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Flashback Friday - Runebound - Love it or hate it? Do you still play it?

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Runebound 2nd edition vs Runebound 3rd edition

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Game Name
There Will Be Games

Runebound is on it's 3rd Edition. I've never played the first edition, but have been told that it was a hot mess. Some people would argue that Runebound 2nd Edition was also a hot mess, while for others it is a much loved favorite adventure game. And then there is Runebound 3rd Edition which one of reviews declared was "sheer brilliance." No one had much to say in response to that.

Literally, the Runebound Third Edition Review has been read over two thousand times, without a single comment. Therefore I was rather surprised when a passionate debate broke out in our forums the other day over Runebound. Go figure.

So without further ado, I bring you Runbound - Do you love it or do you hate it?

There Will Be Games Runebound 2nd edition vs Runebound 3rd edition

Runebound 2nd edition vs Runebound 3rd edition
Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie

Runebound 2nd edition vs Runebound 3rd edition
Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie

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ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #278505 27 Jul 2018 09:56
This game was never popular on this site since day one. Not even gonna bother defending it at this point. Let the Hate-Fest begin!
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #278507 27 Jul 2018 10:05
I played first edition Runebound once. Just the base set, I think. Red Scorpion struck me as ridiculous. The game was long. Combat was tedious and repetitious. Movement was the worst. I can see the idea, to make movement a bit of a random efficiency puzzle to solve each turn, but it was only enjoyable if the dice actually allowed you to where you wanted to go. The desert edition sounded a bit interesting, but the base game was too lacking in fun.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #278509 27 Jul 2018 10:39
Oh man, here I come to burn this thing down!

Without slinging hate for the sake of hate, I do think 1st/2nd edition is entirely boring. Roll dice to move (which isn’t a bad idea but is frustrating more often than not in execution) encounter a monster, roll more dice, repeat, repeat, repeat. The gameplay is so bonedry and the narrative relies entirely on flavor text, which is also boring and poorly written. Expansions do no fix this, the doom track does not fix it, and the downtime is noticeable. This is a game that I cannot be convinced that it is fun.

3rd edition on the other hand is absolutely terrific. The narrative is much more realized even if the setting is still bland, the movement is opened up greatly, and while at first glance the combat mechanics appear to be FFG being clever just for the sake of being clever, they’re really interesting, easy enough to wrap your head around, and are resolved with ease. I really wish the game had taken off better than it did, as I feel that long term enjoyment hinges upon a variety of boss monsters, not necessarily more encounters.

While I would never say it’s as good as Firefly, the best adventure game of the modern era (don’t you dare call it pick and deliver, that’s not the point and you’re dead wrong), I go back and forth with it in comparison to Eldritch Horror. Either way, Runebound 3 is a great game.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #278515 27 Jul 2018 11:32
Love it? No.
Like it? Yes.
Will I pull it off the shelf? I would be hard pressed to choose this over Merchants & Marauders or Exalted: Legacy of the Unconquered Sun. Both of those titles offer better adventure and a better way to move the game along to it's end.

It is a game I would sell at this point, but I doubt my wife would let me.

I am most thankful that the game and it's expansions gave me tons of characters to play Dungeonquest with.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #278517 27 Jul 2018 11:50
The thing is, that in the early 2000s there just weren't many fantasy adventure games out there. Talisman was out of print. There was Prophecy and Return of the Heroes, both of which were not always available in the US and both of which had their flaws. So when Runebound came out, people who were desperate for a fantasy adventure game really tried to make it work.

It is probably the most patched up game ever. There were many player created variants, then all the expansions by FFG to tweak it and more or less improve it. I have found that when you find someone who likes Runebound they are actually playing their own home brew of Runebound - a specific combination of variants, expansions and house rules - AND, the biggie, "I only play it solo," OR "I neve play with more than 3, and I have an extra set of dice."

Now there is more to choose from, so we reach for one of the other adventure game that are out there, rather than struggle with Runebound.

I have heard good things about 3rd edition, and would like to try it.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #278519 27 Jul 2018 11:57
I love it. Always have. My only beef is HOW we played it. Mama loves the game for the “fight and buff” mechanics so she always takes 6 hours to buff her dude up so there’s no dice roll needed against the bosses.

That kind of sucks the fun out a bit, but still fun.

