James Boardgame
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Disclaimer

This is a review of the much-maligned (indeed, by implication, even by the makers themselves) First Edition of Runebound (hereafter mostly RB1). It is not a detailed in-the-box review because there are dozens of those already. My object is to compare the First and Second editions of the game. This is not, by any means a fair and balanced comparative review with the Second Edition (RB2), as my familiarity with that is limited to the pages of the Geek. (Edit : Further disclaimer : there is no Runebound/Strangelove themed content in this review, other than the title. However, please see comments below, where this want is happily rectified.)

The call of adventure


Reared on fantasy gamebooks, rpgs and the old Games Workshop classics, I have a nostalgic love for Ameritrash games. This has led to me whiling away more than a few idle hours (not entirely without success) haunting charity shops, surfing on the Geek and indeed the eBay in the hopes of reliving some of that adolescent enjoyment, and maybe rebuilding a collection of games to play with my son once he's old enough (grow, damn you!). From everything its fans say for it, Runebound looked like it may well be the modern successor of Talisman and company, and I had been itching to play the game since I first stumbled across BGG.

What with this global economic meltdown and all, and the cost of being growed up and having a family to support, and indeed the spousal disapproval (substantial) earned from my indulgence in a copy of the 4th Edition of Talisman (which has seen only limited play since, and that largely thanks to further splashing out on the upgrade and the Reaper expansion), the prospect of attempting to justifying a £36 base game purchase against the wife's prudent book-keeping was unappealing. More than unappealing, it would have been downright, stark staring insanity.

Happily, there was an answer to my dilemma.

Runebound First Edition - Points to consider

1. Price.


My copy of RB1 (v.g. condition, perhaps played once, box slightly scuffed) cost less than £10, including postage, on eBay, which is a quarter of the price of RB2. That is one hell of a saving, and price has to be an argument that's called again and again to cast a deciding vote in the 'Should I buy?' dilemma. In fact, if you're as 'fond of getting a good price' (read 'cheap') as I am, this is all ye need to know : you may close this thread : your adventure ends here.

2. Is it broke?

I've read a lot online about the fixes made in RB2. Now I do not doubt that they have improved the game, but is RB1 really 'broke'? I mean, is RB2 that thing I've personally yet to experience, flawless gaming perfection? RB1 has a lot of vagueness in the rulebook (what exactly is an 'encounter' card - does that include the 'assassinate the Lord Mayor' job, do you get experience after drawing that card, or do you keep drawing cards until you've killed or runaway from something? After a few minutes of head-scratching we decided that the rules mean keep drawing until you get a combat encounter, and we got on with the game) - for a £25 saving, I'll settle for the odd vagueness.

Apparently some of the items and allies are unbalanced, some of the challenges too easy. I can actually live with imbalance in this kind of game, and from what I've seen of the game so far, it is by no means a guarantee of a win to be loaded to the hilt with uber-gear. The easy challenges are themselves something of a balancing factor - it's in the nature of these treasure quest games that some people like to run around the board like it's the bridal wear sale at Filenes basement, grabbing every upgrade item they can lay their greedy paws on. The bolder player, who isn't seeking apotheosis but rather a challenge, can take a chance and strike for the red challenges before losing is a statistical impossibility, and with a little luck after an enjoyable hour or so of play bring matters to a happy close.

3. d20s rule!


Keep your probability bell-curves, RB2, in my game the King of Dice will be thundering across the table, thrilling all with its awesome power and God-like disdain and inconstancy! Seriously, if you're playing a fantasy adventure game, what cold-hearted statistician could prefer 2d10 to the sublime icosahedron?

