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Subject: First Impressions and Final Thoughts rss

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David Boeger
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Thank you for checking out this review. I normally wait until at least a dozen plays to post my final review, but as this game can be quite long, I'm reviewing after about 6 plays. I believe that should be enough to give an informed opinion.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Let me start off by immediately saying that Runebound hit me like a megalodon (just watched that shark movie with my wife, so yeah, these are the jokes folks). Being fairly new to the hobby and having recently bought some games, my wife had pretty much cut me off from more purchases when someone posted this as a deal on r/boardgamedeals. I had been wanting another solo game that was more thematic and less thinky than Pandemic. When I read a review calling it Skyrim in a board game, I just had to have it.

And just like that, I suddenly bought yet another game without my wife's approval, only I knew so much less about this game going into it than I did about others. Well, I'm glad to report that this game did deliver the feeling of fantasy adventure I was looking for. Better than I expected, to be quite honest. I mean, sure, a board game like this is never going to have the same scope as something like an Elder Scrolls video game. But for what it is, this game did surprisingly well. The miniatures themselves are so perfect for this. Moving little Elder Mok around the board, it almost felt like I was watching a real little orc running around. Something about the way the figures pop off the board just put a smile on my face and brought me joy. Also, putting new asset tokens into my combat pool was such an amazing decision on the part of the designer. At first, it seemed like a waste of all those asset tokens, but after trying the game, it was totally worth it. Something about equipping yourself with your own unique extra tokens from the market just feels so dang good. FFG really did an excellent job of capturing the essence of RPG adventuring in the scope of a single-session board game. I really wanted to start by highlighting this major positive of the game, because I'm about to complain about a bunch of flaws, and I want to make it really clear that for the most part, the game achieves what it set out to do with flying colors.

Now for the bad stuff.

For starters, the combat system in and of itself is so deep and tactically rich, yet it feels like an entire separate game. The pacing of the game just grinds to a screeching halt any time someone goes into combat. Even playing solo, there were times when after finishing a battle, it took me a while to remind myself of everything that was going on before I started. This combat system almost deserves its own product line. I could see it doing really well as a Dice Masters type of product where you buy new tokens to add to a collection, or even just a small filler game like FFG's Age of War. As it exists in this game, yes I absolutely love it, but I'm not sure I wouldn't have preferred a quicker dice system. That's where the game first loses a point for me.

The next set of issues is a bit vague and hard to pin down, but revolves around the same core issue, which is that the game feels unfinished in some respects. The most obvious reason is that the coop rules and AI boards from Unbreakable Bonds absolutely should have been part of the base game. It's not even that the base game isn't good without them. It's just that so many people will play their first game and immediately wonder why they weren't.

Even with the expansion, the integration isn't 100% seamless. There are certain aspects of the game which strongly suggest that much of the expansion was pulled out of the base game before it was finished, and in the end, they released both the base game and expansions in a weird state. For example, does anybody really separate out the skill card sets, pick 6, and shuffle them to create the skill deck, for every single game? I can't even imagine myself ever going through the trouble. But even the cards in the base game had the symbols on them, so clearly they had something in mind for them early on. Also, while I understand that it's a safeguard against creating one mega player that steamrolls the game, the fact that cooperative mode puts even more restrictions on trading between players is really ironic and anti-thematic, and I wish they would have explored other options. The party skills are another expansion mechanic which just feels underdeveloped. Heck, the whole game, if played multiplayer, just kind of feels like separate individual players doing their own things, and they just happen to be playing on the same map simultaneously.

You can criticize me for bringing up the expansion's faults in my review of the base game, but again, I think the development of both feels somewhat intertwined, and I think FFG put themselves in this situation by including only 2 scenarios in the base game and trying to push somewhat pricey expansions. Give me a product with great value, and I won't bring up these minor issues about expansion mechanics and such. But rip content out of the base game, deliver it feeling unfinished, and give me only 2 scenarios, and yeah, I'm going to bring up the issue of value. If one were to pay full MSRP for this game and the big expansion, the combo would cost $100. Is it worth $100? I mean, what's anything worth really? I can't think of any other game that gives me this same feeling, but that doesn't mean I can't compare to other games. Looking at FFG's own catalogue, I feel like Star Wars: Rebellion is a much more compelling game at that price point, even if it is comparing apples to oranges. I think the main reason we're seeing Runebound so heavily discounted and with no new content in sight is that fundamentally, FFG released an unfinished game at a premium price, then released a big box expansion to somewhat fix it, again at a premium price, and expected customers to pay for it over any other options on the market, and that approach was just never going to work out. At the discounted prices I paid, I think I got a lot of game for the money. But I think everything about this edition of Runebound, from the base game to the expansions, struggles to justify its MSRP.

