Game Review: The Runelords

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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# of Players: 2 (Technically you could do 2-4)

Time: 1.5 Hours

Age: 10+

Gamer Type: Casual/War Game

Game Type: Arena Battle

Complexity: 5-6

Battle games are all the same, right? You go into the arena, roll your stats, and the person who moves the best (or is the luckiest) wins. Little excitement beyond the thrill of the battle. Then walk The Runelords, from Red Djinn Games onto the battlefield. In a 3.5X style game, you have the chance to develop your character based on the cards in your deck. With an added “deckbuilder” option (which is a game, not just a card draft), each game can be different. There is a new monster on the field, and The Runelords is its name.

Story

The Runelords comes from a book universe. More than a port, but still developed off of a working story line. This allows players to immerse themselves mid-development in the evolution of their Runelord. This differs slightly from the pick up and go model of stories – adding depth of complexity that draws the player into a world, rather than just the game. 9.5 of 10 for story.

Artwork

When you come from an amazing story universe, you need to have artwork to match up, right? Of course you do. The Runelords delivers with MTG quality art on all their cards, books, and playfields. Each card is a work of fantasy art. This really helps the players to visualize what they are doing in the game. The artwork on the board also defines the strategy of the playfield, so it is a strong addition to a great game. 8 out of 10.

Mechanics

We have all seen the “move your character and roll the dice” battle games. They mostly amount to little more than Hungry Hungry Hippos. With The Runelords, you have a little bit of Dominion, MTG, and OP Arena all rolled into one. The cards define your recruits, which is who you play the game with. However, unlike some other games, you have the option of using other cards from your hands, even other recruits, to power up one-off attacks. This makes the mechanics unique.

Additionally, the arena playfields are not just open fields. There are obstacles, defenses, and other mechanics you can use. During testing, we played the two launch fields, but I can see the fast growth of advanced fields, larger fields, and even fan fields in the future. 7 of 10.

Strategy

Arena games are all about strategy. This means that The Runelords has an amazing coterie of other games with which to compete. It does well in this category. The facing mechanic works well. The movement, aiming, and abilities are integrated, but not too complex to pick up quickly. The board mechanics make the different boards fun and the turn order/planning is unique to this genre. Overall, this is a monster strategy game for under 2 hours.

That being said, more board mechanics integrated into the decks could be something for future expansions. Cover, which already exists, could be enhanced by items unique to each game board. A quick draft of 4 to 6 cards for each board could allow for items to be placed on the board (or events). This would add further diversity an already diverse game with simple additives unique to each board. 8 of 10 for Strategy.

Novelty

I have played a lot of arena games. They run from super simple to D&D 2.0 rules. The Runelords falls right into the middle on complexity, but is one of the best games I have seen for novelty. The mechanics have some new pieces that I have not seen before. The standard battle pieces are put together in a unique way, so each game is fun. This gives The Runelords a strong 6 out of 10 for Novelty.

Overall

This is an amazing game. With a total score of 38.5, this game ranks with OP Arena and Avertigos in arena style battle games. Where it edges these two stalwarts out is in the Solo mode and the deckbuilder mode. These two modes add an amazing depth to the game where you can enhance your story by enhancing the elements that you would like to see enhanced. And if you are a fan of the books, you can “steal” followers and items from your opponents.

This is a great game, easy to learn and relatively quick to play. I definitely think that you should check out the Kickstarter and get on the list to get a copy. They should go quite quickly, so be early and bid often.

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer is a writer for NRN and an adjunct professor at both Penn State University and the University of South Florida. He is the author of several books, most recently “A Criminal History of the Democrat Party” which is available on Amazon and via the publisher, Elite Exclusivity. Follow on Twitter at @Acriminalhisto1

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