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Subject: So small, yet rivals the big guys rss

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Rafal Areinu
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Runebound had it’s share of small expansions which added multitude of items, monsters and adventure variants to the game. With each wave of expansions we can clearly see the ongoing evolution. They started with safe stuff, adventures that only slightly changed the endgame or the goal, items and challenges that didn’t stand out too much. Next waves brought more interesting items, adventures that changed more of the game, and monsters with effects not seen before. By the third wave designers got much braver, and experimented much more. That can be seen especially well with adventure variants.

A lot can be said about The Cataclysm, but most of it comes down to one sentence - It changes the way the game is played more than any other small expansion. The game is faster, more vivid, less diluted, and shorter.

The expansion has really climating and interesting start. All towns are destroyed or cursed - way to start with a bang. Not unlike movies that start with explosion, promising us exciting show. The heroes cannot count on usual night in the inn, or go to the market looking for legendary items on the bargain. Some towns are completely off limits, changing the areas heroes will be more likely to visit often. Depending on which towns get destroyed the areas heroes will visit and how they will play changes greatly. You’re getting completely different town if 3 towns in the center of the world get destroyed, than when whole north gets blown up.

Heroes now have to fight curses put upon different towns. The process is simple - first time someone visits the town he can try to pass a challenge, that works like a barrier protecting the town from unwanted visitors. That grants every hero access to one of two quests related to that curse. Completing the quest makes it easier to defeat boss of the curse, which in effect frees the town. Only heroes who either managed to do 1st step or complete the quest can try to face the boss. And those bosses? Most of them are really strong.

So we already have the goal in mind - save all the towns and whoever saved more wins! Right? Nope. Unfortunately here’s where The Cataclysm falls short - the endgame is very poor, and the winner is usually decided in very anticlimactic manner. We don’t get epic Giants invasion which heroes stop in series of epic fights, we don’t get to save the world from Margath. We just need to get enough points to win and save one town.

The problem is - after you saved your first town you probably already have enough points to win, or you’re very close. At this point completing very easy quest in any of the cities will lead to your victory. The game basically is a race to see who can beat one of curse bosses first, leaving you victorious and 80% of the realm under curses. It’s even counterproductive to try and save 2 towns, because it gives others time to catch up. Most of the victories end with player in the lead doing something meaningless to get 1 more point and win.

How bad is it? In 5 player game once someone gets 10 points he wins. You get 1 point for entrance challenge, 2 points for doing a quest, and 3 points for defeating boss. That’s 6 points for single town. Do 2 more quests or some easy entrance challenges and you’re done. It’s very unlikely you won’t have challenges and quests completed from multiple towns by the time you’ll be taking on the boss, so first town freed is the win. In 2 player game needed points increase to 13, not much better.

This wouldn’t be that bad if the curse boss provided really epic battle. But it isn’t the case. Why? Multiple reasons.

New purchase system being one of them. Instead of going to the town to buy one of few items that are in it’s market you can sacrifice some of your movement dice to go into market. While you’re moving you can at any point throw those dice you sacrificed, and for every die on which you get terrain symbol you’re on you can draw as many items from market deck as many dice you threw. If you put aside 5 dice and get 5 terrain symbols matching your space you can draw 25 items in single turn. That’s more than we get during whole game in other variants in all market decks combined. There’s a good chance you’ll get to buy items you desperately need. Even with bad throw you’ll be getting 5-15 items to choose from.

Curse bosses are always the same for each curse, that means that once you know their stats and abilities you can equip good items prepared to counter that single boss. You can choose the boss you have best shot at and defeat him while being weaker than you would be when attempting your first red normally. Unfortunately even being strong as they are, without random draws, they are still to weak to face heroes prepared for that one, single boss.

One thing this expansion does well is completely changing the way you manage movement dice. In normal runebound you would sometimes throw less dice to heal some fatigue, but that meant you were moving in sluggish pace. With bad rolls it often meant wasted turn. That was especially bad for characters that used a lot of fatigue per battle, as healing that either meant going back to town or moving only 1-2 spaces per turn.

In The Cataclysm you can just set aside 1 die and hope you’ll get correct terrain. If you do, you get to heal all fatigue for 1 gold. That’s really good deal, especially if you have 4 or more fatigue used up. Even if you sacrifice 2 dice to heal fatigue(and also wounds) you need to do it only every few turns. Characters that use a lot of fatigue, like Nara or Kirga really benefit from it, and become that much more powerful. Sure, everyone gets an edge, but fatigue dependent characters get the most out of it.

Abilities that affect movement dice also benefit greatly from this change, as trading dice are still affected by those. If you can reroll trading dice, or put selected face on them you can benefit much better from trading that other characters, getting better items quicker and offsetting your other shortcomings.

