Runewars: First Gameplay Impressions

Come take a closer look at the newest ranked up fantasy battles war game from FFG!

I’ve been a huge fan of massed/ranked up battle wargames since as far back as I can remember. It was in fact these sort of games that got me into wargamming in the first place. From an interest in historical wargame to years and years  playing Warhammer Fantasy Battles, these games are my jam. So of course I’ve been watching Runewars with a lot of interest. If your unfamiliar with Runewars, its a new fantasy massed battle game from Fantasy Flight Games. I got to look it over and get in a couple of little demo games when the it first came out and have recently been lucky enough to get in two full scale games of it. (If you’ve been watching our twitch channel you may have seen one.) So with all that said I want to give a few of my first impressions on the game.

This is a Fantasy Flight Game

This game is still very much a FFG game. You’ve got your dials, your movement templates and your special dice. Play wise it also feels a lot like their other games, X-Wing in particular has a lot of similarities too it. Like other FFG games this has its upsides and downsides, but one of the nice things is that you can play right out of the box with everything you needed, including terrain and movement stick provided.

It Feels Like  a Ranked Combat Game

All of the above being true still feels a lot like its predecessors in the genre. This game has a much more stately feeling than X-Wing, or even Armada. Units advance, shoot and charge their way across the broad in ranked formations. Maneuver is key, flanks matter, and units have a certain predictability in their movement. While there is plenty of action, its not all frenetic.

It’s a Deadly Game


So far the game feels very deadly. And this is across the board. Unlike some other games there doesn’t seem to be weak chaff units that never kill things. In my games every unit in my army and the enemy’s army was a threat. In addition once combat was joined things happened. This is not a game were two blocks of infantry collide and then spend several turns uselessly hammering at each other with nothing happening. When units get in combat – stuff is going to die.

Close Combat is Key


Rune Wars, at least right now, seems very focused on close combat. While there are ranged units in the game the focus seems to really be on getting stuck in with the enemy. In large part this is due to the relatively short range of shooting units, with some units being able to go from being out of range to in combat in a single turn. In addition the contents of the early release sets were pretty close combat oriented, so this might change, but I doubt it will change much.

A Host of List Building Options

Rune Wars has a whole ton of options on how to build your armies. Each unit can be bought in several different sizes. All units can also pick from a huge verity of upgrade cards to customize and enhance them. Units can take minor heroes embedded in them to lead them into combat. There are a whole lot of options. Maybe my favorite is that a number of the hero and monster (or siege) units have the ability to be taken as upgrades to other units or on their own. Thus I can either take a unit of the large Rune Golems, or I could embed one into a unit of spearmen as support.

Final Thoughts

So these are just a few of my first impressions on the game. Overall it seems like a lot of fun and I look forward to playing it more. As it is FFG’s first step in this genre and into making a more hobby focused game the requires the building and painting of models, it will be cool to see what they do with it. They’ve had a pretty quick release schedule so far with three factions out and a fourth on the way – shown off at GENCON50.

I really look forward to seeing what FFG does with the game in the coming years and to playing a lot more.

Have you tired Runewars? Let us know how you liked it, down in the comments!

  • Benandorf

    The game looks interesting, though the fluff/aesthetic isn’t really doing it for me. My big worry with anything FFG puts out these days is that to be competitive, you’ll be required to buy an endless line of new stuff for the cards, regardless of whether or not you want to use the units.

    Plus, 3-4 factions doesn’t make for a lot of diversity in a wargame. That’s been the main reason I never got into Armada (though I’ll admit I do play X-Wing, but I’m a sucker for the IP and the game is just so buttery smooth).

    • erion

      The big hold on this game around here has been lack of variety. The 4th faction isn’t out yet almost six months after the release, and it should really have 6 factions to be a viable tabletop battle game.

      • ZeeLobby

        I mean 6 is kind of a ridiculous desire though. 4 is pretty reasonable for any startup game. and while FFG is a big company, Runewars is definitely still in startup franchise zone. I do think having even a slim option for all 4 from the start would have been the way to go though. My group has written it off til we all have options.

    • tfkimmortal

      At least with this one they said that it is designed so that you don’t have to buy out of faction to get cards. Otherwise that’s like most other games, we all have units in other wargames that never get played.

    • ZeeLobby

      Yeah. There’s definitely that concern. It’s at least all in-faction, but you still might not like the look of a calvary unit and need that card from it. For someone looking for a rank&flank game with tight rules to play casually it’s a great option though.

      • tfkimmortal

        hmm, I guess if aesthetics > what the unit does. Keep in mind most people that want to win will buy a good unit regardless of what it looks like and cram it down your throat. haha! 🙂

        • ZeeLobby

          Haha. True. I mean in reality each faction only has 6 or so planned units so far. I imagine most players picking it up at this point will grab all of them. It’s definitely a better model than X-Wing at least.

  • tfkimmortal

    I have only played it at home so far. It seems like it will be great once more units and factions arrive. I have to agree that the key to most of the combat seems to be getting units stuck in. The thing is, I found ranged units can be devastating. With just the base set we have had times where the skeletal archers either decimated a unit or completely removed the opponents cav. I look forward to seeing more. 🙂

  • marxlives

    This game scares me. Everyone who touches it says its great, easy to get going, strategically deep, and lots of fun. And I am firmly against that.

    • ZeeLobby

      That’s the spirit!

  • Lord Blacksteel

    Any comparison to say, Kings of War? Or any other fantasy tabletop miniatures game?

    • You’re best off watching youtube games of it to compare with KOW.

      I’m a fan of old whfb. Kings of War I can tolerate. This game I can tolerate. But this game does not feel like Kings of War, it reminded me a lot of standard FFG games (which isn’t a bad thing).

      • ZeeLobby

        Agreed. They’re all a little different. That said I had joy playing this that I hadn’t had since WHFB. Kings of War has never really done that for me.

    • Thornoo1

      The real strength of this game is the stepped initiative and hidden dials. The guessing game is topnotch and so far the armies are quite balanced and it is picking up players all over.

  • CloakingDonkey

    I’m still torn whether to jump in on this game. It looks like fun but the expansions feel quite pricey in Europe…. especially the command sections for infantry units. 4 models for 25€? phew… steep.

    • Thornoo1

      If I was to have one gripe about it the command boxes are a little too pricey. There’s some good deals to be had on the web but I pay a premium to support my local gaming store.

      • ZeeLobby

        Do the command boxes contain objectives and deployments like the named characters boxes? I definitely get that it’s expensive for the model count, but like X-Wing and FFG’s other systems, they usually seem to include a value associated with the additional game content in each expansion.

        • Thornoo1

          Unfortunately not.

  • marlowc

    None of the factions appeals to me at the moment, but soon as they release something vaguely orcish/barbarian I’m in like Flynn 🙂

    • Thornoo1

      Well the good news for you is that the next army to drop is barbarians with daemons. They’re due in December.