Thoroughly alone in Terrinoth I have to form Unbreakable Bonds with myself inorder to cooperate with me, my self and I to vanquish that dastardly menace spider Ariad (leaving those pain-in-the-ringpiece, sticky threads all over the shop…oh, and don’t get me started with all those repugnant undead Vorkesh keeps leaving scattered all over the shop…and that bloody dragon!
So it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me…and some serious casting of runes to do…and me only in my Wednesday slippers.
So What’s All the Fuss About?
Absurdly but brilliantly conceived is what I say…
Welcome to the world of Terrinoth and Runebound. Adventure, exploration, world travel and beasties galore. Third in line, this latest reincarnation of the game has introduced a number of modifications to ‘combat’ compared to previous models but, on this occasion, we are primarily concerned with this new-fangled Unbreakable Bonds expansion rather than just the base set. Formally a multiplayer game…
…a bit like a race to gear up and be the first to kick the final Bad Guy’s butt, it was playable as a solitaire venture but with so many flaws. We, the soloist, needed to make all combat decisions for each foe encountered which, for me, was an incredibly frustrating aspect to an otherwise enchanting game. Unbreakable Bonds solves that problem not only introducing edits to the base rule set to not only allow both solo and co-op game-play, new solo specific scenarios but also introduces the all-important ‘Bot’ feature. Each category of enemy has a ‘hierarchy of actions’ sheet that gives a specific order that an enemy’s cast runes must be applied to combat situations. Now Terrinoth has its own free-thinking foe and offers an independent challenge…we can focus on our own affairs and no longer need worry about what an enemy might think…yeah! Who cares what they think?…so what if my bum looks big in this ridiculous mage gown.
The fuss, for me, is an expansive fantasy world I can wander through at my leisure (although time really is of the essence so dawdling is not the best strategy) explore locations, encounter encounters and cast runes like a proper bonafide, real rune-caster.
Immersion or Subversion?
Now I refer to the 3rd edition here (and have only ever seen play-through videos of 2nd edition) but have to say as much as many people have expressed a dislike to the casting of runes in the 3rd edition, this is so on the mark for theme.
It is called RUNEBOUND so what else should we be doing but casting runes? I shall endeavour to return to this rune motif later but for now ‘theme’ is next on the list. FFG have created a particularly stunning world, visually, and, when looked at across all of the various games set in this world, a thematic backstory to all the races/protagonists inhabiting this world. Theme, illustrative style and the overall mechanics all lend themselves to a fully immersive, fantasy adventure which, now solo-able, can be enjoyed even when there is no one else available.
There is a lot going on in this game and actions a plenty for us to engage in but not so complex that our brains would degenerate into an ooze that is likely to trickle unceremoniously from out of our ears. To make this brief, I will break down my particular favourites
- Runes: Probably the most significant newly introduced mechanic to the 3rd edition. The runes serve to thematically replace dice and, if in plastic coin capsules, cast well down larger dice towers…or can equally by chucked up into the and hope for the best. Symbols equate to skills and damage accessible by both player and Bot. buying items when in cities adds additional runes to a characters roster and every little help when looking to defeat the master villain.
- Enemy action sheets: The bread and butter of the AI control. These Bot logic sheets determine which order the enemy will utilise its runes. Each class…style…genre? Of enemy has its own set of runes and has a unique flowchart/logic sheet making for a pleasant variety of foes.
- Movement Dice: Stickered dice that appear to annoy many people but appeal to me. They are simplified compared to previous versions and the image directly reflects the terrain for which their movement ability can be applied. This simplifies things and at quick visual reference
- Exploration Nodes: The tokens that flip and allow us, the budding explorer to interact with the location (or simplified-draw a card from the appropriate encounter deck
- Assets & Skills: asset cards are mostly items available for purchase that add additional skills, abilities or runes but can be small side tasks to help increase earnings. So much stuff…soooo little time to acquire it. The skill cards are multifaceted…they are skills and abilities we can learn, they are a form of currency letting us ‘exert’ or discard to perform certain actions and they are a way to test certain skills/attributes (by drawing X number of cards and looking for a potential success ‘star’ printed on the card)
- Story card & game timer: a deck of scenario specific cards that are drawn periodically as the game turn track advances. They can provide hurdles for us, add beasties and generally throw a spanner in the fantasy works
Wood, Chits and Cardboard Bits:
As with most, if not all FFG products the quality of illustration is sublime, the components are of a high quality (thick tokens) and well moulded miniatures. There is only one criticism I could make and that is the rune tokens. The tokens themselves are good but are not overly practical for casting. @Catweasel had a rather ingenious solution he used in a video play-through of a Lovecraftian FFG title that I unceremoniously pinched. Sorry Paul!
