Mists of Zanaga

Happy Christmas everybody!
Whether you’re celebrating in style, or just enjoying a pleasant Tuesday, I hope you’re all having a fabulous day. While it is Christmas Day for many, it’s also game day here at spalanz.com, and today I thought it would be a great time to take a look at one of the classics – and take the opportunity to finish a series of board game reviews that has been on hiatus for nearly three years! Let’s take a look at the fifth and final big-box expansion for Runebound: Mists of Zanaga.

Runebound Mists of Zanaga

Mists of Zanaga is a jungle-themed expansion for the classic fantasy adventure game from Fantasy Flight, and was released all the way back in 2010. In the same theme as previous big-box expansions, such as its predecessor The Frozen Wastes, we are transported to a new realm within Mennara. The game’s storyline involves the survivors of the Dragon Wars sailing across the ocean and finding the mythical lost realm of Zanaga, populated by the jungle-dwelling makhim, and the singhara of the savannahs, as well as savage orcs and savage barbarians who live in the ruins of a lizardmen empire.

Beneath this land dwells the demon Tarakhe, whose taint has touched the land with pollution. We have met this primal force in the previous expansion Island of Dread, where it was known as Assif Shib-Sa. The makhim have devised a plan to rid their lands of the taint of Tarakhe by awakening one of the other primal gods who created Zanaga, in the hope that the two deities will defeat one another…

Runebound Mists of Zanaga

As with all big-box expansions for Runebound, we get a new gaming board as well as new heroes, new adventure decks, new items to buy, and a couple of new mechanics. The expansion should be noted for having possibly the best ever design for the back of its adventure cards, but anyway!

The new mechanics for this game involve the Rituals – these cards, like the adventure decks, are coloured green through to red. Whenever you draw an encounter, you add a Ritual token to the card – when defeated, the token is placed on a Ritual card with a corresponding icon. When these ritual cards are completed, they are used to determine which ancient god will be awoken to defeat Tarakhe. After the first three Ritual cards have determined the god you will face in the final showdown, that god’s card is flipped to its Omen side, and further completed Rituals will trigger the effects of these Omens until the players can confront the god himself.

Runebound Mists of Zanaga

Moving around the board is pretty much the same as we have come to expect, and we also get survival gear as is common for the big-box expansions. Crucially, there is also a Lost City token that comes into play when certain Rituals are completed – you need to be on the Lost City space in order to confront the ancient deity.

Runebound Mists of Zanaga

While the game is basically Runebound but with different characters and adventures, I find myself completely drawn in to the theme of these expansions, and I rarely find myself feeling like I’m having the same gameplay experience with each one. However, while Frozen Wastes feels cold, and Sands of Al-kalim feels hot, Mists of Zanaga doesn’t really have the same sort of environmental feel to it, as weird as that may be to say about a board game. The closest this one comes to having something global going on is the Roaming Monster track, which effectively replaces the Undefeated Monster track, re-implementing the idea in an interesting way.

Runebound Mists of Zanaga

Each monster encounter card features a terrain symbol on the right-hand side. If you don’t manage to defeat the monster, it goes along the bottom of the board on the Roaming Monster track. In subsequent turns, if you end your movement in a hex that does not feature an encounter or a market, you must check if your terrain matches any of the Roaming Monsters; if it does, then you have to encounter that monster, if not then you draw a new card and add it to the track. It does add an element of danger to the game, in that it does get you thinking about how you’re going to move this turn in the same way that the cold mechanic in Frozen Wastes and day/night mechanic in Sands of Al-kalim makes you think like that. The new survival gear we get in this expansion allows you to re-draw encounters, escape encounters, or change the results of the movement dice in order to make this easier, however, so there is that.

Runebound Mists of Zanaga

All in all, Mists of Zanaga is a solid expansion for the game. It feels somewhat like the least complex of the big-box expansions we have available, though at the same time the Ritual mechanic is perhaps the most intense of all the new things we have seen. I suppose it is this that sets the expansion apart from all the others, as it strives for an Aztec/Mesoamerican flavour to the storyline, which does come through quite well to my Euro-centric way of looking at things. There are some classic fantasy tropes for the jungle setting such as lizardmen and frogmen, and I think jungle-fantasy is not often done so that this expansion gets a definite feel of uniqueness to it.

The mechanic of awakening primal gods has often felt a bit like Arkham Horror to me, probably due to the terminology used rather than anything else. The talk of Omens and Awakening Gods has the definite feel of one of the many games from the Lovecraftian stable of FFG, to my mind! Gameplay-wise, of course, the game is very definitely Runebound.


