For several years now we have seen the slow blurring of the line between miniatures games and board games. Especially with the improvement in production quality of plastic miniatures, more and more board games are now using these as playing pieces, rather than the more traditional wooden blocks.
One of the companies at the forefront of this has been Fantasy Flight Games, who are one of the market leaders in game design and production quality. Whilst FFG games are not cheap (a fact that has not been helped by the plunging value of sterling on the currency markets) you are pretty much guaranteed top-notch components and artwork when you buy an FFG game, no matter what it’s subject.
So, I was intrigued when at GenCon in 2016, they announced that they were going to be producing a fantasy miniatures game.
The world of Terrinoth in which this game is set already has a rich heritage – it is the world in which several FFG games already exist: Runebound, Runewars, Battlelore Second Edition and Descent: Journeys in the Dark to be specific, so the Runewars Miniatures Game is not birthed into a vacuum – a fact that is important, as many gamers want a full detailed background in their fantasy battle games.
When I read the initial introduction to the game, it was clear FFG had taken much of the game mechanics that had made the X-Wing Miniatures Game such a hit and looked to transpose it into a mass combat game – although X-Wing did have the slight advantage of it being Star Wars.
One of the joys of X-Wing is that the game is simple and intuitive to play, whilst at the same time holding a great deal of tactical depth when it comes to how your miniatures interact with each other, and the different options available when building your squadron.
It looks as if Runewars has very much gone down that same route – whether it be hidden orders for your units which also determine activation order, or the use of templates to control movement of your miniatures – just in case some gamers find the whole idea of ‘free’ movement using a simple tape measure a little strange (I kid you not, this can be something of an obstacle if you have players who have previously only been familiar with the regimented movement allowed in a board game – plus it hopefully stops some arguments as to whether troops can move in a certain way, or exactly how far they can move and turn – given that FFG are obviously looking at introducing tournament play in this game, that later point is important).
Add to that a selection of different ability cards that can be added to your units, plus custom dice (lets face it, we all like custom dice!) and this game starts to tick a lot of boxes.
Ultimately, whilst good game mechanics are vital, a miniatures game will also and live and die based on the quality of its figures.
From what we’ve seen of the painted miniatures from the base game, these look pretty good – although it is obviously the case that any company can employee a professional painter to make their figures look half-decent, and the only real proof is when you hold the physical model in your hand. However, FFG do have a good track record when it comes to plastic miniatures, so these should be OK.
As for the rest of the game components, I have no worries whatsoever. As I said at the start of this post, production quality is one of the cornerstones of all of FFGs games.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, I am somewhat excited about this game. The last time I jumped into an unusual fantasy battle game – Ex-Illis – I ended up getting very badly stung, so I have a certain amount of trepidation about this game, which is only offset by the fact that it’s FFG that are publishing it. (And yes, I’m a fan of FFGs games).
The good news is that we don’t have long to wait to see if this game is any good – the base game is released at the end of February 2017.
FFG are already looking at releasing the first expansions for Runewars in the second quarter of 2017 – if they follow their usual release schedule for this sort of game, you will get several ‘waves’ of releases each year – this could get expensive…
I’m already impatient for the postman to arrive.