Monday, 16 March 2015

Playing 'Runewars'

Gaming day again! Tody I'm bringing 'Runewars', or the diceless game :D

Brief introduction, my mate got this game on a discount offer and we had to try it :). 'Runewars' happens to take place in the same universe than 'Descent', but this time on a different scale. Nothing about dungeoning this time, but fighting battles and playing diplomacy in order to take over the world of Terrinoth.
I didn't have time to paint it. In fact my mate doesn't look quite prone to lose his game for over a year, which is what I'd take to paint it (not that I can blame him!), so please excuse the rudeness of showing a game with unpainted minis :(

The game is up to 4 players. It works pretty well with just two, but I guess the more, the merrier :D. Depending on the number of players, you will deploy a certain number of hexagons. That will be the battlefield. Certain regions will have 'neutral' inhabitants (by inhabitants I mean wild beastmen, ogres, hell hounds, etc...). Each player deploys on his fortress and we're ready to rumble!

Two player settings
Some hexagons contain cities, natural resources and stuff. Neutral beasts will on a general basis attack whoever enters their domains, but they can be convinced to join your cause by using diplomacy. I'll get back to that later. For this game I'll be using the humans (regular fantasy faction, minis in blue) and my mate the Uthuk (evil lookalike Mordorian Orcs, minis in red).

The game uses no dice, the dynamics are totally original to me. Each turn represents a year, and will be divided into four phases, one per season. During all the year, each player can use his activation cards, so he can move his units, attack enemy positions, recruit from his fortresses, etc. You will have a counter to remind your resources, which are of course pretty important if you are to keep your armies and cities!
During the first Spring, Men took over a city and Uthuks moved their forces through the valley:

Just remember to keep someone at your original fortress, you don't want to leave it to the enemy!
Summer is the time for Heroes. You will have up to three special mission cards and your heroes will try to fulfil the adventures in them. In this case, Silhouette gets into the region where her adventure takes place:

Hi, gents, may I?
According to her mission description, a group of Beastmen kipnapped a baby, so to rescue him she must fight a duel with one of them. How do fights work in this game? Instead of rolling dice you draw 'Fate cards' from a deck, the number of them depending on your profile (usually just one). Then you have to check the corresponding part of the card, depending on the type of unit you are. In the next pic, the card on the left belongs to the Beastman and the one on the right to Silhouette:

It's easier than it looks...
What's my type of unit? Just check the base of the mini! My Hero has a round base, so I'll check the circle in my card... Dang, nothing! The Beastman has a triangular base. He got that flag, that's a routing icon. The Hero has been defeated!

No further harm, but no more action for this year.
I'll explain the other symbols you can see on the cards: You can see there are four types of unit, so you just have to check the correct one. The blood stain represents wounds, and the magic sphere, the special action everyone has, which can lead to different effects depending on the unit (cause another wound, draw another fate card... whatever). There are also signs at the top part of the card. That will determine the success or not in certain situations.
For example, one thing we did wrong this turn: when you get into an area with neutral units, they will most likely attack you, invader of their home! But you can spare some of your Influence Tokens (the measure of your diplomatic skills) in order to make them your allies. You will draw as many fate cards as influence tokens you used. If you get the correct sign in any of them, they will now join your army. If not, you will have to fight them (we forgot to do this with the Human Character this time, oops. When we realized we played that phase with discouraging results):

Don't mess with wizards! OK, they killed the character. You can take her from the board
 During Fall, both armies conquered new cities:

You can call for supplies and allies from cities
I failed to tell, the purpose of the game is to find seven Dragon Runes. You can see there are some tokens on the tiles marked with an interrogation mark. Some of them contain actual Runes, some of them don't. The player controlling the tile can check if he has control of a Rune or a fake icon. The first one to get seven Runes (by whatever means) will win the game (that actually explains the name of the game itself!). If no one gets to that point, by the end of the seventh year of war, the player with more Runes will win (Seven years!!).