With no further expansions for Runebound Third Edition since Unbreakable Bonds in July 2017, the future of Runebound itself is a bit shaky.  I don’t really want to see it go away, but I feel to some extent like this type of game has had its day. I talked about the culture of making boardgames more accessible in my Runewars blog earlier this month, and while I do kind of see a place for games like that, I’m not sure about those like Runebound. I suppose there are just more streamlined adventure boardgames out there now, and Runebound just feels a bit like it belongs where it belongs. People do like mass army games, but I think the adventure boardgame needs something more than Runebound can provide. The Witcher was a case in point, where the theme to some extent drives the game. I’m not entirely sure about Runebound, which has been continually lambasted for its vague, generic, bland fantasy setting. Personally, I love it, but that is more to do with my own history with the game. Looking objectively at it now, there is very little to help it stand out from the crowd. It definitely belongs to another time, and I think that could well be why FFG are choosing to look at new ways of implementing the Terrinoth setting, such as the RPG and the new card game, Heroes of Terrinoth.

Runewars

It is a time of war. The scribes and sorcerers of the land of Terrinoth, having begun to tap into the power of the mysterious dragon runes, have unwittingly set the wheels of conflict in motion. Though they comprehend only a fraction of these artifacts’ true potential, the rulers of the realm understand all too well that he who controls them controls Terrinoth. The leaders of Human, Elf, Undead, and Uthuk Y’llan raise massive armies and march against each other. At the same time, brave heroes venture forth from their home cities on perilous quests, with the hope of claiming a dragon rune for their king and eternal glory for themselves.

Yes, folks, it’s time to look at another juggernaut of a board game in today’s game day blog, as we lift the lid on the second coffin-box game in as many weeks – it’s time to look at Runewars, the fantasy board game of conquest, adventure and fantasy empires from Fantasy Flight Games!

Runewars

This is one of those games that I had held on to for a number of years, before finally sitting down to a game with my buddy Tony in the summer of 2013. Looking back, I think it was the first proper tabletop wargame we had played up to that point, although we both didn’t really know what we were in for when we sat down to it!

In Runewars, you control a faction fighting over the ancient land of Terrinoth – either the human Daqan Lords, the Latari Elves, the undead Waiqar, or the Chaos-infused Uthuk Y’llan. Your goal is to expand your own empire and defeat your foes, controlling the territory that encompasses the most dragon runes in so doing. The game was designed very much as a re-implementation of one of Fantasy Flight’s earliest games, Battlemist, with the same factions as seen in the earlier game, but with new mechanics and ported over into the same universe as Runebound and Descent which, around the same time, were doing really well – you can read all about this over on the official site.

You can recruit heroes along the way to help in your cause, which is where we see the link with the more familiar Runebound universe come in, as we see familiar faces from the earlier game, but this is (I think) the first time we have been able to play with the new style of faction-driven Terrinoth games, which later encompass such games as the new Battlelore, the Runewars Miniatures Game, and my old favourite, Rune Age.

The game was incredible. It is a little bit daunting, for sure, but as we got into it, the gameplay just flowed, and while I don’t remember who won, I just remember being so excited by it at the end – it was quite a rare reaction, really, and the only other game I can remember having a similar experience with was Mansions of Madness. There’s a dual-layer to the game, as you control armies with which to conquer the land, but also have a hero miniature who is questing for the dragon runes. There is a real depth from a resource-management, empire-building game which comes from the whole Seasons mechanic. It’s really excellent, but as I say, the amount of stuff going on in there can be quite daunting at first.

Of course, it’s not going to be for everyone, and outside of a single expansion, Banners of War, there seemed to be very little love for the game. I think that’s perhaps due to the fact that this game came out towards the end of the period of time where boardgames like this were really popular. I’m not intending to sound like some kind of hipster-snob here, but around about 2010-12, boardgames underwent the evolution from being in two quite distinct categories of “serious and heavy” and “Monopoly and stuff”, to being a lot more accessible across the board. Companies shifted with the times, and seemed to stop making games that were specifically targeted at hardcore board gamers, and instead made games that strove to be streamlined and accessible to all. Wil Wheaton’s TableTop has had a profound effect on this sort of thing, as well.

As a result, games like Runewars, and last week’s Horus Heresy, have been a little bit sidelined. It is a bit of a shame, as I do feel there is still an audience out there for the sort of game that takes an entire afternoon and evening to play through.

