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Subject: Why Runewars was not what i expected (2 players) rss

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KC
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Hi, im new to this whole 'reviewing' thing, so im warning you, theres not much structure to this, its just me waffling on about my thoughts about Runewars. Its also got very condensed 'session reports' in the middle which i added to help explain why Runewars isnt what i expected (but if you want to skip them, just go to the very end) Im also not going to waffle on about the rules here though. Go read the instruction manual. Its only 40pages

There was a lot of umming and arring over whether to fork out the large ammount of money required to buy this huge game which barely fits in my closet and that i probably wouldnt have the time or energy to setup/play and pack away the game on a regular basis.
Im also normally a player with a REALLY short attention span. Its flitting off from one game to the next. I have a uncontrollable urge to buy a game, play once or twice then get totally bored of it.
Runebound however was an exception to this. Its probably the most played game in my collection. I got addicted to smiting razorwings with death runes etc. Alas as with most of my games, im sick to death of it now, but one of the reasons why i wanted to try Runewars was to see if it would revive that spark of glorious excitement i felt everytime i ventured into Terrinoth.

Another reason why i wanted Runewars so badly was because it comes with ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY TWO FIGURES!! Wow total plastic orgy.
With all those figures, i pictured massive battles of epic proportions.
From reading other posts where people said the hero section of the game felt 'tacked on' this also strengthened my view that this game was all about big armies fighting each other, with heroes just as an aside.

Lastly, it seemed people managed to get session times with two players to manageable levels of about 2 hours on this forum.
So overall, that seemed cool to me, an epic wargame with a reasonable playtime...

So i went ahead and bought the game. Opening it up, its pretty much what you expect from a FFG game. Really nice boards on great cardboard, great tokens etc. Nice linen finished cards. I actually like small cards as i only have a small table, so everything fits easier.
The miniatures look great (although i do like the ones in Starcraft better)
The rulebook was pretty good. After studying these 40 pages for about an hour or two, i was confident i knew how it worked and we played our first 2 player game. One piece at a time, we both had a hand in creating our game map, which ended up looking a bit like the country of Italy (long and skinny with a knobly bit at the top)
And our first game was GREAT! Fun and bloodthristy! We kept the rulebook handy, but only needed to refer to it a few times.

I was the Uthuk and my opponent the Humans.
During this game, we happily built up our armies, fought off the neutrals (stuff negotiating, we wanted to kill things!!) and sent off our heroes questing for dragon runes (the aim of the game being the first to collect 6 runes - or 7 in the epic version - to win)
While our armies were growing, my opponent had a lucky run of questing and got two timmoran shards (which can be converted into runes)! Obviously i didnt know this at the time, but luckily for me, one of the season cards causing heroes to desert came up so off my opponents hero goes with shards in hand.So denied a quick victory, my oppoent decided to take his frustrations out on me, which is how our first game ended in a bloody massacre, with me the one being massacred. The humans managed to invade right the way into the heart of my homelands and secured the 6 dragonrunes required to win.

After the game my friend pointed out that the game could have ended much earlier (and with a lot less bloodshed) if that one season card hadnt turned up, and if he had been able to cash in those shards to become runes.

So anyway, elated after the first game, we went off had dinner, and when we got back, proceeded to set up our next game where i was determined to show those humans whose boss!!

For such a big game, runewars doesnt have a huge number of cards and chits, and for the 2 player set up, it doesnt actually take up that much tablespace, which is a big bonus. Setting up our 2nd game also didnt take very long either however we did have problems setting up the map. We wanted to make the map into a circular shape this time, rather the the long skiny one of our 1st game, but because of the rule you have to place starting kingdoms 4 areas away from each other, we had to scrap our first map building attempt, and the second time, we created another long skinny map. Oh well, never mind.

For this game, i decided to try the undying while my friend continued with the humans. Like before, we happily killed neutrals, built our armies, collected stuff with our heroes, and we quickly were facing each other in the middle of our map. Both of us had large armies on either side of an invisible border, and whilst we both considered how best to invade, somehow through a season card and a influence bid later, GAME OVER. Huh, i had 6 rune tokens! my heroes were that efficient at collecting them, and season cards seemed to hand them out willy nilly, that the game was over before our big fight.
For once i wish the game went on for longer !!

So the next day, we prepared to play... AGAIN. pretty good huh for a guy who gets bored so easily!
This time though, we decided to try the epic version, where you start off with less runes, and need 7 to win rather than 6. Expecting that the game wouldn't end like a whimper like the second time we played.

