Review – Runes of Mayhem Beta
Runes of Mayhem Beta Review
- # of Players: 2
- Play Time:20-40 Mins
- Age: 16+
- Publisher: Marzo Projects
- Price Point: $29.99
- This game is currently on Kickstarter.
Cold grey dawn is upon you. Your breath, each one visible before your face, is deep and purposeful. You stretch your muscles, limbering up for the battle that looms ahead of you on this frozen field. Off in the distance, you can see your enemies fortress standing unmoving in the light of dawn.
You flex your hands, a little stiff from the cold, but it doesn’t matter. Picking up your helm, you slide it over your head and face, the cold metal sending a shiver through your body. You wrap your hands around the hilt of your ax, which hangs from your belt loosely, ready to be drawn in an instant. It feels like an old friend. A friend you have spent days fighting alongside on the battlefield. And not a few nights drinking in celebration of your victories. All around you can hear the shouts and commotion of your fellows preparing as well.
From a distance, you hear the horn sound, echoed down the enemy lines by more and more horns. All sounding the command to charge. Forcefully you shout defiance with your brothers in arms, hand tightening on the ax hilt.
The air around you is cold… You smile for just a moment. It doesn’t matter, it will warm up soon enough.
Runes of Mayhem is a tactical two-player card game in which players take on the rolls of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons locked in heated battle. The goal of the game is to destroy your opponent’s fortress before they destroy yours. To do so you deploy swordsmen, horsemen, axemen shieldmaidens, pillagers and even peasants to fight your enemies and defend your stronghold.
- The card artwork for this game is gorgeous. I would hang it on my wall.
- The layout of the cards is beautiful and very intuitive.
- Gameplay is straightforward and simple, once you grasp it.
- There isn’t much downtime, except when players are making descisions.
- The game can be tense and requires tactical thinking to win.
- Resource acquisition is unique and not tied to playing cards.
- The rules, beta edition, are a little confusing at points. However, the examples provided help to clear things up.
- There aren’t many differences between the Viking units and the Anglo-Saxon units.
- The King abilities are identical for both sides.
- Trade is only useful a small percentage of the time.
Runes of Mayhem is a game that is all about careful troop placement and resource management. The object is to place your troops in such a way that you protect your Fortress from attack while positioning yourself in such a way that you can damage your opponent’s Fortress. Because of this players are dealing with a constantly changing battlefield. One turn a player may play a unit that has an advantage over the frontline troops of their opponent, only to have that advantage become a liability the next turn. It is very important that you plan for not just your turn, but also for your opponents turn since you cannot take any action, except defending, when it is not your turn.
Gameplay breaks down into redeploy, fight, manage resources, deploy units or trade, and draw cards. The rhythm of the game is easy to follow once you learn it.
Players begin their turn by collecting their resources and adding them to their Hoard. There are two resources in Runes of Mayhem: Gold and Faith. Which resources a player gets is determined by how many production-markers they have placed in a specific resource. During their turn, a player may change the distribution of their production markers so that they produce more Gold or Faith depending on what they think they will need next turn. This can be pivotal when trying to deploy specific units.
The Battlefield is broken up into four areas, three combat lanes with three rows each, and the wall. Units in the three lanes are open to attack and can be targeted by ranged units. Units on the wall, however, cannot be attacked, and provide damage reduction for the Fortress. The drawback of placing units on the wall is that they cannot use any of their abilities while they are there. The Wall can only hold 2 units.
During combat, players can decide to attack or not with any unit that is able to attack. Attacks are initiated by the active player and are resolved one at a time. With a few exceptions, a unit may attack as many times as a player wants during combat, as long as it has enough health. Close combat units can attack any unit in their lane that is not blocked by another living unit, while ranged units can attack any unit in their own lane.
At the beginning of the game, players choose a King card. The King isn’t a unit, and does no fighting or defending, but it can set the tone of a player’s tactics during the game. Each King has two abilities associated with them. Players must choose which ability they will use each game, and cannot change it during the game. These abilities can be extremely useful, providing things like extra health for units, extra production and adding special abilities to the base units.
There are five basic unit types in Runes of Mayhem: Spearmen, Melee, Calvery, Ranged, and Priest. These form the backbone of your army. Each unit, except for Ranged and Priest, have units they are strong against, and units they are weak against. For instance, the Spearman units are strong against Cavalry units but weak against Melee units. If a unit is facing an opponent it is weak against, it can’t roll the extra damage die. This can be a significant advantage to their opponent since life and death for a unit often hinges on these die rolls.
Ranged units always roll extra damage with attacks, but cannot roll at all when defending against melee opponents and may only attack once per turn. However, they make up for this drawback by being able to attack any unit on the battlefield, including units on the wall and the enemy fortress, when they are first deployed. As well as being able to attack from the second row even when a living unit is blocking them.
Priest units are not combat units. They cannot fight, but they play a very important role in your army: they can prevent fallen units from dying by sacrificing themselves. It is best to keep Priest units in the third row of the battlefield, and out of the line of fire for ranged units.
Special units comprise the special attacks, defenses, and abilities of the two factions. These units are where the two factions differ in terms of gameplay tactics.
Hero units each have a special one-time ability that activates when they are deployed. These special abilities range from stealing a production marker from your opponent for the rest of the game to gaining an extra combat phase in the lane the hero is deployed in. Different Hero units are available to both sides and can have a major impact on the game.
Berserkers are a Viking only unit and are basically superpowered lunatics that can cause a lot of trouble for the Anglo-Saxon player. An example is the Bear Berserker. The more damage he takes the more damage he dishes out. And he can take a lot of damage.
Pillagers are another Viking only unit. They are not strong units in a fight, but they can hinder the Anglo-Saxon player by denying them of production. Each Pillager on the board reduces the Production of the Anglo-Saxon by one. This can make it really hard to deploy new units.
Castle Folk are an Anglo-Saxon only unit and are unique in that they are the only units that can use their abilities while on the wall.
Peasants are Anglo-Saxon units that are really good at one thing, standing between the Vikings and your more important units or fortress. Peasants are not very strong or hardy, but they can be played without spending resources.
If you decide not to deploy units during a turn you may attempt to trade. Doing so can potentially gain you up to nine resources of your choice, but it can also result in you gaining nothing.
Rune of Mayhem is a very fun game. It is simple enough to learn quickly but has enough complexity that it isn’t easily mastered. The flow of the game is very good and it is easily played in 20 to 40 minutes, once you learn the rules. The penalty mechanic is well thought out and fits well with the other mechanics in the game. Aesthetically the game is gorgeous. The battles, fights, and units are all beautifully depicted. In the case of the Berserker units, depicted in all their bloody glory.
I do have a couple of issues with the game though. The first is that the King card abilities should have been unique to the factions they belonged to. As it is, both sides have the exact same Kings, just with different names and art. The second issue involves the Trade action. I don’t see how this is a very useful action, except as a way of doing something during the main phase when you can’t play a unit. During my playthroughs of the game I never once ran into a situation where it was better to trade instead of playing a unit. Neither of these took away from my enjoyment of this game.
If you are looking for a fun and fast casual game that is easy to learn, requires tactical thinking, and has a lot of replayability at a reasonable price then this is the game for you.
Disclosure: I received a Beta copy of this game for my review.
- Overall Fun - 8/108/10
- Ease of Play - 7/107/10
- Replayablity - 7/107/10
- Downtime - 7/107/10
- Game Length - 8/108/10
- Bang For Your Buck - 8/108/10
- Engagment - 8/108/10