Runewars Miniatures Game

Interestingly, though, Runewars didn’t end with the whimper of being forgotten on the shelf. Back in 2016, FFG announced a new miniatures game set in the same universe, with new miniatures and a new game system that used a lot of the mechanics previously seen in X-Wing. It was announced shortly before the news broke that FFG and GW were parting ways, the timing suggesting the move was initiated by FFG, though GW have long since held the notion they wanted to take back control of making their own games. Most notably, of course, the game features rank-and-flank combat with a movement-tray style, which was no doubt intended to replace Warhammer Fantasy Battles for all those people who found Age of Sigmar somewhat lacking.

The Runewars Miniatures Game looks amazing, and is so far still going really strong, with new expansions coming out all the time. Having seemingly replaced both Runewars the board game, and Battlelore, I’m really happy that the game has, up to now at least, managed to retain its traction with the market.

I’m in that place now, where I’m not really looking for this sort of game. But I know that, had I not discovered Games Workshop in my quest to learn how to build miniatures, I would most likely have picked this game up, and be hopefully trying to recruit new players to test out my armies against. It’s really cool to see FFG producing games in this market, and while I may not be buying into it these days, I still love the fact that Runewars is living on!

Unbreakable Bonds

It’s a game day extra here at spalanz.com!

As it’s Fantasy Week here, in celebration of the blog’s third birthday on Friday, I wanted to talk a bit about the upcoming Unbreakable Bonds expansion for Runebound third edition, which provides a co-op/solo alternative to the game.

There hasn’t been a great deal of news for the new edition of Runebound for quite some time, which has had many folks fearing the sky would soon be falling on the game. But feat not! This bad boy is coming in the third quarter, with new stuff (including new heroes) to add to the game.

To start with, there are five scenarios presented in the expansion – two new ones, and co-op/solo versions of both base game scenarios and Caught in a Web. I like this idea a lot, as I feel it could leave the door open for FFG to produce further co-op/solo expansions that do the same for any subsequent expansions they put out. I’m sure plenty of people will complain that this not only requires the base game, but also other expansions in order to play, but I’m sure there are plenty more completionists for whom this won’t be an issue. And the smaller expansions FFG have put out so far seem so packed-full of stuff, I don’t think you’ll be wasting money on them…

The way that combat is being handled in this expansion has interested me a great deal, as rather than having specific rules to essentially bolt-on a monster AI, there are new “combat boards” for four different monster types, along with the respective combat tokens. This could well future-proof the game for Unbreakable Bonds to work with whatever is next for Runebound third edition – though of course, we’re still waiting to see any kind of big box expansion come out here.

It’s definitely an interesting twist, and has come at a time when I’ve actually been on the cusp of trading off this game as one that I haven’t played since my first foray almost a year ago. I might just keep hold of the game and wait to see what Unbreakable Bonds has to offer me, after all!

Game stuff! (Mostly Lord of the Rings…)

Hey everybody!
It’s a pretty decent Saturday today, with some interesting things on the horizon to talk about, so let’s get right to it!

Runebound expansions

First of all, Fantasy Flight have announced a further two expansions for the third edition Runebound, also due in the third quarter like those previously announced. Like the previously-announced expansions, we’re getting a pairing of scenario pack and adventure pack, one that gives us a whole new thing to do, and one that just gives more cards to add to the existing stuff. Taken as a foursome, these expansions feel like a single big box expansion should feel, with new scenarios, new heroes, and new stuff that can just be added to the base game for more of the same. By splitting it up, some fans might feel they’re being overcharged, but I like the idea of being able to buy just what you want, something that appeals to me as I try to curb my spending on games somewhat (heresy, I know!)

We’ve also got new expansions for Imperial Assault and Eldritch Horror released this past week, which both look pretty exciting!

Munitorum Armoured Containers

Games Workshop are releasing containers for Warhammer 40k next weekend, and I’m both underwhelmed and intrigued at the same time! They look like possibly the least-exciting kit ever for a tactical miniatures wargame, yet I have such a soft spot for things like this that I can’t help but be intrigued! We’re also getting the Adeptus Mechanicus Enginseer that was released exclusively with a tank a few months back, and the plastic Broodlord that came with the Shield of Baal boxset in 2014. I managed to pick up one of the latter (as well as buying the boxset) so I’m not particularly fussed on those releases…

I did pop into my local GW today, and picked up two of the new Citadel paints – Waystone Green and Skullcrusher Brass. They’ve released four new metallic layer paints that look very much like replacements for current metallics, but with a better coverage or something. I’m not particularly convinced, but I bought the brass to try it out. The snow texture paint Mourn Mountain Snow has disappeared from my local store, which has prompted me to re-evaluate my Necron army. All of those metallic guys have been based in snow, but as they were some of the first models I painted, I’ve noticed that I try to match the earlier, crappier paint jobs whenever I add to the force. However, I’m thinking I may start a smaller force with a completely different look, predominantly with brass rather than silver armour. Stay tuned for that, anyway!

