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Rone: Races Of A New Era review


Quick Look:

Designer: Štěpán Štefaník
Artist: Rastislav Kubovič and many others.
Publisher: GREIFERISTO, REXhry
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 40-120

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com



Review:
Races Of A New Era (RONE) 2nd edition is post-apocalyptic Lifebound, war game playable with two, three or four players. This new edition features upgraded art, nicer components, and two expansions (Awakening and New Forces) for a total of 360 cards.

Each turn, players will use their Hero, Technologies, Units, and Tactics to gather resources and rain Hell down on the other players. Fans of Magic the Gathering or Netrunner will find a lot to like about this game. The mechanics are similar, with a lot of card spinning, strategic buffing, damage swapping, and a huge variety of cards and strategies. However, RONE distinguishes itself in several important ways. 


It's slightly more realistic than the competition. You're using water to bribe mutants to fight for you, scavenging the debris of your dead units for spare parts to salvage what you can. Units are relatively weak and easy to kill, so it's vital for you to keep your best alive. It feels more like a wargame than a fireworks display. Playtime is a little longer than a lot of comparable games and has a tight heavily strategic feel.




Rules and Setup:



Rone's rulebook is beautiful and clear with lots of big pictures and large print. I don't remember any other rulebooks that actually made me stop to say, "That's a nice rulebook."

The rules are pretty easy to learn, especially if you're familiar with other dueling strategy card games. I was able to explain everything in about ten minutes. The keywords and symbology are intuitive and not so overabundant that you have to reference the book a lot while playing. For instance, a card with the Battlefield keyword triggers when it is first put into the battlefield. Recycle effects happen when a card is recycled and so on. More on that later.

This is designed so that you can build decks or simply shuffle all the units and tactics together and deal an appropriate number of cards to each player. The random distribution of cards works better than I expected, but I prefer to design a deck with a specific strategy in mind.

Building decks is a great way to familiarize yourself with this sort of game. I really enjoy pouring over all the cards discovering new ways to balance and chain effects, but it can eat up a lot of time. It's nice to have the option to skip that step if you want to. I highly recommend browsing your cards before the initial shuffle, so you have an idea of what's coming. It's not in the rules, but I also recommend keeping Tactics and Units separate and drawing a number of each according to your taste. I like to have roughly half and half.

Setting up the game:

Playmats are a handy add-on that helps players remember which stack is their Graveyard, Draw Pile, Hero, and Tech.



1. Prepare the player decks by either choosing or randomly drawing 24 cards from the huge stack of Tactic and Unit cards. Place this deck to your left.

2. Prepare Hero decks. Choose or randomly draw a Hero. Each hero has three levels represented by three cards. Stack the hero cards with level one on top, two beneath it, and three on the bottom. Place this deck to the right of the first deck.

3. Prepare Technology deck. Draw five random technologies (the cards with gears on the back) and place them to the right of your hero.

4. Randomly determine the first player.

5. Setup starting water resources by setting your water dial to the appropriate number. The first player starts with no water, 2nd gets 2 water. In a 3 player game, they also get 2 water. With 4, both players on the team that goes first get 0, and the other 2 players each get 2.

6. Draw a starting hand of 6 cards.

7. Mulligan. If you like, discard any number of your starting cards to the bottom of your deck and redraw up to 6.

Now, you're ready to play.

Theme and Mechanics:
The apocalyptic theme is implemented well. Your units range from bionic soldiers to mutants and giant robots. The higher your Hero level, the better units and tactics you can use. Generally, level three cards cost slightly more water than lower levels but pack a lot more punch.

Water is a tight resource and requires careful management. Technology is also extremely important. Your Tech deck is a separate deck of five cards that you have access to from the beginning. They are cheap to play and very powerful, but you can only have three in play. Some are one-time effects but stay in that slot for the rest of the game, so you probably don't want to play them all in round one and not be able to use the others when you need them later on.

