Photo from Kyla Duhamel on Flickr (

You know how most people go through phases? Like the kids in school who listen to death metal constantly? Or the kids obsessed with Chess or math? Well, I went through an ‘obsession with Japan’ phase. Folklore, culture, and even went so far as to try and eat those cheap Ramen packages for every meal. (It didn’t end well.)

Enter Rising Sun, a war strategy board game for up to five players. Numerous expansions allow you to increase that player count up to eight. Choose your Clan and duke it out with the other players to control all of Japan. 

Strategies include using Samurai to gather your bounty or praying to Kami for good fortune, or maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to do business with monsters? Kitsune, Lion Dogs, Dragons, and more can be at your command for a price.

Choosing a Clan

Each Clan has its own abilities and goals so keep this in mind when choosing. The type of playing style you prefer will also influence this. 

The Koi and Bonsai Clans benefit the most from an aggressive play style. Lotus and Dragonfly can take it easy, floating just under the radar until they are ready to strike. Turtle Clan can swing either way. 

Depending on which Clans your rivals choose and how many other players on the board are also things to consider when picking a Clan. 

Koi tends to dominate no matter how many other players there are. However, they can get into sticky situations if they spread their forces too thin. Since they tend to be at the top of the Honor rank, other Clans might try to pick off and overwhelm Koi.

Bonsai tends to have issues keeping a strong army intact. Despite the fact that Sacred Bounty allows them to have really cheap infantry and cards, their low Honor could cause issues in them being able to react in a timely manner. If there are only a few players on the board, they will do better than if all five Clans are in play.

Lotus tends to fare alright no matter how many players are on the board. Since the other Clans value Lotus’s Dictate the Flow ability, they would rather ally than take them down. The problem with Lotus however is that the other Clans may keep them pigeonholed in Nagato. Limited movement may stifle Lotus if everyone is vying for their attention.

Dragonfly’s versatile ability Gossamer Wings lends well to multiple adversaries on the board. They have no trouble darting from place to place if the situation gets hairy. Their main drawback is that as the other Clans lock into their territories, Dragonfly’s lack of commitment can cause them to have little to no end-game Provinces. If they can’t fight off the multitude of Clans and establish a home base, they will lose. With that in mind, they are a great Clan for beginners and whenever there are fewer players on board.

Turtle Clan’s strength relies on the versatility of movable strongholds. This Clan is truly a fortress and won’t be bothered by a full roster of Clans. If they partner with an ally that has their interests early on, then they should do fine. If they wait too long to get their strongholds onto the board, then they won’t be able to win. Likewise, if they blow their budget on too many strongholds at once it will leave them vulnerable as they won’t be able to buy cards for support.

Related Reading: Strategy Guide for Tiny Towns Board Game

Best Koi Clan Strategy

What to Focus on: 

  • Gaining Harvests
  • Keeping Ronin count high

The Strategy: 

Acquire any other cards that help bolster how much wealth you gain. That includes Provinces. This Clan doesn’t lend well to dishonorable actions. It relies heavily on bluffing and using a fast force to crush the competition. 

As you stack more coins, you have more forces. Ronin transform back into coins at the end of the War Phase so as long as you don’t spend them on cards, you will have a force to be reckoned with. If any unit proves too strong for your forces, you also have the Take Hostage action to fall back on.

Harvesting is very important for them. You’ll need a large force to keep the other Clans off your back. The coveted high Honor rank will put you right in the crosshairs. 

Capture Provinces to keep your Harvest and Ronin count high. Use cards like Way of the Righteous and Justice to keep ahead. Other cards include Way of the Money Lender, Poets of War, and Way of the Shogun. Keep an eye out for any other cards that buff your Victory Points if you stay at the top of the Honor wrung.

Another idea that comes from Youtuber Room and Board includes using two cards to farm more money from your rivals. If you buy Path of the Serpent and then summon the Earth Dragon in a province with multiple enemies, it will push them onto shipping routes causing you to gain a coin from each player. This is great if your rivals try to box you in.

Koi shouldn’t ally with Dragonfly or Turtle Clan. Lotus and Bonsai are better choices. The most valuable territories are Edo for two victory points plus two coins per harvest and Oshu which is worth three. The most important Kami for them are Amaterasu, Hachiman, and Tsukuyami.

Best Bonsai Clan Strategy

What to Focus on: 

  • Gather Hostages to increase funds
  • Use Sacred Bounty to stockpile cards that boost your Clan

The Strategy: 

Ignore the Honor path and buy up as many Oni as possible. Use these forces to gain Provinces, Harvest, and Hostages. Continue conquering across the land for the best results. Use cards that add power to your forces and give VP’s. 

Alternatively, you can focus on centralizing your forces in one or two locations and stockpiling cards that affect your Autumn and Winter seasons such as Form of Demon, Way of the Moneylender, and Path of the Unrighteous. 

Keep spamming Harvest and Take Hostages as needed until you have the money you need to buy cards. Think about the short term and long term when buying cards.

