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Mike
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I’m not ashamed of my Ameritrash roots. I was raised on HeroQuest and Omega Virus. Even though I’ve widely expanded my boardgaming pallet, old habits die hard. I still have a soft spot for fantasy themed games. Toss in some Orcs, some busty chicks in bikini armor and lots of dice and I’m going to be fairly interested in your game. I avoided Runebound for as long as I could. You can’t escape who you are though. Sometimes you have to indulge in what the heart really wants. Let’s dig deeper into this fantasy adventure and see what treasures wait for us in the land of Terrinoth.



Components

Fantasy Flight Games…they are pretty much the gold standard in quality boardgame components…especially for fantasy themed stuff. Runebound is certainly up to their lofty standards. You have several decks of quality cards that lack a glossy finish, but will certainly survive any typical wear n’ tear. You get 5 sturdy six-sided movement dice, replete with random-ass symbols FFG loves to slap on.



Every character in the game is represented with a nice little plastic mini. These seem to be a step below the sculpts found in Talisman 4th Edition, but they’re still nice. As usual Fantasy Flight seems to have massacred a large rain-forest to create some super thick and sturdy cardboard tokens. These are all highly detailed and used for things such as wounds, money and places where you can encounter adventures. Runebound also comes with a nice sized board that is just right in size. I do wish that the game came with larger character sheets instead of standard card sized ones.



Overall I love the components, but I do have some issues with the actual board. I love that there are specific places for Market Cards, Adventure Decks and the event cards, but the appearance of the board isn’t very pleasing to the eye. Some people will love the “Google Earth-ish” semi-realistic map, covered in white hexes. I think it looks pretty horrible.



I like my fantasy stuff to be lavishly drawn and exquisitely detailed. While it doesn’t have any impact on the gameplay it, just sort of rubs me the wrong way. Overall though, the components do a good job of sucking you into the fantasy world.

Theme

Fantasy adventure games are pretty reliant on their theme and Runebound mostly delivers. The 12 characters you choose from are pretty standard. Six of them are standard heroic looking folk, while the other six look like crazed demons and Orcs.



I particularly love how a central goal of killing Margath, the Dragon Lord, is presented. All of the adventure cards reflect this central theme and it gives the game a very cohesive feel. To me this is something that really makes Runebound stand out in the adventure game genre. That end bad guy that is blended into the gameplay is sorely missing in a lot of adventure games. As you progress you will encounter enemies and situations all focused on this main goal. It works perfectly.

The names of places to travel to in Runebound are super generic; The Apple Wood Forest, The Velvet Plains and Mountains of Despair. Again, it’s nothing that impacts the game. I just wish FFG was a tad more creative with them. They feel more like an afterthought, and people tend to mock the names while playing. I guess a young child or teenager might enjoy them though.

I’m a huge fan of the artwork featured in Runebound. It’s a little more cartoonish than Talisman and I like that. The characters, creatures and encounters have a lot of flavor text to go along with the beautiful drawings. My favorite part of this game was just discovering all the cards for the very first time. I was so eager to see what weapons, enemies and allies I could find. A huge plus for an adventure game…plus it makes me eager to purchase some of those card only expansions.



Rules

Runebound comes with the typical big square booklet FFG is known for. It’s long to read, but it’s really clear. They’ve provided plenty of examples, several variants and it all looks gorgeous. I found that it’s organized pretty well too. If you want to learn the basics you might have to skip around a little bit. Also I wish they would have included a quick reference sheet or some sort of index. Other than that its top notch stuff.

Gameplay

Did you ever buy a CD and love half of the songs and skipped the rest of them? Perhaps you watched a movie that was awesome for 60 minutes and the last half hour sucked. Runebound is kind of like that. Don’t get me wrong, I really love the game…but at the same time I hate it. Let me explain.

As a solo experience Runebound is pure bliss. The mechanics work perfectly and you have a rip roaring adventure in about 60 minutes. The problem is that these things don’t translate so well when you add other players to the table.