Overall you can get much more out of the movement in this expansion, and thus your decisions are more interesting. You can play risky, sacrificing only 1 die for a chance to both move 3 spaces, heal, and go into adventure, or you can play it safe sacrificing a lot of dice for almost sure chance to get nice items and/or healing. Sometimes you’ll get unlucky and get nothing, even if you use all 5 dice for market - but that could happen in normal Runebound as well, making you unable to get to town. Ability to purchase things or heal and go on and adventure on the same turn makes the game quicker, and also a bit easier. In base game even if you were close to town you needed to waste at least one turn for shopping and healing before you could get back to monsters.

Unfortunately this new marketing system causes some problems not mentioned in the rules. This expansion uses encounters and events normally - but a lot of those refer to market step, which doesn’t exist in this game until some town gets freed. And that’s basically end of the game as mentioned before. There’s for example, green encounter that gives -1 to each combat roll and test until you sell it for 2 gold during market step, which becomes almost permanent penalty in this game. Penalty, that you can get as soon as 1st turn, and cannot really avoid unless you get lucky on the roll. Heroes will also get their inventory full of useless events that can only be discarded in markets of certain towns, which might not even exist. There’s also an event that can destroy Tamalir, which can be game changer - no better way to stop someone from defeating curse on Tamalir than destroying it.

Middle of the game is really interesting - more so than most of the expansions, and I include big box ones as well. There are 15 yellow challenges in towns, 3 for each curse. Those aren’t simple fights, like most of the challenges in runebound, but instead present tasks more akin to encounters. The effects you’ll encounter are even more interesting and varied than the ones found on giants from Scepter of Kyros.

Defeating yellow challenge unlocks blue quest for anyone to do. There are 2 for each town, and often require you to go somewhere and do something. Those are, for Runebound standards, story rich, and fitting general theme of each curse. Each of them becomes mini race for heroes to compete in - as they provide valuable aid against curse bosses and points needed to win the game.

The quests are little more involving and little better designed than legendary tasks from Al-Kalim. Usually you’ll have to do a little bit more than just pass few quests, sometimes you’ll have to spend few turns doing something, there are even instances in which you might be able to get progress on 2 quests during single turn. Still - first to complete the quest takes all the credit, even if other players were 90% done. Each hero uses his designated area to mark his own progress.

Because you are constantly racing towards some small goal, completing the quests, running all over the map and trying to score one more point the game is really intense. It’s also shorter than normal Runebound, as all it’s systems generate less wasted turns, and more gains overall. A lot to the shorter time span can be attributed to terrible endgame, which doesn’t even require players to free most of the towns. It ends the game prematurely, at the point one would like to start epic endgame akin to many other expansions. What satisfaction is there when game ends because someone just completed meaningless yellow challenge for 1 point, so simple that he couldn’t even fail it at that point?

The expansion is said to be said to be appropriate for 2-5 players, yet solo play shouldn’t be a problem - you’ll just miss race element. It also might feel much more epic - single hero, going against all odds, trying to save Terrinoth.

The Cataclysm could have been the best expansion to Runebound, even better than big box ones. Slight omissions in the rules and terrible goal make it fall just short. It could also benefit from more cards which would lead to multiple bosses possibilities at each location. It’s still one of the best, and if you can get your hands on it I strongly advise you to do so.
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mike m
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Excellent writeup! i just bought this, it's on the way!

Do you think it plays better with 5 people or 2? Kyros I think the game is much more interesting with more people, but Island is terrible with more than 3.

This could be a place where some good house rules really save it. Any thoughts on that?
 
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Sheldon Morris
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Good overall review. This is the only expansion I have for Runebound so far and played it for the first time just a few days ago. I think it was a great choice as my first expansion.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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SirWashington wrote:
Excellent writeup! i just bought this, it's on the way!

Do you think it plays better with 5 people or 2? Kyros I think the game is much more interesting with more people, but Island is terrible with more than 3.

This could be a place where some good house rules really save it. Any thoughts on that?


Both options are pretty good. With 5 players you have higher chance of some endgame struggle. In this expansion most of the time whoever does red adventure first wins, there's even less chance of catching up than in other variants.

With 2 players it's easier to judge which quests you have chance to complete first. When you get 5 players it's more surprising, as more can happen before your next turn.

This one is great to put out for 5, as it will end extremely fast(for Runebound standards), avoiding some of the typical problems RB faces with a lot of players.
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Rauli Kettunen
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Areinu wrote:
The problem is - after you saved your first town you probably already have enough points to win, or you’re very close. At this point completing very easy quest in any of the cities will lead to your victory. The game basically is a race to see who can beat one of curse bosses first, leaving you victorious and 80% of the realm under curses. It’s even counterproductive to try and save 2 towns, because it gives others time to catch up. Most of the victories end with player in the lead doing something meaningless to get 1 more point and win.


