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Nigel Buckle
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I won’t detail the mechanics of Runewars, you can look at the rules for that ( http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/ffg_content/runewars/minis... )

First impressions are this is a lavish game with a price tag to match, huge colourful box and expectation of lots of great components. That’s where the disappointment hits, opening the box to find the major element is air - you get a massive insert used to hold the large punchboards, with the pre-bagged minatures in protective cardboard ‘sleeves’ to the side along with the card decks.

Once you’ve opened it all out you’ll discover a misprint for the elves and the cities has been fixed and an additional punchboard included. Read the punchboards before punching and make sure you keep the right bits.

Then once you’ve punched it all out you’ll realise the huge box is unnecessary and the insert completely useless as you’ll struggle to get all the bits back in the box unless you turn it over or throw it away.

However that’s the main disappointment for me - the huge box, both in terms of expectation of it being full to the brim with cardboard and plastic, and in terms of storing and transporting the game. Really it could have come in a Runebound sized box with no problem. So after 5 plays that is my main criticism (jump to the end of the review for all my likes/dislikes) - the box is so unnecessarily large - moving and storing it is a pain! Not the game play, not the game length, the size of the box ... shake

Game wise there is quite a bit going on with various sub-systems all driven by a card flip mechanic, no dice here. The map is made up of geometric hexes, so each game will be a bit different, and most of the hexes are populated with neutral units that you can try to get to join your side (good luck with that) or attack.

Each player controls a race, and they are all subtly different, which is nice. Each has unique units and resources, giving each a unique feel without having a pile of special rules. There are a bunch of heroes, all with their own unique power too.

The game last 6 years (4 seasons per year) maximum and once you know what you are doing you can finish the game surprisingly quickly. Unlike other conflict games of this type the combat system is very straightforward and very quick, just fight 5 rounds (one per unit shape, often you’ll only resolve 2 or 3) and then see what units are left standing, side with the most wins.

Central mechanic is all players simultaneously pick an action card for the season and they activate in order. This helps reduce downtime and increase tension - will your opponents be attacking, recruiting, or harvesting?

In the early games it is easy to lose sight of the requirements to win - you need 6 runes and you start with 2. Heroes can find more by questing, winter will often bring 1 or more additional rune into play and you can take them from your opponents. Once everyone understands the pacing of the game things get quite tense as you have to optimise your actions, units and heroes - the game plays so fast it is hard to recover from a major disaster (such as losing a fight to a neutral you expected to win).

For some people looking for a Leader/Personality dominated game where Heroes run around as the main focus this game will be a disappointment - you need your armies to win and most of your actions will centre around them and your empire. The heroes are a bit of a sideshow, but an important one - the runes they can collect are often what you need to win.

What you have is an area control game with planning. You can only fight with your armies once a year (you activate an area, place a token in it and move units into the area - and they are then stuck there until spring comes along), meaning there are hard choices about when and where you attack and can you defend a counter attack back?

The first couple of games we were fumbling around, not aware of some of the tactics cards, nor the effects of the seasons. And you soon learn that ore is rather important if you want your large units - and map creation becomes much more important once you realise the significance of areas, cities, etc.

The game seems to scale quite well - but interaction does depend on the map you build, put up barriers (mountains/water) or build a map with penisulars and rather isolated bits and it is harder to interact and move the heroes around, build a more compact land and there is more chance you'll fight. Spread the resources around and everyone is happy, put all the food up one end (or the ore, etc) and suddenly certain areas become very very desirable for most players.

I could imagine new players building a 'poor' map and having a rather disappointing time. Shame they didn't include a few suggested setups for the first game (one for 2, one for 3 and one for 4) just to get people started.

So what I like:


Games will be different - at least for a while, the sides are different, the map is variable, the seasons have different effects, the heroes are different - and you can add in encounters as a variant adding more variety (or chaos, depending on your viewpoint). The game scales quite well, and responsibility for the map is down to the players.

Combat feels epic, despite the fast resolution - do you use fast units that aren’t very good, or spell casters, or your big guns that might get routed before they even get a chance to fight? The card mechanic works well, and combat is over in a very short time.

Deep game play without huge amounts of downtime - most of the ‘planning’ side of the game is done simultaneously with everyone thinking about card play at the same time. Then actual turns roll along fairly quickly.

Simple mechanics - for all the elements the game includes: Different unit types, resources, strongholds, development, heroes, quests, duels, etc the actual rules and mechanics are remarkably simple. You will not need a pile of reference sheets and help cards to learn and play this game, but you will need a few games to learn what works and what doesn’t, how many units you probably need to win that battle etc.

