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Introduction to Runebound

Runebound is a fantasy/adventure board game that is published by Fantasy Flight Games, and designed by Martin Wallace and Darrell Hardy.


From the Fantasy Flight Games website:
"In Runebound, you and your opponents take on the roles of heroes questing across the land in search of adventure. Along the way, you will find magical artifacts and cunning allies help you in your quest. You will also encounter terrible villains and fiendish traps you must overcome in order to complete your quest.

The heart of Runebound is the adventure. The adventure determines the object of your quest, and what wonders and obstacles you will encounter along the way.

The adventure included in the base Runebound set is 'Rise of the Dragon Lords.' In this adventure, the vile necromancer Vorakesh is trying to find the ancient Dragon Runes and use them to resurrect Margath, the long-dead High Lord of the evil dragons. As a Hero of the land, it is your duty to stop Vorakesh from carrying out his mad designs."

Game Mechanics

Players take turns navigating a board that displays the terrain of a fantasy world. Each turn allows a character to visit towns or friendly locations (where items and allies can be found), facing an encounter (which provide events and enemies), or interacting with another player by landing in the same space.

Movement in Runebound is controlled by a special set of Movement dice. Up to five Movement dice can be rolled on a given turn (assuming that your hero is not wounded or fatigued, and does not choose to rest). Each face of a Movement die displays several types of terrain, as shown below, that indicate what paths are available to your hero that turn. Players can allocate the dice however they, moving through one matching terrain space for each die rolled. There are also other options for movement. A "forced" one-space movement in any direction is always allowed, and a number of special items and abilities can potentially alter the basic movement.

Board Game: Runebound
Movement Dice Close-up
Board Game: Runebound (Second Edition)
Runebound Board

Enemies and obstacles are represented by encounter cards, which are divided into four color-coded levels. Green encounters are typically the easiest, followed by Yellow, Blue, and finally Red. After landing on an encounter space on the board, a player draws a card of the corresponding color and tries to complete the encounter successfully - which usually means defeating a creature in combat.

Briefly, each round of combat consists of three stages: ranged, melee, and magic. At each stage, the hero must choose to either attack or defend - although a character can only attack once during a particular round. Combat dice are rolled, added to the hero's base value (along with any modifiers from items purchased), and then compared to a target value for that encounter. A higher number means the hero was successful - dealing damage to the enemy if attacking, and avoiding any harm if defending. Rounds continue until either the creature or hero earn too much damage.

At the start of each round, the hero can attempt to escape the encounter instead of continuing with combat. Also, an ally can take the place of the hero for one stage during each round of combat - making them valuable both for their offensive abilities and as "cannon fodder" against stronger enemies.

Visiting a Town
Towns represent safe havens, and can be used to heal and restore a hero or to purchased items and allies. Each time a player visits a town, a new card is added to the market stack for that location - but without the gold earned from encounters, these items will sit unclaimed in the town.

Interacting with Other Players
After landing on the same space as another hero, two players can interact with each other. This can mean engaging in player-vs-player combat to slow down a rival, or trading goods and items between each other.

One of the main criticisms of Runebound is the lack of meaningful player interaction. This is a valid complaint, especially because the player-vs-player rules "as written" are often considered suspect. An official variant has been suggested in the Runebound FAQ that helps to improve this situation.

Note: The latest version of the Runebound FAQ, along with rules and other supplementary materials, can be downloaded from the Runebound section of Fantasy Flight's website:


The game system was designed to be flexible. Since decks of cards provide the events, items, allies, and enemies during an adventure, players can easily create a whole new adventure just by adding (or replacing) the cards in play. Unique and customizable heros also add to replay value. It is even possible to replace the existing map by using an overlay on the game board.

Many expansions have already been developed for Runebound. These expansions fall into two basic categories:

  • Card deck expansions are small, inexpensive, and (usually) designed to work with the basic game. There are several different types of card expansions currently available.
  • Big box expansions are larger and more immersive. An entirely new gaming experience is created - complete with new maps, characters, and rules.

For details about the expansions available, see the appropriate sections below.

Related Geeklist

For comments about the RuneBound games, and a brief overview of each expansion in the RuneBound universe, see Runebound: The Geeklist.

Runebound (First Edition)

Despite selling well, Runebound received criticism that forced Fantasy Flight Games to rework several basic concepts and adjust the game balance. First released in 2004, Runebound was quickly updated and re-released as Runebound (Second Edition) just over one year later. Customers who had purchased the original game were given a limited-time offer to upgrade at half the normal cost via the Fantasy Flight Games website. (Note: That upgrade offer is no longer available.)

Board Game: Runebound

First Edition Expansions

Only one expansion was released for Runebound before the game was updated and re-released as the second edition: Runebound: Shadows of Margath. This expansion was also updated and republished later to be compatible with Runebound (Second Edition) (see entry below).

