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Subject: Review of Runewars, score C+ rss

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Nathan
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Time for a full review of Runewars. I don’t expect this will be a very popular review, since it is still a shiny, popular, new game; but everything I write here is intended to be honest criticism.

I own a good number of products from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), and they have created two of my favorite games; Twilight Imperium and Arkham Horror. These are now the bench marks I compare other FFG games to, whether that’s fair or not. I love this type of Ameri-trash game with complicated rules and lots of theme. I have been eagerly awaiting Runewars.

Components:

This game looks great when setup. Like many big box games from FFG it’s a giant mass of parts that looks amazing. There’s ton’s of miniatures, colorful three dimensional board pieces, and lots of decks of cards. Overall the quality is excellent.

The one exception to this; is that the game not only ships with replacement parts for certain misprinted pieces, but still has additional misprinted board pieces that are not replaced. While I love some FFG games, the fact that each has had to be altered with markers is just sad. Quality control should not be such an issue.

Score: A- (would be an A+ without the constant mistakes)

Gameplay:

Runewars is a complicated war game, spread out over multiple years. Each year is broken into 4 seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter. On each season, players select an order card and follow the appropriate actions. Allowing players to gain resources, recruit armies and other tasks in the game. Over the years, players expand their kingdoms, build large armies, and acquire dragon runes. The first player to obtain 6 dragon runes is the winner.

The game plays relatively quickly, faster than Twilight Imperium, and supports fewer players. The rules are clearly written, though complicated, and I recommend setting the game up and playing a couple years to understand how all the rules work together. Overall I like the general gameplay. I think the wargame elements are fun, and relatively clear to understand.

Unfortunately, not at the game elements seem so well thought out. The game does not use dice, instead it has a 30 card fortune deck. Each card in the fortune deck has multiple symbols and areas so that each card can be used to resolve numerous types of actions; attacks, diplomacy attempts, or quest results. There is no explanation of the odds provided by the fortune deck in the game rules. This makes it difficult for players to judge their actions.

Even more oddly, the game contains rules that allow players to look through the discard pile of the fortune deck at any time. In theory this allows players to determine how many “good” cards are left in the deck, but in practice how are players supposed to interpret the odds without an explanation of the decks contents? This mechanic just seems incomplete to me without information about the fortune deck. Yes, this can easily be achieved with a home-made player aid, but it should be in the rules.

Score: B-

Theme:

Overall the game plays as a kind of fantasy wargame, with players battling for control of dragon runes. The wargame elements tend to work rather well, however the fantasy game elements are not always as well integrated.

There are 4 fantasy armies; humans, elves, necromancer and chaos/demons. These do the best job of delivering on the fantasy theme, with knights, demons, and undead facing off. Each race has a special home kingdom with excellent art work.

Unfortunately not everything carries the fantasy theme as well. For example, along with your kingdom and armies, players control heroes. Once a year, during the summer season, heroes move around the game board performing quests and searching for hidden dragon runes. Otherwise heroes pretty much ignore the armies and other monsters that populate the game.

There are a number of problems with heroes. First, the quest deck is very limited, often with less than 20 cards in the deck. As a result quests are very repetitive and quickly become boring. Second, heroes are ignored for much of the game, except for a special phase at the beginning of every summer. It plays like a miniature version of Runebound within the overall wargame, but due to the limitations it tends to be a very boring mini-game that doesn’t engage with the rest of Runewars. Sadly, heroes detract from the more enjoyable parts of the game, rather than adding to it.

Another odd part of the game deals with neutral creatures. These are unaligned monsters that populate the world at the beginning of the game, ranging from lowly razorwings to giants and dragons. When you setup the game, these are a big reason the world looks so fantastic and alive. Outside your kingdoms there are hordes of monsters to be dealt with.
When you encounter these neutral creatures you can either battle them or attempt diplomacy. When you attempt diplomacy, the creatures will join you, retreat, or fight you.

The problem is creatures almost always retreat. You can send a single archer unit to face a mighty dragon or giant, and most often this results in the monster running away. Much like heroes, monsters are lackluster. Things just do not behave the way they do in most fantasy books and movies.