Objective cards - each player gets one and they are coded by alignment (half the sides are ‘good’ and half ‘evil’, the objective cards encourage you down one of those paths, do the objective get an oh so important rune as a reward.

It is fun - early on you are beating up neutrals and building your empire, in the last couple of years you’ll be bumping into your opponents and possibly fighting over crucial territory. No long slow build up, if anything the game ends too quickly - but if you find that is the case the designer has included an ‘epic’ version which lasts 8 years and has you starting with less runes. There are multiple approaches to victory - build your influence and win that way (dominate the influence bids, grab the role cards, even use diplomacy to get neutral allies), concentrate on heroes, grab items, find runes, duel (and kill) your opponents heroes, concentrate on tactics cards for sneaky tricks, or just flood the map with units and grab territory.


What I don’t like:

Box size (see above) and that the winning condition is just dragon runes, I would have liked to see more race and alignment specific victory conditions - the objectives go part of the way there, but more would be nice.

Names or more identifying/distinguishing art/markers on the tiles, this is not needed for game play - but just to help with the immersion in theme, then it's no longer a mountain hex with a giant, it's the White Mountains or whatever (this is attempted with the quest cards, but it wouldn't have hurt to put the names on the map).

The game is screaming out for expansions - if nothing else to help fill the huge box. You’ll get through most of the quest deck in a single game (as most of it is not used, you only include quests for the map tiles you are playing) and most are very similar, go to hex X, take an ability test (flip cards = the relevant attribute) look for successes. Multi-part quests etc would add variety. You’ll get through most of the season cards, and some effects are repeated, again I’d like to see more variety, even to the extent each player gets a subset of cards and picks which are included (so you know some of the possibilites and can adapt your strategy). More heroes, more races. For the hefty price tag I would have hoped for just a bit more in the original game.

I'm not against expansions at all - I just felt that although this game feels 'finished' they could have given us a bit more.


So overall, if you want a fast playing epic feeling fantasy conflict game you won’t go far wrong investing in Runewars - but if you are looking for a game where heroes are the main focus with armies in the background you probably need to look elsewhere.




A version of this review was first posted on Boardgameguru


-- Edit fixed broken link for the rulebook on the FFG site --
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Alain Marti
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bucklen_uk wrote:
...

First impressions are this is a lavish game with a price tag to match, huge colourful box and expectation of lots of great components. That’s where the disappointment hits, opening the box to find the major element is air ...



Look at from the positive side. You already have space to store the unevitable flood of expansions to come ;)

Greets
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Nigel Buckle
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Ahh, you picked up on my annoyance over the size of the box ... guess subtly isn't my strong point
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Heiko Hartmann
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murks666 wrote:
bucklen_uk wrote:
...

First impressions are this is a lavish game with a price tag to match, huge colourful box and expectation of lots of great components. That’s where the disappointment hits, opening the box to find the major element is air ...



Look at from the positive side. You already have space to store the unevitable flood of expansions to come

Greets


Yeah, when I bought 'Descent' I also wondered why they did waste so much space in this gigantic box. As of today I'm unable to put all expansions in the large box - which means, the box is too small.
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mateo jurasic
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oooh, i like the idea about race specific objective.
One of my few complaints is that, while each race has very unique units and resource management, the evil races dont feel very evil, nor the good very good. good guys get more influence, so can diplomacize more and rule more councils, and evil guys get more tactics which arent particularly good or evil, just more suprising and sneaky. The alighnment specific objectives help a little, but I dont particular feel very evil killing a bunch of giants or very good allying a bunch of dragons. And the heros also dont feel very evil or good or neutral... Though they made a point of making alignment matter.

More of everything, of course, would be nice... but that's sort of the truth about every good game. More races, more neutrals, more events, more seasons, more tactics, more quests, more objectives, more rewards...
good review
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mateo jurasic
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oh yeah, ditto about naming the hexes... Even if there were some little bits of flair in the illustrations of the hexes to help distinguish them a little. They are pretty, but I hate looking around the map for hex 6A to figure out where my hero needs to go. Looking for the Ergoth Forest next to the ruins of Altarec and behind the Ancient Pyramid would have been fun. Doesnt hury gameplay at all, but would have been a bit prettier... They did use unique images for each hex and city though, which is a nice touch.
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Jon W
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bucklen_uk wrote:
[/i]You’ll get through most of the quest deck in a single game (as most of it is not used, you only include quests for the map tiles you are playing) and most are very similar, go to hex X, take an ability test (flip cards = the relevant attribute) look for successes. Multi-part quests etc would add variety. You’ll get through most of the season cards, and some effects are repeated, again I’d like to see more variety, even to the extent each player gets a subset of cards and picks which are included (so you know some of the possibilites and can adapt your strategy). More heroes, more races. For the hefty price tag I would have hoped for just a bit more in the original game.[/i]

Disappointing, but typical of FFG. So many of their games feel like they were developed further and then "pared" back for an inevitable expansion (or worse, underdeveloped and requiring a patch). And hey, I like expansions, but they need to do a better job of hiding the excisions/omissions.
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Allan Clements
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It would actually not have been able to fit inside a runebound sized box since some of the sets of hexes are too long or wide. They could of course have simply changed the shape of these hexes to fit but they most would be identical shapes.

