So we had our first impromptu game night of 2011 yesterday! The group consisted of me, Anders, Claes and Mats (who lives very close by. Convenient!) and on the menu we had Runewars, Alien Frontiers and Space Hulk: Death Angel. In the end we went with Runewars since I have been waiting to get an opportunity to play it again. I was thinking that we might have time for at least a game of Alien Frontiers afterwards but that hope was quickly dashed when we decided to try out the Epic variant for the first time.
Normally in Runewars you play through a set number of years (six) with each year split into four seasons, corresponding to player turns. The goal of the game is to acquire six Dragon Runes and you can do this in a variety of ways; conquest, politics, questing and so on. The runes are actual physical tokens on the board and there can never be two rune tokens on the same space so as you acquire more you need to spread out to be able to control them all. There's a slight twist in that every time you receive a rune you get two tokens, one with a picture of a rune on the back side and one that is blank. You place both of these in territories you control, leaving opponents uncertain of your runes' actual locations.
Setup: complete. I'm the Uthuk Y'llan (red) closest to the camera.
Now, in the Epic variant you play until someone get seven (not six) Dragon Runes or until the end of the eighth year. Also the runes are always placed face up which lets everyone know where all runes are located at all times. These changes might seem small but they make for a much (much!) longer game.
Last night we started around eight o'clock and we had to call it quits around 1:30 in the morning after having played five years (a little over half the game). At this time Mats had five runes, Anders four and Claes and myself three. So it's definetly a much more drawn-out experience than the standard game and it leads to more actual fighting between players. However I don't think there are actually more battles per turn, it's simply that you play longer which leads to more opportunities to attack your opponents.
Anyway, over att BGG and other places you'll hear a lot of people saying that the Epic variant is the definitive way to play Runewars and that the standard game is over "as soon as it starts getting interesting". I'm inclined to disagree. To me one of the key aspects of Runewars is how it manages to take Twilight Imperium (one of my absolute favourite board games of all time) and distill it down to something you can play in a reasonable amount of time. Sure it doesn't have the intricate complexity of Twilight Imperium but the overall feel comes reasonably close.
Somewhere around year four I think. It's looking pretty good for the daemonic hordes of the Uthuk at this point, but those infernal elves managed to squash my stronghold and drive me back!
So when you take this game and draw it out to five, six seven hours I can't help thinking "why not simply play Twilight Imperium??". To me the standard game of Runewars has a great commitment vs fulfillment ratio. You commit two-three hours and the sense of fulfillment and payoff is great. I think Twilight Imperium has it as well, even though you probably have to commit six or seven hours to it*. However, when you put Runewars in that same time slot it can't really measure up to the original so to speak.
In the future I think we'll stick to playing Runewars using the standard rules (maybe with some tweaks like requiring seven runes but still keeping the hidden mechanic and six year time limit) for when we crave epic conquest/questing/politicing but have a limited time budget and Twilight Imperium for when time is not a factor. Recently we've been doing a lot of shorter sessions during evenings. I really like this as you can get together on the fly and just play something for a few hourse, however, this rarely leaves enough time for full day games like Twilight Imperium. Since we've started scheduling two full game days a month from January onwards I think TI will hit the table more often though. I can already hear the Emirates of Hacan trying to lure me with promises of great riches!
Twilight Imperium, how do I love thee, let me count the ways!
Yepp! Hope you enjoyed my long winded, board game-centric post. Well, you have another WFRP3 session report to look forward to sometime this weekend. Hehe!
*Examples of a games with poor commitment vs fulfillment ratio Talisman, Risk, Zombies!!! and, unfortunately, Android (which breaks my heart, because I really want to love it!).