Home > Games > He must be really brave to ride on that dragon

He must be really brave to ride on that dragon

March 20, 2013

For some time now, Miss B has been eyeing up the copy of Rune Age with a mix of expressed feelings. At first it was terror at the picture of the undead necromancer on one side of the box, but more recently this mutated into interest, and then near-obsession with the picture of an elf on another side. Eventually she managed to persuade me to get the game out so she could try it.

The last demon card is claimed!

The last demon card is claimed!

Rune Age is another flavour of deck building card game, but here there are a small number of shared cards that you can acquire along with a few more specific to your faction — and everyone plays a different faction, which all work in very different ways. Furthermore, there are effectively three currencies: gold, influence, and military strength, each of which can buy certain cards, many of which provide a different kind of resource.

Another little quirk (some would say major selling point) of Rune Age is that in the basic set there are four different scenarios to choose from, and these set objectives so that the game could be a pure cooperative game (well, almost — one event card gives an option for a solo victory) at one extreme, or a full-on last-man-standing war. Miss B chose the competitive scenario where the aim is to be the player to defeat the big bad boss monster and which allows, but does not require, attacks between players. This scenario also has events which cause damage to players after a few turns, so that’s a big incentive to get yourself in gear and go for the win, as it is entirely possible that everyone will lose.

It took a little while for Miss B to get the hang of things, but she got into making reasonable decisions after a few turns, though neither of us really ended up with particularly efficient decks. As we usually do with deck building games, we generally put our cards on the table during our turn and played them from there, which meant that if necessary I could offer advice to Miss B. This was needed a few times as she hadn’t yet developed a feel for combos in this game. We did attack each other a little bit to steal cities, and this didn’t prove to be a problem.

Eventually we got to the point where we were attempting to defeat the boss dragon, and after an attempt each and some nasty events (which, when you get to the endgame, start recycling scarily fast), it was looking like we would both lose. Miss B was launching her do-or-die attack (I, having failed in the previous turn, would not have survived long enough to have another go myself) and needed a good draw from her deck. Now this is one of those rare points where I “tweaked” probability a bit. I figured she had about a one-in-three chance of drawing one of the cards she needed, so when I reshuffled her deck for her (I generally do the shuffles at the moment to speed things up) I ensured there was something decent on top.

I’m not sure if I did the right thing there, as it may have been a worthwhile experience for us to both lose. But it made for some good excitement as she was still relying on a not-awful die roll to seal the deal. So that was a win for Miss B.

I think Rune Age is a little fiddly to be playing with Miss B, largely due to the levels of indirection brought about by the currencies, but if she wants to play again, that’s fine by me.

The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 6ΒΌ): “It was 10 out of 10, if it was out of 20 it would be 15. I liked the part where there was 12 fighter skills to get the dragon as a prize. That was quite a lot but not as high as the 18 dragon which made us win and I got it.”

The game: Rune Age (Fantasy Flight Games), 1 to 4 players aged 13+.

  1. Barnetto
    March 25, 2013 at 11:00 am

    I posted on BGG recently a query regarding a starting deck building game to play with my 7 year old son – Rune Age was one suggestion and, even though (you won’t be surprised to hear) that I’d pre-purchased several deck building games (and only asked for advice on which one to bring out first), I ended up acquiring Rune Age (and, again no surprise!) its expansion too! (By the way, don’t get too hard on me if I mention a game that you don’t feel is, technically, a deck building game – I’m too inexperienced in the world of gaming to be sure of the subtle distinctions that seem to get so many people aggravated on BGG about what is or isn’t deck building!)

    Anyway, I have now tried out Rune Age a few times using the solo scenarios, Cataclyms and Dragonlords (or something like that). I too decided that it was a bit too fiddly to start off with this deck builder – particularly given the use of three different “currencies” and the fact that you actually appear to largely stop using one (influence) towards the end. I’m keen to give the co-op scenario a go at some point, but there is a fair amount to think about – both with housekeeping (remembering to place damage tokens here and there each turn) and the various abilities of the cards (play abilities, resolution abilities etc), and the differnce between playing your hand and playing an event (which confused me first time around!).

    In the end, I started my son off with Ascension – which has been a fair success. He quite likes it – finds it easy enough to play -and, given that we too play with cards down open on the table, I can help him with his strategy to beat me! It does at least show how different types of card are important – some for cycling through your deck, some for getting rid of the poorer cards etc. He doesn’t ask to play it too much, which surprises me a little. I must try and get him to express why that might be.

