Runebound the Boardgame

Well, this weekend Jeremiah and I played another game of Runebound.

This is one of those big box games from Fantasy Flight, who are known for epic scale games, especially if there are lots of expansions. I say this with humour, because usually their expansions are very good additions to the main game (whereas some expansions from other game companies would have been best left unprinted).

At any rate, I'd best describe Runebound as Dungeons & Dragons without someone playing dungeon master and without scenarios. Oh yeah, it's a lot shorter too. I did play some D&D when I was younger (which lead someone to give my mother an article about how I would be forever damned, which Mom found quite amusing, but I digress). However, playing D&D was always a hassle because it was impossible to get the right combination of people together. Now, today the big factor is time. I have no time to plan these things, nor would I want to spend the length of time required to play even if I did have the time and inclination to worry about scenarios. I do have other things to do, after all.

Enter Runebound. This game has all the wonderful feel of D&D, but in boardgame form. It still was really long (about 4 hours), but Jeremiah and I have found a few combinations of house rules and some of the optional rules to get it down to about 2 hours with two people. These two hours fly by, and so I consider this a successful formula.

The game itself consists of the board, which is a map of the territory, dice for terrain movement and a couple for combat, item cards, hero cards, and encounter cards. Encounters are divided up into a variety of forms and colour coded for difficulty. As you defeat beasties, you gain experience points which allows you to make your heroes stronger in a few different categories of skills. That's generally it. The story line deals with the High Lord Margath who is attempting to take over the world, and you have to defeat him and the Dragon Lords who have sworn allegiance to him. All very heady swords and sorcery stuff, but done quite well. Each of the encounter cards adds a little bit to the story, and it all works very well together. There are a variety of expansions that extend the game in various ways, all expanding the story but still working well together (for some reason every game we are unlucky in that the forests are on fire). There are also major variants, that change the map and the scenarios, for example introducing sailing and island travel, which are a lot of fun too.

If you're looking for deep strategy, you're going to have to play something like Gipf or Tigris & Euphrates. Runebound is an entirely different kind of game, but still one that is a lot of fun. Now, with our shorter game rules, the game is tighter and tenser, and you have to worry every move about what to do; no footling or lollygagging about! To paraphrase Reiner Knizia, a good game is like life; something where you have too many appealing decisions to make each turn and must choose carefully amongst them if you want to do well.

This is definitely a game that I will enjoy playing for quite a while.

You can also check out what Jeremiah thinks.