Happen to be looking for a good time with some friends? Looking for an RPG-lite, beer and pretzels adventure game to play with the aforementioned friends? Do you look at the days of Heroquest and have fond memories? Well, do you want to know what will give you all of this? It just might be Runebound.
So what is Runebound? It's a fantasy adventure boardgame, akin to Heroquest. Essentially, a game of hack 'n slash D&D, without a DM or role-playing. To quote the FFG games website:
"In Runebound, you and your friends play heroes in a fantasy realm full of monsters, perils, and treasure. The realm is yours to explore as you wish: Visit the Mountains of Despair, brave the Whispering Forest, or shop for magic items in the Paradash Bazaar. Wherever you go, adventure awaits you - and because the game changes each time you play it, you'll never have the same adventure twice."
So, basically, it's a fantasy board game.
How does it work? The adventuring is done on a fairly large, colorful board. The board is completely static. The meat and potatoes of the game are handled using cards. Combat, tests and movement are with dice. Combat & all of the various tests are handled with a D20, and movement is with specialized terrain dice (D6's with different symbols on them).
How long does it take, and how many of us can play?
The game runs 2 to 4 hours. Between 2 and 6 characters are what the rules are allowed to accommodate. With a bit of tweaking, more or less could be used.
I think Runebound, for what it is worth, is a good game. I say good because it is not great. There are many things that prohibit it from being a real mainstay at my gaming table. For example:
My first impression of the game was the outer lid tearing because it was designed too tightly. Now, something like that doesn't totally trash it of course, but it still makes me wonder why they didn't correct this before they shipped it to retail. The game pieces are made out of cardboard you punch out of a frame. It is thick, durable stuff, so the quality there is not an issue. However, what I do find an issue is the price, and what you get. You pay $50 and you get a box full of cards and cardboard. Personally, I expect a little more when I shell out fifty bucks.
The art varies greatly from card to card. Some of the art is good stuff. Some of the art, while not being lousy, takes away from the other cards. The board is my biggest problem when it comes to art. From what I can tell, it looks like it was drawn up on a computer program. The writing looks like computer text, the trees look like something that was dragged and dropped, and the rest of the board is just bland. FFG's could have really hit it off with a great impression on the board, but they didn't. Easily the most underwhelming part of the game.
Like I said before, they are thin, even with the advanced rules. Not to say it is a bad thing; just that they are thin. If you want a beer & pretzels game, you have it. My two complaints with the rules are the PVP, and combat in general. Combat is a duel of lining up numbers and rolling to get a certain score. It can get a bit bland after a while when the only real difference in challenge is the number you need. There is very little strategy involved here. PVP is the same way. Compare numbers, roll the D20, and compare again. One big complaint is the way tests and skills work. You have these seemingly arbitrary skills assigned to characters that are hardly ever useful in the game. What is even worse is you are penalized to use them. If the skills and tests were more streamlined, and if one could see the logic behind them, it would not be a complaint.
Painfully simple. Gain a level; gain a point in 3 different stats.
The game consists of 3 different kinds of cards: adventure card, item/ally cards, and hero cards. All self explanatory. You draw an adventure card, do what it says, and you might end up doing combat, which might end up you getting an item card. Basic stuff. My complaint here is the sheer amount of item cards, and the relative scarcity of the adventure cards. You have this gigantic stack of item cards compared to a stack of adventure cards. They appear to be about the same size, but in the actual game the adventure cards are split into 4 different levels to display the experience of the adventures you are going to encounter. I would have liked to see some more adventure cards, and a lot more variation. The game tells you one session will never be like another. Sure, this might be true in fact, but in substance it is all the same. Play a few games of Runebound and you've played them all.
Don't let what I didn't like turn you off from the game. Here is what I like.
They're light and fairly fun. It doesn't take multiple sessions to understand them, it takes 10 minutes. The advanced rules add more to it, and hopefully the future expansions will allow players to make things as complicated or simple as they like. Another benefit of the light rules is the ability to easily modify things. House rules on the run if you will. Without a huge mess of rules to deal with, you can change things as the game goes on to suit it without having repercussions down the line.
- Terrain Dice
I think this is a neat way to move. Well, it's neat when you roll what you need and/or you opponents do not get what they need. It sucks when you do not get what you need, of course. Either way, it is an interesting way to do movement. Adds more thought to a move phase that would otherwise require little thought.
Runebound is a great social game. You sit around with friends, hoard gold, develop characters and kill bad guys. Good stuff if this strikes you as fun. There are not any high level strategies you must learn that would turn off new players. Due to the randomness, someone who played once is just about on the same footing as someone who has played 20 times. This might be a weakness, it might not. Depends on the tastes of the players.
- Hero Cards
While I might dislike most of the card art, the card art on the character cards is great. It really gives me a feeling of that old school dungeon storming style of gameplay. Good stuff.
Wonderfully simple. New gamers will not feel overwhelmed at too many options.
This is, overall, a good game. I'd rather play a game of D&D if I want to hack and slash, but if I'm playing with people who are not gamers, or if I haven't had the time to prepare an adventure, Runebound would be my second bet for a good fantasy adventure. If FFG keeps it going strong with future expansions (read: More variation. Better art. Deeper adventures.) Runebound might last. Otherwise, if not properly supported, this game will become a fad, and nothing more. Anyway, hopefully my thoughts and opinions will help you decide if this is the game for you.