In a nutshell, you're playing units onto the Battlefield and supporting them with Tactic cards, Technology, and Hero powers. Units on the battlefield can attack or defend you. If one unit attacks another, it is Exhausted (spun) so that its yellow number is closest to you. Then ranged damage is dealt to both units. If both units are still alive, both deal melee damage. Defending units are Exhausted once unless they have the keyword Defender.

If a player has unexhausted units on their battlefield on another player's turn, those units are Guardians and must be attacked before the Hero can be attacked. There are a lot of ways around guardians. Some Tactics and Tech cards can deal direct damage to Heros. The keyword Flying allows you to ignore guardians without ranged attack. With over three hundred cards, there's something for every occasion.

RONE uses the Lifebound system, meaning that cards equal health. For each damage you take, you have to discard a card from either your hand or your draw pile. Once you are out of cards in your hand and draw pile, you are eliminated. Last player standing wins.

Recycling takes a little bit of the pain out of damage. Damage taken, used tactics, and destroyed units all go to your Graveyard. You can choose whether to put that card on the top or bottom of your Graveyard deck. The card on top of your Graveyard can be Recycled by removing an appropriate number of the cards beneath it from the game. The Recycle cost is in a green box on the top right. Recycled tactics go off immediately and then are removed from the game. Recycled units go back to the Battlefield Exhausted twice.

Exhausting cards:



Each unit card has numbers on the sides to keep track of whether or not they are ready. They come into play ready (the edge of the card without a number closest to you). When activated to attack, the unit is turned so that the side with the yellow number is closest to you. At the start of every turn spin all your the cards so the next lowest number is closest to you. When it's right side up, it's ready to go again.

The card above also has a special ability. Instead of attacking or defending, you can spin this card to position 3 to give one unit one extra ranged attack point for its next combat. Any effects that give + or - to health or attack are shown by placing one of these markers on the affected card.


The colored side adds. The grey side subtracts.

Other important things to know about unit cards:
Health is noted by the green space on the left of the card. If it takes damage equal or exceeding its health, it goes to your graveyard. It's Destroyed, but not necessarily out of the game.

Attack values are noted on the right side of the card. The example card above has no ranged or melee attack. If it did the appropriate box would be red for ranged or purple for melee, and there would be a number denoting how much damage it does. The card below has three health and one melee attack.


The top left of the card notes what level your hero has to be to summon it.
The blue box in the top right is the water cost to summon it.
The green box in the top right denotes the recycling cost.

Tactic cards are single-use effects. Level, water cost, and recycling cost work the same as units and Tech cards. After they have done their thing, they go to your graveyard.



Technology cards form a separate deck and have the gear symbol on the back. Some can be exhausted. Others grant a one-time or permanent effect. Once in play, they stay in play for the rest of the game unless something specifically says it's destroyed. I was initially confused as to why they have numbered edges as though they are spun. Tech cards can be exhausted by card effects, but permanent abilities like this one are active as long as the card is in play. So why would anybody spin it? 



Well, here you go.

This tactic can target the card above and ready any other card leaving the permanent effect active while it refreshes in subsequent rounds.


Finally, we have Hero cards.


Heros have various abilities. They can be spun to their purple 1 side to get either 1 water or to draw 1 card. Most of their secondary abilities require spinning to the yellow 3 side, but a few are permanent effects. The blue box at the top tells you the water cost to level up. The Blue box on the right shows your water income. The box below that says how many cards to draw at the beginning of your turn. Only one Hero has a card income at level 1. Higher levels have higher water income. None of them grant more than one card without spinning, regardless of level. Cards are tight in a Lifebound system.

RONE also incorporates a response mechanic. When a player is attacked, they can play or Recycle tactic cards as an immediate response. If they do, the attacker can then play or Recycle a tactic card on top of it. This goes back and forth until nobody wants to play another tactic, then the cards resolve from the top down. Say, one unit attacks another. The attacking unit has one melee attack and two health. The defending player has one ranged attack and one health. Ranged goes off first damaging the attacker, but not killing him, so the attacker's melee would hit the defending unit and kill it. But wait, the defending player plays a card granting her unit one extra ranged. This means the attacker dies before it can melee. Maybe the attacker then plays a card granting one more health to his unit. Now, the defender's dead again unless she can do something useful. Cards are hard to come by, so it's rare to have more than one or two tactics played this way. You also have to have the leftover water to activate those tactics. Plus, all those cards you're playing are your health. You could lose more by winning than you would if you lost.

