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Daniel Eig
United States
Huntington
New York
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Summary: Runebound is a game with a lot of potential, and a need for a lot more play-testing. Unfortunately, this game can end up being more of a chore than fun - especially with 5 or 6 players. Definitely try this before buying it.

The mechanics in brief:
You control a character in a fantasy world. This character can gain powers by defeating monsters in encounters, by gaining allies/companions, and by purchasing/acquiring items to enhance his powers. You win by collecting 3 runes (there are 6 on the board) or by defeating the chieftain o' evil.

The game is played on a map subdivided by hexes - each representing different terrain types (marsh, hill, forest, plains, roads, etc). Also scattered about the board are cities where items and healing can be purchased. On many of these hexes are colored dots - representing 4 different difficulty of encounters (green - easy, yellow, blue, red - hardest). Once an encounter is won - it is removed from the board, and the player gains experience (1 to 4 depending on the difficulty of the encounter).

Players move around on the board by rolling 4-5 d6 dice, with different symbols on each side. These symbols represent what terrain you can travel on this turn. So you really have to pick a destination, and then examine the roll to see if you can reach it.

Encounters are really the heart of the game. At the beginning is usually a pre-combat phase: using your special abilities or passing a skill check (both accomplishedby rolling a 20 sided dice - aka "a d20", and comparing to one of your stats). Combat itself is resolved in three d20 dice rolls per round, where you (and your allies if you have them) are either defending or attacking. If you are doing poorly, you also have a chance to try to escape. If your hit points are reduced to 0 you lose your unused experience, half your gold, and (fortunately) none of your items. If the monsters hit points are reduced you gain 1 to 4 experience, and a reward - usually gold.

My critique:
Out-of-the-box, the game is muddled almost from the beginning - there are 12 character cards, but no clear or fair way to distribute them. My group went on the random distribution method, as being the most equally unfair.

The beginning of the game can be quite exciting, has players scramble to find encounters, or purchase good items in cities. But rapidly the problems become apparent:

-Downtime is rampant. If it isn;t your turn, you don't have much to do besides root for/against the other players. If you are playing with 4 or more players, expect to do a lot of rooting, and not a lot of playing.

-The items are poorly balanced against cost - some of the most powerful items in the game almost appear to be bargains when you compare power versus cost. And they show up at random in a city, instead of being gained in an encounter.

-If you fall behind in the beginning, particularly with more players, you are in for the most tedious 2 to 3 hours of your life.

-The movement dice, while interesting, can lead to turn after turn of waiting for the right symbol to show. This is particularly true in the end-game, when the red encounters are only on forests, which don't come up commonly.

-If you end up in an area of the board cleared of encounters, particularly if you are behind, you can end up waiting a lot of very boring turns to get to an area that does have some encounters.

-There is nothing to discourage the high-level players from clearing out the easy encounters. This basically leaves the players with less goodies/abilities with no encounters they can beat.

-the ending itself can be a big disappointment. You can spend hours building up a character, collect 2 of the runes by defeating their guardians, and still lose because someone on their very first Red encounter turns up the King of Uber-Evilness and defeats it.

Final Thoughts:

Don't play this with more than 4 players, unless you have something to do during the down-time. Bring a book too, you;ll need something to do if you fall behind early and spend the rest of the game far behind the leaders.

This game has some definite potential, but it desperately calls for some re-balancing, and some way of stopping the poor getting poorer/rich getting richer syndrome that can inflict this game.
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Derek H
South Africa
Johannesburg
Gauteng
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Re:User Review
dtolman (#45871),
A useful review; wish it had been posted before I ordered this game! Nonethless, it does seem almost every pseudo-RPG tnds to require some kind of tinkering to match the ideals of demanding gamers. The game system in Runequest is a neat one, and there is very little, I believe (I hope!) that cannot be fixed or improved. There are already a number of house rules & expansions on this site aimed at this, so I look forward to a great game being developed.
 
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DIMITRIOS KANOS
Greece
ALEXANDROUPOLI
EVROS
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Re:User Review
dtolman (#45871),
If you want a more balanced game try Die Rückkehr der Helden ( Return of the Heroes). it is a german game. it will be released in english in September, but you can find it now in Boulder Games. There is a translation of the game here in BoardgameGeek. It is centered in completing Quests and tasks and not only doing battles. It is easy to create your own quests. It is not need the players to wait a lot of time for their turn to come. It is fast, clever and you can finish it with 4 players in 90- 120 minutes.
 
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Daniel Eig
United States
Huntington
New York
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Re:User Review
dimitkan (#46207),
Now that I've invested my money into this game, I'm hoping that focusing on playing it with smaller groups (or with a movie on in the background for larger groups) - combined with whatever ideas the user community comes up with - makes this into a better game.
 
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Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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Re:User Review
dtolman (#46235),

I agree with much of what you had to say. Our first game was very very long, and the end somewhat anticlimatic. It was a 3-player game. The winner had an early lead with some very nice items, I was decently positioned, and the other player had bad luck and bad decisions and struggled. Never having played before, we spent way too much time accumulating things to get ready for the big showdown. There were other problems, too, as you mentioned.

If you haven't already, you should try the advanced rules (download at FFG, or check http://tinyurl.com/7xa5a for the full basic+advanced rules). I've read through them, and played part of a game using the entire rule set. There are many improvements: slightly better movement, faster accumulation of levels, and a built-in game timer (the Doom Track). The Doom Track looks like it will work well with 2 or 3 players (need to discard 30 or 50 adventure cards); not sure how well with more players (70 cards).
 
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