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Subject: Runebound: A Review for prospective buyers rss

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Christian Cunningham
United Kingdom
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Hi,
I write this for those of you who have not bought Runebound but are considering adding it to your collection. I'll give my thoughts on who i think will enjoy it and its merits and flaws, and hopefully others will reply with counter arguments to the things i raise so that you can be confident about spending your precious cash on this.

Firstly, its a mid range game in terms of price, but the box and its contents are all first class, as one would expect from FFG. I dont think anyone who buys this will be disappointed with quality. Of worthy mention is the GREAT artwork; it evokes the flavour of the game magnificently and enhances game play a great deal.

Ultimately, i think its the flavour and fluff in Runebound that makes it the game it is, and that's "a very good one". In typical Ameritrash fashion, the mechanics are good, but they arent as important as how they convey the theme. An Ameritrash game suceeds when its flavour and mechanics marry well, and Runebound's do excellently. Almost all the encounters contain some flavour text that sets the scene. Some include tests you must make that suit the encounter also; it all just integrates so very nicely that as encounters are undertaken, the story plays out in one's imagination, bringing it all to life. The feel of a fantasy epic adventure is captured as well as it could be outside of the confines of true pen and paper rpg like D&D. In fact, that's not a bad description of Runebound: a boardgame that is almost an rpg.

So, if you and your group enjoy RP and having epic adventures play out before your eyes, Runebound ticks that box. It manages to do this better than any other adventure/rpg boardgame i have ever played (with possible exception of Warhammer Quest from Games Workshop).

If synergy and card combos and such like excites you, Runebound is also good for this. Much fun can be had equipping your character and hiring allies to ensure maximum damage in combats and minimal weaknesses. Game balance (in this base game set im talking about) is very good, but still presents players with myriad options of how best to equip their characters. The joy of finally acquiring that Staff of Light ticks all the geek "collect and fight with cool weapons" boxes in my brain, so it probably will do yours too.

Solo play is actually ok too, although you lose a lot of the fun of this game i find. It really is best shared as a group experience, something ill touch upon at the end.

FFG have published stacks of expansions and cool stuff for this game. I do own a couple of adventure variant packs and some encounter deck expansions, and my experience of those have been very positive also.

Some gripes then:

Games are loooooooonnnnnnngggggg. My group usually has around 3-3.5 hours to play at most, and even with only 3 of us playing, games can easily run to 4+ to finish, so there have been quite a few games of this I have played that havent finished, which is always (quite frankly) poo. The game could be played through much quicker if you dont do things like read out the flavour text on cards, all watch each encounter and chat about it, how cool it was etc, but then i feel you lose a lot of the shared group experience and the flavour and theme, whihc is, IMHO, what Runebound is all about.

You may have heard there is a lot of downtime. It's true. This is why it's quite important to be playing this rpg boardgame with others who like story and fluff. You need to be able to enjoy watching the travails of your fellow heroes, join in the highs of victory, the lows of defeat and blah blah blah because otherwise boredom can set in as these looooonnnnnggg games take longer to get to your go each time (since higher level battles take longer usually).

Summary:
Runebound really is an excellent game. It's well designed with great mechanics that ensure the theme and flavour is constantly at the forefront of the gaming experience. It has excellent artwork that helps to bring your game to life as a heroic story. It has a very well balanced curve to the endgame and is easy to play with the feeling of being "on a knife edge" in terms of success and failure, something always important in a gamne of this ilk. There is none of the "this is too easy, i can kill everything" about Runebound.

I will leave you with what i alluded to earlier: this game is an excellent, shared group experience with all the theme and flavour to get stuck into. I have played games of Runeboud where I have laughed almost non-stop for 3+ hours, so great was the storytelling going on in the game and the sheer fun that we had. We play these games for fun, and for me and my group, we sure do with Runebound. If you decide to buy it, I hope you do too!