Finally, the last negative I'd like to point out, and at this point I'm just nagging, is that the game is somewhat fiddly with its components. Despite being pretty streamlined, this game takes up a massive amount of table space. Between the board, the individual hero cards, abilities, trophies, token pools, draw decks, etc., this game is sprawling. Casting runes requires even more space, unless you want to risk doing it over all of the adventure markers on the board. Then add in the expansion's AI boards, and you have the definition of board game sprawl. This is the one game I own for which I consider organization a requirement, not a luxury. Setting up my first game took me something like an hour. Granted, I was learning rules and such as I went through it, but preparing 6 decks with either tiny cards or scenario-specific additions is time-consuming. Using penny sleeves and dollar store containers, I was able to greatly reduce setup time. I'm talking like 80% or more. And finally, the adventure cards look like standard size, but they are noticeably smaller than the standard cards in literally all of my other games. As a result, they fit much less nicely in penny sleeves, which only makes them slip in and out and to the sides that much more. I highly recommend sleeving this game with perfect-fit sleeves, but even then, you're going to be paying more for still a relatively loose fit. Also, what's the deal with FFG using the inside of the expansion box as advertisement space? I expected the catalogue, but actually printing ads for other games onto the beautifully-produced box instead of proper artwork? That's has to be some sort of board game sacrilege. This may be a thing they do now, but it was my first time experiencing it.

So yeah, I realize this came across as more of a rant than a review. If anything, that should highlight the fact that this is a game people will either love or hate. People looking for this style of adventure gaming (Skyrim in a box) are likely going to love this game despite its obvious flaws. But those same flaws are likely going to be responsible for those on the fence ultimately passing on this game. This is a game where, like me when I was browsing Reddit, you have to be specifically looking for the type of game that it is. I could name hundreds of games which are logically easier to suggest over this one... but like a buggy Bethesda video game, I still can't help but lose myself in its world.

FINAL THOUGHTS: After trying out some of the other scenarios, as well as a few of the expansion mechanics, and also wrapping my head around what is available in the smaller expansions, I think everything I said above continues to be true. For example, releasing expansions which make the skill sets uneven across the 3 attributes and then not following through with the 3rd one just goes to show how fragmented this game's release is. Personally, I think I'm happy sticking with the base game and Unbreakable Bonds, and maybe adding Caught in a Web later if I can find a copy. The scenarios are quite good and different enough from one another to really keep the game fresh after a large number of plays. I just played a 2-handed solo game today that took me a good 4 hours or so, a lot of which was spent carefully resolving combat (I didn't use the AI boards because my wife was having dinner on the other end of the table and there simply wasn't enough room). So really, as I summarized above, this is a game you have to want going into it. You're not just going to stumble into this game randomly and enjoy it. It takes commitment. Maybe not to the same level as something like Twilight Imperium or Gloomhaven, but still, this is not a game you surprise your non-gamer friends with at a party. As long as you're aware of that and know this is the type of game you're looking for, then I think you will enjoy it very much.

Rating: 8/10
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Leon
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Slug_Overdose wrote:
[...]this is not a game you surprise your non-gamer friends with at a party. [...]
Really? This is exactly what I did and it worked out perfectly fine and people loved it.
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Mr G
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I genuinely recommend that you buy an old Runebound Second Edition set. The combat is with dice and ( to me at least) a better fit with the flow of the game.

I have first, second and third editions and find second the best.
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Bj Price
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Slug_Overdose wrote:
does anybody really separate out the skill card sets, pick 6, and shuffle them to create the skill deck, for every single game?
I do! If you leave all the decks combined in one large deck, it limits the chance of you finding the items or skills that you need. It's hard enough to cycle through the item deck to find that Family Heirloom when there are 3 items sets let alone 6 if you have all the expansions. Or if you really want to find that Aria of War skill within 6 skill sets versus 11 (12 if co-operative)

I do admit though that setup and tear down for this game is longer than I would like, even with a custom insert. I usually play this solo and when I do I will play multiple games in a row to get the most out of setup and tear down. I will play the same scenario and same skill/item decks, but may change up the hero(es).
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The Rake
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Glad to see you really enjoy the game. A lot of the negative comments that have been mentioned before share your opinion, that the co-op features, AI boards, etc should have been included with the base game.

However I feel that's a bit unfair. I'm pretty sure the designers original intentions for RB 3rd edition was for it to be a competitive game. Which the base game delivered and I think plays great with 2 to 3 players.

