At GenCon in 2016, with much pomp and ceremony, Fantasy Flight Games announced a new fantasy mass battle miniatures game – Runewars Miniatures Game, which was set in the lands of Terrinoth – the same universe as Descent and the Second Edition of Battlelore.
The original box game saw it’s release just before Christmas 2016, and then new units were released once a quarter, with the third faction – the Latari Elves, being released in the middle of the year and the fourth – the chaotic Uthuk – coming out just before Christmas 2017.
I was on board with Runewars from the start – attracted by the new take on command, control and initiative as well as the use of movement templates. The game was very different from what had been seen before, but I thought that was a good thing.
However, it’s fair to say that the game has struggled to gain any sort of traction in the UK – especially with competition from a resurgent Games Workshop in the shape of games like Shadespire and Necromunda – and as a result interest in the product appeared to tail off very quickly – something that could be tracked by the decreasing prices on the box sets at retailers throughout the country as they fought to sell their stock of these miniatures.
Couple this with virtually no news of any new releases for the game in the first quarter of 2018, and it was becoming obvious that Runewars was potentially dead in the water. Anyone who walked the trade halls of the UK Games Expo at the start of June would have spotted Runewars everywhere at bargain bin prices – some of the larger retailers had gone as far as to cease stocking the game completely – Runewars simply was not selling.
What is more, at the UKGE, Runewars was conspicuous by its absence at the large demo area that FFG had in hall 1.
A game that is struggling to sell six months after release (at least in the UK) and the appearance of no support from the design company. I am sure I was not the only one who was putting two and two together – indeed, I resigned myself to the fact that like Ex-Illis before it, a fantasy game that I had backed heavily was a commercial failure.
However, in the last six weeks, something strange has happened…
…we have seen the release of three new troop boxes for the Uthak faction, and announcements of new units and heroes for all four factions, all to be released in the third quarter of 2018. It would seem that FFG have suddenly remembered that they have a miniatures game that is not part of the Star Wars franchise.
I find this sudden flurry of activity on the part of FFG to be a little strange. I know that due to large catalogue they have to schedule product releases several months, if not years, in advance, so it might just be the case that it has finally reached Runewars ‘turn’ for releases in the schedule. The trouble is, in the mean time, it appears that gamers have already moved on to the next ‘new and shiny’ product.
To be fair, I believe that when FFG first announced Runewars to the UK market, they were told that their release schedule was not sufficient to hold the interest of gamers – it was suggested that new content should be released every month, rather than every quarter. It seems that this warning fell on deaf ears – either that, or nothing could be done to alter the existing schedule.
So we find ourselves in strange position of potentially having new releases for a game that no one, or at least very few, stock anymore.
Will these new releases be enough to rekindle interest in Runewars? The miniatures certainly look nice – in that somewhat stylised Runewars way – and the previews of the new units would seem to indicate that interesting elements are being introduced. But is this simply a case of too little, too late?
If Runewars truly is something of a dead duck, what do you think caused it’s downfall? The rules? The miniatures? Or perhaps it was the unsightly activation dials?
It will also be worth keeping an eye on if FFG have learnt from Runewars with the release schedule for Star Wars Legion. They are perhaps helped by the popularity of the IP, along with the fact that there are only two factions in the game – they certainly seem to be releasing units quicker for this game than they did foe Runewars.
In the mean time, I find myself looking at two armies of miniatures which may only rarely see the table, if at all. At least I have an undead army ready for when Too Fat Lardies finally release the SotK fantasy rules.