Runebound makes a great first impression. Everyone gets an awesome looking character, they have a central goal and it’s exciting. Then you hand the first person the “movement dice” and they look at you like you just handed them some rat feces. I have a real love\hate relationship with the dice. The way that they work is that each side of the die has a terrain symbol. You roll all of the dice and figure out where your character can move. In theory its fun and incredible thematic. You have an easy chance of moving along plains and roads, but less chance to cross rivers or climb mountains. However in practice, the symbols are drawn like ass and most people get frustrated by them. So while I have no issue with the dice when playing solo, they really bog the game down when teaching the game.

The board is littered with different colored “jeweled” spaces that players will land on to encounter challenges/events. This works fine and its neat that after someone has completed a challenge on that space it’s no longer available to explore. The goal is you start off with easy (green) encounters and work your way up the hard (red) encounters. If you complete 3 red encounters or discover (and kill) Margath you win the game.



You “level up” by defeating challenges (enemies). When you gain a certain amount of experience points you are allowed to permanently increase one of your characters stats. This is pretty fun since your character really feels much more powerful by the end of the game. I don’t particularly care for the symbols used to measure stats though. You have a helmet which represents mind/ranged combat, a hand which is body/melee combat and a strange circular symbol which represents your spirit/magic combat. The reason this is done is because throughout the game you will be required to pass “tests” such as, sneak, diplomacy, or swim. Thus they made the symbols a little more broad. It makes perfect sense, but it’s confusing as hell when you first try to play or teach people. Get used to hearing the phrase, “What does the helmet mean again?”

As you play, the game flows at a snail's pace. This happens for a couple of reasons. First people have to roll the movement dice, and then they need to draw a card. Several of the cards feature nothing but TONS of text.



Again, in theory this is great and should add to the fantasy flavor, but it’s more annoying than anything. I wish FFG would have put some awesome artwork on some of these cards instead. Plus after your done reading you have still have to draw another card until you get a challenge to fight. Then it’s off to combat.

I love the combat in Runebound…I also hate it. I love it because it’s deep and rewarding. You have actual choices to make…although the dice can still screw you. Once you get stronger that isn’t an issue. Combat has several phases to complete. Some cards require you to pass a certain test that will have a major impact on the battle (I love this). There is always a “before combat” phase where possible damage can occur. Then you have ranged, melee and magic combat…always in that order. It makes sense and I like how a ranged attack can kill something before a sword. However combat takes a while and it slows the pace of the game down considerably. When you add allies, and equipment management to that it can really drag. This isn’t a big deal when playing solo, but with more than 2 it’s brutal. So in general combat is awesome…but lengthy.

Another problem I have with this game is the overall lack of magic. There are very few magical runes to cast. Here is an example of how a character might use magic, “Give your character 1 Exhaustion token and you may attempt a round of magic combat in the “before combat” phase”. This is lame. The runes have no flavor text and their artwork is pathetic. I want awesome looking drawings of fireballs and bolts of arcane lighting.

I also don’t like how all of the characters end up feeling sort of the same. Yea you might be using a one handed fatty Orc, but it won’t feel much different than the busty chick in skimpy armor. They lack fun special character abilities. I don’t want the generic, “before combat” abilities.



Give them cool spells or at least some interesting sounding abilities. Yay, I have Jump+2...?! Sure this is for balancing purposes, but the game lacks charm because of it. Give the damn Runewitch some cool spell that nobody else has. Make me excited to know I drew a slightly over powered character…

Another thing that blows is how the market is handled. At the start of the game each town only has single item for sale (except Tamilar). Then when you land on a town you draw one additional card to choose from. This isn’t really enough.


Look at all those market cards...sad you won't get through half of them...


You will waste several turns traveling between towns hoping for a useful item (that you can afford) to appear. This is not fun and makes it easy to fall behind. The items are one of the best ways to strengthen your character and you will likely need to implement a house rule to override the standard mechanic.

Many have said that Runebound is “multi-player solitaire”. This is pretty much true. You and your friends will go off on separate ways and likely never encounter each other. In fact FFG didn’t bother fully explaining PvP combat in the rules (you need to go to their website for a full explanation!). This lack of interaction can give the game a very long and boring feel. Low player interaction means you are simply waiting for it to be your turn again. Runebound is also very long. I would wager that every person at the table equates to 60 minutes of play time (3 person game = 180 minutes).