In addition to the metallics, GW have released three technical paints that essentially allow you to paint better gemstones. I find this an interesting prospect, so bought one pot to see what it’s like. I’m actually planning to try it on the second Necron force’s weaponry, which might be exciting!

Returning to Fantasy Flight but staying with Necrons, I managed to get my first game of Conquest with the new faction yesterday, playing against the game store guy’s Tyranid deck. I played him a few weeks back when he’d just built this one, and managed to get my first victory in Conquest for what feels like ever, but didn’t manage quite so well this time around!

The deck used Anrakyr the Traveler as warlord, and I wanted to try out a large number of the Necron cards so only went for ten enslaved allies, focusing on cheap mooks who would do something other than just act as a meat shield. It actually went really well for a while, but my warlord was bloodied and, in the final climactic battle, died instantly to an Ymgarl Genestealer due to its +2 combat rating while the Tyranid warlord was at the same planet – yikes!

It was a really great game though, and I really enjoyed both the challenge of getting the deck built with so many out-of-faction cards, and seeing card versions of the metal warriors that I feel so attached to, having painted up nearly 2000 points of them!

Finally, and sticking with LCGs, I wanted to talk about Lord of the Rings.

It’s a card game that is so very close to my heart, though one that I haven’t played in a very long time, despite continuing to collect the expansions for it. I’ve often called it my favourite game of all time, yet I actually haven’t opened the latest adventure pack, despite having bought it two or three weeks ago. It made me wonder whether the magic has gone now that the game has become so bloated: I haven’t looked at changing my decks for a long time, I haven’t played any of the new quests from Ringmaker or Angmar Awakened, and my attempt to run through the Saga expansions didn’t get further than the very first quest!

I had a game with Hunt for Gollum a month ago, and felt distinctly dispirited by the way that game panned out, so disassembled my deck and put everything away, and that was pretty much that. However, not to be beaten, I have today made it through three quests, and I think there may actually be a return of the original magic…

I played three of the early quests, using my elf deck headed up by Elrond, Legolas, and spirit Glorfindel. First off, I tried my luck with Passage through Mirkwood, which is a quest I think a lot of people ignore, or use merely to test their decks with, but is one I enjoy for its classic feel. I managed to win fairly easily, though those Dol Guldur Orcs did manage to deal a lot of damage to Elrond as my primary quester!

I then tried my hand at The Dead Marshes, another underrated quest in my view! I like this one because of the Escape test mechanic that forces you to quest slowly to ensure you have the willpower to pass the test after the quest phase. However, I managed to draw into the combo I needed really quickly, which put Light of Valinor on Glorfindel, allowing him to quest without raising threat and provide a chunk of willpower to the Escape test, and Arod was on Legolas to ensure the maximum progress could be placed! I also managed to use Elf Stone to bring out Haldir for free, which was great! It was over pretty quickly, with only one resource token on Gollum meaning the final Escape test wasn’t all that climactic!

Finally, I went for The Redhorn Gate. This is one of those quests that I love, yet find so brutal at times that I just want to cry in a corner. Some early bad luck kept discarding my resources, which meant I couldn’t get any momentum at first, but again had a first-turn Light of Valinor on Glorfindel so that I could keep him questing and attacking. I also managed to get Vilya on Elrond, though that card is predominantly in the deck for flavour as I was using him as my prime questing hero. Being able to quest for 10 was a real boon with Caradhras in the staging area until stage 3B, of course, and still having at least six attack power could deal with most threats while a series of cheap allies chump blocked them.

It was really nice to get back into this game, and I sincerely hope that I can start playing it more often in the coming weeks and months. Especially since I’ve finally started to mix up my decks!

I’ve had four decks built up for at least two years now, and haven’t touched them at all. Getting rid of one after Hunt for Gollum last month left me with my dwarfs, my elves, and my Rohan/eagles decks. I’ve swapped out a couple of cards from the elves one now, as there have been quite a few good cards to come out of the last cycle and couple of deluxe expansions, and the dwarf deck has had a very minor tweak. The biggest change, for me, is that I’ve gotten rid of the eagles from my Rohan deck, making it straight Rohan. In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing after stripping all of the eagles out – there are a lot less pure Rohan cards than I was expecting, so I’ve gone for a few Valour events to see what I’ve been missing as a bit of a filler. I may find myself putting the eagles back soon, however, or else swapping Théoden (from tactics to spirit) so that the weight falls into spirit rather than tactics, I guess we’ll see!