Plastic coin capsules are brilliant. They increase the token size and weight whilst protecting their structural integrity…and in so doing, they can be thrown at will down my dice tower, giving me a random cast every time. Job’s a good’un!
Meeples and Standees:
Game designer: Third edition Game design Lukas litzsinger
Cover Art: Jasper Ejsing & Edge studio
Producer: Derrick Fuchs
Game dev: Derrick Fuchs & Lukas Litzsinger
Solo is as solo does and this does very much so. The previously multiplayer game (with its little care for the soloist gamer) has been adapted, re-engineered and dragged kicking and screaming into the world to facilitate co-op and solitaire play. With newly adapted scenarios from the previous set as well as specific solo/coop scenarios a whole new lease of life for a potentially new and expanding clientele. A large number of skills and equipment/abilities has been added to make further use of the cooperative nature of this expansion which, I think can’t be argued against, deeply enriches the Terrinoth world.
Me Myself and I:
I soldiered on trying to solo this game pre-expansion and always thought it…what was that sound?…was it the game’s weak voice calling out… was it crying out for a dedicated solo mechanic? …especially as the change from dice mechanic to runecasting didn’t lend itself well to combat. Roll a die and it is a simple enough procedure to reduce your health by said number of shown pips but runes were not so straight forward. The game was sub-intelligent and as such had to have its infantile hand held as it was tentatively dragged through the quagmire of battle conflict…hah!
But now enemy logic sheets make an enemy intelligent. A decision making Bot, yes, but a free thinking force to be reckoned with? They do make an enemy a cunning and deceptively tricky customer to deal with, there is no doubt about that. Admittedly there are a number of occasions you have to make judgement calls, but for the most part each style of enemy from Mystic to Savage functions in its own unique big curly tipped boots And its own unique set of runes just buzzing with anticipation to be cast. I thought, as did myself and me, that In a game I so wanted to love but, when measured, was found to be wanting…now seriously steps up to the mark and challenges the feck out of me…us…we…I
Yay or Nay?
Obviously these are my personal views recanted before your very eye balls, and as such, may not sit comfortably with you. If so I recommend a soft cushion to ease the sitting because I really like this idea of casting runes in battle. It is a nice departure from die rolling and endless modifiers. There are things to influence or adapt a cast rune…or even overturn or destroy it, but the combat is simplistically structured and performs admirably. Questing and adventuring and gearing up and shopping and…well all the small elements that meld into a great adventure game are further enhanced with the Unbroken Bonds expansion. If you like this form of fantasy game (or already own Runebound) then Unbroken Bonds is a must to unlock that all important solo experience. So in conclusion, that is to say the final assessment, I conclude that this is a Yay!
So Unbreakable Bonds spins itself a sticky webbed BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (6)…no, I take that back. I will re-roll and award it a (7) for transforming Runebound into the game I originally wanted it to be…I will talk at greater length about the Bot and how it performs during a future article in Bots and Wotnots.
Left with untold, open landscape to explore, how is it that the very first corner I turn (assuming there are corners in the countryside) bestows a bloody cave spider upon me? A large spider that has an immunity to magical attack and…of course I find myself in the guise of an Orc mage only capable of magical attack? Typical! Me thinks it is time to go shopping. I have a mind to purchase myself some fancy Winged Boots or a Noble Steed…or a farm cart?…a bloody hand cart?…is someone having a giraffe?
Shopping? In a high fantasy exploration/fisticuffs game? That would be absurd!
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
- Fantasy Flight Games twitter: https://twitter.com/FFGames
- Fantasy Flight Games Website: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/index/
- One Stop Co-op Shop playthrough of the solo game
- Rahdo Runs Through
- The MCGuiRE Review of Unbreakable abonds