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p55carroll
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Nice review. I've only played RB a couple times myself, and only solo. But I'll briefly mention one thing that I didn't notice in your review:

Besides downtime, the biggest problem some people have with RB is player-vs-player encounters. You'd think RB would be a cooperative game, but it's not; it's every player for himself. When you bump into another player character, you can trade or fight. But often there's not a lot of value in doing either. Some groups just agree before the game that there won't be any PvP fights.

Behind all the narrative and chrome, RB is basically a race game. But it's a race like Mario Kart or Circus Maximus, where you can sometimes do nasty things to slow your competitors down or cause them to crash. Your choice whether to play nasty or nice.

As a solo player, it's not an issue for me. But I thought I'd bring it up for those who are interested.
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Michael Roop
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One thing that really refreshed the game for our group awhile back (after many
many plays of the main rules and expansion decks) was more than one player on
a team.

If you have 3 people, just put them all on a team and have each take one
of the combat slots, & allow the team to hire only 1 ally. Then play against the
board.

If you have 4 people, have 2 people to a team (taking one combat slot each)
and able to hire 2 allies (one of which can take the 3rd combat slot). Then play
team vs. team. Heck, we even got lucky enough one time to play 2 teams of 3 against
each other.

What this does is takes away the long downtimes of the game, and the length overall
to finish the game. That one night, we finished our first game in 1.5 hours and
had time to set back up and play again.
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Christian Cunningham
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Yes; i didnt mention the PvP

That's basically becuase wqe dont play it. In my group it just didnt suit us to play it as that, so boiling it down (perhaps a tad harshly i feel) it IS a race game then, but like so many proper rpg games, I dont think the winner is so important. Its nice that it ends and there is a victor, but quite frankly its all about the cool encounters that happen along the ay and the great stories that get told of near escapes and titanic clashes with big beasties...that's what we tend to remember from our games, and less who won it.

So, yes, PvP...might work for you, it might not. Depends on your group and decide about it before you play.

The idea concerning all playing as teams is a good one but does it not TOTALLY unbalance it? I.e, 3 character's worth of items and effects going off in one combat rather than one? If so, im not suprised you finished a game in 1.5 hours! Maybe WoW would be better for that sort of team/cooperative play.

 
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Rob Buchler
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You nailed the importance of the RPG aspect of the game. Treating it as a race game or with the idea of beating the big bad guy at the end misses out on the enjoyment of playing the game and watching the characters come to grips with what is going on around them.
Good review!
 
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Michael Roop
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Peacelord wrote:
Yes; i didnt mention the PvP

The idea concerning all playing as teams is a good one but does it not TOTALLY unbalance it? I.e, 3 character's worth of items and effects going off in one combat rather than one? If so, im not suprised you finished a game in 1.5 hours! Maybe WoW would be better for that sort of team/cooperative play.


The idea of all playing on a team doesn't unbalance it, it just makes the game
go faster with less downtime for players. You go for the yellows and blues earlier, while
not making as much money (since you're skipping alot of the greens/yellows you
would go for to level up and get money). So end game comes quicker, with
lower level players with less items and money.

Also, not sure how it is unbalancing. You still have to be tough enough to take
on the reds to win. If 2 teams (of 2 or 3) are playing, you are still racing to
be the first to win.

Also, FWIW, I think your Review was spot on. This is one of those games that is
like 50/50 people love it, or have a problem with it. I really love this game because
it is so easy to adapt(houserule) to a person's preference's. And alot of those
little mini-expansions are fun to play too.

Heck, one time we even set up 6 mini-dungeons around the world (I think 3
green cards, 2 yellow: if a dungeon wasn't finished you had to place another card on
top) and the goal was to clean out those dungeons.
 
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p55carroll
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Peacelord wrote:
Yes; i didnt mention the PvP

That's basically becuase wqe dont play it. In my group it just didnt suit us to play it as that, so boiling it down (perhaps a tad harshly i feel) it IS a race game then, but like so many proper rpg games, I dont think the winner is so important. Its nice that it ends and there is a victor, but quite frankly its all about the cool encounters that happen along the ay and the great stories that get told of near escapes and titanic clashes with big beasties...that's what we tend to remember from our games, and less who won it.

