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!

Fiddling with the new #Necrons for #WarhammerConquest – looking to build around Anrakyr!

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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 o 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 again, however, has gotten me really excited 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

The Revenge of Izrador!

Hey everybody!
It’s Tuesday, so it’s Game Day here at spalanz.com! Aw, yeah, time for a look at another boardgame this week, as I turn to the mythic expansion for Runebound 2nd Edition – it’s time to enter the Age of Shadow, with Runebound: Midnight!

Runebound Midnight

This game is mythic for a couple of reasons, I think foremost among them being just how rare this thing is nowadays. Heck, even when I bought it back in a second age of shadow, it cost me €100 on ebay. It was published in 2006 by Fantasy Flight Games as the second big-box expansion to the second edition of Runebound, in an attempt to crossover from the world of Terrinoth into Eredane, that of the Midnight RPG setting. While I find this setting completely irresistible, I get the feeling that the crossover wasn’t all that successful, and Midnight appears to have had a very short print-run, and then quietly dusted under the carpet, leading to ebay prices getting huge.

Runebound Midnight

The setting is the land of Eredane, or “the land under the shadow”. Basically, it is a fantasy land where evil has triumphed, and we’re now having to eke out a living in the wilds, away from the gaze of Izrador and his Night Kings. It’s just something that really speaks to me, somehow. I mean, take Star Wars for example. We haven’t really had a look at this yet, but the period between episodes III and IV is just so intriguing to me, because evil has won, and the good people are forced into the sidelines. Sure, there have been some incursions such as Dark Times, but we haven’t really had a chance to explore what it’s like to live in these dark days. Midnight shows us a world that is conquered by evil, and much like sneaking around in Mordor, it’s up to the heroes of the game to exploit the weakness of the Night Kings by destroying a powerful magical artifact, the magic mirrors, to even give good a chance at eventual victory.

Runebound Midnight

Much like Descent, Mansions of Madness, and the like, Midnight pits one player against the group, as one person takes on the role of a Night King. He or she will attempt to thwart the heroes and, if the threat level ever increases to 10, the heroes have no hope of victory. The heroes need to infiltrate the Night King’s strongholds to destroy the magic mirrors there; they need a total of 1 + the number of heroes in the game for a total victory.

Midnight isn’t like a normal game of Runebound, as several of the player steps are messed-with to create a wholly new experience. While other big-box expansions do this to some degree, none feels quite like the completely new game that Midnight is. The biggest change is the Night King step, for obvious reasons – let’s take a look.

The Night King’s turn always happens first, and involves a number of stages. First, the threat step, where he’s basically trying to increase the threat level to achieve his victory condition. He takes a doom counter and adds it to a pool, then rolls the two d10s – if the total is less than the current threat difficulty (which is set at the beginning of the game to 16), nothing happens, but if he equals or exceeds it, then all the starburst adventure jewels are replenished (there are no event cards in Midnight), the pool of doom counters is returned to zero, but the threat level increases by one. So right away, you can see that there is a chance to have the threat level increasing right out of the gate, but if you roll like me, you likely won’t be increasing it for several turns.

After that, comes the Patrol step. The Patrol is indicated by an undefeated challenge marker, and is moved much like a hero, rolling terrain dice and so forth. The Patrol is spawned at a Stronghold space, and can move to attack a hero, whereby the Night King player draws three cards from the deck corresponding to the hero’s level (level 1 is green, 2-3 is yellow, 4-5 is blue and 6+ is red) and chooses one to be the Patrol. An important thing to note here is that the hero cannot optionally engage the Patrol.

Finally, the Night King gains gold that he can spend to influence combat or spawn more patrols. He can also level up, by spending gold to increase his ‘shadow power’ – replacing the green jewel icon on his character card with a yellow one, and so forth. These shadow powers can be pretty debilitating to heroes as the game progresses.

But onwards to the heroes!

Runebound Midnight

The heroes of Midnight are a disparate band of chaps trying to survive, and as such have been noted as being distinctly weaker when used in other Runebound games. At any rate, there are some pretty cool alterations made to the hero step, let’s take a look!

A hero still rolls five movement dice, but rather than just using these to move, they also have other abilities – for instance, you can spend one die to try to heal, rolling it and, if the terrain symbol matches what you’re currently on, you will heal as you find a healer sympathetic to the resistance. You can also use the dice to barter, which involves matching movement dice to the terrain you occupy, and drawing market cards every time you match that terrain.

Runebound Midnight

The market deck is completely replaced in Midnight, which is also a really nice idea. The main game market deck is used as goods, because the economy has no real value since Izrador gained power. The Midnight market deck has got a lot of grungy stuff like the scavenged wargear and suchlike, it’s all really nice and thematic, I have to say!

Also thematic is moving into towns, which heroes now have to infiltrate – you make either a Sneak, Jump or Diplomacy test (so, the three basic attributes) at 10 + the cost of your highest-cost item. If you succeed, you can interact with the town as per the usual Runebound rules. This also applies to sneaking into Strongholds, though that will normally involve something far more ghastly!

