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Home Forums The Gaming Room Runewars – The first two games

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    I got the opportunity to play my first two games of Runewars at the local game store last night, and I had a blast!
    RW setup

    It played very smoothly and it took us about 60-90 minutes per game for the “Skirmish” training scenario, i.e. 100 points per side without terrain or upgrade cards (a “full” game is 200 points). We played on the shop’s modular terrain board, but without applying any terrain rules.

    Playing Daqan

    Rules explanation was very fast both time and my opponents (both regular tabletop players) picked them up without problems. The only slightly counter-intuitive thing seems to be how damage and defense interact. Units have a defensive value, say 2, which means they take 1 wound per 2 damage, but people seem to expect that defense 2 blocks 2 damage and everything above that causes wounds. Anyway, it’s quickly cleared up.

    I like that the initiative system is completely non-random and depends entirely on the orders you choose. Priority (to resolve ties) alternates each round. Overall this means that choosig the right order with the initiative you need is a crucial element in the battle. Several times I found myself choosing a weaker attack to go earlier in the round, or discounting a tactic because I knew my opponent would be able to act before I did. Timing your attacks to a round where you have priority can also be handy, because melee attacks tend to be clustered around initiative 4 or 5, and if you can attack first, you can weaken your opponent before he strikes back, or force a moral test that interferes with his counter attack.

    Flanking didn’t happen too often in our games, but when it did, it was very important. It adds an extra die to the units attack, and that can be very devastating. I like that you don’t roll buckets of dice (4 being the most we ever rolled for one attack) and dice types are clearly differentiated. Reds are the damage dealers for the basic units, blues produce more surges and white are the blog hero dice. Because the training battle doesn’t use upgrade cards, the use of surges was somewhat limited, but we did see the reanimate archers blighting the Oathsworn cavalry, blunting their attack, and the human hero Kari Wraithstalker rained destruction across the battlefield from afar. Not sure what her combat ability represents in terms of fluff, but it sure is deadly.

    Units also feel very different from each other, with the cavalry sweeping quickly across the battlescape, but being unable to do very tight turns, while the infantry slogs along slowly. In a change from X-Wing, units are moved along the side of movement templates instead of from the back to the front, which means that the bases do not add to the movement distance, something that always annoyed me a bit in X-Wing.

    Magic is handled very interestingly. There are no “spells” as such, but five rune tokens are cast each turn, and they define how many of three types of magic are available for the turn. Several unit abilities then bounce off these values, making magic units variable and somewhat unpredictable. The Undead infantry (reanimates) can regenerate lost figures equal to the amount of natural (green) magic available, which can be from one to three. The Rune Golems depend on stable magic (blue, 1 or 2) for their defense and defense, while they can coast on instable magic (red, zero , two or four possible) for their movement. They also have a mundane movement option of 2 (meaning they won’t be stuck on a bad rune cast), but that is very slow.

    If I have one gripe with the system, it is the interlocking tray system. Trays are removed when they become empty and that get pretty fiddly. The lock is quite tight (which is nice while moving a unit around – you can actually pick up a 2 by 2 unit and it stay together), getting one of those trays out can be tricky. On the other hand, taking individual figures out of the trays (or putting them back) is a snap.

    Overall I found both games to be a very satisfying mixture of planning, maneuvering and dice chucking. I played the human Daqan both times and in the first game my strategy came together nicely: My fast left flank surged forward (helped by 4 red runes for the golem on turn 1), swept the weak reanimate archers away and then rolled up the rest of the Undead army, which was pinned against my infantry and hero from the side.

    Kari protects the spearmen's flank

    I tried the same (new opponent) in the second game, but he had setup slightly differently, and his carrion lancer cleverly avoided the rune golem and blocked by cavalry charge by side-stepping. While I eventually managed to kill his archers, by the time the golem managed to get to the other flank his stronger infantry had devastated mine, not least because of him regenerating a good portion of his losses.