4. No toys

I have a sneaking suspicion, based partly on the changes FFG made to Talisman, partly on insight enough into my own heart of darkness, that the real reason people prefer RB2 is not improved gameplay or even increased variety but because it comes with little plastic men. Now I love little plastic men as much as the next guy, but frankly, they strictly belong in games where you have hordes of them sweeping the board, eg Axis & Allies, Risk or (I imagine) War of the Ring. It's not like you get to use minis for your allies, or for your enemies, no, they're simply included as a sop to the toy-coveting gene. RB1 contains sensible, stocky cardboard markers, which also have the distinctly sensible advantage of leaving room on the gameboard for multiple players to occupy the same space. Neither do they need to be painted with the skill of a Michaelangelo-in-miniature to look cool , thus avoiding the not insignificant risk of being painted cack-handedly and looking crap.

5. Limited expandability/money swallowing factor.

Obviously, what RB2 has going for it is the expandability intended in the original game design. From my experience of RB1 so far, I'm vastly more impressed than I expected to be with the theme elements that are worked into the game, and the progression given by the Events that supersede each other as the game approaches climax. That this quality of design has presumably been applied with whole new set of cards to give the game a new story is something that I find deeply commendable. If I owned RB2 I would want to get all the expansions, I'm sure.

However.

My wife and I have really enjoyed playing Runebound (and one day Schkff Jnr had better do the same), but the fact is that I can be reasonably certain, what with work, lack of (non-euro) game-playing friends, and the broad catagory of Other Things To Do, it's unlikely that the game is going to hit the table more than once a month, if that, and that in fact I'd probably consider it to have had a good life if we play it 3 or 4 times a year. It is actually possible to have too much of a good thing. My experience of euro games has been recent, and hence a lot of personal enthusiasm for them, but I feel that for my tastes they would always stand up better to regular play than 'theme' games, and that for me to play such a game as Runebound (any edition) weekly or more, it would wear thin soon enough even with 5 or 10 expansions.

This is just my opinion, of course, but I imagine that there may actually be a fair number of people out there for whom RB1 would be game enough, and I suppose that this comes down to the crux of my argument, hammered home by point number 1 (the price).

Conclusion

If you know, from deep in your bones, that Runebound must be your life from now until the walls of time crumble to dust, then, happy sir, take out your Mastercard and order the 2nd edition and every expansion you can physically fit into your home. On the other hand, if you think it might kinda be nice, now and then, to have a crack at some good old fashioned questing and beast slaying, armed only with a d20 and an infeasibly large modifier, then I would strongly recommend that you consider the virtues of an inferior product, very nicely priced. If your expectations are low enough, you'll never be disappointed. This is the edition your grandfather would have played on his Sunday off from working down t' pit, that Polonius would have recommended to Laertes. And, after all, however improved v.2 is, bells whistles and all, those hard working types at FFG thought this was good enough when they first put it on the market, so, in these times of straitened finances, can you really afford to ask for more than that?
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Dan
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I must think over my position and how I may improve it.
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Aww man, no Strangelove references in your OP? You're killing me!

Did FFG develop Runebound 2nd ed. because they feared a Runebound gap?

Mein fuhrer, I can level up!

Does Runebound 1st ed. come with purer, more precious...bodily fluids?

Runebound 1st edition: cards, chits, mounted board, whoooo boy, you could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff!
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James Boardgame
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oeolycus wrote:
Aww man, no Strangelove references in your OP? You're killing me!

Did FFG develop Runebound 2nd ed. because they feared a Runebound gap?

Mein fuhrer, I can level up!

Does Runebound 1st ed. come with purer, more precious...bodily fluids?

Runebound 1st edition: cards, chits, mounted board, whoooo boy, you could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff!


Sorry, that was entirely remiss of me. Unfortunately I think it's a good twenty years since I saw Dr Strangelove, so I would be hard put to come up with a single quip to match your splendid efforts.
 
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Phil McDonald
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I have Runebound the first and Shadows of Margath and it plays just fine for what it is, a light questing game. I'm kinda glad I haven't got the second edition cos the saved expansion money can be better spent on other games.

I too got Runebound 1 cheap on Ebay, that's gotta be the way to go.

