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Subject: Runewars: or why heroes don't suck (and other ways to win) rss

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Steven Fuller
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Spiritseeker Mok pushed further into the forest. There were noises ahead and he knew had almost reach the camp of those... things. He had heard rumours that something lay buried here, some relic of unknown power. Perhaps it was a dragon rune. If not, it was at least something of great power.

He had spent the last year at the temple pouring over ancient texts. From within the dusty tomes he had uncovered important knowledge about the inhabitants of this place, the Sacred Bog of Bator. He hoped that he had applied the paint to his face correctly. If he had, they would worship him as a god. If he hadn't... well, the heads on sticks that he periodically ran into served as a reminder...



Overview

When I play this game, I envision each nation recruiting bold heroes to sally forth into the darkness to scour the world in search of the lost dragon runes. Once one is acquired, the nation amasses brave warriors to defend it at all costs.

Why do I think that? For me, the games have hinged around two things:

1) The Heroes League Card
2) The Wizard's Council Cards that provide Runes.

(Note that both these really hinge on Influence)

The Heroes League Card is EXTREMELY powerful. It allows you to trade in rewards for runes. Rewards come your heroes way often, especially if you have 2 or more. In this way you can quickly amass a significant number of dragon runes provided you secure the Heroes League Card.

Of course, once a dragon rune is found it must be placed on an area. Generally this is where your army comes in. The enemy will attempt to take your dragon rune at all cost. I find they tend to it so that you can't win rather than to gain the rune for themselves. Regardless, it still puts them one up. So defending your rune at all costs is vital.

Another important part of the game is having influence. Influence is what gets you the Heroes League Card. It's also the person with the higher influence can gain a rune from the Season Cards. As it's almost guaranteed that these cards will come up, having a high influence on hand is a good way to bolster your rune collection. Once again, once a rune is acquired it is placed on the board, and so an army is needed to defend it.

Stages of the Game

Venturing Forth

The early game is interesting. Armies are small and far away from each other, neutral units are abundant throughout the land, and no one has any areas.

This part of the game is about gaining enough resources to mass an army to defend your runes. Let me make this clear: The army is for defending your runes. Obviously you will need a offensive army but if you don't have enough people to defend your runes in the first place then don't bother acquiring them as they'll often end up in enemy hands.


This brings me to another point: Massing an army requires a lot of resources. The beginning of the game often turned into a war over resources. Nations don't begin with a lot of resources. Expanding in order to acquire resources is your first priority. As this is the case, opponents often sent their troops across the board in an effort to deny the enemy their local resources. If this can be done, it hinders an opponent for the rest of the game.

Whether or not the best strategy here is to spread out your army and acquire as many areas as you can for a quick harvest or send one massive army to secure an area piece by piece is up for discussion and probably hinges in part on the nation you're playing. Generally speaking the Good nation is generally better at diplomacy (or at least has a better chance) while the evil just smack neutrals around. If there is a lot of positives already in the Fate discard pile, it may be beneficial to nudge those routed neutrals your enemies way. Sure, there's the potential they'll gain some allies, but more than not they'll serve as a waste of your enemies influence.

The last two things to worry about in the early game is the Rally card and Cities. The rally card is important because pumping out a decent amount of heroes at the start can give you a good lead. It means they can hopefully get quests done before your opponent. Quests are important at the beginning not for runes (you often don't have large enough armies to protect them) but for weapons and armour. A well-equipped hero can lay the smackdown on any fledgling heroes and hinder an opponents reward-finding ability. Cities are important but as they are randomized it is a case-by-case basis. Cities with influence? The influence will help you in Diplomacy/Titles/Season Cards. Cities with Quests? Recycle quests you can't use in order to reap rewards. With a limited amount of Summers in the game you can't afford to not maximize a hero's use.

War!

At some point battle lines will become a little more fixed and this is where things get interesting. Armies will generally be bigger at this point and pose a real threat. These armies will be guarding valuable runes outside his home territory. So where to attack? As a player with a lot of resources can constantly re-recruit an army it is often a good idea to go for whatever area is heavy with the resource he is using the most. Alternatively food is a good choice because he can't field a big army if they keep starving to death!

However, it's often tricky to actually secure an area at this point of the game. The enemy often has a couple of decently-sized armies and there is quite often a counter-attack. Making good use of Tactics cards or out-manuevering your opponent in regards to Orders is really the only way you can secure an area. Once wrought from your enemy at this stage, as they will counter-attack.

If a player can pull it off, I find they will use Fortify to move their tokens away from the main battle line. This is annoying as it obviously becomes harder to penetrate deeper. Furthermore heading closer to your enemies control area often leads to an increased vulnerability to counter-attack.

See how hard it is to take an area once battle lines have been drawn? This is why it is important to have a lot of runes by this point. Having a lot of runes means you don't have to take a lot of enemies areas. You start with two, your secret objective brings once, and you should have got one either through seasons or rewards. In fact, you really don't have to attack. Rather, you have to defend. DEFEND DEFEND DEFEND! The game is about getting dragon runes first. This is why heroes are so important: Rewards = Runes.

