Now I have the privilege of reviewing a classic role playing board game: Runebound (Second Edition).
In Runebound, each of the players takes on the role of a sissy little hero. Unfortunately, there are giant evil dragons (or other things depending on if you use expansions) threatening the entire known world. Therefore, you, Mr. Pansy, must bulk up, equip yourself and find friends in order to take these wretched monsters down. To do this, obviously, you will want to practice on wimpy monsters. Fortunately, you know where these guys are hiding, because the map has nice green gems to mark their locations. Ok, ok. Here's how it works: each turn you will get 5 movement dice (4 if someone is fatigued or injured). You roll these dice, and they determine where you are able to move based on what symbols are on the face of each die. Once you have moved, if there is a colored gem at the place where you stopped your movement, then you have an encounter (fight a monster... or have other stuff happen and then fight a monster. There's always monster fighting, though). Once you see this monster, you can either try to flee as fast as you can (I forget the rules of this because I never bother), or you can fight it. When fighting it, each round you choose one trait to attack with: melee, range, or magic, and you must defend in the other two. You continue fighting in this manner until someone is knocked out - if you, then you lose lots of stuff and return to a city; if the monster, then you gain money (for buying more stuff) and experience points. Once you have enough experience points, you can level your hero, thus giving him a stat boost in some area. If you were not wanting to fight a monster on your turn, the other option is going to a city. If you go to a city (end on a city space instead of a space with a gem on it), you can go to that city's market. In the market you can heal your character (and allies), and you can also buy sweet new stuff (like allies and giant weapons and such). Anyway, the game continues like this until someone has bulked themselves up enough that their hero (who is hopefully not a sissy anymore) takes on the High Dragon. And defeats it (if you lose to it, then the game hasn't ended, but you have embarrassed yourself a little bit).
Now that I have completed my length intro, its time for pros and cons. Here's the first pro: replayability. I cannot express how much I appreciate the fact that Runebound has a lot of heroes (12 to be exact). It also has enough item cards that you won't see them all in a single game. This is what sets Runebound apart from a lot of other role playing games like World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game. Whereas in the WoW Adventure Game you only have enough heroes for the number of players (4), in Runebound you have a ton. I realize why WoW is set up this way - to sell the expansions, but Runebound has even more expansions and yet gives you more in the base game. I like being able to play through a game and still feel like there is more for me to discover; that my next adventure will be different.
Now for the next thing that I like about Runebound: allies. I like the fact that your hero is only able to attack in one trait each given round. This adds to the importance of your allies because each ally can also attack in a trait each round. This means that if you have two allies, then you are able to attack the monster in every trait each round. Without this, you are only able to damage him in one out of every three rolls of the dice, but with allies you can hurt him every time. Obviously this means that a player that is able to hire two allies will have a distinct advantage over a player that is unable to hire any, but I still like the fact that you can essentially "build your party."
A third positive for Runebound is how the movement works. Whereas I'm yet to play Talisman (its on my "to do" list), I have played some other role playing games like Prophecy and the aforementioned World of Warcraft, and when comparing them, I significantly prefer the movement system of Runebound. I feel like it is fairly intuitive to use, but gives you the freedom to explore the map. A lot of the benefit here comes from the map itself. Whereas so many other games use a simple Monopoly-esque map where you roll a die and can move that many, Runebound is a hex based map where each hex is a different type of terrain. You still have the possibility of not being able to move very fast in Runebound, but most turns you will be able to go at least 2 or 3 hexes based on the dice you rolled - no more getting frustrated about rolling repeated one's on the dice. Instead Runebound actually represents the difficulty in moving through things like mountains by having the mountain symbol be on less faces of the die than, say, roads.
Another aspect that I liked about Runebound is the leveling system. I have played RPG's where I felt like I was spinning my wheels the whole game, and I've played ones where I felt like I was actually making progress. Fortunately, Runebound falls into the second category. Since you actually improve your stats each time you level up, you do not feel like you are a wimpy character after a while. In addition, after you level up your hitpoints, you are no longer able to pick on the lowest level of monsters - this helps prevent the stronger heroes from preventing the weaker heroes from getting any kills. The fact that Runebound has a different amount of experience based on the level of each hero is also a nice feature of the game.
With all that said (in case you can't tell yet, I really like this game), there is at least one con in the game: it can get somewhat lengthy. This is especially true if you play with a larger number of players, and so I normally try to keep my games around 1-3 (2 being my ideal). Really, this trait more than any other has kept Runebound from hitting my gaming table more often, though I realize that this won't be something that bothers many gamers.
One final point of note before the score: Runebound has rules for player versus player combat. I did not mention them previously because I have never actually used them. All of the games that I've played have worked out quite nicely without them. I have heard that they can add more length to the game, and I have also heard rumors of it degrading into the person in the lead picking on the other players, which would obviously detract from the game. My solution for that is to simply not play with that person, but that may just be me.
Overall, I give Runebound a 9.0/10. This is the best role playing game that I have played to date, and I enjoy busting it out. I have recently come to own several of the "big box" expansions, too, so I am looking forward to playing them (and more reviews are to come on this system). If you are looking for a role playing game to add to your collection, I would definitely recommend this one.
If Runebound sounds interesting, you might also want to check out Legend of Drizzt, Star Wars: The Card Game, and Heroscape.