Game Buzz: Rune Age

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Continuing the deck-building obsession, let’s take a look at Fantasy Flight’s first offering in the genre – Rune Age, from their current wunderkind, Corey Konieczka.  This one is a game for 2-4 players and takes around 60 minutes to play.  It’s a fantasy game set in the world of Terrinoth, the world FF has used for titles such as Descent, Runebound, Rune Wars, and DungeonQuest.  As noted in previous deck-building posts, each subsequent deck-building game in a post-Dominion world has to add a new twist to the genre.  For Rune Age, it’s the introduction of scenarios and variable victory conditions.

Any discussion of deck-builders has to start with the cards.  This game comes with 252 of ’em – 92 faction cards, 104 scenario-specific cards, 48 gold cards, and 8 city cards.  The faction cards include home realms, strongholds, and units.  Scenario-specific cards include neutrals, objectives, events, dragon runes, and monuments.  Gold cards are valued at 1, 2, and 3, and the city cards represent places you can spread your influence.  In addition to the cards, there are 38 damage tokens and one six-sided attrition die.

The first thing you’ll do in a game is select a scenario.  The game comes with four scenarios, and each will give you a different experience:

  • The Resurgence of the Dragonlords, which is a race to defeat the Dragonlords.  It’s possible that no one will win this one.
  • Runewars, which is a battle until there’s only one pereson left standing.
  • The Cataclysm, which is a cooperative scenario in which the group is merely trying to survive.
  • The Monument, which is a high strategy scenario with little player interaction in which you are simply trying to acquire the most gold.
Set Up - image taken from rules, available here

After choosing a scenario, each player gets a faction.  There are four to choose from – the Latari Elves, the Daqan Lords, Waiqar the Undying, and the Uthuk Y’llan.  Each has a home realm and specific cards for themselves placed in the barracks.  Three piles of gold cards go in the middle of the table (value 1, 2, and 3).  Each scenario calls for three neutral card piles, which also go in the center of the table, along with the city cards (these are placed individually, not in piles).  Each player starts with a deck made of five 1-gold cards and three 1-cost units from their barracks.  The deck is shuffled, and you begin with a hand of five cards.  The Event deck consists of stage one and stage two cards from the events matching the scenario.

Games are played in a series of rounds.  Each player takes a turn, then an event is resolved by the first player.  A turn follows this sequence: refresh exhausted cards, perform actions, discard your hand, and draw up to five cards.  Refreshment is easy – any cities, strongholds, or rewards that you control that were rotated sideways since your last turn get rotated so they are ready to use again.

Next is the action phase.  You can perform as many actions as many times and in whatever order you want, provided that you have the necessary resources.  Possible actions include:

  • Combat Actions – Play unit cards into your play area to form your army.  There are two types of combat – battles and sieges.  Battles are one player attacking a card that is not controlled by anyone.  Battles are fought by playing unit or tactic cards, rolling the attrition die (if attacking an Event), then comparing strengths to see who won.  Sieges are one player attacking a home realm or city controlled by another player.  Players alternate playing unit or tactic cards, then comparing strengths.  Cards played in either case may have effects that are resolved when played, or that are resolved during resolution.
  • Card Actions – Play a card and take its action, or exhaust a card in your play area to use its action.  Once used, a played card goes into your discard pile.
  • Spend Gold Action – Play gold cards to purchase units from your barracks, strongholds to place above your home realm, or special cards.
  • Spend Influence Action – Exhaust cards in your play area for influence, which you can use to acquire gold or neutral cards.

After doing all of your actions, discard your entire hand.  You can spend influence to keep cards (one per card), then you draw back up to five (reshuffling if need be).  It’s now the next player’s turn.

Enemy Event - image by BGG user moons
Instant Event - image by BGG user moons

When play gets back to the first player, they draw an event card.  There are two types.  Enemy cards come into play and effect the game until defeated.  Instant cards are resolved, well, instantly.

You continue playing the game until the conditions of your scenario have been met.  Players who acquire 20 points of damage are eliminated from the game.  In the case of the Cataclysm scenario, one player dying means the game ends in defeat.  For Runewars, you want to eliminate everyone else.  For Resurgence of the Dragonlords, death of another player just means you have less competition, but if everyone dies, no one wins.  For The Monument, you can’t attack other player’s home realms, so there’s no player elimination.

This game seems to be one of the more non-Dominionish deck-builders currently hitting the market.  Apart from that basic mechanic, there’s really no comparison between the two.  You can really see the Fantasy Flight machine at work behind all aspects of this game – more to do, more conflict, more little rules to learn.  The use of scenarios will probably add a lot of variety to the games, and I think it will be really interesting to see how card interactions change from scenario to scenario.  At the same time, I’m not super excited about the theme.  Maybe that’s because I’m not really that involved in the Terrinoth universe – I’ve played Descent a few times, but I haven’t played any of the other games in the line.  Maybe knowing more about the story would get me more interested in the theme.

But, I won’t let a silly little thing like not knowing the backstory prevent me from enjoying a good game.  Konieczka has got a really good pedigree of games behind him, including Battlestar Galactica and Mansions of Madness.  In fact, if you want to look at this game in relation to MoM, both take a familiar theme in the FF catalog (Terrinoth versus Arkham Horror), place them in a very different type of game and add scenarios to keep things interesting.  And you can be assured that the FF machine is already working on expansions – more cards, more scenarios, more factions, more everything.  One of the great things about the company is that you can always be assured of a high-quality production.  Whether or not the game is for you, Fantasy Flight always delivers something that’s worth taking a look at.  And I do think that Rune Age will be one to take a look at.  I highly doubt that I’ll like it as much as Dominion, but I’m at least eager to see how everything works together to create the experience.  Thanks for reading!

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