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Runebound (Third Edition)» Forums » Reviews

Subject: This isn't the Runebound I know and love, but that's OK. rss

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So Runebound 3e showed up yesterday and I got a play in. My thoughts and review! Beware the walls of text below.

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This isn't the Runebound I know and love. It's a different game set in the Runebound world. I definitely enjoyed the game, but consider this my disclaimer to anyone who actually liked 2e (I feel like I'm in the minority there) looking to get 3e as a way to relive the magic. During the entire course of the game, I couldn't help but think, "It looks like water but tastes like sprite." However, upon mulling over my experience, I'm happy to say the game is a keeper. Keep in mind that I played solo.

First and foremost, I have to comment on the major elephant in the game - combat. I don't hate it, but I don't love it. It's sort of lukewarm at the moment. 2e revolved around equipment and leveling up your traits to become more effective in combat. Over the course of the game, you could get to the point where you actually felt super powerful. In my first play of 3e, I felt like every battle was a real test of wits. Some people probably enjoy that, but I tend to like climbing the power ladder and feeling like it's paid off. I realize that I only saw some of the gear and only got access to a few of the skills, so I can't say with 100% certainty how it's going to feel after future plays.

Combat is done by casting tokens. I immediately became frustrated with this system when my first cast resulted in tokens rolling on their edge off the table. Dice don't do that. I tried a few various methods of casting only to discover that you can't prevent this. It is bound to happen at some point no matter what. The only guaranteed "solution" is casting into the lid or into a contained rolling tray.

The combat itself isn't actually too bad to handle solo. Note that my complaints here may be due to the fact that I know what I'm thinking. So optimal plays are muuuuch harder - I can think of what my reaction to my reaction to my reaction will be. That's dangerous! There are usually a few obvious moves, but there are times when I was overthinking and causing myself to stress over a relatively simple fight. With no hidden information, this is the sort of thing that would happen in a multiplayer game, too, but to a much lesser extent. 2e combat was a LOT faster than 3e in that regard. The major culprits were when I could do things like flip opposing tokens. Multiple times I spent 5+ minutes on a single round of combat playing out the scenario in my head. It's usually something as simple as how to fairly play the surge to try and drag the combat on as long as possible...Because really, that's what's going to make or break the combat. If the hero has to spend 4 rounds of combat fighting even a simple enemy, that means turns will be spent having to heal and waste actions thus bringing the villain one step closer to victory. Killing the hero was very tough to do in one quick motion, but bleeding him out seemed to be successful.

For example, in my villain fight, I spent maybe 10 minutes going over how to the fight should move forward. The villain had enough skulls (with a doubler) to hit for 9. However, the hero had initiative and could spend a surge to flip all the villain tokens. Doing this would allow the villain to possibly heal 3 damage and prolong combat, as well as force the hero to flip with the newly revealed surges. By doing that, the hero would now have defense dice to use which would mean damage would be prevented, but that the villain would take no damage as a result. Or, back to step one, the hero could ignore the surge option to flip enemy tokens, double the defense dice and then spend a once per combat ability to hit for 4 (unblockable) and be maybe one turn away from winning. The shields + armor + skills means the hero should only take about 4 damage from the original 9.

I know that sounds convoluted, and it kind of is. That's the sort of issue you're going to face during combat. Having to make "optimal decisions" based off of what you know your reaction to a reaction will be makes it hard to play it fairly. You could literally spend 30+ minutes analyzing outcomes and determining how to best defeat the hero or villain considering the way it plays. The solution to this is probably to make a quick decision and stick with it instead of thinking of every possible outcome. The combat is easily the most divisive aspect of 3e, and the single-fight example above shows why people are so unsure of how to feel about it. While 2e was sort of a dice fest, at least it didn't require you to solve a Rubik's Cube every fight.

