The top perk in the Adepticon swag bags this year was a copy of the core box for Fantasy Flight Games’ yet-to-be-release Runewars: The Miniatures Game. Needless to say, I was thrilled. It’s like Chicago Dice got an early review copy!
Note that this not a full review, only Ben and my initial thoughts on the game after playing the “beginner game” which did not make use of the full rules (many of the ‘advanced rules’ are left out for the beginner game).
The miniatures are, as expected from an FFG production, top level quality for board game minis. But this is not a board game, this a miniatures game. FFG is moving in on the ‘ranks and flanks’ void created by Games Workshop’s migration from Warhammer Fantasy to Age of Sigmar and there is open space in that market for a new game. However, Warhammer Fantasy was more than rank upon rank of troops lined up on square bases – it was also supported by some of the finest plastic miniatures ever manufactured. The miniatures from Runewars are not Games Workshop quality. Simple as that. And when you ask a customer to pay Games Workshop money (Runewars is $99, Island of Blood was $99) they expect Games Workshop quality.
So as much as I like the minis (I am especially fond of the skeletons, they have a great style) I worry that this game will fall flat in the tabletop miniatures market because it misses a key component – hobby. The minis for Runewars are covered head-to-toe in mold lines and they are cast from a warpy, flimsy plastic. As good as they look, they still feel, well, cheap. As much as I would like to paint these up I shudder at the thought of getting them prepped. Also, the model components themselves do not fit together well. In order to get a clean join while building you will have to do some serious cutting and removing of the ‘pegs’ that do not line up well on the joints.
The game is played over eight turns with each turn containing three phases; Command, Action and End. Units move using arcs similar to those used in X-Wing and I am thrilled to march, charge, turn and wheel my blocks of troops with the movement arcs.
In the Command Phase, you secretly assign actions to your units using the Command Tool. This phase will be familiar to anyone who has played X-Wing or Armada. During the Action Phase, your units carry out their assigned orders in initiative order so you must plan your moves carefully during the Command Phase. Finally, you refresh your cards, “re-cast” the energy runes and move the round counter up by one during the End Phase.
This is where the game shines. Being forced to choose the actions for all of your units at the beginning of the turn forces you to make difficult command decisions. The lower your initiative number, the sooner you get to activate. So, do you reform your ranks at initiative one and put yourself in a better position for next turn? Or do you set your unit to attack later in the turn at initiative seven? You know the enemy unit could charge you at initiative five, before you attack, but if they don’t charge and you are set to attack with no enemy unit engaged then your attack is wasted. But your opponent knows that and you know they know that and around and around it goes.
Even though Ben and I only played the introductory beginner game we got a great sense for what this game is about and possibilities it has for an excellent strategy game. It deserves further plays and you can expect a full review soon.
My hot take – will Runewars replace Warhammer Fantasy? Not even close. But, honestly, could any game?