I believe it wasn't until a particular part of the community started saying they wished it was co-op or needed official solo rules that Fantasy Flight decided to try and implement those features into the game. Which I think they did a great job of as well. I know that in Rahdo's original review of the game, he hated it because of all of the competitive and player vs player aspects. After Unbreakable Bonds was released he did a complete 180 and now loves the game. I feel Runebound suffered some negative attention because of all of the players that prefer co-op style games vs competitive games. Don't get me wrong though, I'm very happy they created Unbreakable Bonds because I love both game styles. I just feel that other games didn't suffer from having such a diverse audience as Runebound did. You don't ever hear people complaining that Pandemic isn't a competitive game.
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Hassan Lopez
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fentum wrote:
I genuinely recommend that you buy an old Runebound Second Edition set. The combat is with dice and ( to me at least) a better fit with the flow of the game.

I have first, second and third editions and find second the best.
I'm selling my (large) set of 2nd edition Runebound, if anyone is interested...
 
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Christopher
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RB3e killed all other adventure games for us (except Mage Knight, which is unkillable).
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Robin Reeve
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Thank you for the balanced review.
One important negative for me is that the different combat tokens have so similar colours (excepted the green tricksters').
FFG could have used bright colours (red, blue, orange, white).
Otherwise, I can be frustrated with unlucky draws of resources and I don't like that quests are sometimes at the other side of the board. Combat is murderous to a point that I most of the time avoid it.
As time is short, building up one's character to face the final trial doesn't allow to lose turns.
But Runebound is my preferred adventure game.
 
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Christopher
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fentum wrote:
I genuinely recommend that you buy an old Runebound Second Edition set. The combat is with dice and ( to me at least) a better fit with the flow of the game.

I have first, second and third editions and find second the best.
There is no shortage of dice-driven adventure games, they're a dime a dozen. There's nothing else that plays like RB3e, I think it's a must-own for everyone that likes adventure games.
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J Kunaszyk
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I bought this (and Unbreakable Bonds) a few weeks ago. I've played four solo games with Scenario 1. Lost all four but have been enjoying it so far. It gives me that beloved Barbarian Prince feeling (my very first real board game!). The map board just reminds me of the BP map board. I agree with the OP, though. After combat, I am completely at a loss as to how many actions I have left. I'll have to find some way to track my actions. Also, I love the tokens.
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J Kunaszyk
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SpoDaddy wrote:
RB3e killed all other adventure games for us (except Mage Knight, which is unkillable).
How would you compare the two games? I love that it doesn't take a long time to setup Runebound and I don't have to always keep referring to the rule book and that it doesn't take hours to finish.
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jkunaszyk wrote:
SpoDaddy wrote:
RB3e killed all other adventure games for us (except Mage Knight, which is unkillable).
How would you compare the two games? I love that it doesn't take a long time to setup Runebound and I don't have to always keep referring to the rule book and that it doesn't take hours to finish.
Mechanically they're completely different but RB3e feels like a lighter, faster, more freewheeling version of MK.
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Aaron White
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jkunaszyk wrote:

I bought this (and Unbreakable Bonds) a few weeks ago. I've played four solo games with Scenario 1. Lost all four but have been enjoying it so far. It gives me that beloved Barbarian Prince feeling (my very first real board game!). The map board just reminds me of the BP map board. I agree with the OP, though. After combat, I am completely at a loss as to how many actions I have left. I'll have to find some way to track my actions. Also, I love the tokens.
If you have unbreakable bonds, use the action arrows as your action points. There are four of them so you can allow for the extra action if you save them.
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Robin Reeve
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SpoDaddy wrote:
Mechanically they're completely different but RB3e feels like a lighter, faster, more freewheeling version of MK.
I found MK a constant brain burner, with an experience more similar to chess than to an immersive fantasy game.
Seeing that players witnessed that they never lost playing MK solo, and experimenting the opposite, I sold the game.
Runebound is much more about a story and adventures - with, of course, important strategical choices.
To each one his own, of course.
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Cee Phour
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SpoDaddy wrote:

There is no shortage of dice-driven adventure games, they're a dime a dozen. There's nothing else that plays like RB3e, I think it's a must-own for everyone that likes adventure games.
Just chiming in, I wholeheartedly agree.

Runebound 3e is fantastic. Maybe not for everyone (is anything?), but a lot of people on the fence about trying this shouldn't be scared because combat isn't like every other game they've ever played.
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VonMeister
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And try it while you can get it cheaply - Amazon has been selling these for around $24.
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Leon
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VonMeister wrote:
And try it while you can get it cheaply - Amazon has been selling these for around $24.
Yeah, US discounts are crazy... it is cheaper to buy the game on Amazon.com than it is in Germany. Here I would have to pay 50€+ while Amazon imports it for me for 36€ including shipping and taxes. It is a fantastic price for what you get! I bought the game full price and would do it again!
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Carlos Javier
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It is great that when a thread begins with a "First impressions", the author let us know how many times has he played the game.