So more on combat - skills, abilities, and items are obviously a HUGE part of it. But one of the things that makes combat feel anti-climactic is that a number of the abilities I earned and had access to were "once per combat". Not once per combat round, but total combat. That's the sort of thing that made me feel "weak". Like, I had these cool skills, but it was a one and done thing. Even my defensive options were limited to once per combat. My opinion on this may change after multiple plays, so we'll see. That said, I did like that gear gave you new tokens. That was a cool addition, and it was a nice twist on how 2e handled equipment.

The turn itself felt similar enough to 2e. Moving around the board was refreshing and the sticker dice were nice to look at. Having variable speed gives each hero a unique flair to look for when choosing who to play as. I'd argue that mobility is the most important character trait in the entire game (more later). The game having a built in Doom Track was also nice, and the story events were a really cool addition. I also enjoyed Quests for the most part.

BUT!

Story events and quests have a HUGE flaw in them. I had 3 incomplete quests at the end of the game. It felt like an incredible waste of a turn when I spent 2 actions to adventure and got a quest on the opposite side of the board. There was no way to complete that quest, complete story events, AND adventure to get stronger. I love the way quests work in that you have to go explore a certain spot to benefit from it, but I wish there were a way to move around faster. Story quests suffered the same fate - they popped up all around the board and I simply couldn't reach them to get the lore tokens necessary to approach end game with any sort of confidence. That's why I feel like mobility is the most important thing. Being able to get around the board is CRUCIAL to success. I physically could not get to the quests AND work on getting lore tokens AND battle to get trophies to get stronger. It feels like there are a ton of things you NEED to do but only so many things you CAN do. I fully respect the idea of having to budget your actions and manage your time, but considering how important skills and items are to your success, it feels like you end up skipping whole mechanics of the game in the interest of efficiency.

Another unique aspect of the game was the skill deck. It acts as your stamina, a way of building your hero, and a way to test attributes. The way you exert is cool as it definitely encourages you and gives you a way to play your turns with more creativity. I loved being able to exert during tests or when exploring to get that one extra success. I also loved how you could exert during combat to introduce a fun and unique organic choice. I also like the way you use skills to grow your character. Until I've played a LOT more games, I won't have a huge feel for the variety and flexibility offered. But I know that what I did use offered me some neat options (+1 damage when I engaged an enemy, +2 body, the option to use body for skill checks). The way you test attributes is interesting. I prefer the way 2e handles it with a rolled skill check, but I also like that this method is incorporated into the core gameplay of cycling through skills. It works for the systems the game has setup.

A few other miscellaneous thoughts...Resting for free is awesome and the way you rest is so damn simple. I wish there were a mechanic for shopping at any town (like buy stuff in any town for an added cost) because of how hard it is to get around the world. I'm sad that one of the expansions is purely PvP - I have to buy it for the hero, but I'll probably never play it because I don't like PvP. I appreciate that the scenario changes itself up and offers unique replayability even if I complain about story quests being crazy spread out.

====

tl;dr - The game is good. I think people who loved 2e will have a hard time loving 3e at first, but it at least deserves a chance. Hands down, the BIGGEST hurdle is going to be the way that the combat feels for you or your group. 3e combat is VERY different and will definitely turn people away; solo or group, the way combat gets handled just feels too much like a different game from what 2e was (for better or worse). Quests are a neat addition, the skill system offers MUCH more unique character development than 2e did, and the way equipment enhances combat is very cool.
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Greg
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Pretty good review. I agree with it mostly. Although I didn't find it near as hard to get around the world as you seemed to have. I mean. You get three actions and so if you need to get across the map, just hop on a road and spend 3 actions traveling plus there are a host of options to widen your travel range via equipment and skills. I found myself zipping around pretty well after getting some of those. I will say that I did avoid getting too many green quests because I came to realize they are harder to complete. Anyhow your description of how it feels the play the game is very well said. This is one of the best Fantasy Adventure Sandbox games on the market.
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Andy Szymas
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nicoga3000 wrote:
Combat is done by casting tokens. I immediately became frustrated with this system when my first cast resulted in tokens rolling on their edge off the table. Dice don't do that.