Score: D+

Conclusion:

Big games like Runewars, need to succeed on multiple levels. The game needs to look good to justify the cost, on this I think Runewars succeeds brilliantly. The game needs to play well and be easy to understand (considering a 40 page rulebook), again I think the game mostly succeeds. Last, and for me most important, the theme needs to be throughout the game. I spend hours setting up and playing Twilight Imperium and Arkham Horror because of how well those games embody their themes. Runewars fails to deliver on the fantasy.

I really wanted to love this game, but it just hasn’t been as much fun to play as I expected. Fantasy battle games need magic and monsters and heroes to live up to their theme. Runewars has these things, but they don’t add up to very much. The world looks impressive, thank to the great pieces, but when the result is fleeing dragons and boring heroes it just does not feel like a success.

I wish the game was as much fun to play as it was to look at. An expansion could fix some of the problems, as could house rules. I remain optimistic Runewars can get better, but it is not yet a great game to me.

Score: C+
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Ian Kelly
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ngoike wrote:
The problem is creatures almost always retreat. You can send a single archer unit to face a mighty dragon or giant, and most often this results in the monster running away. Much like heroes, monsters are lackluster. Things just do not behave the way they do in most fantasy books and movies.


You can improve the odds by spending more influence on the diplomacy check. If the neutral units keep retreating, it sounds to me that nobody wants them badly enough to spend the influence.

Also, note that if you have both a "Fight" result and a "Retreat" result, you can choose to fight them. You might do this if you fail to get them to join you and are concerned that they might then be enlisted by an opponent. Think of it as preemptive divide-and-conquer.
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matt way
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I have to respectfully disagree with parts of this review. There seems to be some strange disconnect with some people over the Hero portion of the game. To me it seems quite well integrated and heros play a vital and interactive part of the game. Obviously a number of people are frustrated that Hero's are not THE focus of the game. Armies are definitely the focus of the main action, but hero's and influence play a large role in winning the game. They are key to a number of magical spells ("tactics") and can literally win you the game if you find enough runes. I suspect that the fact you can only activate them once a year makes people feel that they are "tacked" on. Yet you can only attack with your armies twice a year and nobody has yet to complain that combat is tacked on.
As for the number of quests, since you can only do 1 quest a year, at most you can do 6 quests (assuming you succeed in every one) in the typicaly 6 year game. Unless you have a lot of hero's you really aren't going to use up the quests. I haven't even played with all the optional hero encounter markers yet, so I can't say how that affects play.
I've had a totally different experience with Neutrals, getting a dragon or a giant on your side early on can be a huge military advantage (so long as you don't lose them to spells cast by Heroes).

It intrigues me how different people are getting such totally different feelings about this game.

Poliorcetes
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Barry Kendall
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I appreciate the effort to provide an early review, and also give the OP credit for sticking his neck out to do something other than give a blanket endorsement.

This said, I'd categorize the review under the heading "first impressions."

My sense of RWs is that many nuances of play will only emerge as the game is played by a broad spectrum of gamers with diverse playing styles. I am somewhat puzzled by the reported docility of neutrals, but the post pointing out the combat possibility when multiple options occur indicates that there may be more strategic implications in dealing with neutrals than initially appears to be the case.

Regarding the character game, I'm firmly in the camp looking for RWs to be an "army game" first and a "character game" second. If I were playing a game set in Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" world, I'd want the opposite, with the Heroes given primacy and armies as background, but in RWs, I think the design offers a good square meal in which the main course is given primary weight, and the characters serve as sauce.

It's safe to say that RWs will generate a large amount of commentary and many diverse opinions and perspectives, which to me suggests good things about a major new game. I'm hoping to get a learning game in as soon as the schedule allows, but in the meantime, appreciate everybody'e early observations.
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Thel Schuhart
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Yall remember the movie, Christmas Story? " oh no C+"

Put the Fate cards down, you'll shoot your eye out! LOL.

so far, the only thing that is frustrating me is the neutrals. In my first real game, I was able to use a tactics card to force a Dragon to allie with me. On my second turn, I think it was a season card where I did not have enough influence and it ended up costing me units. Followed up with my first battle I got whomped.