Also the height of the cardboard sheets would then be about the height of a runebound box which would mean very little room for the miniatures.

Yes the insert sucks but then the insert is just there to keep the bits safe until you get it. I did find that turning it upside down is sufficient if you want to keep it, or can just throw it away.
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Barry Kendall
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At first I was dismayed at the huge box as well, but an easy and very satisfactory solution involves inverting the insert and using the ends as "lids" over box-end compartments. In these, I can store plastic card boxes large enough to hold all the plastic armies on one side, and all the cards (with Fate cards, Quest cards, and Hero cards hard-sleeved for durability).

This leaves the center for layering of terrain tiles and Race displays without risk of damage; ample volume to store the relatively fragile mountains in a hard box/ remaining sleeved cards in another commandeered box; and space for added accessories such as card holders commandeered from a thrift store Scrabble game, notebooks chronicling past games, packs of snacks for the next time, or just air to make the thing light enough to lift.

While storage is a problem, I'm not going to moan about the box.

After one learning game and a review of the rules, I think I've caught all our mistakes (failing to leave at least one friendly Unit to garrison taken territories, failing to draw a new Quest card when the current Quest is completed, taking different Unit types with the same Initiative sequentially one type at a time rather than all at once while simply designating Fate card draws) so that the second game will be relatively free of rule-checking.

I was impressed with the ease of learning (though the whole learning game, from setup to resolution on Turn Six, took six hours). There's a lot here, but it all meshes very well indeed.

Nigel is right in saying that map setup can seriously constrain a game, but in the real world (even the "real" fantasy world), geography does not always readily lend itself to "fairness". I think a given group of players, familiar with this consideration in the game, can configure a layout to either foster, or impair, resource development depending on how much of a resource challenge they want in the game.

I like "Runewars" so much that if I had to, I'd store it on the dining room table!

Assuming the wife was in China at the time, of course.
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John Di Ponio
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The big box never bothered me. After having Battlelore and all the storage problems that arised....I welcomed the big box games by FFG. WIth ToI i was able to store all the mini's and counters in Plano boxes inside the box! I may do something to the same affect for Runewars but I have make sure about the tiles in the box. The nice thing about a big box is that you can pack in the expansions!!!

The game will be on the table this weekend so I will get a better feel for what everyone is saying about it. My son is coming home form college this weekend and wants to play which is perfect....It would make a great birthday present for him in a couple of months....if he likes it that is!!!!
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Tom Grant
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mateooo wrote:
oooh, i like the idea about race specific objective.


Same here. It's easy to imagine what they might be: Something about conquest for one of the evil races, something about quests for one of the good races...
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Ed Browne
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I could be wrong, but I'm thinking the inserts are a production/shipment thing and not a storage thing. A game has minis/cards/tokens/whatever that could jostle, break, or even just get mixed up during transit on a ship and then some shipping company. And then some would complain about opening up a box of mixed and broken components. They try to put some artwork on them so there is still a pleasant aesthetic experience when opening the box. Next time you open a game like this, picture it being tossed to and fro on a ship or delivery truck; that insert is keeping everything stable to give it the best chance of getting to you intact.

As far as box size being bigger than necessary, it may be an issue similar to packaging for other things, like CDs and Computer/video games. Marketers think a big (mostly empty) box makes the game appear to be worth more money from the outside. When was the last time you bought a computer game retail that wasn't a huge box of air with a disk in an envelope inside?

Compare that to the situation with Runewars. If they could have stuffed everything into a box the size of, say, Runebound, would people cry that $100 is too much to charge for a game the size of Runebound? Because Runewars has more figures and such, it is more expensive to produce, therefore aesthetically they need it to appear to be "bigger" than games with less (and thus less expensive).

This doesn't mean they are trying to fool the purchaser into thinking the game costs more than it deserves. If you don't think the game is worth the cost, okay. But there is solid marketing and production/shipment concerns that have led to the size of the box and its inserts. If you would have paid $100 to buy Runewars in a ziploc bag of just parts, with the rules rubber banded around the outside, you would be in the minority. And none of that has any bearing on the actual value of the game. It's the appearance of value and production quality that some need to feel justified in spending a certain amount of money.

