After playing a few games of Island of Dread I am left with mixed feelings.
I knew when I purchased the game I was getting an overlay for the basic Runebound board, but when I saw it for the first time it just looked small and, well, cheap. I was a bit disappointed. To make matters worse the board is warped. Placing a warped board on top of my already warped Runebound board makes placing cards along the board difficult. I tend to have a problem with all my FFG boards being warped.
I am also not impressed with the rules as they are very unclear. There is no mention whatsoever about quests. When we first drew one from the encounter deck we had no idea what it was for. We finally figured it out later when we drew another card that gave a bonus for completed quests. I also found the rules about hiring captains to be very vague. I had to read and reread that section a few times before I finally figured out how it all worked. There is also no mention about experience with blue encounters. The first time we defeated one we were confused as to what to do so we just took a 3 experience counter token. It wasn’t until later when a card turned up that specifically said we gained experience did we knew that some gave experience while others didn’t. Granted after one or two plays these rules will sort themselves out, but they should at least be mentioned in the rules book.
Island of Dread introduces the most broken character to date: Trenloe the Strong. It’s the only card my gaming group has outright banned from play. Trenloe requires one less experience to level and is the only character that scales with the amount of people that play the game. Only needing two experience to level is just ridiculous. Blue encounter cards can also pose a problem. Some are a breeze while others are monstrosities. One player may be lucky enough to have smooth sailing to another island while another player gets stomped and shipwrecked.
Not everything about IoD is bad, there are few good things about it too.
Hiring captains is fun and they really add to the theme of the game, although I think they tend to slow down the game since you have to spend a turn in town to hire one. Each captain has a different ability and will help you fight those blue encounters you will run across at sea.
The encounters are all new and most of them have a “sea” theme that go well with the expansion. There are also quests that you can finish that will benefit your character in some way.
Map Counters and Legendary Items
Map Counters are an interesting concept that can lead you to Legendary Items and the Island of Dread. Some encounters, when defeated, allow a player to randomly draw map tokens. When you get a matching set of tokens you can trade them in for a Legendary Item. These items grant a character a powerful ability when discarded, such as automatically succeeding at an attack.
Island of Dread
Trading in a set of map tokens also allows you to travel to the Island of Dread to defeat Assif Shib-Sha, who makes Margath look like a whelpling. Once a character arrives at the Island of Dread they must fight each monster there successively until Assif Shib-Sha is drawn. This is extremely difficult. Some players might like the ramped up difficulty of Island of Dread compared to the original Runebound, but others may find it frustrating.
With the other new expansions (Scepter of Kyros, Crown of Elder Kings, etc.) out for the core game I can only recommend IoD to diehard Runebound fans. The smaller expansions actually add a lot more the core game than IoD does since you cannot use any of the encounters from the base game with IoD. There are also two new endgame variants to the core game. My friends and I have been playing the base game with the Scepter of Kyros a lot more than we have been playing IoD lately. I’m sure someday there will be just as many expansions for IoD as there are with the core game and I recommend waiting until then unless you are really tired of the core game or can't get enough Runebound.
Melting souls with cuteness since 2007
I don't agree with some of your assessments...
Trenloe doesn't have a "big" advantage over the other characters. Levelling-up at one less experience point will provide Trenloe, at the end of the game, an advantage of maybe 3 to 4 more "levels" than other characters...
Considering that his average starting stats are less than other characters, he will really only have 2 to 3 more experience levels than other at the end game.
Add to this the fact that he has no special ability to speak of (other than this level-up quicker thing)... Is 2 or 3 more experience counters better than a special ability? I much prefer the RuneWitch's Before combat: test spirit 14 to inflict 1 damage for 1 fatigue (Which at mid-game is almost equal to add a wound counter to your ennemy automatically).
Also for blue sea encounters... The very tough sea encounters are VERY easy to escape. They have a tendency to have low mind scores, which means easy escapes. The addition of captains means that THEY can usually take a few hits if you fail in your escape attemp to try to escape again in case you fail. Being shipwrecked is a rare occurence...