We sold it all off after playing it and all of its expansion packs a million times.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #278521 27 Jul 2018 12:00
I've never played it, never seen it and don't even know what it is about (apart from Terrinoth I'm assuming) and after the first couple of posts I was just going to ignore this thread, maybe coming back now and then to see the blood and damage - then Josh posted and now I'm interested to at least look at the 3E version. I won't buy it as I have Firefly, EH, and M&M but will check to see if anyone owns it around here.
Now I'm off to read about it.
Colorcrayons's Avatar
Colorcrayons replied the topic: #278523 27 Jul 2018 12:07
I played the 1st Ed twice long ago.

I never grokked the love for it.

Little did I know, it was a sign of things to come from FFG design wise for the "lots of stuff and cards in a box" category.

So... Meh?
RobertB's Avatar
RobertB replied the topic: #278525 27 Jul 2018 12:09
ubarose wrote:

The thing is, that in the early 2000s there just weren't many fantasy adventure games out there. Talisman was out of print. There was Prophecy and Return of the Heroes, both of which were not always available in the US and both of which had their flaws. So when Runebound came out, people who were desperate for a fantasy adventure game really tried to make it work.


I think uba has the right take on Runebound 1.0 - there wasn't a whole lot of competition when it came out. I played it a few times way back when, and bought a copy. The game sucked for four players, and especially for player #4, because they had to travel farther to get green encounters, or take on harder blue encounters too early and lose. If I still have my copy of 1.0, I think I'll take a page out of Jexik's book, and give it away for the cost of shipping.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #278526 27 Jul 2018 12:09

SuperflyTNT wrote: I love it. Always have. My only beef is HOW we played it. Mama loves the game for the “fight and buff” mechanics so she always takes 6 hours to buff her dude up so there’s no dice roll needed against the bosses.

That kind of sucks the fun out a bit, but still fun.

We sold it all off after playing it and all of its expansion packs a million times.


I have a couple friends that do that and it bugs the hell out of me if I am trailing. Just finish the game already.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #278528 27 Jul 2018 12:36

ubarose wrote: I have heard good things about 3rd edition, and would like to try it.


We played it. You really enjoyed it, even agreed it’s better than 2nd.
Frohike's Avatar
Frohike replied the topic: #278529 27 Jul 2018 12:54
Most of the haters of 2nd ed played the core game and moved on and, honestly, I don't blame them. It was slow & repetitive. The traversal was interesting on paper but tedious in reality, the events were rather bland & often slowed the game further, and as Josh stated, for an adventure composed entirely of flavor text... the writing was pretty bad. The PvP was handled poorly and I mostly avoided it, making me wonder how anyone would play this base game repeatedly with other opponents.

I got the big box expansion Frozen Wastes along with the base set in a math trade, so I jumped into that expansion almost immediately and it was like a light bulb had switched on. I'm not sure what the sequence of these expansions was, but Frozen Wastes felt like someone had finally honed their ability to repurpose the Runebound framework and I think this style of reframing/tweaking may be the reason why some became fans of this system. I've become more conflicted about this malleability over time.

So, what mutated?

The generic "level up ASAP & defeat the dragon lord" garbage was thrown out in favor of an alien lord. Yep. The premise of this one was that an alien using quasi-steampunk technology crash landed into Terrinoth and his companion The Princess (ugh), encased like River Tam in a hibernation pod, was randomly ejected to an unknown location during the crash. Alien lord is now lonely and bitter and wreaking havoc on the countryside with his machines and cybernetically enhanced/frenzied critters. You can either power up and try to take him down in a fight, or you can triangulate the location of the Princess with cards that are dropped during encounters. Stand in a spot surrounded by all of the terrain types listed in your collection of cards and you've found her. If you bring the Princess back to the alien's location, you win instantly.

Traversal is still kind of annoying but the expansion adds temporary items like snow shoes and um... warp crystals (I forget whatever Terrinothy term they used for it) to provide options that bypass bad rolls or tedious journeys back to town.

The simple addition of a frost effect during travel adds some narrative immersion to one of the core mechanisms along with a push-your-luck element. Some terrain types are colder than others (causing you to accumulate more frost) and the events become more interesting as they amplify or alternate these cold spots to different terrain, evoking the concept that players are constantly working around these shifting snow storms. Furry monsters often double as frost-abating items (pelts) once you kill them.

Towns come in two flavors: Inuit or Norse (again I forget the derpy Terrinoth terms). The Inuit provide frost-healing perks while the Norse provide more items in their store. The concept of Relic items was also added, using a similar triangulation mechanism to the Princess idea, but with redeemable terrain chits drawn from a cup. Collect enough of a certain type and stand in the right spot, and you could make a purchase from a smorgasbord of cool gear.