Board Game: Runebound: Shadows of Margath
Shadows of Margath

Runebound (Second Edition)

Runebound (Second Edition) was released in Fall of 2005, and saw a number of improvements over the original version:

  • The single 20-sided die was replaced with two 10-sided dice to help combat results become more predictable.
  • Statistics for some heroes/challenges/items were adjusted to improve play-balance and to make the game more difficult.
  • All heroes started in the center of the board now, giving players more variety and options during the opening moves.
  • Encounters were removed from city spaces.
  • Plastic (unpainted) minis were included for heroes, instead of the original cardboard stand-ups.

Board Game: Runebound (Second Edition)
Runebound (Second Edition)

Second Edition Big Box Expansions

Each big box expansion creates an entirely new adventure. Components in these expansions typically include a map overlay, additional rules, replacement heroes, and whole new decks of cards. Because changes to the base game can be extensive in these expansions, they are often not compatible with the smaller card deck expansions.

 Missing Image
The Island of Dread
Board Game: Runebound: Midnight
Board Game: Runebound: Sands of Al-Kalim
Sands of Al-Kalim
Board Game: Runebound: The Frozen Wastes
The Frozen Wastes
Board Game: Runebound: Mists of Zanaga
Mists of Zanaga

Second Edition Card Expansions

Runebound uses a modular system of cards to represent events, challenges, and items found during the game. This allows players to experience new and different adventures or encounters just by adding cards from one of several card deck expansions. These small expansions are labeled according to what type of cards they contain:

Item & Ally Card Expansions

Item & Ally decks contain new market items that can give valuable benefits to your heroes. Cards from these expansions are mixed into the market stack, giving you access to new equipment, friends, and even familiars during your adventures.

Board Game: Runebound: Artifacts and Allies
Artifacts and Allies
Board Game: Runebound: Relics of Legend
Relics of Legend
Board Game: Runebound: Champions of Kellos
Champions of Kellos
Board Game: Runebound: Walkers of the Wild
Walkers of the Wild
Board Game: Runebound: Rituals and Runes
Rituals and Runes
Board Game: Runebound: Weapons of Legend
Weapons of Legend

Challenge Card Expansions

Challenge decks include new creatures and encounters, usually related to a particular theme (wilderness, undead, or dragons). With these expansions, the world of Runebound remains filled with danger and uncertainty even after exploring all the base game has to offer.

Board Game: Runebound: The Dark Forest
The Dark Forest
Board Game: Runebound: The Terrors of the Tomb
The Terrors of the Tomb
Board Game: Runebound: Drakes and Dragonspawn
Drakes and Dragonspawn
Board Game: Runebound: Shadows of Margath (Second Edition)
Shadows of Margath
Board Game: Runebound: Beasts and Bandits
Beasts and Bandits
Board Game: Runebound: Traps and Terrors
Traps and Terrors

Adventure Variants

Adventure decks create new and different quests to experience within the world of Terrinoth. Depending on which adventure you choose, new rules, creatures, events, or markers can be introduced to the game.

Board Game: Runebound: Crown of the Elder Kings
Crown of the Elder Kings
Board Game: Runebound: The Scepter of Kyros
The Scepter of Kyros
Board Game: Runebound: Avatars of Kelnov
Avatars of Kelnov
Board Game: Runebound: Cult of the Rune
Cult of the Rune
Board Game: Runebound: The Cataclysm
Curse of the Cataclysm
Board Game: Runebound: The Seven Scions
Quest for the Seven Scions

Character Decks

Character decks allow you to customize your hero by giving them additional skills and talents. You can even mix-and-match powers from several character decks to create a truly unique hero for every game.

Board Game: Runebound: Battlemage Character Deck
Board Game: Runebound: Blade Dancer Character Deck
Blade Dancer
Board Game: Runebound: Runemaster Character Deck
Board Game: Runebound: Shadow Walker Character Deck
Shadow Walker
Board Game: Runebound: Spiritbound Character Deck
Board Game: Runebound: Wildlander Character Deck

Promotional Figures

Several promotional figures were released that can be used with games from either the Runebound or Descent universe. Each figure includes two cards, which provide character statistics and abilities for the games they can be used in.

Existing figures that can be obtained for Runebound include:

Board Game: Descent / Runebound / Runewars Figure: Jonas the Kind
Jonas the Kind
Board Game: Descent / Runebound / Runewars: Tobin Farslayer
Tobin Farslayer
Board Game: Descent / Runebound / Runewars Figure: Truthseer Kel
Truthseer Kel
Board Game: Descent / Runebound / Runewars Figure: Nara The Fang
Nara the Fang

Initially these characters were only included in preordered copies for the French version of Descent: Journeys in the Dark, but they were later made available for German and English players through other means.

Figures from Other Games

Fantasy Flight Games version of Dungeonquest contained Runebound character cards for the 6 miniature included with that game.

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Board Game: DungeonQuest (Third Edition)

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