However, one must remember that having enough armies to defend your runes hinges on resource production. You shouldn't let your opponent amass a large army. That's why the "venturing forth" section of the game is so important! Make sure your opponent doesn't have enough resources to defend those runes! In denying him resources, you're gaining them, so your army will increase as his lowers. This allows you to have more armies, which allows you to defend more runes, which your heroes should be pumping out and supplemented by Seasons.

See? This game is about RESOURCES and HEROES.

The Armies

Undead: The Swarmy

Necromancers. I still have nightmares about undead armies just rising up from the grave and becoming unstoppable. Those two damage really add up when you're facing a bunch of reanimated skeletons. I've never played as the undead but I've seen the horror on the battlefield. First of all undead don't really need to eat. Who cares about starvation when you can just reanimate your army each battle? With the reanimate ability you basically have an army wherever you go.

When being the undead, it seems to me that just shambling across the board is the easiest way. The undead player didn't really need a lot of heroes. All he needed was a quickly-raised army to moan across my lands and still my hard-earned runes.

When facing the undead it's important to attack them first. They're slow and if you can kill their necromancers they're useless. Once again denying them ore is a pretty good idea. The dark-knight + necromancer combo is hard to beat. The undead will just allocate damage against his knight and not worry about his necromancers. It's often hard to kill undead with humans this way because they auto-target the knights. Elves have a much easier time as they can pick off those necromancers.

Uthuk: The Angry

These guys are tough. Their flesh-rippers can soak up ridiculous amounts of damage, their bersekers can deal a lot (though they die in the process) and their chaos lord makes short work of things. However, they're extremely susceptible to counter-attack as their numbers tend to dwindle from the Berseker's Fury ability. Like the Undead, the Uthuk tend to be a bit better at stealing your runes than acquiring their own. They're also very good at it. Deny them a large army by denying them resources. Their armies chew through any other army fairly easily. Attack them before than can attack you and get rid of their flesh-rippers (aka pincushions). It's no fun (for you!) to watch the Uthuk trample your lands.

If you're attacking with Uthuk, a mixed army is the best. Fleshrippers keep you alive and are essential. Bersekers can do a lot of damage to elves and do a decent amount to humans. Warlocks can make pretty short work of the elves and undead in particular. Chaos Lords are particularily effective against siege towers and death knights but remember, they only go first on the attack.

Elves: The perpetually hungry

The daintiest things in the world, elves have the unfortunate habit of starving to death. Getting food is of utmost important or you'll never be able to field a large army.

Luckily, you don't have to have a lot of elves to do damage. Elves are hated because they can fly over mountains. This means opponents can't afford to bunch around chokepoints created by them. Rather they have to defend all areas behind the mountains or risk a Pegasus strike team circumventing their entire army and snatching up runes. This is how I win as the Elves (I usually only need to snatch 1 rune) and this is why people hate Elves. Sure, most of the game you're getting the snot kicked out of you, but at the end it's rune-snatching time!

However, your wonderful winged horses only work if you have ore. (Do they eat it?) Securing ore therefore is of utmost importance. Therefore if you're anti-elf denying ore is a pretty good tactic.

Elves also get the most influence which means they can nab a lot of titles and do a decent amount of diplomacy. Diplomacy once again should hinge on Fate. Titles? Take Heroes League. Throw some influence developments on your strongholds. Rally some heroes. Elves can rack up runes pretty fast through this method and it makes up for fragility.

In battle, there seems to be two ways to go. Both require a lot of archers. Which one depends on if you're warrior-heavy or sorceress-heavy. Got the girls? Sic your archers on the 1-health enemies. Your sorceress can rout the big ones and leave you the victor. Got the warriors? Have your archers target the big ones and the warriors finish them off.

I find that elves aren't that great in battle. Therefore the influence-driven "rune-mining" is often the path to victory. If you see the enemy about to attack you, it's often a good idea to attack first. Elves have the highest influence and you're generally better on the offensive. Your lack of health means you're not good at absorbing damage.

Humans: The Stouty

These guys can also do the "influence rune-mining" method but this usually only works if elves aren't in the game. Even so, it doesn't make use of humans greatest strength: immovability. A well-dug in human army with a stronghold is practically impossible to overcome and a rune is nice and safe there.

Since this game is about defense, humans are pretty straightforward. Use heroes to get Rewards/Runes and pluck them down in your stronghold with a wall (Auto 4 strength - not many people will attack a developed human stronghold without conquer). Throw in a seige tower for good measure.

You really don't need much of an army to defend as humans, the stronghold/seige does most of the work. Therefore it is a good idea to deny wood to humans. It prevents both developments and strongholds. When attacking the enemy, remember that humans are good at taking out high-health enemies. Bowman pick the big ones and footman finish them off (in the same way as the elves do). Siege towers' special ability can turn the tide of battle. I find the knight is better as a scout then anything. Sure, he's useful as a damage-soaker, and gets you tactics, but he never really fit that much into my scheme. However, his fast ability allows him to respond quickly to any threats on the battlefield as well as help you gain early battlefield control.

