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Board Games 896
Who Wants a Troll-Scrotum Backpack?
Rating 
 
5.0
NOTE: Rating is for the Runebound system as a whole—the base game, with nothing but the "Rise of the Dragonlords" adventure, pulls a solid 4 stars. It soars to 5 stars when considered with the plethora of expansions, especially the Adventure Variants (each with a different overarching plot).

A fun adventure game system from the "pull a card, read the encounter, roll some dice" family. Can be boring with dull people—it requires a certain amount of storytelling ability to make it interesting:

Q: Why do you get a plus to Diplomacy after you kill the Hill Troll?

A: Because you made a backpack out of his scrotum, that's why.

Be sure to read all the flavor text aloud—dramatically—for best effect. (This isn't really optional; the plot is gradually revealed through the flavor text as the players progress through the adventure decks. On balance it's less "flavor text" than it is "story".)

Plays best with 2, though I might be persuaded to play with 3 if everyone is knowledgeable and peppy and takes their turns with preternatural alacrity. The claim that it plays with 6 is a cruel joke that we fell for exactly once, never to be repeated again—it ate an entire day to no good effect.

UPDATE: We managed 9 plays of 1st Edition, and that was without expansions. As this is a "Saturday afternoon" game (taking several hours) that means we got somewhere around two months' worth of Saturdays out of it. Two months of solid play off a single scenario. With all the scenarios FFG pumped out for this—12 total—the replay value blows through the roof, soars into orbit and then takes a hard left into a magical wormhole. HUGE amount of bang-for-buck!

UP-UPDATE: Tweaks that make for more gaming goodness:

1) Use the "shorter game" rules, making it easier to level up.

2) Use "softer knockouts" to prevent table flippage.*

3) Separate the massive market deck into three piles: the Tavern (allies), the Smithy (weapons & armor), and the Bazaar (a catch-all for familiars, magic items & artifacts). This allows players to really target the holes in their kit/entourage without endless turns of market-stepping loads of junk they don't need.

4) Ignore PvP. We found it just slowed things down and lead to hard feelings.**

*After too many rounds of bad rolls and bad beats I finally manage to scrape together enough gold to buy the magic sword that dovetails neatly with my special abilities—only to get my ass kicked by a wild boar and lose the sword.

**After too many rounds of bad rolls and bad beats I finally manage to scrape together enough gold to buy the magic sword that dovetails neatly with my special abilities—only to get my ass kicked by you and lose the sword.

While these tweaks speed up the game, I'm not necessarily saying the game needs speeding up. For a lazy Saturday afternoon (especially a bad weather one) this game expands to fill the time nicely. We've found that the above tweaks will take an afternoon game and turn it into a evening game—and that just means we get to play more!
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