Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hands-On Impressions: Rune Age

As a member of the press at Gen Con, I rarely get to play games.  Most of my days are spent photographing the fun and excitement others are having with the new and shiny products.  So I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to play Rune Age, a new deck building game by Corey Konieczka this year.   Dan, Jeff and I sat down in hall G on Thursday evening and got our first impressions of this highly anticipated game.

What makes this deck building game different from all the others are its "modes" of play.  There are four scenarios in the base game and each is arranged to give you a different type of play experience.  Our table was set up for the first scenario, Resurgence of the Dragonlords.  This particular scenario is a race to defeat a specific foe, but also has the option to directly confront your opponents.  The first player to defeat the enemy is declared the winner.

The other three scenarios allow for outright confrontation and player elimination (Runewars),  cooperative play and survival (The Cataclysm), and parallel play with little player interaction (The Monument).  Therefore, you should always be able to find a mode that suits your groups style of play.

There are four races in the base game.  I chose to play the Latari Elves, Dan snatched the Daqan Lords, and Jeff grabbed Waiqar the Undying.  The other race available was the Uthuk Y'llan.  Poor Uthuk, no play time for you!  Any who, we completed our set up and began the game.  I immediately fell in love with the elegant flow of each turn.  There are no limits on actions or buys and each can be done in any order.  There are three different ways to acquire cards.  Some cards require that you pay gold, others that you pay influence, and still other use strength.  And, in the case of a stronghold, you have the option to either pay gold or use strength to secure it.  Once you learn the general layout of the cards, turns move quickly and smoothly from player to player.

Once everyone has had their turn, an event card is drawn and you resolve its effect immediately.  Sometimes this is an ongoing effect and sometimes it will effect one or multiple players.  One particularly helpful card, for me in particular, was Rally Support. This is a reward card that the first player gives to the player on his right (ie. the last player).  This turned out to be extremely helpful since as the last player, I had a bit of a disadvantage in the game.  You see, there are a static amount of certain cards, and each player before you has the opportunity to try to gain them.  This extra boost of influence helps the last player gain momentum and actually have the chance to obtain some cards before others are able.

All in all, we enjoyed our first experience with the game.  We even hoped to play a second scenario, but our time ran out.  There was a little bit of slow down that occurred near the end of the game, so I am curious to see if other scenarios address it.  It almost feels like you are waiting for the right hand of cards in order to beat the final challenge and win.  There seems to be very little you can do on those last few turns aside from battling each other.  In any case, we really enjoyed the game and I am anxious to play the other scenarios and even this one again.  The fact that this game is so diverse should make it a definite purchase for any fan of deck building card games.

Dan and Jeff never stood a chance!

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