The Hungry Gamer Reviews RONE
Before I begin I was provided with a review copy of this game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would prefer to watch a video review of this check it out below. LIVE ON KICKSTARTER ON OCTOBER 17.
There are a few themes that come up regularly, and rightly so as they are much loved in the industry. Fantasy of some sort is one, and post apocalyptic is the other. For me, I struggle mightily to resist a new fantasy game, I am much more likely to resist an apocalyptic game, but that is only because zombies do not interest me much. However, apocalyptic games that are not zombies-hell even if they are re-skinned zombies I am interested (looking at you Omicron Protocol).
So when I got the chance to look at RONE I was intrigued. Here is a head to head (sort of) deck building combat game I was interested. I have mentioned before that in my youth I played a lot of Magic, and some of the other competitive card games of the time, so I do have a soft spot in my heart for that kind of game. The question is, of course, how would RONE stack up to my memories?
The game itself gives each player a hero (that can be leveled up three times), and a deck of 24 cards (tactics and units). This deck is random, though the advanced mode recommends deck construction. Each player also gains a hand of 5 technology cards.
Each round the player gains water (the only resource in the game), and this water is used to purchase units or play tactic cards. Once a unit, or technology, is played then it can be used by “exhausting it”. Depending on the card you will then rotate the card 90 degrees between one and three times (at the beginning of your turn you will rotate it back 1 time, so each card has its own different cool down timer).
Like any other card game you are then doing your best to beat on the enemy hero, and their units, while trying to protect yourself. As you play you have to manage playing cards from you hand carefully, as your deck and hand are your life points. So every time you play a card you are hurting yourself. Finally, I will add that almost every card has a “recycle” value, which means that you can remove cards from your graveyard, in order to bring the top card of the graveyard back into the game.
The only other thing that needs mentioning is how tactics work. You see tactics are “fast” actions that can be played anytime in response to a variety of actions, as long as you have enough water to play it. Once tactic cards start being played the get stacked on the battlefield. As each player plays them they stack on top of the previous one. Once all players are done the cards are played in reverse order that they were played. This can result in a card at the bottom of the stack becoming superfluous at best, or at worst unplayable.
So what do I think?
I enjoy the theming of this game. There is something very fun about selecting, and leveling up your hero throughout the game. Each of the heroes feels unique in both art, abilities and type. The first game I played it featured a robot, vs a human vs a mutant. It felt like an awesome battle for supremacy. (If you are curious my robot destroyed those stupid flesh bags) The way the decks shape up, it really feels like your hero has managed to cobble together this motley crew of units and technologies in order to claim supremacy over all others.
RONE’s rules tell you to draw your decks at random for your game. I love that this is the way the game is intended to be played. I personally do not like creating decks anymore, and they fact that when we played our game was really closely contested with randomly drawn decks was very promising. On the other hand, if you like creating decks, there are PLENTY OF CARDS to choose from and you can create combos, and themed decks to your hearts delight.
I also really enjoy the way the cards exhaust, and then slowly recharge over time. Since there are VERY few cards that only exhaust to 1, you have to be thoughtful about when you use them, as you will be left exposed to attack if you use them. This ties into the the life system. I have really started to become a fan of your deck as your life. This does two things, it makes you go on the attack, because building up your forces does nothing more than slowly bleed you to death.
The final thing I really like is the recycling system. Having the ability to pull cards, literally, back from the grave is awesome.
The rule book is REALLY long, 50+ pages, with no index. Now it is a quick read, and the font is large, but man it is daunting. When the game first arrived I put it away for a bit because I just did not want to read a 50 page rulebook for a card game. I do also need to mention here that, though it is long, it is quite well written, and quite clear how everything works.
The next thing is that though the game can be played with 3 or 4 players, it really is a head to head game. There are rules for team play, and an amazing attempt at 3 player rules (which does do an awesome job of encouraging aggressiveness with a bounty system), it just feels like this game is a two player game.
Finally, I have mentioned that I enjoy the theme, and I do, I will also say there are some really nice water tracker dials, and clever damage markers that give incredible versatility with minimal amounts of cardboard. However, the art is just solid for me. It tells the story, and it is interesting to look at, but it does not grab me personally. I did not find myself wanting to know more about the heroes or the characters.
I only have two real complaints about the game. The box. The sizing of the box just does not make any sense to me. I had to put all my cards in baggies to keep them from flopping all over the place. It makes me feel the need to get some smaller deck boxes, so I can hold my cards, to just put them in another box. That is silly.
The second is that there is no player aid. While there are not too many keywords, it was annoying to have to keep flipping through the 50 page rulebook to find out what they do.
Bringing it all together
RONE is a fun, unique feeling head to head card game. It does a wonderful job realizing its theme, and you do feel like you are creating your own faction in this destroyed future. The game plays very well with random decks and with constructed ones, though there is clearly a lot more skill required to build your deck. The mechanics of exhausting cards, and your deck doubling as your life are wonderful additions to the game and keep it interesting without over complicating things. While there are modes to play with more than 2 players, they do not feel, to me, the same as the base game. The box is oddly sized, and the rulebook is very long and daunting-though well written.
Its the apocalypse. People don’t read in the apocalypse!
* Well themed game
* Solid art
* Cool mechanics that make the game feel unique* Fun for advanced, as well as beginning players.
* Well written, but overly long rules, that lacks an index
* Box is bizarrely sized, and the game could use a player aid
* One of the best heads up card games I have played