    Carrion Lancer intercepts the cavalry

    The game definitely ends after 8 turns and victory goes towards the side that still has more points on the table. In full games you’ll also have objectives that add to (and will make up a significant part of) this total, but that’s not the case for a skirmish. Both times the outcome accurately reflected the feel of the battle. Both my opponents also liked the game very much and were impressed by the smooth game play and tactical depth.

    I’m definitely looking forward to more games – hoping to finally get to play the Pale Legion myself!

    Universal Head

    Excellent coverage, thanks Ralf! And a very attractive game. I am interested in the smooth gameplay, but I find myself not being able to get past the generic fantasy background, the sculpts, and the movement trays. It’s a shame the new CMON Song of Ice and Fire minis game uses trays too, I’m just not a fan of big empty plastic trays moving about the battlefield.


    That’s a shame, since I genuinely think there is a very good game here, but I certainly wouldn’t buy into a such an expensive game if it turned me off visually! 🙂

    Just to clarify, trays are actually removed when empty, so you are not moving those about – but as stated, removing them in the first place is somewhat fiddly. Where SoIaF seems to use 12-figure trays, Runewars has 4 figures per tray max, but units may consist of multiple trays.


    Thanks a lot for the post Ralf! The removal of empty treys sounds realy annoying…but I think the good points will more than make up for that.

    What do you think…would fileing away a bit and use magnets be a viable solution?


    Yes, there’s someone on the RW Facebook group doing exactly that and it seems to work for him. I have no experience with anything like that myself though.


    Hi Uthoroc! Got some more games under your belt? How does it hold up?


    I’ve played half a dozen games now, but most of them the training battle (all different opponents) and no full game of 200 points yet. The games were all interesting and I’m eager to play more. Which hopefully will be this week.

    I’m also registered for a little tournament in mid-July. If everything goes well I might be able to write up a few battle reports from that.

    Today I’m picking up the second wave of expansions, i.e. the new heroes Ankar Mauro and Lord Hawthorne.


    Sounds good. Looking forward to your painted minis 🙂


    I had the chance to play 3 games on Saturday, at a club event. We were 4 players and has the time to all play each other. I won two games, one against another Undead army and one against the humans, while I lost the third against the second Daqan (human) army.
    Undead vs Undea

    All three games were very different and strongly (and pretty equally) determined by
    a) army composition
    b) setup (including scenario and terrain choices)
    c) in-battle tactics
    Luck played a role too, but wasn’t really a deciding factor.

    I have now about a dozen games under my belt, though only 1 true “full” battle at points – two of Saturday’s were 150 points. And I stand by my impression that this really is an excellent game – tactical depth, meaningful choices, varied game play, and very manageable play time (even the 200 points battle didn’t last longer than 2 hours). Maneuvering is very important, flanking a unit can be devastating, cavalry is fast and archers must be protected to be effective. Just as it should be.
    Reanimate archers devastate a big spearmen unit

    Of course whether you like the minis or not (and all the components on the table) comes down to taste. Luckily I really love them. For me the everything looks great on the table when painted (but then I’m not spoiled by wonderful custom-build tables – yet), and with 200 points your army really feels like a substantial force on the field of battle.
    200 point armies facing off

    Finding players remains a concern, my loyal buddies are not into collecting and painting minis and will only play occasionally with me, and there is no significant “scene” yet. We’ll see whether that improves with the upcoming elves and demon-worshipper factions, with both seem to appeal to a certain section of players.

    More photos from the even can be found here.

    Universal Head

    Glad you’re enjoying it. I’d like to play a game, but I’m definitely not buying into it, both for the price and the quality of the minis, which to my own eye isn’t improving. Tabletop minis games are so expensive and time-consuming I really have to fall in love with the minis. Excellent that you’re getting into this type of game however!


    Completely agreed, without love for the minis it would just be an exercise in frustration.

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