Welcome back to Runebound!
Today is game day here at spalanz.com, of course, and I’m going to take a look at another game expansion today, one of those for the awesome adventure boardgame of Runebound – the Island of Dread!
This expansion was the first of the big boxes to be released for Runebound, and dates from 2005. There were four other big box expansions, with the later three being truly awesome gaming experiences (I’ll be blogging about those in the future, don’t worry!), and I sometimes feel that Island of Dread just doesn’t really live up to those. However, taken on its own merits, it is a really, really cool expansion for the game, which I hope will come through as we delve into this box!
First of all, then, each big box replaces the map from the base game, providing a unique play experience. Island of Dread comes with a nautical theme, with a lot of the new adventures tied in quite strongly. However, there are land masses dotted about, with the traditional landscape features we know from the base game.
The map isn’t the only difference, of course – we have a whole new level of horror to defeat on the Island of Dread itself!
The silver deck is like a fifth level of pain, with some truly horrible monsters hiding within, including the warped god, Assif Shib-Sa, who you need to defeat to win the game. He’s effectively the replacement for High Lord Margath, then, but he’s a lot more evil!
I said above that the expansion isn’t all that different to the base game, and in many respects this is true. You still move around the (land spaces) board with the unique dice, and you encounter spaces, have adventures, and gain rewards. The adventure cards are similar, though some of them play around with the mechanics a bit more, with more interesting rewards than just gold all the time. Something new to this expansion is the Quest theme, with certain cards providing you with a Quest to complete.
There are similar cards to be found in the base game, though once you’ve completed them, you gain your reward and move on. Completing a Quest in Island of Dread allows you to keep the card, then as the game progresses, you can benefit from them in different ways, such as hiring allies or Captains for less money.
Ah yes – Captains! Unless it wasn’t obvious before, there’s a new type of travel involved in this expansion, as you sail the Cerridor Sea on a wave of adventure! Ahem. Yeah, the expansion introduces sea travel.
The board features port cities, such as Orris and Gaffard pictured above, from which blue tendrils snake out, connecting to anchor spaces. These blue lines are sea lanes, which you follow when you’re moving by sea. To voyage, you need to hire a captain in the port – these cards are pretty much ally cards, though don’t count towards your ally limit, and you don’t keep them once you arrive at your destination port. However, you’ll normally land on at least one anchor space per voyage, which is where the blue Sea Adventure deck comes into play!
You can use your captain as an ally, fighting one of the combat stages for you, but if your captain is knocked out, you become shipwrecked – basically a knockout, but you also must move to the nearest land space. The Captains are all interesting enough, with different abilities – and they’re not all trustworthy, either! One of these chaps will try to steal whatever reward you gain from the blue deck, for instance.
The blue deck isn’t like that in the base game – given that the heroes will usually have to leave the main island of Torue Albes before they would necessarily be ready to encounter a traditional blue adventure, this deck is of varying difficulty – though it does go both ways, as you might also be sailing when you’ve been defeating red encounters. To whit, there is one beast in this deck that is a nightmare – the Leviathan!
I’ve read reviews before of this game, which decry the fact that the blue deck here messes with the internal balance of the base game, but I personally think it’s an interesting addition, and definitely works well within the context of this game. The heroes we have here (eight new ones!) are a little better than their base game counterparts, and will perhaps be able to last a little longer against these threats. But also remember that you’re getting another ally when you voyage, and the tougher ones, as shown above, do have an auto-escape option. So it’s not all necessarily bad.
Something else I like about voyaging is the fact your Captain takes one exhaustion point every time you travel, meaning you can’t just sail the ocean blue forever. When you make port, the captain then goes into that town’s market deck, from whence you can hire him again, but any captains already in that stack are discarded.
FFG released a bonus Captain for the game, Captain Mad Danny, who starts the game in a market stack, and can not only move around the market stacks, but you can also attack heroes instead of adventuring. Mad, indeed…
Before we leave the blue deck, one other thing needs to be mentioned – the map tokens. A lot of rewards for defeating blue adventures will be in map tokens, which start the game face down in a common pool. If you have a blue and a green token, you have a set, which you can discard for various effects, one of which is to travel to the Island of Dread.
As mentioned above, you need to travel to the Island in order to win, as that’s where you’ll find the warped god. You can’t take your Captain there, as no sensible sea-faring chap wants to go. Once you’re there, however, you stay there, defeating challenges (hopefully!) until you defeat Assif Shib-Sa himself.
This silver deck is nicely balanced, I feel, with some of the challenges letting you discard cards unless you turn over Assif Shib-Sa, so you don’t necessarily have to defeat each one. There are also other cards throughout the game that have an effect here, such as the Obsidian Library, which gives you a legendary artifact that allows you to reduce his life value. Very handy, that!
Runebound: Island of Dread is a really great expansion. I said at the beginning that the other big box expansions to this game are better, but that shouldn’t put you off this thing. It’s a really great experience, and is probably the most Runebound-y experience you’ll get from any of the expansions. However, its nautical theme is very nicely done, meaning that it still provides you with a unique game.
For me, personally, it’s an expansion that I frequently overlook, simply because the other big boxes are so much better. I suppose that can be said to be a good thing, insofar as the expansion line is one massive upward swing, but don’t let it put you off exploring the Island if you get the chance!
Unfortunately, FFG has let Runebound slide from their main roster of games since the Autumn, leading many to suspect a third edition is on its way. I’m still not so sure, though I think it would be wonderful for the company to let a new group of gaming enthusiasts experience this awesome game in some form. Until that happens, if it ever does, this game is exceptionally difficult to come across. A quick check of amazon has this game listed for ridiculous prices, but if you can pick it up for a more sensible figure, don’t hesitate to do so! If only for the new heroes!