First impressions: Runewars miniatures game

My first stop at rAge this year was the Unplug Yourself booth, with boardgames galore on sale and, even better, demo tables up with people there to teach.

I tried my hand at the Runewars miniature game, my first foray into the pure miniature wargaming experience. Did I win? Did I enjoy it? Did I flip the table, tear off my shirt and pour Monster all over myself? Find out after the jump.

Minis games kind of have a reputation for being overly fiddly with a lot of rules niggles, but Fantasy Flight have sidestepped that relatively well with Runewars.

There’s still a lot of potential interactions across the different character sets, but with what you get in the starter set things are mostly pretty straightforward. It’s also relatively forgiving of minor rules errors, so even if you don’t get everything 100% right it won’t negatively impact your game experience.

Essentially, you’re just there to punch each other in the face a bunch of times, and the game does that well. The action selection system is clever – each player secretly chooses their actions on a series of dials that match up with each battalion.

The clever bit of this system is that each action has an associated number, which is the order in which these actions trigger. Thus you need to weigh up what’s more important – taking a more powerful action that will likely trigger after your opponent’s, or a weaker action that resolves earlier.

This is one of those things that would naturally become more interesting as you learn each faction and their abilities, but out-of-the-box it created some crunchy tension in and of itself.

Like all minis games before it, the game uses dice to resolve combat. This introduces a splash of luck that doesn’t feel overly contrived or punishing – it finds the balance between tension and enjoyment fairly well.

The minis themselves were painted and looked great on the table. They may not be up to the pristine standard of something like Warhammer, but they’re nothing to turn one’s medieval nose up at.

Less impressive when unpainted, but painting minis is easier than it sounds – and a whole hobby worth exploring in and of itself.

The game falls a little short on theme – it doesn’t get more generic fantasy than this, and there’s nothing really outside the standard genre tropes here that I could see. It’s a sort of hodge-podge of monsters and beasties and medieval knights and cavalry, with a few cat-riding heroes and the like thrown in.

That being said, if you enjoy high fantasy, the theme should sit with you just fine. It’s not bad by any means, just uninspired.

The other downside for me was that it lacked a little in complexity. This is something that is absolutely fixed by buying more stuff for a more diverse army, but of course that ups the initial investment. There were a few abilities that required something more than what I had access to, which had the (presumably intended) feeling of making me want more.

That being said, there’s plenty of game for two players in the starter set alone, and splitting the cost with a friend makes the investment more manageable. If you do decide you want to add to the experience, you have an enormous amount of additional options. In this way the game grows with you – both in scale and complexity.

Overall I’d say if you’d been curious about miniature games and have someone keen to play with you, this is a great entry point that doesn’t overwhelm with a ton of fiddly rules or demand a ton of money upfront.

As for the big game, of course I won – do you think I’m some kind of scrub?

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