The game is very unpredictable, and it gonna take a couple of games before I feel strongly one way or another.



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E J
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The fact that there were replacement parts IN the box for immediate fixing IS quality control. I didn't have to call FFG and wait a few days for replacement parts. They were IN the box already.
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David desJardins
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ngoike wrote:
Unfortunately, not at the game elements seem so well thought out. The game does not use dice, instead it has a 30 card fortune deck. Each card in the fortune deck has multiple symbols and areas so that each card can be used to resolve numerous types of actions; attacks, diplomacy attempts, or quest results. There is no explanation of the odds provided by the fortune deck in the game rules. This makes it difficult for players to judge their actions.


You're talking about a game that takes hours to play and complaining that, if you want to know the distribution of results, it takes you a minute to either glance at the cards or print out a list from this site? That is truly ridiculous.
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Chris Kessel
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Poliorcetes wrote:
I have to respectfully disagree with parts of this review. There seems to be some strange disconnect with some people over the Hero portion of the game. To me it seems quite well integrated and heros play a vital and interactive part of the game.

We've gone over this before in other threads, but suffice to say yours is the minority opinion on this one. Almost everyone that posted a comment based on the sneak preview wasn't fond of the hero implementation. Many folks here aren't.

More power to the people that like heroes as they stand, but it appears that a pretty good majority of the people that have tried the game think heroes are a pretty weak link in the game.

Fortunately, some good house rules have already started to pop up.
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David desJardins
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ckessel wrote:
We've gone over this before in other threads, but suffice to say yours is the minority opinion on this one.


Doesn't it suffice for him to state his opinion and you to state your opinion? What difference does it make if more posters agree with one or the other of you? Even if we could agree on how to count.
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Mark Bond
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I have to admit, I'm pretty confused by those who seem very disappointed with the Hero involvement.

I mean no disrespect to anyone here, but the rulebook pretty clearly indicates the exact relationship the Heroes have with the rest of the game. If you read the rulebook, it's pretty easy to visualize how this is going to play out. I surely wouldn't plunk down over $100 for a board game without at least reading the rules first. And for the record, these are good, solid rules. I've read them about 6 times and I feel like my first play will probably be pretty glitch-free.

Maybe it's just personal taste, but I like the idea of a large-scale fantasy empire game, where the Heroes are just one facet of a much larger environment. I imagine that in Runewars, one unit really represents many units of that type (say 50, for example), just as one food icon in an area does not mean that your army finds a chicken drumstick in the field - they find a large herd of cows, or a sprawling farm. Also, these heroes are not Gandalf, Aragorn or Legolas - virtually immortal warriors who can wade into a sea of foes without hesitation and emerge relatively unscathed - they're more like, say, Batman, who is just a human being, and who has to rely on sneaking and guile just to get where he needs to go.

Assuming the scale representation (1 unit = 50) then what is one of these Heroes going to do against a couple hundred archers, 50 necromancers and 100 Chaos Lords? I can't see Silhouette wading into that with much success.

It just seems to me that Heroes are exactly what they should be in this game, and I was interested to hear that there are even Tactics cards that give them some extra power. That's even more than the rulebook promised.
All that said, I might eat my words when I actually play the game, but I'm certainly not expecting something that I don't think is there, and wasn't meant to be. There are tons of great Heroquesting games out there, if you want that, and if you really want a game where Heroes wade into battle with their armies, War of the Ring looks awesome.

One thing I already agree with, though, is the diplomacy system seems a little funny, and it sure sounds odd to hear about one archer unit pushing around dragons and giants...
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David desJardins
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Raolin wrote:
I mean no disrespect to anyone here, but the rulebook pretty clearly indicates the exact relationship the Heroes have with the rest of the game.


I don't think people are complaining about how well it's described in the rules. I think they are saying they don't enjoy it when they actually play the game.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Raolin wrote:
I mean no disrespect to anyone here, but the rulebook pretty clearly indicates the exact relationship the Heroes have with the rest of the game.


I don't think people are complaining about how well it's described in the rules. I think they are saying they don't enjoy it when they actually play the game.