So we were getting pretty good at setting the game up now, and in no time we're off! Again, we were playing on a map which was similar to our first 2 maps. Long and skinny, but this time it was longer than our previous games, and had a 1 hex chokepoint right in the middle. (this arrangement happened because of we got the map piece which is 4 areas all in a straight line, and we built our pieces on either end of it)
I decided to give the last race a go - the elves, while my friend used the humans.. AGAIN. Knowing how important heroes were to collecting runes in the previous games, and knowing how important influence bids were for crucial moments of the season cards, i set out for a more defensive strategy, hunkering down and protecting that chokepoint in the middle. I quickly purchased another hero, and had both of them questing every all over the map.
The game went similar to our other games, where we quickly spread out from our homelands, took control of the areas closest to us, and next thing you know, we are facing off against each other in the middle of the map at the chokepoint. My friend played the reinforce order card, and i paled at the sight of all those seige towers that wanted to bring down my flimy tree fortresses. Then the next season card played allowed ANOTHER reinforce. Things were looking grim.
I was attacked, amazingly i stood firm, repelled the enemy, and counteracked myself, assaulting all these poor unfortunate routed enemies.
Then BAM. year 6 ends. I had 6 dragon runes at that point, compared to my opponents four, and once again, our game ended with me feeling a bit let down. We only had one real engagement with each other, and it didnt even affect the outcome of the game!

SO - Why Runewars is not what i expected.
I bought this game thinking you used the 192 figures to hammer your opponent into the ground and win.
Nope. Its about collecting runes.
You can do this by:
1.Completing a secret objective you get at the start of the game.
2.Using heroes to complete quests.
3.Getting lucky and getting runes from Season cards
4.Capturing your opponents runes from his home areas.
You may have gathered i like combat. I played each game wanting maximum carnage and hoping for winning through #4. Its just that usually 1, 2 and 3 would happen resulting in someone winning before you ever reach #4.
All of this results in a huge build up of expectations (yay i have a massive army) and oh. I have 6 dragon runes now, i didnt really need you army.

The last two games we had both had that letdown feeling of the game being over before the fun really begins. It would have also happened in our first game if that random season card didnt turn up at the exact time it did.

So am i happy i bought the game even though its not quite what i was expecting?
Yes. To me, heroes have a huge impact on the game. In some ways, i feel they have a larger impact on the game than the large masses of units you have carefully built up all over the board! While heroes don't directly influence battles and the rest of the units on the board, there are ways for them to interact, like some heroes having abilites to destroy enemies outside of battle, and combined with tactics cards, heroes can help gather powerful neutral units to your cause to help you fight.

As with any game though, you are free to do with it as you like, and I think i will try and houserule it. One idea is that starting homelands only have to be 3 areas away from each other rather than 4, so hopefully fighting will happen sooner, and allows more variety with the maps you get to play on. Also, i may play a modified epic version, where you still only start with 1 rune, and need 7 to win, but still keep hiden runes in the game, but make it so that hidden runes cannot be removed later. Hopefully this forces the board to fill up more quickly with runes and encourage more combat, and makes more use of heroes ability to look at hidden runes.

Summary:
Runewars isnt a straight out Wargame
It does feel like it has multiple 'minigames' used to achieve overall victory, however i do think that all together it combines fluidly into a fun game, not a frankenstein of different parts.

Pros: Quick setup and playtime for 2 players. Doesnt require huge ammounts of space for 2.
Works well as a 2 player game.
Even though i have short game attention spans for games, i still want to play again!!

Cons: Anticlimatic feel to the game.
Similarity of each 2 player map we created, even though sure, it will have different cities and neutrals, it played fairly similarly between each map.
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martin moran
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Nice article but you do realise that the Epic version of the game is played over 8 years and not 6. Right?
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Scott Lewis
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Two things you may want to try if it's more carnage you want:

1) The EPIC game: you only start with 1 rune in your homeland, and need to get SEVEN to win. You will need to be doing a lot more during the game to get those seven, including attacking your opponent for theirs.

2) Use the exploration tokens. If you really want to make it interesting, make sure the Dragon Throne one is in there somewhere; it's worth a Rune, and is definitely worth fighting over.

3) Stack the starting deck so that you start with a smaller map; a little harder to pull off, but the smaller the map, the more conflict there is going to be. If you have the #5, #6, and #8 tiles all in play in a 2-player game, it's going to be a pretty big map, which means less fighting.


A lot of it may depend on the aggressiveness of the players. All the 2-player games I've played have been very combat-oriented, because the key resources and locations at the center of the map are important!
 
