Rune Age » Reviews » A roboros review of Rune Age

Author: theMage
Rune Age is a 1-4 player game from Fantasy Flight Games set in the world of Terrinoth, the fantasy battle setting for Runebound, Descent, and Rune Wars (and, restroactively, DungeonQuest). This alone convinced me to pick it up and try the game as I very much enjoy this intellectual property and FFGs treatments of it. I was not disappointed.

What Rune Age is: a flexible game of conquest and battle
What Rune Age is not: Dominion

It seems to be an easy shortcut to say that Rune Age is Dominion with direct conflict. This has the effect of setting up a mismatch in expectations for just about everybody. Fans of Dominion will probably not like it because, other than the mechanism of card-buy and deck-shuffling, Rune Age does not play like Dominion. Those who don't like Dominion may avoid Rune Age on principle. So I will attempt to clear up this insufficient communication of the game.

The explanation of the game from the manufacturer describes the game very well.
Rune Age is a unique deck-building game that centers around scenarios. Scenarios not only dictate the win conditions, they also determine which card types will populate Terrinoth (forming the central card pools) and which Event cards will form the Event deck. The Event deck contains thematic challenges, enemies, and happenings that are tied to the chosen scenario, creating a new play environment each turn.

Gameplay in Rune Age centers around players working to develop their individual deck of cards. At the beginning of the game, each player begins with a small assortment of cards in their deck, drawing five cards each turn to carry out their actions. Each player's deck represents their faction's military strength and capabilities. These decks will be formed with their faction-specific Unit cards and a central collection of Neutral Unit cards, Tactics cards, and Gold cards.

It seems that when most people think of "deck-building" they think of the mechansim and a function. Dominion is a deck-building game in which you build an engine with the function of ramping up to acquire the most victory points. As a very successful game it seems only natural that Dominion is the touchstone for understanding deck-building games, but in my opinion, this is very wrong. Rune Age may use the same mechanism but it's function within the game, and hence how you use it in play, is very different.

Each of the 4 different kingdoms in the game has a unique set of cards that form the barracks from which they can recruit. There are 4 unit types in each kingdom's army which are the same in cost and strength but differ in the abilities that they provide which gives each a very different theme and play style. Each barracks also has strongholds which can be brought under control to provide influence - these are functionally identical for each kingdom. Neutral cities, like strongholds, can also be captured to provide further influence needed to acquire gold, spells, and mercenaries.

Gold gets you strength which gets you influence which gets you mercenaries (strength), spells (other effects), and more gold. How you win a game of Rune Age, though, will vary depending on the scenario. This is where the seperation from Dominion is most significant.

There are also four scenarios in the base game each which creates a different 'purpose' to the game. The Monument is a race to buy your moument with gold; Runewars is based on the game of the same name that provides a fight to the finish direct conflict experience; Resurgence of the Dragonlords is a Runebound-inspired battle to be the single victor to repel the Dragonlords; and The Cataclysm is a co-operative battle against the deck. From these scenarios, there are many experiences that Rune Age can provide depending on the players and what they are looking for from a particular game. This, to me, is the defining element of Rune Age - it runs from fully co-operative to last army standing with a few stops in between.

What's quite interesting is that each game takes a different approach to play. Take, for example, The Cataclysm scenario. In order to win, each player is best served to take a role and build towards it. Some players need to get cheap, effective units out to combat the events before they build up. The rest need to build up to acquiring bigger troops to be ready to handle the later, 'badder', events. It's been my experience that each player trying to do the same thing, and all things, is a recipe for failure against this very difficult scenario. Different scenarios will require players to explore different strategies in order to succeed.

Rune Age is a game that depends on building a deck from a selection of cards. That is where the similarity to Dominion ends and a whole lot more game begins.

Review on
Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:43 pm