I know it sounds like I hate this game. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I actually really love it…just not when other people are playing. I love, love, love the combat in this game. I enjoy leveling up and gaining money to buy some of the awesome items at the market. By the end of the adventure your character is thugged out in awesome gear. I like the movement dice…they add a cool wrinkle to roll and move games. The artwork is fantastic and the little blurbs of flavor text are great too. The cohesive feel of an actual adventure is present. You really feel like you are racing against time (in the solo game) to stop the necromancer, Vorakesh, from unleashing Margath.

The game feels like your having a fantasy adventure and that’s the most important factor. You could easily use a play session to write a great little short story. That is the kind of thing that makes me want to play it over and over again. Plus there are so many awesome cards to experience that you will get several sessions in before things start to get repetitive…that’s a big plus in my book. Even though there are expansions, they don’t feel necessary to “complete” the base experience you pay for.

The base game is a great value and I love how expandable it has become. Nothing is better than knowing a publisher will continue to breathe life into a game you love playing. Fantasy Flight has done a bang up job supporting Runebound. If there is something you don’t like about the base game, there is a good chance you can fix it with some expansions. I haven’t tried any yet, but I’m eager to get some new items for the market as well as some new adventure decks. There is no way these adventures will get stale anytime soon! Plus the base system itself is very easy to tweak if you don't care for a particular rule or mechanic.

Verdict [solo = ] [ multi = ]

Runebound is such a fun game. It’s a downright shame that there are many flaws that give it a sluggish pace and prevent it from being a real option while playing with others. Two is probably the ideal number if you must play with others. Otherwise play this sucker solo. You won’t regret it though. The theme is rich, the mechanics are engaging and it’s just flat out fun. I like to play fantasy adventure games with 4-5 people and the Runebound system is NOT optimized for that experience. However, for 1-2 players there is probably no better fantasy adventure game.


Margath vs Falkor...the ultimate in Good VS Evil dragon battles

Images provided by FFG and Boardgame Geek
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Lee Hodgson
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I totally agree with your point about character abilities and the lack of these doesnt make any one hero really stand out amongst the others .

As for movement dice Ive been mulling over a system where players take the value of their stamina and add 10 ..OR ... roll 1d10 and add stamina for a total ' movement point ' (mp) value . Then hexes work like this

road = 1 mp
grass = 2 mp
rivers / forests / swamps = 3mp
mountains = 4 mp

or whatever you deem an appropriate equivalent , but I have had new players ( like my daughter who is 9 ) lose interest fast with the movement dice . The mp system mentioned not only keeps her interest as its a tad ' friendlier ' with open choices , it helps her math too .

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Club Squirrel
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Fantastic review there. And you really put into words pretty much exactly how I feel about this game.

The game looks great, it's far from the best game ever, but I like it. I usually play solo games, I've even left it out for several days just taking a couple of turns every time I pass the table.

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Andrew Swan
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You've explained the good and bad points of this game really well! thumbsup
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Pelein de Cratia
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I think RB is a perfect game for solitaire gamers or a semi-solitaire game: One or two players with some other who take the role of Master and must "build" the story. I play in that way with my two childrens and it´s very fun for all

RB is a great Story-Teller game.
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Chris Shaffer
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Normally, pictures in reviews link to their picture page. These don't. Why?
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Henrik Spalk
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MrSkeletor wrote:
Be I the only one who loves the movement dice?


No!
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Richard Parker

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I really don't have a problem with playing with more then 2 players myself...anyone who has played and enjoyed Talisman won't hold this against the game since Talisman takes just as long to take a turn.

More tweaking of the characters would be nice I agree...though I think their "stats" account for some of that as well...and when you level it's really on the player if they think all their characters stats end up being the same, because they do start out a bit different.
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Mattias Frid
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MrSkeletor wrote:
Be I the only one who loves the movement dice?
Hell no, it's one of the great things with Runebound! A mini game that doesn't get boring. Top stuff!