Dragonfly Clan is a natural choice for an ally as you both benefit the most by playing in an unrighteous way. The next best choice is Turtle as they will also have the similar goal of wanting to increase military forces and one of the strongest players is out of your way for the moment.

The Oni of Skulls and Oni of Hate will be your most valuable players. Also, consider the River Dragon as part of your plans. 

Due to your low Honor rank, investing in Kami won’t be worth your time. It’s better to focus that money and energy on strongholds and keeping a high force count. Many players ignore Bonsai because they don’t view them as a threat. Use that to your advantage to swoop in when least expected.

Related Reading: Castles of Burgundy Strategies

Best Lotus Clan Strategy

What to Focus on: 

  • Choose one mandate bonus to work towards (ie. Harvest)
  • Control the game to your benefit while messing up your opponents

The Strategy: 

Lotus is one of the more flexible Clans. You may choose to branch out and gain Provinces or focus on fortifying Nagato and using your ally to your benefit. This Clan also benefits from playing towards the high Honor rank.

Pick a goal and stick with it. Figure out exactly how many turns you have to mandate what you need. If you don’t plan ahead with this Clan, you’re headed for disaster. 

Due to its unique ability to choose any mandate that it wants, many Clans may want to ally with you. If you choose to have an ally, you’re best suited to a Koi or Turtle player. Koi with its high force count and aggressive playstyle can clear a path out of Nagato for you. You’ve lost no forces and are now free to put strongholds on surrounding Provinces. 

A Turtle player favors the Marshal mandate and if you’re intent on fortifying what you have, they will be useful in a similar way to Koi. Turtle can also give you support with their movable stronghold while you set up.

If neither of these Clans is available, it might be more beneficial to go solo. Partnering with Dragonfly or Bonsai will only drag you down as their goals are completely opposite of yours. Use your judgment for each game.

As far as cards and Kami go, choose what fits best to the mandate you focus on. If you choose Marshall, pick more aggressive cards like Way of the Shogun. If you choose to Harvest, then use cards like Path of Sengoku. And so on. Susanoo, Ryujin, and Amaterasu prove the most useful to Lotus.

Related Reading: Axis and Allies Strategy Guide

Best Dragonfly Clan Strategy

What to Focus on: 

  • Summon Oni Armies
  • Disrupt your Rivals

The Strategy: 

Start by summoning a few Oni or Ronin in your current Province. Look at your opponents’ placement. Depending on where they are might cause you trouble. In the best-case scenario in your first season, you should be able to take at least one province. 

Either aim to take a few Provinces that no one seems interested in, or focus on building your forces where the other clans are located. If you focus on growing where the other Clans are, be ready to take them out through Seppuku or Hostages. Sometimes taking even a few soldiers out can make the difference between a win and loss in coveted properties.

Grow your Oni army and then as the seasons progress, use your full effort to disrupt your opponents. Each Oni has different effects and uses so be aware of that as you place them. Kami that prove useful to your strategy include Hachiman and Fujin.

Dragonfly can have a decent force strength when paired with Path of the Ninja or Path of the Warlord, but they work better when disrupting the other player’s progress. Their low Honor rank helps keep their score high using dishonorable cards and the Betray mandate.

Related Reading: Strategies for Each Villain in Disney’s Villainous Board Game

Best Turtle Clan Strategy

What to Focus on: 

  • Getting Strongholds on board to conquer many Provinces
  • Gaining large Harvests

The Strategy: 

Turtle is the most well-rounded Clan. They can play high Honor or low Honor with little trouble. Use their starting position to their advantage. They can build out from the center and conquer the nearby Provinces with ease. They can play an aggressive style or passive style. Just choose what fits you best and based on the other players and you should have no trouble winning as Turtle.

Turtle Clan does best with an ally. Choose Koi to prevent wasting fighting forces on them or Lotus so you can prioritize Marshals for your Strongholds.

Your forces are strong and other Clans will have trouble taking you down. If you can keep Koi off your back then you should do well. If Lotus won’t ally with you, then you might struggle to get what you need.

Use your high level of mobility to claim as many Provinces as you can. Although your flexibility is useful, you still have to consider where you are going to place new strongholds and how you will use them for your long-term conquest. 

Alternate between gathering large Harvest from the Provinces you claim and getting your strongholds on the board. Cards that prove useful include Form of the Kitsune, Honesty, and Path of the Monkey. 

The most important Kami for them are Amaterasu, Fujin, and Ryujin.

What is the Best Way to Win Rising Sun?

The best way to win the Rising Sun board game is to research the Clan differences. Pick a Clan most suited to your playing style and practice playing as them multiple times. Really hone in on how each Clan has its own unique strategy. 

Think about how the other Clans have their own objective playing style. The more you know about your opponents the more you can use this knowledge against them. Consider how different Clans can help you as allies. Pick the best teammate but remember that there will only be one winner by the end of it all. 

Remember that some of the cards only appear in specific seasons. Keep a tight lock on your funds. You only have so many turns and resources to complete your goals. Buy the cards that compliment your strategy the most. Think about the overall picture and plan accordingly. 

Pick up your sword, summon some Oni and get ready to battle until the sun rises in the east!


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