Updated: Jul 9, 2021
Fans of this blog will know that I’m reasonably invested in the fantasy realm of Terrinoth, created by the guys over at Fantasy Flight, which is the setting for a large number of their Fantasy Games including Runebound, Descent, Rune Age, Rune Wars and Dungeonquest.
Fantasy Flight however was late coming to the Deck Building party. First there was Dominion, then others followed suit Arctic Scavengers, Thunderstone, Puzzle Strike among others. But what set Rune Age apart from the myriad of other Deck Builders was that Rune Age was offering scenario based play. So, does Rune Age really bring something different to the table or is it just another clone?
Rune Age is a competitive deck building adventure which pits you against a series of increasingly difficult dragons, with the player who can defeat the biggest baddest dragon earning the respect that he rightly deserves.
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Rune Age is a cooperative game that unites the players together against a strong series of enemies, but allows for the weakest player to change allegiance and win the game alone, if they think they can!
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Rune Age is an economic race game which forces players to balance their need for defence against their need to draw gold into their hands in order to build their monument.
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Rune Age is a war game, in which the players will draft units to attack each other in a race for global domination over the land of Terrinoth.
So, what’s in the box?
- 92 Faction Cards (23 per faction, 4 factions)
- 4 Home Realms
- 12 Strongholds
- 32 One-cost Units
- 16 Two-cost Units
- 16 Three-cost Units
- 12 Five-cost Units
- 104 Scenario-specific Cards
- 50 Neutral Cards (10 Types – 5 of each)
- 4 Objective Cards
- 40 Event Cards (10 per scenario)
- 6 Dragon Rune Cards
- 4 Monument Cards
- 48 Gold Cards (24 – “1,” 14 – “2,” 10 – “3”)
- 8 City Cards
38 Cardboard Damage Tokens
1 Six-sided Attrition Die
So basically, lots of cards but nowhere near as many as your standard deck builder, like Dominion or Thunderstone. Admittedly Rune Age is cheaper but there are a lot of cards that repeat (such as gold) and even the unique cards feature artwork from previous games.
That said the quality of the game is as high as I’ve come to expect from FFG and the rulebook is well laid out and simple to follow. Although the game is a “deck builder” the setup and game play differ quite wildly from most other games in this genre, so without further ado, let's get to it. ..
Playing the Game
To set up the game first you must choose one of the four included scenarios. This will determine which Neutral cards will be used for the game. Then consult the chart in the front of the rulebook to see how many neutral cards are used for the number of people playing. Make stacks in the middle of the table of the three neutral cards, 1, 2, & 3 gold cards, a number of Neutral Cities equal the to the number of players plus 1 and the Event Deck and Objective Card for the scenario.
Each player then chooses a faction and places the home realm for that faction face up in front of them. If this card ever takes 20 damage it is destroyed and that player is eliminated.
Players separate the rest of their cards into purchase stacks, each faction has four unit types and three Strongholds. Players then make a deck using five 1 gold cards and three strength 1 units. Each player draws a hand of five cards. The game can now begin with the youngest player going first.
On their turn each player can take one of four actions:
A Combat Action – Either against an Event Card, an Objective Card, a Stronghold, a City or a Player
A Gold Action – Spending Gold to claim cards from their own purchase stacks
An Influence Action – Spending Influence to buy Neutral units or Gold Cards from the central area.
Perform an Action on a card in their hand.
In general players can take these actions as many times and in any order as they like. However they must fully resolve an action before starting another one and they cannot attack the same target twice in the same turn.
At the end of each player's turn everyone draws their hand back up to 5 cards, which stops players being penalised for being attacked during another player's turn. At the start of the first players turn an event card is turned over and resolved, if necessary players will draw up again before the first player takes his turn.
Purchasing cards in Rune Age is pretty simple, if they cost Gold, discard a number of gold cards from your hand to pay for them. Newly purchased cards go into your discard pile with the exception of Cities and Strongholds which go in front of you refreshed and ready to use.
If a card has a cost in Influence you must tap/exhaust cards in front of you that generate influence, such as Strongholds and Cities. Thus influence acts like a constant currency that can be depended on from turn to turn rather than gold which has to come up in your hand.
Finally some cards can be purchased with strength such as Cities and Strongholds. In this case you must play cards from your hand with a Strength of equal to or higher than the cost of the card you’re attacking. If so it is placed in your play area.
When a player wishes to attack an Enemy or when he is attacked by an Instant, both of which are types of Event Cards, the procedure for attacking is simple. He plays as many units as he likes and activates any when played abilities. He will then usually roll the attrition die. This die has either a blank, 1 skull or 2 skulls on it. If a skull side is rolled the player must destroy (return to it’s purchase stack) one of his attacking units per rolled skull. After the dice is rolled all resolution abilities are activated, if the player has enough strength to beat the enemy it is defeated.
In the case of attacking another player, both players play cards one at a time, making the order in which you play your cards vital to the outcome. For example some cards will allow you to destroy an opposing unit, this ability is far more effective against a strength 6 Dragon than a strength 1 Footman. Timing is everything in player vs player combat. If the attacker wins he inflicts 1 damage for every point of strength he beat the defender by.
Winning the Game
The first player to achieve the objective wins. This depends on the scenario. And that’s it, simple and straightforward really, but not like any other deck builder out there.
I like Rune Age. I like the simplicity of it. Unlike Thunderstone with 12 new cards plus 3 new monster types per game Rune Age offers players only three neutral units per game and 4 faction units which are the same game after game.
Because of the consistency from game to game Rune Age allows you to play strategically to your factions strength. It feels more like a real-time strategy game than a deck building game. You conquer Cities and Strongholds to generate gold or to give you access to special units. While you hand pick which units will form the core of your army. Rune Age definitely feels more like a wargame than an economic engine game.
Although the “Runewars” scenario pits the players against each other, Rune Age can be played co-operatively or semi-multiplayer-solitaire, which sets it apart from Nightfall, easily the most player conflict driven deck builder I’ve played.
Is Rune Age a little pricey? With an RRP of £27.99 yes it is, in fact it costs as much as any of the LCG starter boxes but there is less original art and fewer components. However, it’s a solid game and its a good quick filler that has a little something for everyone. It’s easy to learn and because each faction is the same every game it only gets easier with repeated plays.
One thing that I have to wonder is, how much of this game was repurposed. Originally Corey Konieczka was working on a deck builder based on Blood Bowl, eventually that game came out with Jay Little as the designer which leads me to believe that Corey’s design probably ended up as Rune Age. Either way I think everything came out great! Can’t wait to get Blood Bowl to the table too!
Overall I like the game a lot. I think the rules and mechanics are solid. I like that you have a reliable resource, “Influence” rather than having to trust to the luck of the draw.
I like the fact that it feels like a war-game, while still managing to have an engine building mechanic tucked away in there.
I do think that it feels a bit like the “politically correct” deck builder, it tries to be a little bit of everything, offering solo, co-op, player vs. player, economic and adventure modes. Whether it succeeds at everything is something time will tell.
As for the complaints about variety and the need for an expansion that I’ve heard being banded about. I think I disagree, while I would welcome an expansion, especially new scenarios, I think it is the fixed nature of Rune Age that gives the players the ability to make tactical and strategic decisions in the game. While Thunderstone may be about discovering new ways to win with new combos, Rune Age is about working with what you have in hand to beat the scenario.