All together, Runebound 2E’s small box expansions have a relatively small percentage of problematic cards. Individually, Artifacts & Allies is one that leaves many a group tepid to cold, regardless of its inflated rating on BoardGameGeek.com.
As a general expansion pack for the game’s Market deck, A&A doesn’t have any one major flaw. Rather it has smaller ones scattered throughout. Too bad, considering it has a fair number of interesting notions (and a pair that are abysmal) that weren’t well implemented. In addition, half of the artwork is subpar and too dark to see clearly, and one new subtype of card could’ve been better distinguished visually.
It will take several articles to cover all of these issues. Let’s start with two pairs of Allies armed and armored for combat through mechanics: one pair that clinks and one that clunks.
Note: click most card images for an enlargement that is easier to read.
Jachim and Borka
Both of these Allies allow the player to decide the color of Adventure card for which they gain (and provide) bonuses. But at what price and in what way?
“Jachim the Brave” gains +3 in combat and gives the character / Hero +3 on all skill tests when encountering the chosen color of adventure card. It is unclear as to whether this applies to all such colored cards at any time (like an Event in play), or just those drawn when on a gem of that color. Most players will assume the former simply because it’s more advantageous.
Aside from lopsided aid, a bonus to a character’s skill tests but not his own is non-sensical. Yes, Allies encounter tests, too. Most smart players who can purchase him in a Market step will place a blue or red gem on him for the late game. Some might choose yellow or even green if they’ve fallen behind and need to catch up; later they could swap him out for a more versatile Ally.
That he provides such a boost potential for red adventures and the endgame is likely why he was given 0 Stamina — as a balancer. That has to be what that zero is really about. But any warrior developing advanced skills like these (lopsided as they are) would never have become such and developed a pathetic Stamina. Still, he’s likely a useful “card” in a game if not a believable “ally” in Terrinoth.
“Borka the Vicious” shows the same abnormalities in a different manner that some players think makes more sense; they’d be wrong. One could see an adventurer developing know-how and skill at combating certain types of foes, and thereby able to take them down faster. That’s not what colors of adventure cards are about; they’re about difficulty, not type of opponent or challenge.
Both of these Allies were developed (at a reasoned guess) through unusual mechanics first and identity & flavor text last (to justify them). That didn’t work entirely. Though one can expect only so much out of a boardgame with standardized and simplified mechanics vs. a fantasy rpg, there might be something a little better to consider. But first…
The Two Sisters
The “Sister of Vengeance” is among the three worst card concepts I’ve encountered in RB2. Of course, I’ve only acquired 3/5s of the expansions so far, but that’s still a lot of cards for how much this one stands out in the wrong way. This card speaks to the basest type of player, though it falls short of any demigod mechanics.
This Ally gains a +2 exp. token on all of its stats whenever the character / Hero defeats another character in direct combat. It is unclear in wording whether these exp. tokens are a one-time boost or accumulated for each such attack. [Once again, and not for the last time, every game company needs to hire a legitimate editor with actual training in rhetoric!] There’s no mention of whether that other character deserved “vengeance” due to any previous direct act against the Hero with this Ally… because that’s not the real point of this card.
At such a low price, we can safely assume that those exp. counters are indeed a one-time boost. But again we see poor stats and that impossible 0 Stamina for any adventurer to be taken seriously as such. All of this is a justification… a balancer… for mechanics that otherwise would become unbalancing to the game in this flawed notion.
Vengeance requires a wrong done to the avenger for a motivation. The flavor text on this card exposes it like a player’s tissue thin justification for maliciousness. No true or accountable offense is required for its use. This card is not about vengeance. It’s about spite — in its design and in the type of player who gleefully uses it and almost invariably tries to bend its wording to add additional exp. tokens to it.
RB2 is not about going after other characters; there are plenty of other games for that. Thankfully the land is large enough that to get to another character you’d have to really work for it. Use of this card distracts from the true goal of the game, which is not to defeat all other characters one on one but to be the one to fulfill the ultimate task set by the game’s ending scenario before others do so.
In most cases, when this card is drawn during a market step, it gets left in the settlement’s market stack… especially compared to other Allies of the same cost level. It is too hard to actually use, unless an opportunity is imminently within reach when it is drawn. The player who does use it gets pounded (justifiably) by all other players with every viable demigod mechanic left in the game. I will not re-write this card, for the best correction is…
Ditch it and forget it! Even if you have only the core game and this one expansion, you will not unduly unbalance the proportion of cards in your Market deck. This one card will not be missed by the majority of worthy players, nor will it waste a player’s market step in drawing it.
The “Sister of Mercy” is not as offensive as her “sister” above, though without that one, this one becomes almost pointless. At best, she’s just cheap cannon fodder, and there are a number of better Allies around the same price.
It is as if these two were stuck in as an attempt to encourage and then counterbalance pointless, petty pursuits in the game. Of course, the chance that both of these would become active in the same game — and both be used by two characters encountering each other — is so slim that the answer is…
Ditch it and forget! Once again, you will not waste some player’s market step in drawing this sad and deficient card. These two cards are real clunkers.
Both Jachim and Borka are adequate cards sans 1) nonsensical expertise and 2) a player’s demigod moment to choose that expertise. But I cannot believe such characters gained expertise based in difficulty of adventure type and never develop some Stamina… especially not a hardy orc! They'd be dead from exhaustion by now. For those who want something more sensible, below are two options to try out for each card.
Click any image to have the 300ppi printable version appear in a new window and then right-click and save. Later, when I’ve finished with this expansion, I will package all rewrites and alternatives for collective download on the F.D. Downloads page.
NOTE: Because the original illustrations were too dark and poor of quality — and I have an aversion to reusing paid illustrators’ works — I’ve scavenged and collaged new illustrations for these cards.
Next Time in this Series…
I’ll look at a new subtype of cards (Allies) called “Familiars.” Though I’m rather found of them (perhaps irrationally), there were only 6, and they only appeared in this expansion. I guess they didn’t attract much attention and thereby no more were ever created (to my knowledge).