The idea behind Seven Scions is sound. There are evil Stormlords coming, and they are coming fast. You need to find and awaken one of Seven Scions so he can aid you, and if you defeat Stormlords you become legendary Seventh Scion. Yes. Because there are currently only six Scions. One is missing.
Unfortunately the expansion does Seven Wrongs, that make this expansion at the very least headache inducting. For some people it might be unplayable.
First Wrong: The Archer made holes in the rules
FFG, the company behind Runebound and this expansion, are known for writing manuals that are hard to use, with all vital information hard to find. Sometimes things will be unclear, but most of the time the information is there... You just need a lawyer to find it. Rule lawyer. Fortunately BBG has plenty of those.
Unfortunately in this case even rule lawyers won't help. Some of the information vital for game-play is missing. Rules for this expansion are much worse than for anything else Runebound related. Why is that? Did they have to cut some text because they had little space? Or maybe they just wanted to design cool cards and thought it would be fun if heroes could design the rules themselves? We will probably never know.
There will be many questions that you'll have and will forever leave unanswered. This game is out of print, and you might wait years for answers from developers... Especially bad are rules for Storm challenges that you defeat in co-op, endgame rules, co-op variant rules, and some more things here and there.
The rules go even as far as to not know the rules of basic games. The red gems are never replenished, and the rules mention red gems replenishing. Well, maybe if someone used Seven Scions with Mists of Zanaga or Sands of Al-Kalim.
Second Wrong: The Trickster messed up the cards
Maybe someone inexperienced made this expansion. This expansion uses doom track(described later) which triggers storm events or storm challenges from time to time. Also, once those cards are used up the endgame begins.
Unfortunately storm challenges are so weak it's not even worth wasting time with them if your player count is higher than 1. The heroes fight those together, and they can attack in as many phases as they want. That means that if there are 4 players and the challenge is [10/0] and each player attacks in ranged we are almost sure to defeat it before it has chance to act, because their health is also low. The challenges don't get any stronger with number of players, so they have to be weak enough for weakened hero to defeat. In those challenges you also can use benefits from slumbering Scions and your awakened Scion, making them even more of a joke.
That is until blue challenges, which are still really simple with few players but might pose difficulty in solo play.
When you face storm challenges those usually end with nothing happening to anyone, because the tests tend to be really easy. Blue challenges have a bit higher tests that people start to fail... And on failure hero can choose what his penalty is. The game doesn't state that you have to choose something that you even can do, so we used "common sense" to force players into those choices.
Some of the cards have interesting effects, but unfortunately those are not well thought out. For example losing a turn for failing test might seem like a bad thing, and it is when there are few players. But in solo game losing a turn is not losing anything, because if you don't have a turn there is no storm phase, which means storm counter isn't moving at all... And some events only do that much - make you lose a turn. There are some effects that tell you to give your items to other player, which in solo game doesn't exist. Fortunately you can just lose a turn instead. Oh yeah, that also does nothing.
Once you hit blue challenges those are simple for solo player, because he can choose any Scion to awaken, and his help is great. With more players those are not even worth playing.
Third Wrong: The Protector helps many, forgets about those who are alone
This expansion has some scaling problems. Some serious scaling problems. Each time you make a turn you move doom track by at least 1, depending on what you did during your turn. Defeating yellows or blues moves the counter by two or three spots respectively. All other turns turn the counter by one.
Once the counter moved 9 times or move it's reset to 0 and storm event/challenge is resolved. You put in as many storm cards of each color as there are players. That means that in single player the counter will make a round 4 times before the game ends, and in 5 player game it will do so 20 times.
Solo player has to use 5 experience points to level up, while with 5 players 3 experience is enough. On average each player in multiplayer game will have as much time as solo player, but will require almost two times less experience that solo player. That means that at the endgame they will have much higher level than single player, unless they have runaway winner, which will leave them with one hero too powerful to be touched by anything.
As I explained before storm challenges are defeated cooperatively. They don't scale with the number of players. If single player has to inflict 3 wounds to win, the same amount will have to be inflicted by 5 players. Often first two players will defeat the challenge leaving other 3 with nothing to do. The same problems to a bit lesser extend happen in 3-4 player game.
Oh, and because you're using doom track faster/slower runebound variants(or other experience variants) will break the balance even more.
Fourth Wrong: The Archmage doesn't like to pick winners
The rules to determine winner in competitive variant are worst of any Runebound variant. Once endgame stars the heroes have to face as many Stormlords as there is number of the players. The player with the most experience counters goes first, then all other players in order of strength. The Stormlords are faced in random order, and it seems that defeated Stormlords are shuffled back between each player.
The winner is... The hero who defeated most Stormlords, or in case of a tie, the one who inflicted the most wounds to last Stormlord. The manual assumes everyone will get knocked out... Which won't always happen.
First of all, the story of the variant tells us that whoever manages to defeat Stormlords becomes legendary Seventh Scion, but there is no victory condition of "one hero defeats them all", which is silly. Second, if one or more heroes defeat all Scions, or tie in number of wounds inflicted on last Scion(which is easier to do than might sound) then there will be multiple winners, meaning there will be multiple Seventh Scions. That's almost as bad as dividing by zero. Other variants had many tiebreakers, up to a point where it was becoming silly. This one was designed to be eternal tie. In 5-6 player game it's really not uncommon to defeat all the bosses, and multiple heroes can do this. I want my winners.