Good Vs Evil

As you can see, the Good Armies tend to acquire Runes and the Evil tend to steal them. Thematic, no? That being said, remember to stock up on heroes even if you are evil. Killing good heroes isn't only fun, it slows them down long enough to raise your armies of slaughter. As you can see, hero duels are important, and often shift the balance of power. A well-timed killed coupled with a Heroes League play is aways a crowning achievement. For all you people who say heroes are lame, well, I always see a game where heroes are doing most of the work.

FINAL THINGS

Fate
The Fate Deck is extremely important. A quick check will tell you if it's beneficial to do anything. Getting your units' specials off is often crucial to the success of a battle. When the odds are stacked in your favour is the time to attack. Conversely, if there are a lot of good cards in the discard pile, it is often a good time to attack your enemy. Sure, you may not get your specials, but neither will they! This is especially effective against the necromancer-heavy undead. Mastering the Fate deck is an important part of the game.

Orders
Out-manuevering your opponent through orders is vital. Check the layout of the pieces on the board and your opponent's previously played Orders. However, the Order manuevering game is usually based off trying to decide when an attack is made and trying to counter it.

An attack is usually implemented based on the size of the Fate deck (with a lower fate deck holding a more certain outcome). How fast the Fate deck is reduced depends on the number of people playing. Try and learn when the Fate deck typically diminishes.

An opponent who attacks first, while being able to use his Supremacy bonus, is often at the mercy of being out-manuevered by his opponent. Conversely an opponent who attacks later usually doesn't have a Supremacy bonus but can react to the opponent. Once and if you follow a relative pattern for two turns, changing it up can usually mess up your opponents plans (so, if you generally mobilize in the Spring or Summer, playing it in Winter - while perhaps not as beneficial, can often pay off by catching your opponent off guard).

Anyways, that's all I have to say right now about this game. Personally, I think it's amazing. Also, you MUST, absolutely must, listen to the album "Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame" by Summoning while playing this. It is so perfect. I recommended searching up the song "Runes of Power" off that album.
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Thel Schuhart
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This is a great review.

Having only played a few games now, I was also considering the overall "nation" strategies of the various factions. Their units, play style and how they seem to use the Tactics cards in particular all seem very different.

To date I have only played the Uthuk (I think they are cute) My initial concept was that these guys need to attack. I had some great initial successes, but then got beat back each time.

One thing I think that needs to be talked about is the startegies of Influence and Tactics decks.

All the nations have different starting influence and tactics cards. Though most people will say you need both, I am forming the opinion that it might be just better to concentrate on one or the other. Or at least what you need that turn.



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Anastasios Kyparissidis
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Excellent review and some very interesting ideas on overall strategy. Well done! Can't wait to get my hands on this one!
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Rich Moore
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Why ISN'T this in the review section as well?

Having not played the game yet, this article gave me more of an idea of the "flavor" of this game than any review written so far. For once, it was nice to read a review that really explains the role of heroes instead of just lamenting about how lame they seem to be. The article also gave me a better feel about what to expect with the flow of the game.

This should be required reading for everyone considering buying this game.
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Ed Browne
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Great points, Steven!

I would like to point out that the Elves have a more subtle strategy, but have two very big advantages:

1) Influence. They can almost corner the market on influence, thus easily picking up (sometimes very cheaply) Runes from events and such.

2) Ultimate tiebreaker. Every tie always is "Most influence, and if that is tied, most starting influence." (italics mine) So the Elves are the ultimate tiebreak for everything, including winning the game if need be.

The influence can also help with "surprise" victories. Leave neutrals in place as a shield from other armies and then swoop in with diplomacy to clear out neutrals for space for runes you pick up with your heroes.

Elves aren't for the player who loves to attack. Defense, patience, and subterfuge are the Elves allies.
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Neil Sorenson
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GREAT overview (until the recommendation for the crappy folk-metal soundtrack at the end)!
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Steve Hope
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This is indeed an excellent overview. Game seems like the good guys are suited to questing and defending and the others are more suited to conquest, which is nicely thematic.
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Daryl Wilks
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Thanks for the overview - I'm getting so excited to play this!
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Chris J Davis
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Overtext pending moderation...
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Great article - will certainly come in handy for our next game.

One thing I should point out, though: there are multiple points in the article where you seem to be confusing the terms "initiative" and "influence". It would read much better if you go back through and amend these.
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Steven Fuller
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There, I think I fixed it. Thanks for the heads up - it was very late when I wrote that!
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Eðvarð Hilmarsson
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Cthulhu whispers to me when I sleep......
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Cthulhu whispers to me when I sleep......
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Best overall guide I have read on the game!
 
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