Men sent a scout to the adjacent area to try some diplomatic approach:

Apparently Hell Hounds don't know much about diplomatic efforts, got the wrong card
They all had a nice diplomatic dinner
Uthuks didn't even bother to negotiate, they sent an occupation army
Diplomacy is for sissies!
Winter is coming... (music required, you know the drill...) Winter is hard. You need to check your resources; if you have more units on a single tile than your food marker allows, you will have to withdraw the exceeding units, which are starved to death. This represents that huge armies are extremely difficult to keep, and small parties disseminated through the territory can survive Winter based on local resources. Seriously, this way of developing the turn, based on Seasons, is incredibly cool, I love it.
After the corresponding actions, the first year of war ended like this:

Looks like it's been a hard year...
Well, then you've seen most of the rules of the game. From now on it's all a matter of clashing armies, playing diplomacy and trying to control the territory. This should have been kinda predictable, knowing both of us, but we mostly used the direct approach, the plain, simple war, instead of relying on diplomacy. I guess this strategy is easy when you have just two players, but having three or four must necessarily lead to negotiations. Anyway, let's go on, there is still a lot of war ahead!

Uthuk forces make the battlefield all theirs while Men try to muster new troops
War!! Quite forseeable, just like I said...
The city is conquered, at an extremely high price
But the Uthuks counterattack!
And take over the city again!
Our Heroes engage in a rock band battle over a fortress
Her air guitar solo wasn't good enough
Next year came with a new battle over the same city again
The end of the third year left this mess over the board
Armies of Darkness seem to thrive
Men take over the fortress again
But lose the city (again). Peasants are confused as they don't know who to pay tithe anymore
Well, by now you can see we were facing this more like a kind of fantasy Risk than any other thing :D. Men were having trouble to keep their strongholds, as Uthuks kept them at constant siege. Both sides were recruiting new troops and heroes every year (and losing them at the very same rate!)

Uthuks conquered the fortress once more. Men built their first siege engine
Once again, the fortress is under new management. Peasants say 'meh'
By the fifth year of war I guess no one remembered how it started or what the objectives were. We were just focusing on the total annihilation of the enemy, keeping enough troops on the field (but not in excessive numbers, as Winter was really unforgiving!).

These siege engines are so overdone they even look like Warhammer!
OK, that's enough. You see that city full of Uthruks?
...Now you don't. Both players make an influence bid; the winner chooses a city and his Wizards' Council pours a rain of fire over it until it's destroyed. These influence bids were all the diplomacy we played, I guess. Kinda twisted sense of the term...
Long story short, we ended up playing the whole seven years of war, not paying too much attention to who owned the Runes :D

This is how we left this world after seven years of war
Uthuks finally earned victory as they were in possession of more Runes. I can say it was well deserved, my mate got control of most of the land during all the game and he payed attention to resources, heroes and magic stuff, trying to conquer places with Dragon Runes in them. So well played, man!

I was surprised by the dynamics. As I said before, the whole concept of fighting along all the year, with different events taking place during the seasons, is totally ace. Completely refreshing for me, a really cool experience. The board looked a bit too little to me, that forced soo many battles, but it wasn't bad at all. When more players are involved, more tiles are set, so it's fine. Another cool thing of this is the use of independent hexagon tiles, allowing whatever combination you may want, so there won't be two identical boards ever. I really like that a lot. The campaign mode along the years is also quite well thought and developed. This is not just about throwing armies to clash one against the other (though you may have got that impression by this AAR!). The way you collect resources and how you administrate them is essential. So it is the use of neutral units. We mostly fought against them, but sometimes we got to use them as allies and they were pretty cool. In fact there were a couple of times in which we tried to get a neutral army (there was a tile with five or six neutral units; getting that for your side would have been amazing), but we didn't succeed.
On the whole I must say this looked like quite an original system for my standards and a very good game. Now I want to play again with the other factions!


  1. Awesome game. Hours and hours of endless fun. Only thing you need is beer, bath, and missing wives.

    1. Howdy! Glad you enjoyed it!! Looks like your priorities are well set up! I like that! :D :D :D

  2. Replies
    1. Indeed it was! Now think of replacing these with Orcs&Goblins or Chaos Warriors... Come on, don't you say it wouldn't be cool too :)

  3. What is this I see ... unpainted miniatures. Granted they are very small but you have to paint them ... right? ^_^

    1. Unpainted minis bring shame upon a home. They will be properly painted as soon as I get the chance! :D