Phil.
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Dan
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Haha!

I came up with another. This one's probably the most apropos.

Buck Turgidson on Runebound: "Look at the big board!"
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C A
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The biggest improvement for RB2 was the regenerating encounter spots. In first edition if you play with more than 3 people the first few players will clear the green tokens before the rest can get to them. This is a huge advantage and I've seen a 4th player totally left out of the game because she was trying to reach the spots that still had green tokens while everyone else was already up to blue.
A related improvement was relocating the starting town towards the center of the board. Again this allows players to spread out more evenly to collect the early tokens. You can't let there be a token gap or you'll have runaway leader problems. RB1 with 2 players and maybe 3 players was fine as printed. RB2 "fixed" the token problem and made some other improvements, but that doesn't mean RB1 became unplayable.
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Phil McDonald
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That sounds like a minor rulefix to me without the need of a reprint?

Phil.
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Phil McDonald
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BTW, I think that dropping the first edition and not supporting it was very shoddy. It could discourage early-adopters of their games.

They should really have fixed version 1 and continued to support it.
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Yours Truly,
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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philmcd wrote:
BTW, I think that dropping the first edition and not supporting it was very shoddy. It could discourage early-adopters of their games.

They should really have fixed version 1 and continued to support it.


But didn't they try to make up for this by allowing the 1st edition owners to "upgrade" to 2nd edition for some really cheap price? I thought I remembered reading that.
 
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James Boardgame
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philmcd wrote:
BTW, I think that dropping the first edition and not supporting it was very shoddy. It could discourage early-adopters of their games.

They should really have fixed version 1 and continued to support it.



This is true, but of course it also means that there is a healthy supply of RB1 at knockdown prices. I for one would be very happy if FFG should do this with all their games...
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Simon Woodward
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James, do you play with the Advanced Rules? In particular I am interested in playing solo, and it seems the Doom Track and Travel Hazards make this work better? Although the Doom Track is just a glorified clock isn't it?
 
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James Boardgame
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I don't play with advanced rules Simon - are they a variant posted here on the geek? I haven't played RB1 solo either, so I'm afraid I can't comment meaningfully on the suitability.

In truth, I think I haven't actually played Runebound in the 3 years (3 years!) since this review. But rereading this thread brings it to mind again - will have to try to get a game in soon.

Maybe once every 3 years rather than 3 or 4 times a year can still present good value....
 
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Simon Woodward
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schkff wrote:
I don't play with advanced rules Simon - are they a variant posted here on the geek? I haven't played RB1 solo either, so I'm afraid I can't comment meaningfully on the suitability.

In truth, I think I haven't actually played Runebound in the 3 years (3 years!) since this review. But rereading this thread brings it to mind again - will have to try to get a game in soon.

Maybe once every 3 years rather than 3 or 4 times a year can still present good value....


Thanks James.

The Advanced Rules are an official FFG download (like the FAQ), they may be in the Files section here too. They include the Doom Track (timer), Endgame Rules, Travel Hazards, modification to First Turn Movement, and a couple of other minor rules.
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James Boardgame
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manukajoe wrote:


Thanks James.

The Advanced Rules are an official FFG download (like the FAQ), they may be in the Files section here too. They include the Doom Track (timer), Endgame Rules, Travel Hazards, modification to First Turn Movement, and a couple of other minor rules.


That sounds interesting. I think I'll have a look at those rules and try a solo game myself.
 
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
philmcd wrote:
BTW, I think that dropping the first edition and not supporting it was very shoddy. It could discourage early-adopters of their games.

They should really have fixed version 1 and continued to support it.


But didn't they try to make up for this by allowing the 1st edition owners to "upgrade" to 2nd edition for some really cheap price? I thought I remembered reading that.


They did, but not outside the U.S.
Support outside the U.S is useless from most companies. Happy to flog inferior product there though eh!!
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