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Bobb Beauchamp
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All those armies are not useless. After all, Dragon Runes are tokens that are found in areas...you have to hold them to win. For that, you need armies.

But yes, Runewars is not a wargame. Or maybe it's better to say it's not a battlegame. It is a wargame, but even with real wars, few of them are one big battle after the other. Few nations can maintain that pace outside of an industrial setting. but it IS a wargame, in that only by winning the war can you win the game. And winning the war means getting the power 6 Dragon Runes gives you.

this game has vaulted to the front of my want list, it's just a matter of getting the $/credit/gift$ to buy it.
 
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Anthony Pham
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You also don't, "Get Lucky" and get a rune during a season. Those seasonal runes almost always are determined by an influence bid. Which means if you want that rune to get closer to the win, you need to hold off on some combat ability and use the Rally Support and Acquire power to get Influence and outbid your opponents.
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Raynald Foret
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One should also note that quests are a little easier in a 2 players game than a 3 or 4 players game because of the smaller map.

And on average, most seasonal events will bring more runes to a player in a 2 players game than a 3 or 4 players game.

Well, I guess epic game should be recommended for 2 players game.
 
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Daniel Hammond
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I am not a veteran of Runewars but it sounds like every game you played involved a long skinny board, maybe you were starting too far away from each other. I would think a thicker (wider) board would mean multiple accesses to each other's home areas and you would clash much sooner. *shrug* hope you find what makes the game better for you.

 
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mateo jurasic
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I felt EXACTLY like the OP when I played my first games... basically... awesome game but it ended just when things were about to get exciting.

solution.
Epic rules. Problem solved for me and all the rest of my gaming buddies.

I guarantee you will get LOTS of battles and lots of dead and dying plastic soldiers!

In the normal game, 6 runes is just too easy to get... start with 2, finish objective for 3, win one or two in influence bids, and then get 1-2 from quests and hero's league... no need to bother attacking your opponents.

With epic game, you need 7, and you only start with 1... time to crush your opponents, steal their runes, and put their skulls on a pike.

Exploration tokens are also fun, but not necessary if you don't want the slightly added complexity and randomness.

Happy gaming.
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Jeff Wells
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Great review. As far as the map building, the rules do allow you to have home realms 3 hexes apart if there's no way to make it 4. So your house rule is actually sanctioned
 
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Scott Lewis
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Jeff_Wells wrote:
Great review. As far as the map building, the rules do allow you to have home realms 3 hexes apart if there's no way to make it 4. So your house rule is actually sanctioned

Specifically, it's not "no way to make it 4", but rather, if the last one you place can't be placed 4 or more, 3 is OK.

Thus, you can place the first one ANYWHERE; you don't HAVE to place the first one in a place where the second could be 4; you just have to place it where the second would be 3+.
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mads l. brynnum
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I've only played two and a half game and in the first two we played things a bit wrong (not drawing a new quest upon completing one) and I felt somewhat the same way as the OP.

But I still want to play the game some more, altough I'm considering houseruling rune placement a bit. Maybe just something about you not being allowed to change the dragon runes in your homelands when you gain a rune (so Tactic cards would be ok). That would force more real runes out into the open where they're easier to fight over, I think.
 
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mateo jurasic
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BTW, there are season events that force players to move their runes OUT of their home hexes.
 
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KC
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dushty wrote:
Nice article but you do realise that the Epic version of the game is played over 8 years and not 6. Right?

Doh! Just when i thought i had all the rules down pat...
Hopefully this will help our 'epic' experience next time!

mateooo wrote:
BTW, there are season events that force players to move their runes OUT of their home hexes.

I just dont feel like they move the runes far out enough from the homelands. When my runes are sitting adjacent to my homelands, they still feel like they are very safe from possible capture, and that the game will end prior to my opponent ever reaching there.

mateooo wrote:
With epic game, you need 7, and you only start with 1... time to crush your opponents, steal their runes, and put their skulls on a pike.

Looking forward to this
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Dan Fielding
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>One should also note that quests are a little easier in a 2 players game than a 3 or 4 players game because of the smaller map.
>

Could you build a bigger map and declare some hexes out of bounds except for the heroes? Maybe the peripheral hexes. Makes thematic sense, only loner nutjobs with more muscle than brains will journey to the uncharted ends of the world...
 
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Scott Lewis
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I think that would be more trouble than it's worth, trying to remember where Heroes can go and can't go.

Plus, Heroes are more involved in the game than some indicate. If the Heroes can go where armies can't, that only disconnects them further.
 
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