Because there´s an interesting effect:

-If you dont like a game too much, you wont play too much and your review will be based on only a few games.

-If you like the game a lot, you will play a lot and your review will be very entusiastic, but based on a lot of gameplays.

Where is the mid point?

I think a reviewer should play a minimum of 20 times a game like this, or Archipelago....etc. Yes they can be quite long but 6 times is not enough in my opinion. Of course you dont need to play more than once to review "Dobble".

Anyway, good review.

Several years ago, RB3ed was ranked over 500 or so, nowadays its 400. Mind that in the present day there are TONS of expensive-overproduced adventure games, and even so....RB3ed keeps climbing slowly.

I think that this game will show its potential in the long term.

But something is true, its too long for a boardgame and too short for a roleplaying game.

It lays in an undefined space, maybe thats why it didnt become a best seller.

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Kip Bowser
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I am one of the many people who just recently bought a copy of Runebound 3rd Edition for $20, and immediately followed it up with Unbreakable Bonds. (Brilliant move on Fantasy Flight's part for dropping the base game's price to get those on the fence hooked, but leaving the expansions at full price, by the way!)

I own every expansion for second edition (except Midnight - haven't been able to find if for a reasonable price), even the little deck sets. I've played every expansion (and did not care for the character decks, I don't really care for PVP), and would have to say 2nd edition ranks up there among my favorite games.

I've tried expansion jumping. I've owned Talisman 3rd and 4th editions - plus expansions (sold the 4th edition, kept 3rd), I've owned the 1985 version of DungeonQuest and FF's Revised Edition (Kept the 1985 version, sold the other), I own both 1st and 2nd editions of Decent plus expansions (kept both ... so far), and I told myself I did not need Runebound 3rd edition, but ... here we are.

A while ago I pulled out 2nd edition with my brother and his family - now my brother was my go-to guy for playing these games over the years, but honestly, he seemed ... bored ... with the game (We didn't finish, granted it was Christmas and there was a LOT of games to get through). I thought I was still enjoying the game, but it made me question if maybe our tastes have changed over the years, so when I saw 3rd edition for a third of the price, I thought I'd give it a chance.

One of the first things I tried to wrap my mind around was the combat system, since that was what I thought would be the biggest change. After a few tries with a character and some random equipment, even my 9 year old understood how it worked and enjoyed combat.

Once basic combat was under my belt I moved on, and discovered that combat was not the only thing that changed. Skill checks were completely different, sorting asset and skill deck sets at the beginning of a game takes additional set-up time, and movement even caught me off guard at first. In fact, I probably look at this edition being almost a completely different type of game than the previous edition. But does it warrant owning both editions?

Conclusions.

Movement was largely the same, I did like the rule that makes roads easier to travel, and crossing rivers is more thematic. I didn't care for the stickers on the movement dice, I thought the images were a little vague. But, that may be because I'm slightly colorblind and the stark black and white images on etched dice was so easy to read.

My asset decks and my skill desks have all been shuffled into a single pile each. Will I separate the sets during set-up? Probably not. The only expansion I have is Unbreakable Bonds, so there is no one type that is out of balance from the others. (I may get Caught in a Web if I can find a copy, but it doesn't add any skill or asset cards.)

I think that the pogs added more strategy to combat, but also slowed it down. It is fun to figure out HOW you attack, rather than just hoping you can roll a good number. The combat boards, and the additional 3 types of monster tokens from Unbreakable Bonds, IN MY OPINION, just made combat even more time consuming. With having to find the right set of tokens, and find table space for the boards. I think when I play with my 9 year old, we will stick with the original tokens only, even in co-op games.

Skill Checks to me are a pain. Maybe I got used to the auto successes of the Uber-Characters you could build over time in 2nd edition, but I need to find a better way to increase the odds.

I'm not convinced about the time track, either. Sure it puts a time limit on the game, but The house rule on 2nd edition where the first upgrade was 1xp, the second upgrade was 2xp, the third was 3xp, (etc.), put a limit on the game as well, when upgrades just became too expensive. I think, in my house, the big bad will not appear until Act 3 and we'll have to deal with a longer game.

