Saturday, June 20, 2009


For the next entry in my walk through my game collection, we come to Runebound, a fantasy adventure board game. I picked this up about two years ago because I had heard that you could play it solitaire against the board quite easily, and that is true, especially if you use the solitaire-specific rules from There are many different expansions available for the game, but I have only ever played the base game. I have played it solitaire, as well as against opponents, and it is a fun, though not great, board game.

The basic premise is that each player has a character, and you wander the board having adventures to earn experience points, which you can spend to improve your character abilities. Once you feel you are strong enough, you can go after the big bad guys and try to win the game by defeating them. There are 12 different characters in the base game, all with different abilities and attribute scores. The way the game handles character attributes is a bit like console RPGs do, where you start with a fairly low number and can increase them as much as you want, with no limits other than your opposition.

As you move your character around the map, you can have adventures when you land on a space with a colored dot. The colors indicate roughly how tough the encounter will be. Green spaces are the easiest encounters, yellow are harder, blue are harder still, and red encounters are reserved for the main bad guys. Each colored space has a deck of cards that goes with it. When you land on a space of a specific color you draw a card and resolve the encounter, usually by rolling dice along with an attribute to determine if you win the encounter or not. Combats run until one side is defeated, though you can have non-combat encounters, as well. Successfully completing an encounter gives you experience points, which as noted before, you can spend to get better. The number of points needed to improve an attribute varies depending on the number of players, which works out well in actual play. For example, with one or two players, you need five points to improve an attribute. With five players, you only need three. This helps the game because the more players, the more time each individual spends watching other people play the game.

This leads me to the big fault with the game, the lack of interaction between players. Generally, when it is not your turn, you have nothing to do. There are a few times when you can play a card to hinder another player from doing what they want to do, and players can have their characters fight each other if in the same space on the board, but generally you just take actions when it is your turn and watch other people take actions when it is their turn. Because of this, I would not recommend playing the game with more than four players, max. Anything more has you spending too much time not doing anything.

But back to the game. The aforementioned mechanics are OK, but not very interesting. However, the board also includes a number of towns. Towns are great because if your character is in one you can heal wounds, buy new equipment, and maybe hire allies to aid you in your quest. Allies are really, really important, in my experience, as having an ally that has complimentary strengths and weaknesses to your main character means that there shouldn't be any encounters that you don't have a good chance to beat. Granted, it can take work to find a complimentary ally, and the luck of card draws has something to do with it, but getting good allies (and keeping them alive!) is part of the strategy of the game. Some of the items are pretty amazing, too, and having that special armor when the dragon is beating on you can literally be a life saver.

So, Runebound is a fun fantasy adventure game, but I wish it had more inter-action between players. As it is, it makes for a nice "RPG lite" diversion every once in a while, but it isn't something I'm always trying to get on the table.

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