Runebound is a boardgame of 2 – 6 players where you take on the persona of one of many heroes who are out to find the evil Margath and bring him to justice. The game itself comes in rather compact sized box much like Arkham Asylum and contains the board, tokens for stamina and health, cards for adventures and items plus hero miniatures.
The quality cannot be disputed as much like anything Fantasy Flight seems to put out it has a high production value to it. The tokens are nice thick cardboard stock and the cards are quite durable. The board itself is well sized when unfolded. For those like myself who have played Descent you can see the influences which lead to it. It’s like visiting an ancestor and finding out what worked and what didn’t work. The art is also top notch from the hero cards right down to the token and the board itself.
Unlike Descent there is no overlord who manages the game so everyone is involved. The introduction quest which is the only one you have included with this game is to destroy the High Lord Margath or to collect three dragon runes.
The heroes are quite numerous and definitely no lack of options. Each have their advantages and disadvantages. Some have higher health, some stamina, some are quite durable across the board yet do not do much damage to their opponents. Your hero card contains all these statistics for your character so it’s a nice little reference cards which is straight to the point. For some very odd reason though a shield icon is used to represent Range. We dare not ask why…
So once all your players have selected their characters they all start in the same city. From there players go clockwise and take their appropriate actions. Each players round is split up into refreshing, moving, adventuring, market and experience. So with that being said you refresh your cards which are those properly indicated with an hourglass.
I saved this one to set apart because this bothered me the most. Once you hit movement phase you roll five movement dice which on each side contain various land symbols. Each symbol represents a land type. Based on these symbols you can use one icon per dice and select your trajectory. However sometimes your wanting to go somewhere specific and the rolls are just not right. At that point you can sacrifice your movement turn to move one space in the direction you want. This breaks the game at a certain point as it leads to people missing out turns where they want to be more productive. Also the dice unlike Descent were not very fantastic quality. By that I mean very plain, no icon indents.
Finally we adventure by landing on a jewel token. On the board there are various encounter locations that are colored and of course match a corresponding token that goes over it. When you land on the token you trigger a card which you draw from one of the colored decks. Some of these can be events which can last till another is drawn or some other random quest. Some are encounters which need to be resolved.
Events are another element we found rather game breaking. When you pull an event it has a number on the bottom right hand corner ranging from 1 to 3. It stays into effect until another event card comes along that is equal or greater. So in our game John decided to take on a red quest to see how tough they are. We ended up getting an event instead. So with a number 3 event we were pretty much limited to only have the game develop by taking on the hardest quests.
To make things worse, quest can spawn when events are pulled so it keeps the game going so you could imagine that no new events means no new quest markers. This meant that we not only had no new events but once we completed the minor quest areas that the game was on stand still.
The encounters themselves ranged from extremely easy to ridiculously hard. When it came to the red encounters we knew they were to be challenging as they are the main bad creatures of the game. But still we found that at times they were too hard. Essentially when you die, you gain health and stamina back but lose an item of greater value. So all that gold you spent on items to kill these monsters you will lose and in the case of our encounters being limited because of the higher event number, no new quests were being refreshed. It was pretty much a no win situation unless we got the luck of the dice.
Combat was resolved by rolling two D10 dice and adding the results with the appropriate skill. If you equal or exceed the target value you add a wound counter to the opponent or you take damage. When either accumulate enough wounds the enemy is vanquished or you die. You also have certain innate abilities that may aid you on your journey. Generally most creatures had that ability to reduce your stamina if you did not pass a certain roll. It only became really frustrating as before the fight itself you had to make this roll which was very difficult and if you missed sometimes it would eat right into your wound points nearing you that much closer to death if the combat was not hard enough at times.
Overall the game runs smooth. We did seem to run into the exception to the rule by trying to jump through the natural flow of progression however that’s when you discover the kinks. I can’t say I was disappointed at all. Runebound holds it’s own as being a very good board game. You can see why Descent took the transformation it did. It became what it should have been. This doesn’t devalue Runebound though so don’t mistake that. With it’s price point around the $45 – $50 range and abundance of expansion via $10 card packs you cannot go wrong on something that has a lot of replayability.
Replay Value: Runebound offers a lot of options if you pay into the expansions. You can either go the card route or by one of the mid priced range board game expansions to add a little more. We would have preferred having another overall goal to spice things up but for what was there we liked.
Fast Paced: Despite our issues with movement the game itself is fast. Combat is resolved quite easily, the quests are spaced evenly so your always bumping into something.
Quality: Like all of Fantasy Flight Games that I have played to date the quality is top notch. Tokens are thick cardboard, cards are resistant to abuse and the miniatures are well detailed.
Movement: Figuring out all the symbols for first timers can be annoying and take away from the action of the game. While the rest of the game is fast flowing, movement always seems to bog things down. A simple move score for each person and a deduction value for various land types probably would have made things a big less annoying and keep the pass just as fast.
Movement Dice: The dice could have been indented with the respective land emblems rather then on sticker sides. I have a feeling that it could wear itself out or become dirty thus ruining the sticker.
Events: For our first play through we found a hole in the system. We attribute that to the event numbering. A bit more variety would have been great. For instance a few lower leveled red events. Perhaps have 3 levels per each colored difficulty.
I highly recommend this game to those interested in a nicely paced game that has a bit of a twist to it. It’s not perfect mind you but it’s worth looking past the faults as you will find a game that not only has a solid base but has amazing growth potential.