I think this might be a group-approach thing. Granted, only played Cataclysm three times and 2-player only, but all three have ended with the killing of a lvl III Curse (thus freeing a city) to get to 13VP. So we go around working our way to 10VP through I and II stuff, then hit a III (ideally one that we have done a II on).

Cataclysm is my favourite of the Adventure Variants I own (Cult and Avatars the other two, would like to add Scepter of Kyros but is seems hard to find).
 
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Rafal Areinu
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Dam the Man wrote:
I think this might be a group-approach thing. Granted, only played Cataclysm three times and 2-player only, but all three have ended with the killing of a lvl III Curse (thus freeing a city) to get to 13VP. So we go around working our way to 10VP through I and II stuff, then hit a III (ideally one that we have done a II on).

Cataclysm is my favourite of the Adventure Variants I own (Cult and Avatars the other two, would like to add Scepter of Kyros but is seems hard to find).


I have played Avatars only once so I don't have real opinion yet. Back then we got global event that forbid healing unless a hero had one of 2 green encounters. Both were on the wizard player, so Corbin had a problem. We couldn't draw another event to replace it, so it lasted about half of a game... When wizard had 2 dragon runes Corbin ran for red gem, while having 2 health, drew Margath and with some planning and lucky rolls managed to win. Great fun.

Cult was my favorite before I got The Cataclysm
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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My preference order goes: Cataclysm > Avatars >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Cult.

Avatars, while basically the same as default RB, has the advantage of having a different feel to it, due to the specific Encounter and Event cards it comes with, all adding to the overall theme of the Avatars. Plus the Avatars seem tougher to fight than the Dragonlords.

Cult, main reason I dislike it is if/when the Cult (mountains usually cause this) gets stuck and no Rune Cultists are around, the game grinds to a halt, you're just waiting and hoping to get the Cult moving again, but if it doesn't, more waiting. Can't really go too far away to hunt for Adventures as you might not make it back in time for a chance at the Rune Cultist should the Cult decide to get moving when you're away and the other character(s) aren't.
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Rafal Areinu
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You can always go for red cultists when they are stuck. I've made simple rule to fix cult. When choosing where cult moves choose spot that will make cultists have most terrain choices next.

With that cultists almost never get stuck. Before they did sometimes, but most of the time it was because of player choices.

Other way to do it is putting fatigue token each time cult doesn't move at the end of someones turn. When throwing for cult's movement throw 1+number of fatigue tokens on it. If the cult moves discard it's fatigue.

This one works even better, but requires additional token management(not much).
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Rauli Kettunen
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Well, I don't do houserules if possible. Cult still works, but not at smoothly as Avatars or Cataclysm out of the ones I have. Also, tough to go after a Red Cultist if there a none.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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You put all red markers at the start of the game as cultists(step 7 of setup tells you to turn red markers to experience side, making them cultists). If you run out of red cultists the game immediately ends, it doesn't matter if nobody has 26+ points. So even if the cult is stuck for whole game the winner is the one who beat most of the red cultists - which doesn't differ that much from Avatars or Margath ending.
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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Will have to read the rulesheet, been a while. Though don't use lose a Rune Cultist if defeated and getting beaten by a Cultist seems to ring some bells as being worse (branded?)?
 
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Rafal Areinu
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Being defeated by the cultist doesn't brand you. You get branded if you'll within ritual range(which you won't be in if the cult is stuck) or if respawn in corrupted town(which won't exist except for forge if the cult is stuck).

In other scenarios the cult will get at least few greens/yellows corrupted, which will work as a buffer for you - you'll be able to discard them when branded, instead of red cultists.

Anyway, that also doesn't matter at all.
Quote:
The last red rune cultist has been defeated

Quote:
When the cult marker enters a space with an adventure jewel (or when an
adventure jewel falls within the radius of a cult ritual, as described above),
flip the adventure jewel over to its experience point side. It is now a rune
cultist


So the game ends when all red markers are taken off the map, not when you run out of red deck. Polish rule sheet even has additional sentence clarifying that out, which doesn't exist in English rule sheet.
Quote:
Important: red adventure counters start the game upside down, so those are rune cultist from the very beginning.

Anyway, the counters itself are rune cultists, not the cards.
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mike m
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Rafal, we obviously are in need of your review of Cult of the Rune.