And I think - since the whole reason I got this was for the co-op - that co-op combat needs to be revised. In my mind I see all parties being involved in combat at the same time (more thematic). Everyone cast their pogs, then going in order of initiative (with turn order or role-play conversation breaking ties), each player/monster gets one action to apply tokens, then each get a second, and so on until all pass/die as the case may be. I have not decided how damage should be distributed, but now that my son is finally getting old enough to play with me, I'm not going to beat him down with discouraging battles right away.

TL : DR - start here

I'm honestly torn on which version of Runebound I like better. I see the appeal of 3rd edition, I like the familiarity of the 2nd. I have to admit, that since I got both the base game and Unbreakable Bonds at the same time, and I was eager to try the co-op, I skimmed through the books before trying the game and I apparently missed a lot of the nuances. But, after being confused on a few things, and looking them up later, and playing the game a few times, I feel more confident that I can house-rule the crap out of this game, to make it more fun, like I did 2nd edition.

And I'll probably keep both.
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gekkonidae wrote:
It is great that when a thread begins with a "First impressions", the author let us know how many times has he played the game.

Because there´s an interesting effect:

-If you dont like a game too much, you wont play too much and your review will be based on only a few games.

-If you like the game a lot, you will play a lot and your review will be very entusiastic, but based on a lot of gameplays.

Where is the mid point?

I think a reviewer should play a minimum of 20 times a game like this, or Archipelago....etc. Yes they can be quite long but 6 times is not enough in my opinion. Of course you dont need to play more than once to review "Dobble".

Anyway, good review.

Several years ago, RB3ed was ranked over 500 or so, nowadays its 400. Mind that in the present day there are TONS of expensive-overproduced adventure games, and even so....RB3ed keeps climbing slowly.

I think that this game will show its potential in the long term.

But something is true, its too long for a boardgame and too short for a roleplaying game.

It lays in an undefined space, maybe thats why it didnt become a best seller.

How long is too long? Our games never go past 2 hours, which seems about as fast as an adventure game with depth could possibly be.
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Kip Bowser
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KBowz wrote:
Skill Checks to me are a pain. Maybe I got used to the auto successes of the Uber-Characters you could build over time in 2nd edition, but I need to find a better way to increase the odds.
Maybe: When making a skill test, you may EXERT to use a card from your hand with a success symbol.

Clarification:
This will mean you are loosing two cards from your hand, one to exert, and the other (with a success symbol) for the success. This is a pretty costly move, but it would be nice to actually succeed a test. I have been getting rotten luck in those draws.
 
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KBowz wrote:
KBowz wrote:
Skill Checks to me are a pain. Maybe I got used to the auto successes of the Uber-Characters you could build over time in 2nd edition, but I need to find a better way to increase the odds.
Maybe: When making a skill test, you may EXERT to use a card from your hand with a success symbol.
Exerting during a skill test allows you to draw an additional card. The success symbol of the discarded card used for exert has no bearing on the outcome of the skill test.
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Carlos Javier
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Well two hours is not long. But add half and hour more for setup and "unsetup".

Anyway, I mean too long for any other people, not me. I enjoy every minute, of course it would be very hard to make a shorter adventure game with so much flavor.

But what I mean is, if you have one free hour, you cannot play Runebound. Even two free hours are no enough cos you´d play in a hurry and I think this is a game to play easy, forgetting the clock, IMHO.

PD I dont prepare the skill deck, just mixed the base and Unbreakable decks and I usually get one star every four-five cards, at least.

I dont use a house rule for them.
 
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J Kunaszyk
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Robobeast wrote:
KBowz wrote:
KBowz wrote:
Skill Checks to me are a pain. Maybe I got used to the auto successes of the Uber-Characters you could build over time in 2nd edition, but I need to find a better way to increase the odds.
Maybe: When making a skill test, you may EXERT to use a card from your hand with a success symbol.
Exerting during a skill test allows you to draw an additional card. The success symbol of the discarded card used for exert has no bearing on the outcome of the skill test.
Dang, I got excited when I read that from KBowz. But, unfortunately, I think Robobeast is correct.
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gekkonidae wrote:
Well two hours is not long. But add half and hour more for setup and "unsetup".

Anyway, I mean too long for any other people, not me. I enjoy every minute, of course it would be very hard to make a shorter adventure game with so much flavor.

But what I mean is, if you have one free hour, you cannot play Runebound. Even two free hours are no enough cos you´d play in a hurry and I think this is a game to play easy, forgetting the clock, IMHO.

PD I dont prepare the skill deck, just mixed the base and Unbreakable decks and I usually get one star every four-five cards, at least.

I dont use a house rule for them.
A half hour for setup/teardown? It takes us maybe 10 minutes total for both.
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