Looking through all of the cards really excited me to try building new decks. One of which I’m keen to build is another all-purpose fellowship kind of deck, which may indeed kickstart my efforts to play the Saga expansions once again!

Let’s hope this comes to pass, anyway!

New Runebound

Happy Tabletop Day, everybody!

I’m very excited today, as I finally got round to playing the new edition of Runebound that was released back in November. Having bought it at the time, I was still unconvinced by the changes from second edition, which remains one of my all-time favourite games. However, the announcement of expansions had gotten me interested, and so in the spirit of the day, I’ve given it a whirl! And it was amazing.

While this new edition of the game is still set in Terrinoth, and follows some old favourite heroes on a very familiar map, the game feels a lot different to the old version, almost to the extent that you’re pretty much playing through a new experience. I was learning the game as I went, so it took me over 2 hours to play through (solo), and I didn’t read any of the lore on the cards as I was making sure I was getting the mechanics right, but I have to say, the experience is really smooth, and you get the gist of it really quickly, thanks in part to the new method of writing rulebooks.

Runebound 3

The game is no longer merely a ‘level-up until you can destroy the bad guy’, but a scenario-driven game that uses a timer somewhat reminiscent of the doom track ideas from the previous iteration. The time track is run through twice, first comes Act One, then Act Two, which interacts with the scenario in some way. Each scenario has a set of ten story cards, which are drawn at set points on this timer track, and most of them have a Quest effect that usually benefits you in some way, though the picture above is a bit of a hindrance as well.

This benefit often takes the form of giving Lore tokens, which have some way to interact with the scenario: I was playing the Ascendance of Margath scenario, and Lore tokens here give you the boon of reducing the big dragon’s health when you eventually fight him.

On your turn, your hero has three actions to choose from among moving, resting, training (gaining skill cards, more on this shortly), adventuring, and shopping. You no longer throw all five dice all the time, but have a speed that denotes how many dice you can throw. Movement is also different insofar as many of the hexes have rivers running along their edges, and you need to expend the water side of a die in order to cross it (rather than choosing to spend, say, a forest side to move into a forest space). This does present some interesting options, though there is also a wild symbol that can be used for any terrain type. There are only four Free Cities on the new board, but a multitude of smaller features, such as strongholds and shrines, which you can often interact with in a manner similar to cities (healing and trading, for instance).

Runebound 3

Skill cards are gained through training, though you do start with a basic hand of them. When you train, you draw three cards, then discard down to your hand size, so this can be a useful way of cycling through unwanted cards. Whenever you test an attribute, rather than rolling a d10, you instead draw a number of cards off the Skills deck and, for every card with a starburst icon on the top-right, you score a success. This means the deck is going to cycle through a few times during a game, especially with more people playing.

The attributes are body, mind and magic, much like second edition, though a major difference here is how you level-up. When you complete adventures, you don’t take the adventure jewel token from the board, but instead you take the card. You then use these cards to essentially “buy” skill cards – the icons along the top of the cards show how many adventure cards you need to discard in order to buy them. I find this really interesting as, not only does it mean you can level up after potentially only completing one adventure, but you actually get useful skills to use in the game, rather than just buffing your stats in a specific category.

Runebound 3

Adventures come in three types: combat (orange), social (purple) and exploration (green). These three decks have all types of cards within each but, as a rule, the green deck will have more quests – requiring you to interact with a specific hex on the board to gain benefits – while the social deck will have more events – cards where you can essentially choose what happens – and the orange deck obviously has more enemies. Rather than going through progressively more difficult colours of enemies, the orange deck will have enemies of all levels for you to face.

Runebound 3

Combat is where the biggest (to my mind) change comes, and one of the most controversial changes, at that: combat tokens. Instead of d10s, each hero starts with three combat tokens specific to that hero, and has the option of buying items at market in order to gain more tokens to add to the pool. Enemy cards always start with five combat tokens, and when Act 2 hits, a sixth token is added. Final boss monsters also add a seventh token to the mix specific to that monster.

These tokens have various symbols on them, such as shields for defending wounds, axes for hero damage, skulls for monster damage, the lightning-bolt icon (“surge” for you Descent fans) to trigger a character ability, etc. There’s also a double-up icon, that one roughly in the centre in the above photo, which allows you to place another token on top of it in order to double the effect, and a feather-icon that allows you to flip one of your tokens after casting if you don’t like the result (the smaller circle on each token tells you what’s on the reverse). Lastly, there’s a kind of splatter-type of symbol that represents magical damage specifically.

