A ferrox! I can just defeat that!
Close on the heels of Rune Age, we have finally had a play of a game set in the same world, which I’ve been wanting to play for some time now: Runebound. This is a fantasy adventure game, where heroes wander the land fighting bad guys and trying to be the first to defeat the Big Bad. It is often spoken of in similar terms to Talisman, though it is clearly less on rails and attempts to introduce a narrative which develops through play.
There is a good selection of characters to choose from and Miss B chose the all-rounder Red Scorpion, who seems to go into battle wearing a +1 bikini of somehow-not-freezing-to-death. The rules are pretty straightforward, using a novel dice system for movement around the map and dice-plus-modifiers versus a target number for combat and other skill checks. Miss B mostly got her head around this, but needed constant reminders of what was going on in combat. She was, however, getting really into the decisions of what type of attack to launch each combat round and clearly enjoyed all the dice rolling.
The real juice of the game happens when you move onto a space with an adventure token. You then draw a card of the appropriate colour (the adventures are colour coded according to difficulty so you can choose how much risk you want to take), which might be an interesting encounter, a world-affecting event, or a combat challenge which needs to be defeated (actually, you keep drawing and resolving cards until you reach a combat challenge). I rather like the event system as the cards do steadily develop a plot, making it feel that things are happening in a world that is heading towards a terrible cataclysm.
I knew Runebound was likely to take a long time to play, so we had ensured that we had the whole afternoon available, had taken a “shorter game” option which meant that our characters would gain experience more quickly (though next time we’ll go even further with this — and I think starting with more gold should help make for a quicker start), and we’d decided that we’d finish when someone gained one dragon rune, instead of the rulebook-mandated three (or the defeat of the boss). In the event it still took well over three hours and we only just managed to get things rounded off by dinner time. Towards the end, Miss B got a bit of an injection of chutzpah and dove into the red (most difficult) adventure deck, which nearly ended up very badly. But thanks to judicious use of her Rule 17b counters (if you don’t know about that, Google is your friend) she managed to get through and defeat a dragon to gain the first of the dragon runes, which we ruled to be a victory for her.
Given the length of the game, we scheduled a tea-and-snack break to allow us some time to recharge, but I was slightly surprised that this was the only break we needed (other than a few short toilet trips). The game held Miss B’s attention throughout and, although there were a few moments of frustration due to bad die rolls, etc., some Rule 17b counters dealt with that and all went well overall. I don’t think we’ll be playing this very often in the near future, purely because of the length of the game, but we definitely will when the time is available.
And in comparison with Talisman? I’d definitely prefer Runebound. I think Miss B is torn, though likes the characters in Runebound more.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼): “It was quite scary when I just did one purple card and then went straight on to the red. Green is the easiest level, yellow is next, next is purple, and the winning cards are the reds. You need to collect three runes which are in the red cards but we only did one this time because we were running out of time. I really liked this game because you have different skills and everyone’s different and when I played it I was Red Scorpion. She’s called this because she’s red and she’s got a scorpion on her arm. And Red Scorpion can change a wound into an exhaustion once a turn.”
The game: Runebound (Fantasy Flight Games), 1 to 6 players aged 14+.