The manual also assumes everyone loses. Maybe we are supposed to reshuffle deck of Stormlords after it runs out and fight them until death, which would bring us to really crappy ending. Furthermore if really none of the heroes manages to defeat all Scions the game won't win - just the best one at being defeated wins. This expansion is impossible to lose solo, because losing to the single Stormlord you are to face means you won.
Oh yes, the rules say that "otherwise the endgame works like endgame variant for base game", but unfortunately most of the rules for both Endgames contradict each other making it impossible to determine how the endgame should really work. All other small expansions could have coherent rules without ambiguous references to not too interesting variant of main game.
Oh, and anyone can look at Stormlords at any time, meaning they can prepare against them.
Fifth Wrong: The Crusader is undecided
Every time you draw normal encounter you discard it without resolving it, and normal events refresh the gems and let heroes choose slumbering Scions. Each slumbering Scion gives you a benefit that can be used only during Storm phases, which are the easiest part of the game. That means that the bonuses are almost never used, because you either don't need them, or get too high roll, or something like that.
Once some hero draws event everyone gives up their current benefit, and each hero chooses new benefit clockwise. Whoever drew the event will choose best benefit for him, then all other heroes in order. The same benefit can't be owned by two or more heroes at once. Often there will be multiple times when heroes will exchange their benefits multiple times between Storm phase, if there will be many events drawn. This slows the game, and is pretty silly, because those benefits aren't even needed most of the time. Once you get to Storm Phase your benefit might be completely useless, because you will have to test spirit, when you have benefit for mind.
There is one especially good benefit, which lets you cancel up to 2 wounds inflicted in storm phase. This can be used most of the time, and if you happen to fail the test(unlikely, very unlikely) nothing happens anyway, because you cancel all damage.
Once given Scion gets awakened his benefit cannot be used anymore, and if someone is keeping that benefit at the time he loses it. That can leave someone without a benefit during Storm Phase... But I haven't seen a situation yet when that is a problem. In all our games different people I've played with stopped caring about the selection process because it's useless. You can't predict which buff will be needed, at most you can "take your lower stat". It takes too much of time, and doesn't improve the game in any way.
Sixth Wrong: The Barbarian is asleep
Once you wake up a Scion he joins you as an Ally, that doesn't count against your limit and can be used only during Storm Phases and Endgame. The ways to wake up the Scions vary, and sometimes are pretty interesting. They are actually pretty strong, and useful against the Stormlords. Usually heroes will race to awaken the best Scions quick. The protector is especially funny, because he is really good, and can be awakened even before getting your first level up. You just need to be lowest leveled hero and be 1 wound from death. People do funny things to try lowering their health... But whoever does has big advantage. That very Scion works great even at the Endgame, and can be yours on 2nd turn if you're (un)lucky!
The Barbarian on the other hand needs to be defeated in battle, without using items or allies, and has 17/4 in melee, and is pretty low in other stats. With some planning anyone can defeat him, and he also provides great buff, especially for non-melee heroes. Maybe with exception of The Crusader which seems unreasonably weak in comparison to all others, has bad ability(equivalent to having +1 damage weapon), lowest health of all Scions, and laughable 1/3 in every phase, meaning he will almost always miss... And can be reliably awakened only by mages, with diplomacy test of 22.
All Scions are jerks a bit though. You go trough all the trouble of awakening them and they will help you only against Storm Phases and Stormlords in Endgame. This means that you will almost never get the chance to use them. I asked them repetitively why they won't help me in battles in which I really might need their help, but they never gave me good reason.
Overall the Scions, their benefits, their battle abilities are downplayed for most of the game, and constant exchanging of scion benefits is too much of a hassle.
Seventh Wrong: It could have been so good
The art on the cards is pretty nice. There are many ideas that haven't been used in Runebound before, but are broken. There are too many unanswered questions. The scaling with the number of players is non-existent, and even though I tried it both solo and with few players I still can't figure out for how many players was this supposed to be.
But worst thing is that one CAN feel the potential in those 30 cards. It might have been fun! It kind of is. You just have to make up all the rules yourself...
good review... but disturbing. Seven Scions is my next expansion pack to play! I already felt the rules in Cult were a bit gray in some areas, so this sounds even more frustrating just from a clarity point of view. I guess there's a reason why seven scions is pretty cheap here in US, one of the few expansions that can be fairly easily found.
So far, catalyst >>>> cult > avatars. I don't actually mind avatars, but the difference between avatars and base is too small that I would rarely bother.
Edit: and thanks for covering issues as they pertain to different numbers of players. Some of the issues seems like solo will help, but others are just broken (win condition).
- Last edited Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:24 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:23 am
Yeah, avatars is just base game with different numbers and pictures on the cards. It seems to me like they experimented more with each expansion wave.
Once you play Seven Scions let me know how it went. I had this expansion for few months now and avoided it because after reading the rules I still wasn't sure how to play it. I've sent all my questions to FFG but either they don't care about their OOP games or maybe the people who know the answers don't work there anymore, or are busy with different games
I don't recall having issues with this expansion, though I haven't touched it in years. I'll have to break it out to counter your review.
I'm always open for discussion And if the fact you disagree with me will men you'll play something you haven't touched in years then it's all good.