During a combat round, you take your token pool and “randomize” them, before casting them either like dice, or flipping them like coins. I treated mine essentially like dice, though tried to do a bit of a flourish as if I were casting runes or something! Simple things. Some icons are golden on the tokens – the person with the most gold icons has initiative and goes first. In the case of a tie, the monster goes first.

The rules state that another player takes control of the monster when you fight, and decides the order of battle etc, but I was playing solo in order to get to grips with the rules, so just cast them all at once, and always chose the most beneficial act for the monster. It wasn’t as complicated as it might seem, and I actually got knocked out a couple of times as a result of dealing double damage to myself… At any rate, Runebound 3 appears to be a pretty decent solo experience, much like the second edition.

I actually really enjoyed the combat tokens aspect of the game, which surprised me because it was the aspect I was most unsure about. The fact the dice are blank plastic cubes that you put stickers on kinda put me off, but the tokens felt like the worst part to me. The fact that FFG have actually released duplicate tokens struck me as a lack of faith in their durability, however the cardboard is the usual FFG stock, and I’m usually real careful with my games, so I hope they’ll be okay for a long while yet.

Runebound 3

The scenario I was playing, Ascendance of Margath, was a lot of fun. Once Act 1 ends, Margath is spawned on the board by means of a token, six or seven hexes outside of Tamalir. Once Act 2 is over, at the end of each round you roll all five dice and move him one hex for every wild space rolled – if he gets to Tamalir, it’s game over. The first couple of times, I either rolled none or 1 wild side, so felt a little cocky and tried to keep going in my adventure, which I’m glad I did because it allowed me to gain one final skill before the final battle on the outskirts of the city!

I was playing as Elder Mok, who has this really useful “surge” ability that allows you to test your Magic attribute +1, and deal magical damage equal to the number of successes you draw. When doing attribute tests like this, there’s a useful rule that lets you “exert” by discarding an unused skill card to draw another – as it turned out, this was exactly what I needed to do enough damage (plus those Lore tokens!) to destroy the big dragon and win freedom for Terrinoth!

Runebound 3rd Edition

I really enjoyed this game. I think I surprised myself just how much I enjoyed it, seeing as how I like the second edition so much that I was not entirely convinced this would be a good successor. Sure, when it was first announced, I was pumped, but once I got it in my hot little hands, I felt a little sad about things like the dice and the tokens. However, now that it’s spent some time on the table, I have to say, I’m sold. The game is re-implemented so well, I’m really looking forward to a long future with this side-by-side with the second edition.

New Games!

Hey everybody,
It seems like a very long time since I’ve really managed to catch up with the new games offerings from Fantasy Flight, but the last few days have seen a couple of things announced that have really gotten me excited for this stuff like I haven’t been in a long time, so let’s take a look!

Runebound expansions

Top of the list for me is this announcement from Wednesday, two new expansions incoming for the third edition of Runebound!

I picked up third edition when it was released, but it has been lying un-investigated for almost six months now. I guess a large part of this ambivalence is due to the fact I love the second edition so much. However, reading this announcement has gotten me excited for the game – more so, in fact, than the actual release! – and I’m planning to bring the game to the table tomorrow for International TableTop Day. It’s my intention to get a blog written up post-game with my initial thoughts, anyway, so keep an eye out for that!

The two new expansions look amazing, anyway, and a really nice way to expand upon a game. First up we have Caught in a Web, a scenario pack that seems to feature tons of theme in the form of Ariad, the sorceress nemesis that Descent players will be familiar with from the Labyrinth of Ruin expansion. From what we know of this Runebound implementation, Ariad will stalk the land in spider form, seeking to destroy four of the Free Cities of Terrinoth, which sounds like a super-thematic game experience, really exciting.

The Gilded Blade is an adventure pack that appears to be in the “more of the same” category of boardgame expansions, which I am more than okay with seeing. New skills and assets, and new encounter cards, are all more than welcome in this kind of game to keep it fresh and exciting. Both packs each come with one new hero – I say “new”, but both are veterans of Runebound second edition: Red Scorpion was in the older base game, and Jonas the Kind was one of the infamous four promo heroes. I love the fact we’re seeing old favourites in new sculpts (new for Runebound: Jonas the Kind can be found in Treaty of Champions in his new incarnation), as these heroes are the classics that I have enjoyed taking through Terrinoth on adventures in the past.

I cannot wait to try this game out tomorrow, and I cannot wait to get my hands on these expansions when they hit over the summer!

