Runebound: The Frozen Wastes Impressions
So, we decided to give the new Runebound expansion a go this past Sunday while we waiting for everyone to gather and make their characters for Mouse Guard. I’ve got a closet filled with games that I have yet to play, and honestly I should have given something like Android a go, or played a game of something else, considering Runebound has had a decent amount of playtime. But I loved the Sands of Al-Kalim expansion. For those unfamiliar with Runebound, its basically an adventure game where you and your fellow heroes roam around the land, trying to become more powerful and defeat the ultimate evil (which, in the base game, is a really difficult dragon). You can also attack each other, although people tend to concentrate on advancing their own strength rather than taking time to hamstring others.
It was a serviceable game, and a good intro to more complex adventure games in my opinion. With the addition of the Sands expansion it took on a whole new dimension by adding a more intense and interesting travel component. In the base game you had a variant rule where you could have essentially random encounters. In Sands, you choose whether or not to travel by day or night. Traveling by night meant you’d travel much further without accruing severe heat fatigue, but the things you would encounter were on the whole much nastier. In both cases, if you stopped on a space that was not an adventure space or a town, you had to roll a die and resolve a ‘story phase’. To win the game you had to obtain 3 legendary items. Perhaps an epic spell, or a legendary steed (flying carpet?!?!), or even successfully complete a journey to a fabled land.
What does this have to do with The Frozen Wastes you say? Similar to Sands, the new expansion employs a new take on travel via a weather system, and features two different victory conditions. In FW, depending on the current overall difficulty of the challenges being overtaken, the weather conditions change, and when they do, it tends to be for the worse. When the weather changes each bit of terrain has a value associated with it. If you end your move on that type of space, you get that many frost tokens. Get too much before warming up in a settlement and you will become weakened. The longer you wait, the more likely you will be knocked out or killed. It creates an interesting mechanic where you find yourself rubber banding around towns and making ample use of the new snowshoes and flare stone items to more quickly and safely traverse the snows.
As for the victory conditions, you are trying to locate the princess, and reunite her with her husband, essentially. Barring that, you can win but just killing her husband, which is exceptionally challenging. I think. We didn’t get to finish a game (hence the impressions moniker, and not review). The way you find the princess is by collecting clues as to her location. When you have the appropriate clues you can reveal them to the other players and discover the princess. Then it becomes a mad dash to cut you off before you reunite her with her husband, either by delaying you, or by killing him.
The basic game play of course doesn’t deviate too heavily from Runebound vanilla. That being said, if you like your games to have flavor, and find the idea of trekking across the north (despite a weird post apocalyptic sci-fi infusion into an otherwise high fantasy setting) an exciting proposition, give the expansion a go.
In all, I would recommend this to any Runebound fan, and to anyone who enjoys a lighter adventure game that can be played with a varied group size.