Game Play:



Phases of a turn are:
1. Refresh all cards under your control one time. If it's at 3 turn it to 2, and so on.
2. "Beginning of Turn Phase" effects go off.
3. Income phase. Gain water equal to the number on your Hero's water income box and draw cards equal to the number in the yellow box with the triangle thingy.
4. The Main Phase has a lot of options. You can spend water to level up your Hero or play cards, recycle the top card of your Graveyard by removing the cards beneath it from the game, or declare an attack.
When you're done, declare end of turn. Play proceeds to the left.

RONE is a lot more punishing than other games of this type, which suits the theme well. Instead of conjuring monsters and shooting lightning bolts you're scraping together enough water to incentivize your soldiers to fight for you. Leveling is really expensive. The average cost of level two is fifteen water. The average water income at level one is six. That's about three turns of doing nothing to get to level two. Level three is a little cheaper, maybe twelve, and you have a higher water income. The result is that your early game can lag while you get set up, or a deck with tons of level one cards can wail on you while you save up to access your twos and threes. The Mulligan should prevent that unless you have a heavy back-end deck, in which case you have to sit back and wait until you level. Having leveled, you can recycle some big nasties and make up for lost time using your increased water income.

Modes:

This plays very differently depending on whether you have two, three, or four players.

Two player mode plays a lot like you'd expect. You're basically being sneaky and swapping licks until one of you runs out of cards. The box says it takes 35-45 minutes, but I've never finished under an hour. We may be playing poorly or being overly defensive. In any case, it's a tense, gritty battle and has a very different feel than other games of this style.

Three player mode is a huge feature. I don't know of any other game like this that plays three. It works the same as two player mode except for a couple of things. First, your decks have 28 cards instead of 24. Second, your units have to attack the player to your left, so everybody's kind of helping the player to their right. However, if your unit attacks to your left and survives the encounter, they get to immediately attack the player on their right. Even though there are more cards, the game doesn't take much longer to play because units can do double damage.

The primary target rule only applies to units. You can still use tech, tactics, and Hero powers on any player. Also, any player can react with tactics or effects when a unit is attacking. You can make your enemies take each other out before they can attack you.

The last difference is the bounty deck. This is a deck of 4 random cards that one player gets to add to the bottom of their deck when their Primary target is eliminated.

Four player mode is 2 on 2, and you're both controlling the same cards and units. You both play out of one 36 card deck. You share a graveyard. You share one Technology deck with eight cards, and each player can play three of them. You also share one hero and one water tracker.

Play proceeds like this: Player A of team 1 goes, then player A of team 2, then B1, B2, back to A1 and so on. At the start of your turn, all the cards on your team refresh one time. This speeds up the game a bit because a lot more actions can be taken, the Graveyard populates faster, so more stuff gets played. This might be my favorite mode, but it really depends on who the teammate is. Watching someone squander your cards can be really painful.

Artwork and Components:




The artwork is beautiful. This game features a small army of artists working together to create a cohesive post-apocalyptic landscape and populate it with all kinds of badass mutants and warriors. The cards are good quality, thick with great color. They are also fairly absorbent, so watch out for condensation or invest in sleeves. They are laid out well with clear symbology. Once you understand the basic functionality of the game, the cards are self-explanatory.

The rulebook is laid out well. Each element is described in a page or two with big clear headings that make it easy to reference. The pages are thick so it's easy to flip through and the semigloss finish is perfect for looking good without creating glare.

The trackers are big, with thick cardboard. Dials spin easily but stay put until you turn them.


The playmats are plastic and fairly thin, but they sit flat after some smoothing. They're nice and big, and the art is beautiful.



The box looks nice and is very sturdy. I wish it were a little longer so that the playmats fit inside.