Elder Sign Grave Consequences

Something that may have flown a little under the radar is this print-on-demand expansion for Elder Sign that I’m really excited by! A deck of 50 cards split between Phobias, Epic Battles and Epitaphs, it looks like a totally awesome way to add in an extra bit or two to increase the theme of the game. I love it! I ordered it as soon as the news article went up, along with a game mat for Android Netrunner that I’ve wanted for a while, and at the time of this writing, these products have just yesterday landed in the UK. Can’t wait to get my grubby mits on them!

Android Mainframe

On the subject of Netrunner, I can’t not mention this game, which has been announced as now available. From having read the previews, it feels a lot like a re-creation of the LCG where all players are Runners going up against the Corp – I’ve been trying not to really look into it too much simply because I’ve grown to love the card game so much lately, but that very enjoyment is now making me think maybe this could be worth investigation. I’ve seen it available for £24, so it would hardly break the bank, but I just don’t feel a need for it right now.

Warhammer Conquest Searching for Truth

Warhammer Conquest is another LCG that I’ve been really enjoying since I began to play it with some gusto a month or so back, and I’m particularly looking forward to the Legions of Death deluxe expansion, which will bring my favourites, the Necrons, into the game! I’m feeling a little jealous that all of the other factions have so many cards while these guys will be entering the game following two full cycles, and their mechanic of using generic soldiers as chaff just makes that worse, to my entitled geek mind! I’m only partially serious – I wish they’d been able to bring the deluxe expansions for both Tyranids and Necrons out sooner, out of cycle if necessary, to ensure these factions aren’t left behind. But I suppose we’ll see when they eventually appear just how “left behind” they are.

The fourth expansion for the upcoming Death World cycle has been announced, Searching for Truth, and features a new Necron warlord – Illuminor Szeras! Of all the Necron named characters in 40k, I like him the most, as his model is just the right blend of creepy and weird that really fascinates me about the Necrons. My own attempt at the guy isn’t the greatest, but I enjoyed painting him all the same. In the game, he gains a resource whenever damage is removed from Necron units, and given the cards coming for the faction, this doesn’t look like it’ll be too difficult to accomplish! Looks like a more high-risk strategy than I usually go for in games, but definitely one that I’m looking forward to checking out!

Lord of the Rings Flame of the West

Finally, let’s take a look at the fifth Saga expansion for Lord of the Rings LCG that deals with the events of the actual book itself – The Flame of the West.

Long-time readers of my blog will probably remember that I’ve often called this game my all-time favourite game, yet I’ve barely played it at all for so long now, I feel like such a terrible person! In fact… the last time I played any of the quests was 7 September, when I went through the Voice of Isengard expansion. That is shocking! Recently, I’ve noticed I’ve been feeling in the mood for a game but, due to having my dining table choc full of half-painted miniatures, I’ve never gotten round to it. Hopefully soon I can get some more games in, and reacquaint myself with Middle Earth!

Flame of the West follows book five of The Lord of the Rings, and it looks like the quests will involve the bit with the spectres, a battle at the boats with the Pelargir corsairs, and then the pitched battle at the Pelennor Fields. I’m particularly interested in the second quest, The Siege of Gondor, which follows Aragorn et al as they take possession of the corsairs’ ships. I love the way this game has built up a whole library of side stories that have shown what happened just to the side of the main story of the books, and this looks like it’s going to be no exception! I’m also really intrigued by how the preview article describes the third quest as being heavily tied to the results of previous games…

The new Tactics Éowyn is worth mentioning as well – what a special skill! 4 willpower in a Tactics hero is going to be so useful anyway that she will definitely find her way into a lot of decks, but the ability to deal 10 damage for a threat-raise of 3 should be really handy in the multitude of quests we now have that time a boss-type enemy until late in the game. It’s also super-thematic for the hero, too, so a massive thumbs-up from me there!

Well that’s all I wanted to talk about today – so excited for some of these games, it’s just untrue! What about you guys? Looking forward to more for Runebound? Can’t wait to slay the Witch-king? Let me know in the comments!

The Frozen Wastes

Hey everybody!
Game day takes inspiration from the recent cold snap we’ve been having, as we take a look at another big-box expansion for the second edition of Runebound!

Runebound Frozen Wastes

I still haven’t gotten round to trying out the third edition yet, but I really have too much fun with the second edition game anyway, so let’s stick with that for now!

Frozen Wastes was released in 2009 as the fourth big-box expansion for Runebound second edition. Much like the previous expansion, Sands of Al-kalim, the theme of this expansion is strongly influenced by weather as well as story – in this case, cold (obviously!) There is so much going on with this expansion, so let’s jump in!

