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."
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.
Movement Dice Close-up
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: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com
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.