Pre-thumbed: thumbsup
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Rauli Kettunen
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Areinu wrote:


Anyway, that also doesn't matter at all.
Quote:
The last red rune cultist has been defeated

Quote:
When the cult marker enters a space with an adventure jewel (or when an
adventure jewel falls within the radius of a cult ritual, as described above),
flip the adventure jewel over to its experience point side. It is now a rune
cultist


So the game ends when all red markers are taken off the map, not when you run out of red deck. Polish rule sheet even has additional sentence clarifying that out, which doesn't exist in English rule sheet.
Quote:
Important: red adventure counters start the game upside down, so those are rune cultist from the very beginning.

Anyway, the counters itself are rune cultists, not the cards.


First off, you sure that addition isn't something the Polish version came up with? Seems odd the original doesn't have it, nor have I come across any such mention previously. I know localized stuff often gets, well, messy. Secondly, I don't see that helping that much, in the sense that you still have to kill 7 Red Cultists, who are here there and everywhere. Usually our games see 1-2 killed before 26VP is reached.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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Original doesn't have only the last quote. First 2 quotes are there(look them up online if you don't believe me) and they are clear as day that rune cultist is an adventure jewel on the experience side.

Polish sentence is only clarification, but even without it the English still has everything in the rules.

I want to do Cult's review as well, but not as the next one.
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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Areinu wrote:
Polish sentence is only clarification, but even without it the English still has everything in the rules.


Well, apart from starting the red gems on the Rune Cultist side, which is quite a change, especially from my reading of how your group plays Cataclysm (rather aggressively pursuing Reds).

I know at least the Hobbit game from FFG has issues with different language versions, French rules have paragraphs of stuff that doesn't exist in the English rules.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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Hmm... Oh. Now when I looked again you're right - English version doesn't have 7th step of set up.

So you're right - English version is broken, Polish is awesome. And that's all due to single sentence!
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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I wouldn't call it broken, it still works, RAW and all, but it can get clogged down if the Cult is being stubborn and doesn't get to move.

Dammit, all this talk is dangerous, now I'm getting my RB urges up again and have no room for it this month at least shake . Only managed to play the three Adventure Variants I own three times each, should get them out again.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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Did you also check on printed version of the rules if step 7 is absent? Maybe the online rules are out of date by mistake?

And if the rules are indeed without 7th step then they are broken. If cult corrupts only 1 red counter, you defeat it, then you defeated last red cultist(there are no more on the map). The game ends.
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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That's the first thing I checked (printed version). I could see the case that killing the first Red one would be also the last (in the sense that there might not be others around at that moment, there is an isolated red just north of the Cult's starting location in Forge), but personally, given that there are 7 Red cards and 7 red gem locations, option #1 for ending the game doesn't trigger until all 7 have been defeated. Could they have worded it "Red deck is empty" or something? Sure.

Two of the three games have ended on VP tally being reached, the last game ended on the 18 Encounter/Event cards being drawn, with VPs ending 23-20 (18-15 before bonus points). Actually, in the first game, I was surprised the 18 card trigger didn't kick in (even made a mention of it in my logs), can't recall how the second game went in that regard.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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We usually get to 14 encounters/events on average when we win with VP. We never went with all 7 reds defeated victory, as cult never stuck enough to warrant it(but we had to defeat some reds because of lack of any other cultists sometimes).

"Rune cultist" is defined in English rules, and the wording "all red rune cultists are defeated" is deliberate. They could have write "all red jewels are taken" or "red deck is empty", instead they went with this wording. Red cultists are red jewels on experience side.

Maybe the Polish rule indeed is fake, and they introduced 1st rule to allow premature end of the game, by killing 1st red cultist as soon as he appears. But then red deck from base game is replaced by cultists in English edition, which could suggest you're drawing cultists regardless of on which side jewel is. If that is so, then 1st ending condition can mean either "all red jewels are out" or "red deck is empty". I've sent question to FFG about this issue. In 1-12 months we can expect answer
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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Areinu wrote:
New purchase system being one of them. Instead of going to the town to buy one of few items that are in it’s market you can sacrifice some of your movement dice to go into market. While you’re moving you can at any point throw those dice you sacrificed, and for every die on which you get terrain symbol you’re on you can draw as many items from market deck as many dice you threw. If you put aside 5 dice and get 5 terrain symbols matching your space you can draw 25 items in single turn. That’s more than we get during whole game in other variants in all market decks combined. There’s a good chance you’ll get to buy items you desperately need. Even with bad throw you’ll be getting 5-15 items to choose from.


Having just played Cataclysm today after a while, I'm tempted to cut down on the drawing of market deck cards to one per terrain symbol rolled (ignoring the # of dice in your trading pool). So instead of drawing 25 cards if you set aside 5 dice and all match your terrain, you'd only draw 5 cards with 5 dice if all match your terrain. 5 cards is still a decent selection, more than I've seen in most towns, excluding Vrede in Frozen Wastes where I've seen 10+ cards at times.
 
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