Runebound Frozen Wastes

As with all big-box expansions, there’s a new board, which shows the frozen land of Isheim. The board itself is actually quite interesting, because of the victory mechanic that I’ll get to shortly. Rather than having towns spread out across the board, they are mainly clumped around the bottom-half, most of which being possible to get to in one roll of the dice. The terrain spaces consist of fjords, snowdrifts, and tundra, and the towns are divided into two types – Weik cities (trading posts) and Onoit villages (healing centres).

Runebound Frozen Wastes

The story of the game is actually really interesting. Arshan is searching for his beloved Princess, whose spacecraft crashed somewhere in Isheim with her in a stasis chamber. Arshan released armies of robots across the land to try to find her, but centuries of waiting have driven him mad. It’s up to the heroes to either find the Princess and bring her to Arshan, or else defeat him in single combat, and end his rule of tyranny. The fantasy theme of the base game of Runebound is still there, but there’s also a kind of steampunk vibe from the mechanical stuff. It’s a nice blend of tropes that, I feel, really works here.

Runebound Frozen Wastes

The enemies consist of the usual dragons and whatnot, but also Arshan’s robotic drones. As you go through and defeat these enemies, you have at least two rewards, sometimes three – along with the usual money, you also get the chance to draw either a rumour token or a Princess card. Both show a specific terrain type, and can provide really useful bonuses. Rumour tokens can be traded in for Legendary items, while Princess cards are used to find the Princess.

Legendary items are the same as usual market cards, except they form a separate deck. Each card has a coloured icon with a number on it – on your movement step, if you are on a space with the same coloured jewel, and have enough rumour tokens that match both the terrain you are on and the number of surrounding spaces, you can claim the card. They are usually pretty good, though a little specific perhaps. At any rate, you get rumour tokens more often than Princess cards, so you have a pretty good chance to get essentially free stuff.

Princess cards work in pretty much the same way – if you have the cards that match all of the surrounding terrain, as well as the space you’re on, you can find the Princess and claim her token. So long as you remain alive as you trek across the frozen wastes to Green Vale, you can win! However, if you get knocked out on the way, the Princess is once again lost in the tundra.

However, this is where the “possibly three” rewards comes in – forage. Some of the green and yellow adventure cards also function as forage items – usually animals that could be skinned, or whatever – which allow you to usually avoid the cold or else change dice symbols to something you want, making it potentially easier to get across the wastes.

What’s this about cold?

Runebound Frozen Wastes

Well, as I said at the beginning, there is a strong theme of weather coming out of this game. Throughout the game, there are a few event cards sprinkled among the coloured adventure decks that have pervasive effects, replenish adventure jewels, but also change the severity of the weather. The long strips of cardboard with terrain symbols and numbers on them in the above picture show how much cold you suffer (the snowflake tokens) if you end your move on that terrain. It’s also not just your hero who suffers the cold, but all of your allies. Whenever you enter any town space, you clear your cold counters. However, if you suffer more cold than your life total, you then start succumbing to the White Death. If you take as many White Death tokens as your life total, then you die. In addition, you can only heal yourself of White Death in the Onoit villages.

As the weather gets colder, this becomes super important, as you find yourself returning to the towns to warm up again. It’s also why you really need to work through those green and yellow cards, rather than rushing straight for the higher colours, to get some kind of forage to ensure you survive the trek. It’s a really cool mechanic, and I feel this is one of the most thematic expansions to any game, ever!

Runebound Frozen Wastes

The heroes are all pretty interesting, with some really nice sculpts (though the recent Hero & Monster collections for Descent have started to update some of these, notably Shiver from the right, there).

This was the first big-box expansion for Runebound that I played, and I remember being incredibly impressed by the whole implementation of the cold theme, and the novel layout of the map. It’s an expansion that I always return to over the winter, for obvious reasons. The different victory conditions really add some variety, not just to the game itself, but to Runebound as a whole – you’re no longer just trying to level up to defeat a bad guy, you also have the option to play the rescue mission.

I am a huge sucker for any kind of fantasy setting that involves a snow-covered land, so this game scratches a very special itch for me. I’m hoping that the new, third edition of Runebound will bring us an expansion with this sort of theme to it, though I feel that will be unlikely as FFG seek to move away into something different and new.

At any rate, it’s a really great expansion to a truly great game, and if you can still find both it and the second edition base game, I can highly recommend it!

Runebound Frozen Wastes

Check out my other Runebound blogs:
Runebound
The Island of Dread
Midnight
Sands of Al-kalim