10 August, 2012

Runebound unbounded

Something different for a change, a post about board games. Specifically, Runebound by Fantasy Flight Games. As one of relatively few games, it can be played solo, and after reading glowing reviews, I bought it, about a year ago. I played it once, and was hugely disappointed. While it isn't quite as bad as Museum Caper, it is still one of the worst games I have ever played.

It feels like the designer did not really know about game design, and just tried to do Talisman, except different. Talisman is one of those old classics which everybody loves out of nostalgia, but in all honesty, it has tons of bad mechanics. But in the days before the internet, and before the rapture of the nerds (today, it's acceptable, or even cool to be nerdy. That wasn't the day twenty years ago), it was all we had. Talisman was a huge step up from Snakes and Ladders or Ludo.

But back to Runebound. It mostly suffers from a single problem, which is the complete lack of strategy, which comes from lack of meaningful choices. Sure, you can choose to wear a +4 axe or a +5 sword, but that is just a false choice. +5 is provably better than +4, and there is no reason to not use it instead.

I've written a longish post about why all the choices presented are false, and don't want to repeat myself here. Instead, I'm going to write down the house rules I came up with to fix things. Note that these rules are for solo play (or co-op play with two players), without any expansions. I don't buy expansions when I consider the base game to be broken to begin with.


Instead of playing a single hero, you play two parties of three heroes each. Every hero can have the usual equipment: Up to two weapons and one Armour. Either party can also carry around up to five artefacts and up to two allies. You can re-assign your gear before combat after drawing your challenges. Parties may trade freely if they enter the same hex at any point during their movement.


Your party only uses a single figure to move about the board. By default, you get to roll 5 movement dice. You may spend a 2 stamina (put the two tokens onto any of your heroes) to roll an extra die. You may also move less than 5 dice, and recover 1 stamina on each hero per die you don't roll. You may not do both, such as roll 1 die, recover 12 stamina total, roll 6 extra dice for obvious reasons. While you can always add more dice later (during your turn), if you go slow, you can't speed up.

Instead of having to end your turn on a hex to interact with it, you can interact with any hex you walk through. It would be perfectly legal to take on a green challenge, go shopping, take on a yellow challenge, and end your turn in the mountains.

If you don't want to move, you can take a rest (and do whatever the current hex allows you to do).

Rest / Second Wind

Resting restores any dead character back to life, with a single hit-point. All living characters first recover as many HP as they had Stamina left, and then recover all Stamina. Examples:

  • A is at 3/6 HP, and 2/4 Stamina. He recovers 2 HP, and 2 Stamina.
  • B is dead. He recovers 1 HP, and all Stamina.
  • C is at 1/8 HP and 1/8 Stamina. He recovers 1 HP and 7 Stamina.


New to combat: Whenever you want to attack, you have to spend 1 stamina to do so. If you are Exhausted, you may still fight (and attack), but all your stats are halved (round down) after other modifiers.


Party size is bigger, therefore challenges are bigger too. Instead of a single enemy, you draw three cards to fight. Should you draw an event, draw a fourth card. Generally you fight three monsters, sometimes you get lucky and only get two (though then you have to deal with two events). You have to assign every monster to a character (hero or ally) to fight. If you have spare characters, they may team up (just like allies and heroes can team up in the original rules). Combat is then resolved one fight at a time, until either the character or the monster dies. If there are still monsters left standing, re-assign them to your surviving heroes and allies (though you may not change equipment). Before combat effects can only be triggered once, in the very first round.

This is the table for which cards to draw on what kind of challenge rating:

  • Green: G(reen), G, Y(ellow)
  • Yellow: G, Y, B(lue)
  • Blue: Y, B, R(ed)
  • Red: B, R, R

As long as there is more than one monster, you cannot flee. Should you flee, the remaining encounters are just discarded (no book-keeping with them on the upper board border), and one Doom-Counter is added. Should there be more monsters than you have heroes to fight them with, they will politely wait their turn.

If you defeat all monsters in an encounter, you may take a Second Wind or continue your turn by walking further (and doing more encounters or going into a city, or what have you).


At the end of every turn, refill every market that is lacking cards. Then distribute three more cards among any cities that have the least amount of cards on them. You may also not put a card on a city with a hero on them. When you enter a city field, you may visit the market. Doing so allows you to draw an additional treasure card, and buy any number of them. At the end, you must discard all cards you did not buy (no putting them back to the market fields).


Doomcounters (of which there are eight) are accumulated by putting them into a Pile Of Doom.  When you have used them all up (which should be 8 of them), the forces of evil unleash a wandering encounter upon the world, and the counters are removed. Reasons to add a doom-counter:

  • At the end of every turn (after both parties have acted). 
  • At any time a Hero or Ally get killed.
  • When you flee from an encounter, add one counter for each undefeated monster.
Use the 1-6 markers with an axe on them to represent the wandering monster. 1-4 spawn at the corners of the map, 5 at the north and 6 at the south end. After the player's turn, they walk around, using 5 dice. They try to reach a city, or a hero (in case both is equally sensible, roll a die). If they reach a city, they attack it, and do as many points of damage to it every round as their power level indicates. A city has 5 HP. A razed city is considered a plain. Put a doom-counter on it. This also reduces the remaining doom-counters by one, speeding up the time it takes for the next wandering monster to appear.

If a party meets the wandering monster, they have to fight three encounter cards (ignore, discard and redraw events until you get three monsters) according to this table:
  1. G, Y, Y
  2. Y, Y, B
  3. Y, B, B
  4. B, B, R
  5. B, R, R
  6. R, R, R
You cannot flee from wandering monsters.


Whenever you defeat at least one monster in an encounter, you gain the encounter chip for exp (or the axe symbol for wandering monsters). You can then spend that on any hero in the party to level up. Levels cost 1 exp for the first, 2 exp for the second, 3 exp for the third, and so on. While this might seem a lot cheaper, you gain about three times less exp per encounter than before. If anything, it is still too low.

New Level ability: Defense. Get +1 to all three base stats, instead of +2 to just one.

Game Over

If a party gets wiped out, you lose the game. If all cities are razed (takes around 50 turns if you sit idly), you lose the game. You win if you defeat the dragon lord (see red cards).

Not much to my surprise, I find rule design more interesting than actually playing the game.

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