There's no insert, but it's the perfect height to fit a keep box like this.

 

BTW, the top pic is all cards we didn't use in a two player game. I don't think there are more than two of any card. RONE has tons of possibilities to explore.

The Good:

The cards have a good balance of variety and playability. Some games have so many fiddly little interactions that it makes it hard to get into. RONE has everything you need for smooth, engaging play without the bloat.

You can play with 2-4 players, so you can get it on the table without excluding people. Some dueling games allow for team play, but it's incredibly rare to support three.

Play moves quickly.

It's a nice change of pace for units come into play active. The general idea where one person plays a card and the other person can try to do something about it is still there in the response mechanic, but the feel is different. It changes the gameplay a lot. Responding costs you health and water, plus it runs you out of cards really fast. Is it worth it to protect this level one unit that's not going to be ready for another round anyway? Probably not, but you can't let all your fighters die. Maybe it's best to let it go so you can put it on the bottom of your Graveyard and recycle something better. Or another scenario, perhaps the attacker's unit is only attacking you to exhaust your guardian so they can hit you with somebody meaner. You don't have that one-round cushion to help you decide how to handle it, so you're forced to respond in real time.

The components are high quality and look fantastic.

The second edition includes two expansions.

For those who are not big on reading rulebooks, Game Boy Geek did an excellent how to play video.

The Bad:
Exhausting units two to three times for one basic attack can be frustrating. There were rounds where I had five units on the battlefield, but all I could do was refresh a bunch of stuff and draw a card. Some cards enable you to refresh faster, but not very many.

It would be nice to have ways to get rid of Tech cards. You know you're only going to be able to play three of them in most cases, but it really hurts to play a one time effect into one of those very precious slots. Also, some technologies are really powerful and annoying. It would be great to be able to attack them. As of this release, there are no cards that get rid of tech, but there may be some in future expansions.

Playtime is about twice the average for this sort of game.


Final Thoughts:
This is a tricky game. The sneakier and more imaginative you are, the more fun it will be. When I first started playing, it felt like we were just swapping licks and waiting for cards to be readied. It started to click around the third quarter of my first game. Every time I play, new diabolical strategies emerge.

The mechanics and gameplay are solid. It's all about small tactical interactions rather than doing one big trick to wipe the battlefield. The highest unbuffed attack is 4, and he's removed from the game after the round he's played. Most have an attack/life of 1-2. It's very tight compared to some other games where 6/10 units come and go all the time, and you can do 10-20 damage in the blink of an eye. There are a lot of tough decisions, especially near the end when you only have a few cards left. Winning requires a combination of careful resource management, crafty attack strategies, and of course getting the cards you need when you need them.

I really like the way that hero powers work. You always have at least two options: draw a card or get water, and most heroes have third activation ability. Generally, you can sacrifice three rounds of a small effect for something useful now, (i.e. Buff a unit's attack at a crucial moment, or reduce the water cost of a card by 4.)

The graveyard is also really cool. If you're good at planning and counting cards, you can set up some pretty nasty surprises.

I think the idea of playing with 24 random cards is interesting. If you like a strategy game with more randomness to mitigate, you'll probably love it. It works better than you'd expect. If you want more control, build a deck. It's cool that you can choose.

There are a couple of dueling card games that I enjoy more, but RONE is an excellent addition to the genre. I'm down to play anytime.

For Players Who Like:
A game like MTG, Hearthstone, or Android Netrunner, but with tighter more realistic tactics. RONE is great for seasoned dualists or gamers looking to explore a more serious tactical card game.


Check out RONE: Races Of A New Era on:

               




Stephen Gulik - Reviewer

Stephen Gulik is a trans-dimensional cockroach, doomsday prophet, author, and editor at sausage-press.com. When he’s not manipulating energy fields to alter the space-time continuum, he’s playing or designing board games. He has four cats and drinks too much coffee.

See Stephen's reviews HERE.

Rone: Races Of A New Era review Rone: Races Of A New Era review Reviewed by S T Gulik on May 02, 2018 Rating: 5

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