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[Review] Runebound

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Here's a change: for my birthday I was given Runebound, the fantasy/adventure board game by Fantasy Flight Games. I wasn't expecting to get it at all, but for some strange reason I did. Well anyway I managed to find some people who wanted to play and here is what we think:

1. Components - Terrifying! You start by "attempting" to punch out the pieces, but unfortunately punching out one piece means ripping the cardboard right off of 3 others (it was painful). It didn't really matter because all of the pieces have the same things on both sides, now if this were a memory matching game this would be a problem.

2. Setup - The setup for this game takes about 10 minutes, there is a lot of stuff in this game. You've got a market deck where you buy items and allies, all the cardboard pieces to put on the board, separating the enemy decks into four colors (red, blue, green, and yellow, in order of difficulty from hardest to easiest), and picking players from the character deck.

3. Gameplay - This is really hard to explain, it took FFG 6 pages of small text (3 columns/page) to explain the game, yet it took me only 10 minutes to explain to my friend once I got the hang of it.

Basically on your turn you roll movement dice, and when you roll the type of terrain you are standing next to, you get to move to it. Since you roll 4 or 5 dice (depending on where you are) you can link together a nice combo on one turn and swiftly move across the board, or you can be surrounded by the same type of terrain and never roll it.

The main goal of the game is like any RPG you've ever heard of:
1. Kill stuff
2. Gain experience
3. Kill harder stuff
4. Gain more experience
5. Kill the boss
6. Win the game

Your character can battle in three different categories: Ranged, Melee, and Spirit. You also have health and (ooh I hate saying this word) exhaustion (it just sounds dull for a board game). Each character also gets some special abilities which can be used in "Tests" later in the game. A test is basically: Roll 13 or more of else the enemy sees you and does 2 damage to you. After a test is performed the combat takes place, which is basically rolling the 20-sided die and adding your character's points in that skill to the die roll. If your number is higher than the enemy's number, you deal damage to it.

Once you kill an enemy you are rewarded with either cash, an item, or the enemy will be added to your hand and can be used for something later in the game. You also get experience points based on the difficutly of the enemy:
Red - 4
Blue - 3
Yellow - 2
Green - 1

The more players playing the less experience points you need to level up. When you level up you pick either Ranged, Melee, or Spirit and get to increase the bonus by 1 point making it easier to roll higher numbers.

A lot of people think this game is all luck because of the shops. When you visit a town you can buy weapons, armor, runes, and artifacts all to help you on your quest. Each town gets different items, and when you land on a town you draw a card and add it to the shop. Sometimes you get lucky and get an extremely good card, but not often. Now many people use this an excuse to say they lost ("You had all the good items!"), but I disagree. The game is based on skill. Your ability to know when to go back to a town and heal or when to continue killing enemies will determine how well you do.

4. Expansions - In the future you will be able to buy expansions for the game for about $7, which is really cheap. Already three expansions are in the works, one being released in September.

5. Complaints - My only real complaint with this game is the length, but it doesn't matter. You are excited to play from minute 1 to minute 120 (that's two hours for the mathematically challenged). The thing is that the more people playing the easier it is to level up, thus keeping the game about the same amount of time no matter how many play.

However if you aren't into dice rolling, this may not be for you. While you do get cards to give you bonuses, you still do a lot of dice rolling, which is why I have to deduct a point from otherwise a perfect game.

Runebound gets an above average 4 out of 5.

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