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Subject: Review of several house rules and their effect in game rss

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Mika R.
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In our last two player game we decided to focus on the utility of some proposed house rules. Here's a brief report of that game where we scrutinized the following rules:

Commonly known house rules
--------------------------------------------
- Starting gold, 5 GP http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/104017
- Market step variant http://www.martsville.co.uk/Fantasy_Flight_Runebound_Support...
- Level progression with xp == to level you are progressing to (aka 2/3/4/5/6 system from Ruvion, see also similar rule in http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/98550)
- Softer knockout penalties from escaping http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/151830
- Softer PvP knockout penalties (Official FAQ)

New rules introduced in http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/159566
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
- Undefeated monster movement
- Hiding Movement rule (a player can hide from an attacker)
- Loser of hero vs. hero battle gets bonus xp from the delivered damage

A brief gameplay description:
------------------------------------------
We played the Margath adventure with Silhouette (me) and Battlemage Jaes (my friend). A clear culmination point happened early in the game when both heroes were around level 3 (both had two markers). A green event that gives free items in Tamalir, Vynelvale and Frostgate was drawn. I (Silhouette) rushed into Tamalir and Vynelvale, whereas Jaes arrived at the Frostgate. After rushing for the free items, Silhouette had decent equipment: Bow of bone, Sir Gareth and Chainmail. Jaes had nice Orcish Boarbracer, which acts both as a fighting bonus and protection. I decided that PvP should commence since I had better gear and I could use his Orcish Boardbracer myself.

I neared Jaes around Frostgate and decided to strike when the dice were merciful. Jaes saw me coming, but did not decide to hide since he thought I was quite far away and he felt the urge to perform quests quickly and progress. At the beginning we had decided that it wasn't allowed to perform quests after hiding movement.

So, the Jaes was finishing some quests when I attacked him and knocked him down easily during the first battle round, thanks to my powerful ally Sir Gareth (his melee bonus is 5/3!). I took his Orcish Boardbracers and took a significant lead in the game.

Later, Jaes took a risk in the game and attacked a blue while not quite up to task. He had to escape, so I was given this undefeated blue Challenge (Caravan Besieged) to be moved around the board 2 spaces/turn. To avoid immediate retaliation, we put the monster card in slot 1 face down. At the beginning of my following round I was able just to turn the card face up but not to move it until my next turn. This was enough to make Jaes get sufficient distance so that I decided to move the Challege close to me and beat it down. As a result, Jaes' failure helped my progress.

At the end of the game, the 2/3/4/5/6 progression scheme showed its benefits and my lead was somewhat narrower when I won my first red encounter. However, it was quite clear that unless a drastic failure happens (e.g. Margath kicks me into oblivion), I would easily finish three reds before Jaes. And so it happened. The game ended with a victory by Silhouette.

Silhouette had
* +4 mind, +6 melee, +2 health (level 8)
* Chain mail,
* Orcish Boardbracers,
* Ally (Padarus Runebreaker),
* Bow of bones,
* Sword of fire,
* Shield of Light.

Jaes had
* +2 fatigue, +1 health, +4 spirit, +2 melee (level 6)
* Mace of Kellos,
* Elven Wraproot,
* Ally (Orphan of the Moon)
* Silver Jack.


Retrospectively, we had a lenghty discussion in the night (with some refreshing beverage ) on the proposed rules, see below a summary of our findings:


Separate market decks for Armor & Weapons, Allies, Artifacts & Runes
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This is a very good rule, since it reduces the randomness of the available items. We feel that the character development is now more in the hands of the players than with vanilla market rules.

verdict: recommended


Level progression: 2/3/4/5/6 system
-----------------------------------------
This rule is also working as intended. The game starts faster and evens out in the end. A nice way to quicken the game also. We thought that yellows may run out fast though, but fortunately this did not happen in our test game.

verdict: recommended


Softer death penalties from death by escaping
------------------------------------------------------------------
We didn't have to use it in this game but we feel it is nice to have the option to attept saving that hard-earned, precious item card by attempting escape when the battle turns sour on you.

verdict: recommended


Softer knockout penalties in PvP
-----------------------------------------------
This rule is very necessary as only one card is lost instead of several cards and gold. If normal knockout rules were also applied, PvP fights would tip the loser beyond the point of no return.

verdict: recommended


Undefeated monster movement
---------------------------------------------
This rule imposes more careful planning of when to progress to the higher tier Challenges. The potential danger of giving another player control of a powerful monster makes players interested in other players' fights. On the other hand, it may amplify the runaway leader effect when the underdog tries to catch up the leading hero by taking risks with high tier Challenges. Perhaps the undefeated monster movement rule should be applied only to blue/red challenges?