Agree with most of the review, but not the part about the characters. There are some pretty big differences in there. Subtle to the untrained eye, maybe, and yeah, the base character kind of dissappears after a few levels and item acquisitions.
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Alexandre Lopes
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BonesJackson wrote:
I also don’t like how all of the characters end up feeling sort of the same. Yea you might be using a one handed fatty Orc, but it won’t feel much different than the busty chick in skimpy armor. They lack fun special character abilities. I don’t want the generic, “before combat” abilities.


The characters are different in the start of the game, at the end they'll be whatever you want!
I really like this system. If you want to be an ranged orc you just need to upgrade you're range status and get a bow, or if you want to be a busty mage chick just go get some runes and up your spirit status. That's the brilliance of it! You can be whatever you want.

The thing I really agree with you is that the "+2 jump" and stuff like that doesn't have a big impact because during a game you're only tested using this abilities a few times and after some upgrades they don't make any diference.

Edit: just to say that I also enjoy the movement dice
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Mike
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To be clear...I happen to love the movement dice in Runebound. I think its such a neat idea for your typical roll and move games. It highly thematic and doesn't make anything guarenteed. However, it tends to bog down people's turns and overall just adds to downtime before its your turn again. When I'm playing solo I really like the dice though. Also if you have a bunch of Runebound fans the dice will also not be much of a problem. When teaching people to play the game the first time it can be a major turn-off.

As for the characters I would prefer if they had a bit more depth to them. For example there is a character (Sir Valadir) who can hire allies for one gold less. Instead of that give him a special ability called Tavern Talk (or something). To use this ability, during the market step roll 2 D10 and add it to an ally's helmet stat. If Sir Valadir rolls higher than the target number using 2 D10 (plus any of his helmet stats) he can persuade an ally to join his cause for half their asking price. To offset this ability this character's starting stats could be lower than other characters...stressing the fact that he needs allies to be successful.

Sure my example is far from perfect (I made it up in a just a few minutes), but I think it goes a long way in adding some much needed chracter to Runebound. I personally believe stuff like that gives each character much more personality in the long run. Just a thought...

 
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Mark Paul
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I agree that past two or three the downtime becomes a factor, but veterans of the game often make decisions quickly. The Battle system can be exciting to watch.
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william mcneil
Canada
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i am most puzzled i see people saying that they like runebound and that its great ??!?!?! i have played runebound i am must say its a huge letdown sure it looks good but the more you play it the worst it gets. i have played runebound once i belive the first edition i think because there were no dice u just got so many movement points but thats not the problem. the problem is that there is no player interaction so after a while things start to get boring and then get more boring, there isnt any point in pvp'ing other players because there is no reward in doing so. also the harder the monster fights get the more you need the right items to help your character which is unlikly for u to get seeing as the item/market deck is huge. needless to say this game was a big disappointment to me and both the other people who were playing.

i am a huge fan of fantasy and mythagal books like forgotten realms however when ever i buy a fantasy theme game its always the same ether the theme matchs up with the game horrorably and the game is ok or the theme works well with the game and the game play stinks after playing return of the heroes, runebound and world of warcraft as well as buying a few fantasy themed games i have given up hope of there being good fantasy theme games if you know of any good fantasy games please tell me of them, my email is williammcnl@yahoo.com
 
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Ryan Olson
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William:

Both editions of Runebound included the movement dice. Are you positive you were playing Runebound?

Although, hey, there are lots of games I don't understand why people like them. That's what makes this hobby great, we all can enjoy different things, and trade away the ones we don't like .

I personally do not require player interaction to enjoy a game, and this is one of my personal favorites...





 
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Chris Palmarozzi
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This is exactly how I feel about the game. Unfortunately I rarely play games solo (for any game) and this game just falls flat with more than 1 person.

My other issue that you touched on is that items are very important. In fact, your items play a bigger role in your character strength than leveling up.
 
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Seth Yates
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Useful review, thanks.

I'm looking for something like Talisman to play and this looks like it could be the one.
 
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