Of course, but I think that could've been anticipated at least somewhat by a good read of the rules, which are pretty clear about what the Heroes can and cannot do. I think the fact that there are some Tactics cards which do allow Heroes to affect battles is, if anything, kind of a bonus.

Not that I'm suggesting one can really know a game experience by reading the rules - as bad as the rules for TOMB are, they still made me excited to play the game, then when I played, it was kind of... dull.

For the record, I'm sure the dev team will include more for the Heroes in the inevitable expansion, especially given the outcries here and on other forums.

And who knows? Maybe I'll feel the same way as everyone else seems to, if the game ever actually gets here.
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David desJardins
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Raolin wrote:
Of course, but I think that could've been anticipated at least somewhat by a good read of the rules


So what? Even if people could anticipate it perfectly from reading the rules, can't they still mention it in their reviews as something they dislike?
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Raolin wrote:
Of course, but I think that could've been anticipated at least somewhat by a good read of the rules


So what? Even if people could anticipate it perfectly from reading the rules, can't they still mention it in their reviews as something they dislike?


I never said they couldn't.
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David desJardins
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Raolin wrote:
I never said they couldn't.


You said you're "confused" that some people don't like the way heroes work in the game, and say so.

I don't think this should be confusing. Whether they figure out they don't like the way heroes work by reading the rules, or by playing the game, is irrelevant to their decision to post about it here.
 
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Let him breathe, David. To paraphrase what you said a couple of posts back, even if people shouldn't feel confused, can't they still mention it in their posts if they do feel that way?
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I apologize for being confused. But I would like to know from the reviewers if they knew beforehand exactly what role the Heroes play in the game, and were then disappointed by the experience of that, or if they assumed that the Heroes were able to do certain things, and were then disappointed to find out they didn't. To me, there's a big difference there. When I play Runewars, for one example, I'm not going to be disappointed that the Heroes can't really do anything except in the Summer, because I already know that... it's in the rules. And so on.
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David desJardins
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Raolin wrote:
I would like to know from the reviewers if they knew beforehand exactly what role the Heroes play in the game, and were then disappointed by the experience of that, or if they assumed that the Heroes were able to do certain things, and were then disappointed to find out they didn't.


Why do you care? It seems that the point of a review is for them to describe what they do and don't like about the game. Describing exactly what they knew at what time in coming to that understanding doesn't seem relevant to me. But of course you can ask if you want.
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Raolin wrote:
I would like to know from the reviewers if they knew beforehand exactly what role the Heroes play in the game, and were then disappointed by the experience of that, or if they assumed that the Heroes were able to do certain things, and were then disappointed to find out they didn't.


Why do you care? It seems that the point of a review is for them to describe what they do and don't like about the game. Describing exactly what they knew at what time in coming to that understanding doesn't seem relevant to me. But of course you can ask if you want.


It seems relevant to me in terms of expectation - some people were obviously expecting Heroes to have a more significant impact on the field, and others may have not had that expectation. When someone declares (as several have, here and elsewhere) that the Heroes felt "tacked on", or are disappointed in their implementation, I'd like to know what they expected. It might lend more context to their review.
I do care, because I've read the rules a few times, and I think I have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the heroes in the game. It will be interesting to see how my actual experience lines up with that.

And I'd like to know how other people found it, too, which is partly why I'm reading the reviews. If I didn't care, I wouldn't even bother coming here.
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Thx for the review. IMO (without playing the games myself) the rewiewer raises some valid points if you read the session reports.


- Missprinted or chenged pieces in the game ....surely adressed in a reprint.
- Counting the fate deck cards for example is mentioned before to slow down the game.
- The pushing around of the "neutral" monsters is mentioned in a few reviews even to the point were some people claim that there are up to 8 neutral monsters in some hexes.
- That the heroes dont interact much has been mentioned before too.

Question for me is if these points can be adressed if necessary in expanisons or is the game perhaps in need of a complete rewriting of the rules.
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It seems this thread has been highjacked.

Thanks to the OP, your review is helpful to a fence sitter like myself. I can understand your reasoning behind being disappointed with the theme; it sounds like heroes without the heroism and monsters without the fear.
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Atomsk wrote:
It seems this thread has been highjacked.