    And as for the shuffling “malfunction” – I would have done the same – the most important aspect is too have fun and if a little deception in the short term helps them to enjoy it, then why not. Though I can see how it would be counterproductive to do something like that all the time and foster a belief that winning is everything or even a key aspect of enjoying a game. But the last thing you want is a very upset child on your hands at the end of playing a game (though it happens with me more often than I would wish!)

  2. March 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    For what it’s worth, I would class Rune Age as a deckbuilder, but it’s of a very different style to, say, Dominion. Categories can be useful, but I don’t think it’s helpful to adhere to them too rigidly.

    I must admit that I’m planning to get the Rune Age expansion. It sounds like it adds quite a lot to the game — to the point that I see the game as effectively a Β£40 game that is split between two purchases so you can see if you like the basics before buying the full set. Personally I’d like to see more games like that — even if that wasn’t really the intention in this case.

    Ascension sounds interesting and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, so maybe we’ll give it a go sometime soonish.

    As far as a deckbuilder for a little’un is concerned, I think you’d have to go a long way to beat Dominion. As long as the kid’s reading skills are reasonable, there is a lot of fun to be had. And you can select a set of cards to play with that suit’s the kid’s play style. We’ve found that the Cornucopia expansion fits Miss B like a glove. I’ll do an update post on Dominion very soon, I think, as we do play it every now and then and we still both very much enjoy it.

    • Barnetto
      March 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Yes, it was between Dominion and Ascension in the end – I went with Ascension only because I have played it so much on the ipod (an embarrassingly large number of times – with all the expansions available – of course!) that I knew there’d be no issue of needing to look things up in rulebooks to disrupt the flow of play.

      I read your write up of Dominion – and will be interested to read any follow up – I particularly liked your suggestion of starting with a smaller selection of cards – would you start with a smaller stack too? A lot of the games I’d like to play with my boys are very much on the cusp of their attention spans and so playing a shorter version of a game can often help – I play Stone Age with my 7 year old for example and usually keep the building stack smaller than the standard 7 to shorten the game a little. (When we played at the weekend I was delighted to find him noticing what I was collecting and then blocking me off from buildings that I had my eye on.)

      The Rune Age expansion adds a few “mercenaries” which gives you something else to spend your influcence on – I think they would be a particularly good addition to the competetive scenarios – less so for the solo games – as well as the extra factions and extra cards for all factions – seems a solid expansion – four “troops” did seem a bit limited for the original factions to me.

      But it remains deck building under pressure with the Enemy cards providing the impetus (in the solo scenarios at least) to get on with things! Certainly completely and utterly different to Ascension!

  3. March 25, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Yes, our earlier games of Dominion started off with smaller piles of cards — I think we used 5 per pile initially. That only lasted for a couple of games before we ended up just doing a regular setup, but it proved an effective way to learn the game.

    It’s all down to the old problem of reducing the length and scope of a game while trying to maintain its feel and attraction. Sometimes it works, sometimes less so…

  4. March 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I’m of the opinion that Rune Age is a much better and more interesting game than Dominion, purely because it solves the multiplayer solitaire issue I have with the latter. But then again, I’m not playing with a six year old so my needs are radically different πŸ˜‰

    I’m a massive fan of Rune Age, so much so that I’d probably say it’s my favourite game (or at least in the top 3). I’m not however a fan of the expansion. The added faction cards make the ambigious choices a lot clearer, and it seems like it’s impossible to not build an efficient deck unless you’re not paying any attention. My friend disagrees with me, but meh. I think that the new scenarios wouldn’t be particularly good fit for you (though I’ve not read any of your earlier stuff) if you just do 2 player – Overlord is fantastic but it just works so much nicer when it’s 3v1 and I haven’t tried the other.

    Also, she played the elves. Good on her. Who were you playing as?

  5. March 26, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks for the perspective — good to hear from a real fan of the game. I think with a six-year-old multiplayer solitaire can actually be an advantage (though I think that description is an exaggeration in the case of Dominion). Actually, I’m not sure it’s really useful to keep comparing everything to Dominion — Rune Age and Dominion could hardly be more different given that they share a core mechanic or two.

    I was playing as the Daqan Lords. From my limited experience of the game, I think I prefer either the undead or the Uthuk, but at the moment my choices are coloured by Miss B’s tastes. As for the elves, well, she likes elves. πŸ™‚

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