Good review, but as a self-professed dice dropper, this made me chuckle.
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Phate999 wrote:
Pretty good review. I agree with it mostly. Although I didn't find it near as hard to get around the world as you seemed to have. I mean. You get three actions and so if you need to get across the map, just hop on a road and spend 3 actions traveling plus there are a host of options to widen your travel range via equipment and skills. I found myself zipping around pretty well after getting some of those. I will say that I did avoid getting too many green quests because I came to realize they are harder to complete. Anyhow your description of how it feels the play the game is very well said. This is one of the best Fantasy Adventure Sandbox games on the market.


This is the same thing I keep hearing (the movement) in my attempted movement variant. Maybe I need to try and think about movement differently in 3e. That may be the biggest issue with my approach to this game, ha.
 
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nicoga3000 wrote:
This is the same thing I keep hearing (the movement) in my attempted movement variant. Maybe I need to try and think about movement differently in 3e. That may be the biggest issue with my approach to this game, ha.

Also, I know it feels bad to "lose" 2 actions, but keep in mind that sometimes you'll get a quest and it'll try to send you too far out of your way... Just ignore it and continue to the next adventure token or city. Sometimes you'll find yourself (or can plan to be) close to the target space much later in the game. Sometimes you won't, but that's ok. Better to "waste" 2 actions to reveal a quest you won't do than spend 7 more trying to resolve by going well out of your way.

Unless I'm aiming for a specific item in a particular city's store, I very rarely feel the need to sprint across the entirety of the map.

As Phate999 said, part of the big difference between 2e and 3e is that in 2e you could move once, then you fight, shop, or, if you didn't reach your destination, pass. That's a maximum of 5 spaces if you have full HP and stamina. In 3e, you can move 9 spaces before you pass, but there are several opportunities to give yourself more dice, which give you quite the boost to movement if you intended to spend your whole turn moving 12 or 15 spaces.

As a warning, if you do decide to go through with your +dice for movement house rule, remember not to use that same amount of dice for other things. Exploring and Nissa's surge ability both roll dice equal to your movement stat, so just keep in mind not to roll 5 for these when they should instead be 3, by default.
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Well my most recent game gave me some interesting shopping options that opened my eyes to a few things. Equipment that gives you bonus movement - that's a pretty big game changer for my overall opinion. I also scored a +1 hand size and the Black Market skill. Those things REALLY changed the way I played the scenario.

I also focused heavily on using roads to traverse the map. It made a WORLD of difference. I made a point to try and complete Explorations and Story Quests all over the map to see if it could be done. Through use of exertion and ignoring certain things, I managed to do it. I was impressed with how one person saying, "Use the roads" made ALL the difference.

Roads were never hugely important to me in 2e because of the number of dice you rolled. Here, it actually plays a major role in getting around. I spent a few turns ONLY moving, and thanks to my boots + 5 card hand size, I was able to go from Dawnsmoor to one space outside of Forge. Really eye opening.
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Eric T
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I have 3rd Edition but much prefer the 2nd.

I will continue to get the expansions for 3rd as well, it's just different enough but also the same , if you played it , you know what I mean.
 
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David Williams
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The quests are just fine provided you don't keep picking them up late game. Quests are great to pick up early on so you can plan around them, but they are bad later in the game unless you have some way to travel quickly (or complete quests without visiting the usual location; there's a skill for this IIRC). They are a safe bet, well worth focusing on in the early game.

Sure, you can get unlucky and draw one late on from a red or purple deck. But you can also get unlucky early on drawing a tough enemy from a green or purple deck - that's even worse as it can potentially defeat you resulting in 3+ wasted actions. Thats just the luck of the card draw.

Maybe we just have big hands, but we don't roll tokens off the floor any more often than we roll dice off the table. There's a bit of a knack to it, and having small hands definitely makes it harder to cast them in a nice randomised manner. That's why a lot of groups go for the dice cup.
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