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Nigel Buckle
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I agree - and there is an element of shelf presence in your FLGS too, a pile of Runewars looks impressive.

Gameplay wise, I think this game is worth it - but it would just be so much more convenient for me if the box was smaller. I go to a club on public transport, lugging this monster of a box around is a major hassle.

If they could have used a smaller box inside the big one as the insert that would have been great, then you open the big box, punch all the stuff out and transfer it into the smaller box.

Some of the moan was a bit tongue-in-cheek too, my point being my main complaint is the box the game came in rather than an element of game play = game is good
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Kenny Coleman
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Grimstax wrote:


This doesn't mean they are trying to fool the purchaser into thinking the game costs more than it deserves. If you don't think the game is worth the cost, okay. But there is solid marketing and production/shipment concerns that have led to the size of the box and its inserts. If you would have paid $100 to buy Runewars in a ziploc bag of just parts, with the rules rubber banded around the outside, you would be in the minority. And none of that has any bearing on the actual value of the game. It's the appearance of value and production quality that some need to feel justified in spending a certain amount of money.



Truth.
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Sean Shaw
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I got mine and re-used a Dominion Box (I have the Dominion cards in a travel sized pack, so no cards were harmed in the box, the box was already empty) and put almost the ENTIRETY of Runewars inside the box for Dominion. There was ONE portion of it that would not fit however, the four hex in a line piece was simply to long to actually fit in the box and is on top of it, other than that the entirety of Runewars fit in the Dominion box and takes up less shelf room.
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Ed Browne
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GreyLord wrote:
I got mine and re-used a Dominion Box (I have the Dominion cards in a travel sized pack, so no cards were harmed in the box, the box was already empty) and put almost the ENTIRETY of Runewars inside the box for Dominion. There was ONE portion of it that would not fit however, the four hex in a line piece was simply to long to actually fit in the box and is on top of it, other than that the entirety of Runewars fit in the Dominion box and takes up less shelf room.


Great idea! I moved all my Dominion (and expansion, and even Thunderstone) into a big CCG box so I only needed to carry one box around for all of it. Now I have empty Dominion (and Thunderstone) boxes I was wondering what to do with. Maybe I can downsize other games too...

p.s. I didn't mean any offense, Nigel! Just trying to explain something others might not understand.
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Sean P
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It says a lot about how good the game is when the biggest complaint is about the size of the box.
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Barry Kendall
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bucklen_uk wrote:
I agree - and there is an element of shelf presence in your FLGS too, a pile of Runewars looks impressive.

Gameplay wise, I think this game is worth it - but it would just be so much more convenient for me if the box was smaller. I go to a club on public transport, lugging this monster of a box around is a major hassle.

If they could have used a smaller box inside the big one as the insert that would have been great, then you open the big box, punch all the stuff out and transfer it into the smaller box.

Some of the moan was a bit tongue-in-cheek too, my point being my main complaint is the box the game came in rather than an element of game play = game is good


Got your point, Nigel. You're a gentleman and a scholar (and there are few of us left) and your comments are taken amiably. I must confess, from my vehicle-mobile myopic POV, that I hadn't considered public transport.

Perhaps you could get a marionette cabinet and explain to fellow transiters that you're conveying (a) a small body or (b) a small world inside. Might even recruit you a new player (or the suspicious gaze of a constable). I hope they don't charge you an extra fare for the thing!
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Steve Malczak
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Quote:
Names or more identifying/distinguishing art/markers on the tiles, this is not needed for game play - but just to help with the immersion in theme, then it's no longer a mountain hex with a giant, it's the White Mountains or whatever (this is attempted with the quest cards, but it wouldn't have hurt to put the names on the map).


I think this has fallen victim to the constant desire for cheaper 'localization' of the games for other markets. There are far less components that need to be printed in other languages now than in a game like Battlemist where each tile had it's own name.

Sadly, I agree that this trend has definitely hurt the immersion factor in many games. A prime example of this is the new Wallace game "Rise of Empires'. The game components are COMPLETELY devoid of flavor and it even refers to the players' populations as 'player cubes'. The map has no writing/naming at all and while we obviously know which area is which on the stylized world map, it's still pretty bland to just attack from this nameless blob to that one.

For Runewars, it's not anywhere NEAR that bad, but I think it would have been nice to have more named places and less icons. For example, the Developments are pretty devoid of flavor. No one in my group refers to them as 'Training Grounds' or 'Diplomats' etc...they are just 'the influence thing', the 'tactics card things' and the 'racial gadget' etc. Yes, the names are in the rule book, but that is not the same thing as seeing it on the board, on the counter.

But that is pretty minor complaint as well, I guess, all things considered.
 
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