My apologies to the OP, who submitted a good review.
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Sombra wrote:
Thx for the review. IMO (without playing the games myself) the rewiewer raises some valid points if you read the session reports.


- Missprinted or chenged pieces in the game ....surely adressed in a reprint.
- Counting the fate deck cards for example is mentioned before to slow down the game.
- The pushing around of the "neutral" monsters is mentioned in a few reviews even to the point were some people claim that there are up to 8 neutral monsters in some hexes.
- That the heroes dont interact much has been mentioned before too.

Question for me is if these points can be adressed if necessary in expanisons or is the game perhaps in need of a complete rewriting of the rules.

These points could all be handled individually if necessary. A complete rewrite would be a major overkill.

And that assumes the things need to be changed at all:
- There's only two misprinted "components" to my knowledge: two of the tiles with Giants, and the misprint there is relatively minor.
- Counting the fate cards could simply be disallowed by your group if it is a problem.
- Moving the neutrals around could be addressed separately
- Hero interaction could be addressed separately.

Overall the rulebook is very well written, in my opinion. The mechanics of the game may not suit everyone, but that doesn't mean it needs an overhaul, and I don't think the OP's review is suggesting that it's badly written, just that there were certain points that he didn't like about it.
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southernmagnus wrote:
DaviddesJ wrote:

Why do you care? It seems that the point of a review is for them to describe what they do and don't like about the game. Describing exactly what they knew at what time in coming to that understanding doesn't seem relevant to me. But of course you can ask if you want.


In forums for a game that you have already compared (unfavorably) to Risk, I'd say the likelihood of you contributing anything of use is rather low.

Unless I missed a post somewhere, I don't recall David comparing Runewars to Risk; that was done by Bubslug in this thread:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/4558481#4558481
 
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Thanks for the review. As usual, when reading a negative review of a game that I am interested in purchasing, I take the negative aspects and filter them into the world of Sky Knight X to see how they shake out.

First of all, like someone else said, this is a first impression review. Nothing wrong with that, it can still be valuable, but in my experiences of my first playing of a complex multiplayer game, I take first impressions with a pillar of Lot’s wife.
ngoike wrote:

I own a good number of products from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), and they have created two of my favorite games; Twilight Imperium and Arkham Horror. These are now the bench marks I compare other FFG games to, whether that’s fair or not. I love this type of Ameri-trash game with complicated rules and lots of theme. I have been eagerly awaiting Runewars.

Okay, I’m all ears. This is my situation exactly. I love TI3 and AH, and have high hopes for Runewars.
ngoike wrote:

The one exception to this; is that the game not only ships with replacement parts for certain misprinted pieces, but still has additional misprinted board pieces that are not replaced. While I love some FFG games, the fact that each has had to be altered with markers is just sad. Quality control should not be such an issue.

Non issue for me. The game components come complete and playable.
ngoike wrote:

There is no explanation of the odds provided by the fortune deck in the game rules.

Mountains and molehills. I do not see this affecting my enjoyment at all.
ngoike wrote:

There are a number of problems with heroes. First, the quest deck is very limited, often with less than 20 cards in the deck. As a result quests are very repetitive and quickly become boring.

This is a very concerning comment. Repetitive quests were a real killer for me in the World of Warcraft boardgame.
ngoike wrote:

Second, heroes are ignored for much of the game… Sadly, heroes detract from the more enjoyable parts of the game, rather than adding to it.

Another concerning comment, and echoed by others. Disturbing FF trend? It makes me wonder if the people defending the hero element in this game will be disheartened when the first expansion comes with complete and vibrant rules that bring heroes alive, just as I suspect will happen with the Middle Earth Quest horrendous final battle nonsense.
ngoike wrote:

The problem is creatures almost always retreat. You can send a single archer unit to face a mighty dragon or giant, and most often this results in the monster running away. Much like heroes, monsters are lackluster. Things just do not behave the way they do in most fantasy books and movies.

Lackluster neutral monsters… another element which gives me pause.

My evaluation after reading this review? Still on the fence. I do not put a great deal of weight in a one play review, but I am glad that both positives and negatives were touched upon. Some of the negatives here are concerning, some are absolutely meaningless to me.
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