Overall the pacing felt less sleep-inducing, the goals more varied, & the premise a bit weirder… almost like a massive Skyrim sidequest with Dwarven bots and Yeti. It was interesting to see narrative structure injected into the system with more gameplay ideas rather than doubling down on the flavor text. I enjoyed it quite a bit and played a dozen sessions or so.

So I still remember Runebound fondly but also believe that the adventure game genre has moved on. In the context of recent games like Gloom of Kilforth or Dungeon Degenerates, I can't imagine going back to these Terrinoth systems unless nostalgia and boredom overwhelm me. Their core framework is just kind of anemic, which certainly lends itself well to reframings and bolted on enhancements, but I'd rather play something that's more gameplay-focused, evocative, and varied at its base.
BaronDonut's Avatar
BaronDonut replied the topic: #278541 27 Jul 2018 14:27
Every time I think about playing Runebound I think it's not going to be fun and every time I actually play it I'm shocked by the amount of fun I have. Poor game, I don't know what it did to deserve this! Although I gotta say, I always wish the game was about 30% shorter.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #278558 27 Jul 2018 16:36
Used to have 2e; it was initially kind of interesting but quickly got tedious.

Eventually I learned not to bother with attempts to replicate the D&D experience -- I'd rather just play D&D.
Ken B.'s Avatar
Ken B. replied the topic: #278563 27 Jul 2018 17:02
I will always have a soft spot for Runebound. Still own 2nd edition and a bit of expansion stuff for it. I have never played 3rd edition though I did watch it being played, and I'm not really keen to start flipping cardboard tokens around, just seems silly to me. It has been a while since I have actually played it, though I most certainly would if someone suggested it.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #278564 27 Jul 2018 17:04
I’ll do it! I’ll do it!

KEN’S BACK!
Ken B.'s Avatar
Ken B. replied the topic: #278568 27 Jul 2018 17:08

Michael Barnes wrote: I’ll do it! I’ll do it!

KEN’S BACK!



What? What's wrong with my back? Do I have something on it? GET IT OFF MAN GET IT OFF
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #278569 27 Jul 2018 17:10

Ken B. wrote: ... and I'm not really keen to start flipping cardboard tokens around, just seems silly to me.
...


You need to make the first comment on the 3E review :-)

Have you been away ?
Ken B.'s Avatar
Ken B. replied the topic: #278574 27 Jul 2018 17:14

Southernman wrote:

Ken B. wrote: ... and I'm not really keen to start flipping cardboard tokens around, just seems silly to me.
...


You need to make the first comment on the 3E review :-)

Have you been away ?



No, I have been over here in the corner the whole time, just fiddling with my bits.


That came out wrong.


Or did it?
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #278575 27 Jul 2018 17:15
Two posts in like five years and one of them is about bit-fiddling.
Ken B.'s Avatar
Ken B. replied the topic: #278576 27 Jul 2018 17:18

Michael Barnes wrote: Two posts in like five years and one of them is about bit-fiddling.




I can't tell if that's disapproval for the half low-brow humor or disappointment it wasn't 2-for-2.
mads b.'s Avatar
mads b. replied the topic: #278582 27 Jul 2018 17:48
I've soloed 2nd ed. a lot and also played it every now and then with three or at most four players. We usually skipped the stupid PvP rules and had a lot of the small expansion stuff in there. What worked for me was definitely the story telling part and the sheer amount of dice chucking. Yes, the combat system was a bit samey at times, but there was just enough decisions each round to make a lot of the encounters interesting. And it does have a lot of small stories. You can go on small quests, but a lot of the encounters also interact - such as when defeating "Mother of Ferrox" gives you a one time "defeat a Ferrox-encounter" ability. It may not be much, but it was enough to make the board seem sort of connected.

I never got to play The Frozen Wastes, but I digged the things I read about it. I would love it if they brought it back for 3rd ed.
boothwah's Avatar
boothwah replied the topic: #278584 27 Jul 2018 18:22

Michael Barnes wrote: I’ll do it! I’ll do it!

KEN’S BACK!



ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #278585 27 Jul 2018 18:48
I don’t remember playing 3rd Edition at all. I guess it leave much of an impression on me.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #278586 27 Jul 2018 18:51
Frozen Wastes is the rare game I regret not buying when it came out. If only we had FOMO back then I wouldn't have to sigh at the $100+ it would cost now.