Fight against the homeowners association and petty mage neighbours for the best lawn
Players: 2-4 Ages: 14+ Game Time: 30-60mins
Runes & Regulations is a strategic card game from Unstable Games, the creators of Unstable Unicorns. In this game players become petty fledgling sorcerers living in a residential area overseen by the ‘homeowners association’.
For those unfamiliar with the predominately American concept of a home owners association here are the basics: in the United States, a homeowner association is a private association often formed by a real estate developer for the purpose of marketing, managing, and selling homes and lots in a residential subdivision. Generally, any person who wants to buy a residence within the area of a homeowners association must become a member, and therefore must obey the governing documents including Articles of Incorporation, CC&Rs and By-laws, which may limit the owner's activities to/on their property and in the community. – Thank you Wikipedia for helping me to explain this.
A stereotype of residents in such neighbourhoods is that they are constantly trying to one up each other within the boundaries of the rules, and backstabbing/tearing down the opposition to achieve this (also within the rules – or at least ensuring not to be caught if breaking them). Runes & Regulations embraces this stereotype.
So, what happens when your residents are also minor league mages? Resident sorcerers are, just like their mundane counterparts, competing for the best lawn. However, they are not making their grass greener or planting the best flowers. They are trying to establish the most impressive collection of magical pets.
To win, a player must be the first mage to collect five mythical creatures. Not as easy as it sounds, however, as the homeowners association keeps changing the regulations and your neighbours have enchanted mundane items such as toasters and leaf blowers to sabotage you.
Those who have played Unstable Unicorns will find much that is familiar in this game - the artwork in particular, but also several core rules and mechanics. Setting up is straightforward; each player receives a ‘fence’ which is essentially a stand to hold their supply of rune cards.
Each of the decks (main, rune, and regulation) is shuffled and players receive five main deck cards, three rune cards and the first active regulation is drawn. The main deck supplies players with their spells and magical creatures and the rune deck provides enchanted items. The regulation deck imposes temporary rules, such as hand limits and creature restrictions.
A player’s turn is broken down into five stages. First they resolve any creature effects that trigger at the start of each turn. Then they draw a card from the main deck. Stages three and four are to play cards (first cast a spell, then summon a creature) or to draw additional cards from the main deck. Spell cards can affect the caster for a boost, opponents for a negative effect, or all players equally for either good or bad. Players end their turn by using a spinner for a random effect, such as discard a card, new regulation etc. Getting a six on the spinner results in a second spin, which means the outcomes affect all players.
Rune cards may be played at any time; these generally reduce the effectiveness of an opponent’s turn. For example, if they heal one of their creatures, with the right rune a player may steal that creature.
... And that’s it. Runes & Regulations is that simple! A five minute to learn game with only a few ambiguous bits of card text that may need a house rule, forum check, or a consultation with your friendly neighbourhood rules lawyer.
The production value of this product is ok. My biggest issue here is the box. Whilst the artwork is good the inside is poorly designed. Despite the fact that Unstable Games sell specific card sleeves for this game, the box is a tight fit for sleeved cards, making it difficult to remove them. Also, there is no section for storing tokens or fences other than piling on top of cards or reinserting them to the punch board and laying them on top.
The cards and punch boards are a fairly standard grade. However, the fences and spinner are fairly flimsy. With the card text of all cards being very small when rune cards are placed into the fences they cannot be read. The spinner is very gimmicky; it spins poorly and ends up being only sort of random. Players may as well ditch this for a six sided die instead.
So, what do we think of this game? Sadly this fell quite a way short of expectations. For true fans of Unstable Unicorns the familiar mechanics with a twist may be enough to over look its flaws. However, this feels like a clumsy re-skin with a few new mechanics thrown in to make quick cash off the back of its successful predecessor. The only significant points in its favour are that it is a quick to learn and quick to play game that is family-friendly. Therefore, Runes & Regulations scores low at 3/6. Unstable Games have several other offerings which are much stronger than this. The fact that this game fell so short of the mark is very disappointing.
There is a Nefarious Neighbor expansion for this game that adds further elements, so stay tuned for a follow-up review to see if the expansion can fix the flaws of the base game.