Runebound Midnight

During an Adventure, the Night King tries to influence the combat by rolling dice equal to the hero’s level, trying to match the terrain symbols to those on his character card – he can only choose one feat to influence, but for each matched terrain symbol rolled, he increases the toughness of the combat in that feat by 1. Someone like Sunulael has a good chance of doing this as all of his influence is in the hills, while Zardrix will increase the ranged value by 1 for each road rolled, but the other two feats rely on marshes being rolled. However, there’s an important rule in Midnight that has the potential to save the day here – there are no allies in Midnight, so a hero can attack in multiple phases if he has unspent experience counters: for every two counters, he can attack in one additional phase. This is potentially why the heroes have been seen as weak outside of Midnight, as they really shine with the additional rules of this particular expansion.

During the Experience step, you have the chance to upgrade your grungy Midnight market item into a Covenant item, by using one of your face-down goods cards as an upgrade. It’s something that sounds really amazing, but usually ends up (for me, at least) being a bit hit and miss, as the regular market item’s effect becomes a special effect of the Midnight market item – matching these things to create something truly epic happens exceptionally rarely, in my experience.

Anyway!

Runebound Midnight

The goal of the game, for the heroes, is to destroy the magic mirrors, which are placed by the Night King at the start of the game. The players need to infiltrate the stronghold and defeat a red challenge in order to destroy the magic mirror, and can do so by teaming up. The Night King still attempts to influence the combat each round, and the red challenge itself also gains a bonus to its life equal to the number on the magic mirror counter. When going up against a magic mirror, a hero cannot use the attacking in multiple phases rule, unless the hero specifically has this ability anyway. When heroes gang up on the stronghold, they still act independently, so you need to go through all three phases before the next hero attempts the challenge. If defeated, the heroes gain 4 experience points and the magic mirror token, and once they’ve gained their victory number, it’s all over for Izrador!

Runebound Midnight

This is actually a really fun game. It’s very different from normal Runebound, and not just mechanically. It feels like a completely new world but with a vague semblance of the normal Runebound rules. Something very obvious, there isn’t really any emphasis on magical abilities in Midnight – crucially, there are no runes in the game! I mentioned sneaking around Mordor earlier, and this is precisely what it feels like to me – you’re in an evil land, trying to avoid the notice of the bad guys while bringing about their doom.

In a normal game of Runebound, you have allies to hook up with, and magical abilities from the various runes that give the game its name. There is something of a high-fantasy feel to it as you play glamorous warriors or highly skilled mages, but in Midnight your armour is rusty, your robes are grimy, and you’re skulking in the shadows.

That can be absolutely amazing, and every time I’ve played with this expansion I’ve had a huge amount of fun. But it can be a bit wearing, you know? It’s a terrific theme, but it’s not a theme I like to return to again and again. Back in 2011, I rated this a 7 on boardgamegeek, and I think that still stands. It is a fantastic, thematic expansion, but of the big box expansions for this game, it certainly isn’t as good as some of the others.

Check out my other Runebound blogs:
Runebound (core game)
Island of Dread
Sands of Al-kalim

Runebound 3!

Wow!

Pretty much every year, something at GenCon will blow me away, and when it does, it’s FFG’s doing. Looks like 2015 is no different, as we have the 3rd edition of Runebound announced!

Very excited for this, despite the fact I own (and love) everything for 2nd edition.

Runebound 3rd Edition

Third edition looks very sexy, as befits a modern update I suppose, but the preview article hints at a lot of changes that seem kinda interesting. First off, encounters are divided into three types – combat, social or exploration – with the adventure gems colour-coded as such. At first I was a bit confused – colour-coding in 2nd edition marked the encounter difficulty, not type, after all – but the scaling is done through a scenario adventure deck, which leads up to a fight with the big baddie of whichever scenario you’re playing. The two in the box have tickled me in all the right places – fighting against High Lord Margath, or the evil necromancer, Vorakesh! Two classic Terrinoth names, they’ve made me feel right at home with this new edition already!

Combat seems a bit strange, with tokens you can apparently cast like dice or flip like coins. Either way, they’ll likely become worn out very quickly, even given FFG’s top-quality product. Combat with d10s seems so much easier, but the fact that surges have now made it into this game is a nice touch to bring it closer to Descent.

Speaking of Descent, that seems to be where the new heroes are coming from, too. Hopefully we’ll get some kind of conversion kit to use the older, classic heroes – especially now that they have better sculpts thanks to the Hero & Monster collections for Descent, as well!

Runebound 3rd Edition

Overall, I’m really excited for this. Nothing is going to make me part with 2nd edition, as it’s an all-time favourite of mine, but I think a new edition will be a nice change to complement the older game. At any rate, this is right on my Christmas list!