verdict: needs more testing, and perhaps tweaking before verdict can be given


Hiding Movement rule
-------------------------------
Especially for two player games, properly timed PvP attack is crucial. If some player advances faster than the rest of the players, it is always worthwhile to attack a slower hero and use them as a leverage for your own progress. Hiding movement is specifically designed to give slower players a chance to evade/avoid these situations. However, in our game, Jaes did not use hiding prior to the impending hero vs. hero battle. Why? The player controlling Jaes told that the incentive of using hiding movement is low if it prohibits the progression, since the underdog feels always a strong urge to catch up. He specifically said that he didn't want to use hiding since he knew I could wait around him for an opportune moment, so he decided to rush for quest and progression instead. After the game, we talked a lot (more beer) how hiding movement could be made more attractive and useful, and decided that performing quests should be allowed after Hiding movement. This way there's more incentive to use the hiding movement when the stronger hero is lusting over your most precious items. Overall the idea of is good, but it needs to be attractive to become more utilized during the play. That's why I will change the wording of the rule so that performing quests is allowed. Some may feel that taking exhaustion in exchange of two space hiding movement is too powerful now. So that may be left out after having more experience with the rule in practice.

verdict: recommended but needs more testing. A small modification is necessary: allow performing quest if hiding movement ends in a space with a quest marker.


Hero vs. hero battle: Loser gets bonus xp from the delivered damage
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This rule encourages the players to deliver as much damage as possible before either is knocked out. Therefore it provides more excitement in the battles and also helps to avoid tipping the balance too much to the victor. This rule wasn't utilized in our game, because there were no wounds delivered by the loser of the hero vs. hero battle. I have seen this rule in effect only in one game so far and there it delivered 2 experience points to the loser. So it did not make much difference but was a small consolation for the loser nevertheless.

verdict: this rule sounds promising balancing rule, but also needs more testing to see what happens in practice. Especially after a fight where lots of damage is dealt both ways. Should be interesting to see what happens to the game dynamics when victor gets an item, but loser gains a level as the result of hard lesson learned.


Summary
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Some house rules described here are recommended to give Runebound less deterministic feel. There's a great adventure game in there, as long as the rules are able to reduce potential runaway leader effect and provide more versatile tactical opportunities to the players.

The thematic element of this game is great, as games can be re-lived in a form of a story: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/161298
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ruvion .
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I have been tinkering to allow the loser of a PvP fight, a better consolation prize:

PvP Consolation
loser gains 3 experience tokens (an effective 3 level ups) that does not count toward his levels. Upon leveling up (without considering his 3 experience tokens) the experience token goes away.

---> This rule allows the PvP loser to either catch up in the xp race from the temporary power up or get back at the PvP winner (a bad idea but still available). Further PvP losses will not result in getting more temporary experience tokens for the original loser, however.

Another system I have been looking at is an idea I borrowed and modified from WoW...namely how some equipment gets soulbound to a hero and so it cannot be traded away:

Spiritbound Item
Once per game, a player can allow one market item to bond to his hero. He must do so by paying 1.5 times the original cost of the item when he first purchases it (therefore he can only spiritbound an item if he is buying it). Spiritbound effect is only activated when the hero is knocked out (another hero can not choose your spiritbound item as his PvP reward); whence a spiritbound item is randomly teleported to an active town to be picked up by the hero that lost it.

--->This option allows the player to make sure freak chance of a dice throw does not rob him of his precious...err hard earned loot. At least for that one time after you spend some hard earned gold.
 
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Mika R.
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Nice ideas! Here's my initial thoughts:

PvP consolation:
A temporary boost for the defeated could be a good idea. However, I think 3 counters for one level is probably too much. Think about a ranged heavy hero, he can put everything on his Mind skill and be able to take on blue, even a red challenge (if he has some counters before).. Albeit the effect would be for one level progression only, the problem is that it introduces a motivation for all underdogs to attack leading players and loose in hopes of getting a temporary boost to their progression. I have a hunch that any significant auto-rewards from PvP loss raise ulterior motives and PvP shifts its purpose.

Perhaps it could be achieved so that the player receives a stock of three disposable experience counters, which he can add to his combat rolls once per counter? This way he might choose when and where to use them, but it wouldn't be so overpowering. However, still this kind of free bonus makes players to seek for PvP battles which they can't win...


Spiritbound item:
Have you considered what kind of players typically could afford such bonus? In our games heroes that have the largest gold repository are typically strong in battles. So, would this rule help the leader players the most? I am not sure, but I am certainly interested to hear how did it go, if/when you apply it in your play.
 
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ruvion .
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You have raised some valid concerns...

The PvP Consolation was one I had some doubt...after some thought I have amended the PvP consolation so that you cannot stack the counters on one stat, ie: you cannot pump Body more than once.

The Spiritbound item has not seen play as of yet since the cost is significant even for those with some gold lying around. But this may compound the rich gets richer problem. I will have to playtest this a bit before I can make any changes.
 
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