gameplay Overview:

There is a lot going on in Uprising—the rulebook itself spans 60 pages–so I’m just going to give you a high-level overview of the gameplay. If you want the full ins and outs of the rules, you can download a PDF of the rulebook here.

Uprising Curse of the Last Emperor Player Voard
Player boards will house your Havens, units, and actions you can take.

A game of Uprising will last up to four rounds, with each divided into 7 phases:

  1. Refresh – A setup phase for the round: unexhaust cards, deal out new ones, return units, etc…
  2. Event – You reveal a new Event card. Events might have some beneficial effects, but they will always do something bad, usually spawning Chaos and/or Legion units on the board.
  3. Build – You can spend resources to build units and fortifications. Your hero will also learn a new feat.
  4. Actions – Players take turns taking actions. Most are pretty straight forward, but they involve moving your heroes and units around the board, exploring new tiles, fighting the forces of Chaos and the Empire, questing, building a new haven, and buying upgrades from the market.
  5. Nemesis – Chaos hordes and the Empire’s Legions activate. Hordes always move toward the capital; Legions move toward their target (a player Haven). If they encounter an enemy, they battle.
  6. Production – Players earn resources, 3 types in total, from their Havens.
  7. Scoring – Players, the Empire, and Chaos will score victory points based on certain factions.

After the 4th round is over (or fewer if you are playing a shorter game), the game ends and final scores are checked. If ALL players scored more points than both the Empire and Chaos, the players win, otherwise they lose.

Uprising Curse of the Last Emperor Gameplay
You’ll be exploring the map, fighting units, and trying to expand your empire.

Game Experience:

When we were doing our Best Games of 2023 list this year, fellow reviewer Brian B’s pick was Uprising. Not having heard of it, I skimmed the webpage quickly while putting the article together and moved on with my day. Looks like much going on, I’ve got other games to play.

A few weeks later, Brian made me sit down and play it. “You’ll love it, he says”.
Never one to pass up a chance to prove him wrong, (plus he was whining a lot, who wants to deal with that) we took it for a spin.

Uprising Curse of the Last Emperor Enemies
Unique Legions and Hordes will spawn to challenge you during the game.

Two hours later, we finished the game, discussed it a bit, and immediately set it back up for another play. We had planned on playing other games that night, but they all got shelved for another play of Uprising. Yes, despite being long and somewhat complex, we both immediately wanted to dive back in for another go. If that’s not the hallmark of a great game, I don’t know what is.

While I was bummed that Brian got to crow about being right, I was more than happy to deal with it because Uprising is definitely a hidden gem. I was skeptical that the designers would actually be able to pull off a cooperative 4X game, but they succeeded and in spades. One of the key reasons was their brilliant idea to add in two opposing factions that not only pester you, but each other. Interestingly, the Legions of the Empire are mostly concerned with stomping down your rebellions, and only bother with the Hordes if they encounter them (or they arrive in the capital). Chaos on the other hand, wants to make a beeline for the capital to cause destruction. However, on the way there, they will be more than happy to pick a fight with you, so you’ve got to protect your Havens.

Uprising Curse of the Last Emperor Item Cards
You can customize your hero with items.

What this all means though is that you can use both opposing forces against each other to your benefit. The old saying about the enemy of my enemy… In one game, a strong Legion was barreling down on my Haven, yet a Horde of Chaos got to him first and softened him up enough to let my troops come in and finish him off, turning a sure-fire defeat into a win. It’s times like that when Uprising really shines with its theme. You feel immersed in this post-apocalyptic world of different warring factions.

Uprising also has a nice arc to its gameplay. You start off with a single Haven on the edges of the map. But as you move around and explore, you have a few small battles, buy some upgrades from the market, and build other Havens. Then in the next round, you use your increased income to recruit better troops, gain more feats for your hero, and eventually become a force to be reckoned with. The 4x’s are all here and the work wonderfully.

Uprising Curse of the Last Emperor Quests
Your hero can go on quests to earn rewards… if they succeed.

I could heap praise on Uprising all day, but there are a few quirks that you should be aware of. One, is that Uprising is a dice chucker and can be swingy at times. You’ll be rolling dice… a lot. From sending your hero off on quests, to combat, to even random checks from event cards, you’ll be at the mercy of the dice quite a bit. There is some mitigation built into the game via feats, god powers, and items, but not a ton. There will be times during battles you’ll have all the right troops, but just roll blanks.

Uprising is also a long game, a table hog, and has a bit of a learning curve. Most of my plays have been at least 2 hours long. With 4 players, you are probably looking at 4 hours. That being said, it’s also never one of those games where I’ve been bored on my phone or clock watching. Those hours go by fast because there is just so much to do. You’ve usually got about 8 actions on your turn and will never feel like you have enough. The forces of Chaos and the Empire keep coming every round as well, so it’s going to be a slugfest with you and your allies at the center.

Finally, I want to touch on the replay value of the game. Even with just the core game, Uprising makes every game feel unique. With four unique factions (and different leaders for each), you have some nice options for choosing your heroes. Add on to that is the variety of the random board setup, which quest/event/and item cards appear, even which Legions and Hordes show up in a game. All together you’ve got a game that definitely feels fresh each time you sit down.

Uprising Curse of the Last Emperor Components
The capital is the seat of power in the empire.

Final Thoughts:

Uprising: Curse of the Last Emperor is good… really good. It’s easily the best 4x game I own and one that keeps making its way to my table. Not wanting to wait until game night to dive back in, I’ve even logged quite a few solo games. My only gripe on that front is that there is no true solo mode. You must play 2 factions. It’s not that hard, but also not ideal. And I also haven’t even touched on the fantastic production values. From the acrylic standees to the great insert everything about the game was excellently produced.

However, the catch is that if your interest is piqued and want to get a copy of Uprising, well it’s not that easy. The game was funded on Kickstarter and is not available at retail. Nemesis Games is talking about doing another print run, but if you want a copy now, your options are limited. Nemesis Games has a few limited copies left in the USA, and says that if you email their quartermaster Cornelius at cornelius@nemesis.games, they might be able to hook you up with a copy. If not, you will have to look to the secondary market. However, if you can get your hands on this hidden gem, grab it and run. It’s absolutely fantastic and deserves more buzz.

Final Score: 5 Stars – The first fully cooperative 4x game ended up being a win all around. More please!

5 StarsHits:
• Great replay value
• Unique gameplay that keeps you drawn in
• Excellent production values
• Fun dice chucking action

Misses:
• Dice can be a tad swingy
• So hard to find!

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