I've never played an RPG (only pseudo-RPGs on the computer), but I used to be an avid wargamer. So when I bought RB last year, my first game left me thinking, "WTF? There's nothing happening in this game. You just move from one colored dot to the next and mindlessly roll dice over and over." At first I started reading the story text on the cards, but I soon got bored with that. Then it wasn't long before I got bored with the rest of the game too.

But I gave it another shot at the end of last year, and I had more fun with it. This time I took time to read the card text and picture what might be happening. And I gave my imagination free rein to picture the fight scenes too. Soon a lot of the game was taking place in my mind instead of on the board. And the more I leveled up my character, the more I cared about his welfare. It got to be pretty good then.

I started out playing the second game with the optional Doom Track (which basically imposes a time limit and forces you to play efficiently or lose). But I could see that time was running out on me even while I was still working on the green (easiest) encounters, so I stopped using the Doom Track.

I'll play RB some more, now that I get how to enjoy it. But at first it threw me for a loop, because I was more used to wargames. In wargames, the mechanics are closely tied to what you're supposed to imagine (e.g., these guys are shooting at those guys, so I have to check the range and firepower factor; they hit, so now I check against cover and concealment; they were damaged, so now I do a morale check for the defenders to see if they hunker down or run away, etc.). In RB, you don't get as many specific clues.

I'm still not laid-back and "playful" or imaginative enough to not care about winning, though. If I just want a story, I'll read a book or watch a movie. The journey may be more important than the outcome, but you have to strive for a good outcome or else the journey will be boring.

 
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Christian Cunningham
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Hehe, the Doom track is one way to manage the length of a game ultimately. If you play using it then it does make you "play" more and concentrate a little more on mechanics and power levelling, since you now have the time limit. It can be useful for larger groups, and I have found it useful in limiting the loooonnnnnggg play times (did i mention that?!). Solo though, much less important unless you really want to challenge yourself to play smart, but RB works just as well without it when playing solo.

I also totally take your point about a game like this vs wargames...very different prospects for an evening of gaming. Personally, I love to win, and this is why it's good that we have an RP board game that you can win in, unlike D&D (where everyone wins, as they say...). You will still find me disgruntled if i lose, but disgruntled after having had a thoroughly good time! And in a year's time, we'll still remember the cool night of fun, the stories and the laughing about it rather than who was the Margath killer that night

If you dont have any expansions, they are deffo worth a try once you have played a few more games and begin to recognise a lot of the cards, taking away from some of that great feeling of exploration.
 
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Christian Cunningham
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Hehe, you soooo need to play World of Warcraft big box game if you havent...the dungeon idea is neat, and reminded me of something WoW does with one of its expansions.

I still think playing all on one team unbalances the encounters (again, in one round you can now have three heroes worth of equipment and effects going off instead of only one like all the encounters are balanced for) unless you go for encounters a level higher or something (i.e, dont use greens,start at yellows) which could be a fun house rule to play.

And you;re right; it is ripe for house rules and player improvisation of rules to make it a tailored experience for your group. Like so many games now, this seems to be a common and popular element (Twilight Imperium 3 another good example).
 
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Brendon Vince
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Nice Review very informative

This game has been on my wishlist for a while.
 
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Walter Greer
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Good review. I would add that some players may object to the random nature of movement. It is possible to wonder off or be unable to move because of bad dice rolls. Check the rules on FF website for more details on that point.

The game is based on leveling through defeating monsters or skill checks at encounter spots on the map. These locations are fixed and some may find the game a bit repetitive with only minor variations distinguishing encounters.

As you level you get increases to your 3 main stats. Sadly that is the extent of your development. No new abilities.

Personally I thought that Runebound was dull and repetitive. Definitely try before you buy.
 
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Walter Greer
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Try Descent or Doom the boardgame.
 
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