Thursday, August 10, 2006

Solitaire Runebound

So a few weeks ago I had a Sunday morning to myself, so I sat down for a game of Runebound. Today and yesterday I have been off work sick, and played two more games. Long-time readers of this blog might remember an article called "It's Here! It's Here (Part 6 of 6)". Well I wrote that when I received the Runebound expansions, and it has taken since then to get any of them played. I mixed the item and ally expansions into my market deck and I was ready to go.

The first expansion I played was The Scepter of Kyros, the one where the giants are attacking and you have to beat them off. It is played on the standard map, and adds a few green cards and yellow cards and completely replaces the blue and cards with giants. The blue and red cards from the original game are based on the dragons / dragonlord theme, so the expansion does a pretty good job of replacing the story. What I liked most of all was the new challenging opponents. It felt really good to kill my first giant, and damned fine to kill the last one. I actually had a moment of difficulty in this game (playing solitaire you can take your time and risks are minimised) - I had to face Incantim the Runecaster whose special ability is For each Rune Item you possess, all of your Hero's and Allies' damage values are reduced by 1. That meant because I had 3 rune items I couldn't hurt him. I'm not sure how I eventually beat him, maybe I used one of them up somewhere else. It's a bit disturbing how the game can throw impossible situations at you, but more on that later.

The expansion I played yesterday was Crown of the Elder Kings. In this one the players are competing with Vorakesh who's trying to raise Margath; they want to destroy the dragonlords and regain the throne of the Elder King. Whatever... just tell me the victory conditions. You need to collect a set of 3 blue cards, in competition with the other players who are trying to collect intersecting sets. This expansion seems very much to be focused on player interaction, and didn't work particularly well solitaire. I had an ally who got a Before Combat 3 damage magic attack, so I stomped all over most of the opposition and then my first 3 blue cards were a set. I didn't think this adventure was very interesting solitaire. I also had a problem that most of the market items I drew were allies, and so there was nothing to spend my money on - I ended the game with 38 gold. Just a bit boring :-(.

This morning's adventure was the big one, Island of Dread. It has a map overlay, new names for the towns, replaces all of the encounter decks, adds the Island of Dread mini-map, as well as a silver encounter stack and 8 or so new adventurers. The adventurers are compatible with the base game (e.g. no IoD-specific skills or powers), so they live in the same box now. I am thinking of getting the Midnight expansion for the new characters as well. Island of Dread is interesting because it does away with the blue encounter spaces altogether, instead adding sea voyages and sea encounters. The difficulty of those encounters ranges from yellow to red, so voyaging at sea is a risk. However I found that there was more gold in this adventure than in the original, so I was able to buy a couple of decent items early in the game. Just as well, because I was the minotaur character (Spikilocks?) who is not allowed to hire allies, and I needed to be tough.

As I progressed through the game I was able to complete three quests. I don't know what effect they have, but I felt vaguely satisfied about that. I managed to build up a very impressive set of magic items. The cursed something caused extra damage to me if I missed on an attack, but hurt my opponent at the same time. I had some armour which caused damage to my opponent if I defended successfully. I had something which gave me +4 on defence. I had a mace which was +4 in melee, and a mace I could activate for another 2 damage in melee. I was an absolute killing machine... until...

Enter the Silite. This challenge ignores all damage from ranged and melee attacks. What the?! I was doing 5 damage on my first melee attack, so that's nasty. In fact, I had 0 damage for my magic attack, and no allies, so I was unable to hurt it. Hmm... I decided to take the power literally. My armour inflicted damage if I defended successfully, and that's not an attack... so I spent a couple of rounds successfully defending against the silite and then it died. Was that fair? I don't know, and BGG is down so I can't ask. It seems fairer than "this creature will kill you because you can't hurt it". I could have run away, but where's the fun in that?

So shortly after that I headed off the Island of Dread with buckets full of unique items and the captain who allows you to rearrange the top 3 items of the silver deck. Good old Cthulhu himself was there, so I stuck him on top and bashed him up. I had the book that screws him over, the sword that never misses, and a heap of other cool stuff, and he didn't have a chance. I don't know how well I would have gone without that captain's power though, the other silver guys look tough.

So I enjoyed the Island of Dread a lot. There's enough risk to get me excited, and apart from the silite ambiguity nothing impossibly deadly. The sea adventure system works pretty nicely - you need to be a little bit worried about travelling by sea but not too much. The silver encounters really are scary, and the red ones are worth worrying about as well. This is my favourite expansion so far.

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