Rune Stones (Queen Games) is a game where 2-4 druids are battling to claim the throne as the most powerful in the land. Designed by Rudiger Dorn, the battle takes place over a beautifully illustrated board using a deck building mechanic that will be familiar to most experienced gamers. The aim of the game is a race to 65 points. Points are awarded from various card powers in small amounts but the bulk are claimed from collecting sets of different artefacts; as you'd expect, the more in a set that you cash in the greater the reward but also the greater the risk of being beaten to the throne.
Each player starts with an identical deck of eight cards from which they draw four. On a turn, you can take one of three actions. You can choose to Summon new creatures (buy new cards from the available creature card display) using matching coloured magic points. Alternatively, you can utilise the powers of two of your cards. The cards are all uniquely numbered and when playing the cards for powers you lose the higher numbered card to a general discard pile rather than your own discard pile, so powerful combos will often be a one-time affair. The powers allow you to acquire gems of various colours which are required for claiming artefacts. The final option you have for an action is to spend the specified number and colour of gems to acquire one of the currently displayed artefacts.
After taking your one action you may if you wish cash in your collection of different artefacts and claim the points and also an all important Rune Stone. The Rune Stones offer permanent extra power boosts such as increased hand size or the facility to exchange gem colours. Each player may have a maximum of four of these Rune Stones and some seem almost essential to keep you competitively in the game.
There is a real balancing act in working out whether it's best to cash in and claim a Rune Stone or to push your luck and go for bigger points but risk losing out on a powerful Stone (there will be fewer of each type than there are players). It’s also tempting and easy to accidentally spend too many turns playing cards for their powers and not adding to your deck. You are very much playing your own game as player interaction is minimal but it’s nonetheless vital that you keep an eye on what your opponents are doing as a large collection cashed in by them can you leave you out in the cold.
Also shown here on Board's Eye View is the Nocturnal Creatures expansion which adds a few new elements and some ‘take that’ cards to up the level of player interaction, and without unduly complicating the game. If you get the expansion, you probably won't want ever to play without it.
The components and artwork by Dennis Lohausen are all very thematic, and if you're a fan of Queen Games then you'll recognise their 'house style'. The only component disappointment is the inclusion of a six-sided die with stickers on the sides. Rune Stones makes for a very enjoyable and accessible 60-minute game. So if you want to Getafix of a relatively quick playing druid deckbuilder, we can recommend this one.
(Review by Greg White)