RONE (2018) 1st impression
The post-apocalyptic, Magic the Gathering card game without the endless years of collecting. That's one way to describe this card game. As you are a hero who is picking through the remains of a destroyed planet, possibly Earth, collecting technologies and other warriors to fight for your cause.
Let me start by saying that the version of the game we played was of the second edition. So some of these comments might not apply to the future installments of the game. Again remember that these are first impression of a “One Time” play, of a two-player game. Therefore different configurations of players may change the overall feel of play
The rules of the game are pretty straightforward, especially if you are familiar with dueling card games. Each player will have a deck of cards and they will be using these cards to attack their opponents. Simple as that. But there are some interesting mechanisms and differences between this game and others of its ilk.
One of those differences is the set-up. For the base game, you'll be randomly constructing your deck and randomly picking your hero. As this is not a collectible card game, we found a very large selection of cards of each type in the game. This randomness in constructing a 24 card deck fits the theme of you picking through the ruins of a destroyed City, finding technologies, and other fighters ready to fight for you. With about 250 cards to choose from, and what looks like only two copies of each card within the deck, everytime you distribute cards you will have a different setup. And therefore play your strategy on the fly, with each card you reveal. This leads to a lot of random gameplay and possibly put off players who have to adapt quickly to what they have. But the alternative is to either give your deck a good looking over before playing or to play the advanced rules and build your own deck.
After our first play, I can admit that I wasn't too enthralled by this prospect, although I see the possibility of multiple plays leading to a better understanding of the game. Again multiple plays would also lead to faster smoother gameplay, less pausing and rule book reading. But my feelings were also tainted by the poor luck that I had. First impression, remember! In the game, your deck is your life points. Burning through your deck is not an option as these cards will go into your graveyard and when you have no more cards to draw or in hand, it's game over for you. Every time you take damage from an opponent, a card from your hand or your deck will have to go into the graveyard. I had the disadvantage of chance when everytime I took damage I discarded a card from the deck. Which all happened to be Unit cards. And every time I drew a card into my hand, it happened to be a Tactics card. What's the difference?
A nice element about the game is, there are these two types of cards. Units will fight for you, while tactics are like one shot effects. Can you now understand my frustration? In hindsight, I should have kept the tactic cards instead of playing them to try and melt my opponent's life points. And then when damage was taken, I would discard these for my hand and instead of blindly drawing from the deck. Not only are there two types of card, each type of card comes in one of three levels. These are to correspond with the level of your hero character. Which again could be a problem for some players who don't level up their hero at the beginning of the game. There's nothing worse than drawing cards that you can use, due to a restriction.
So apart from my quibbles of randomness in the game, there are some interesting and exceptional ideas. Unit cards and the Hero have attacks or powers that, once used will have a cool down period. This is signified by the numbers on each side of the card. A simple colour system will remind you of the duration of the cooldown. Making tapping your card a simple affair, although it took a little while to remember in which direction the card should be turnt at the refresh phase at the beginning of your turn. For some reason we have a natural affinity to turn things clockwise. Where as in this game, it's anticlockwise.
Combat in the game is simple and logical. Some units have weapons that can shoot at a distance while others are hand-to-hand combat only. Leaving way for some interesting decisions that you will make while trying to take out your opponent. Two characters with the same attack is simply a case of the numbers and who has the most highest. Both doing damage to each other as well as exhausting themselves for a round. Where as, someone with a gun going up against a hand to hand expert has different consequences. The gun will always fire first, before the puncher I can punch. Realistic and interesting, as well as refreshingly simple.
When cards go to your graveyard, you have a choice of placing them either on the top or the bottom. This can be an important tactic because you can bring cards back from the dead, if they are on the top of the graveyard. Each card has its own recycle value, which means that you’ll eject that number of cards from your graveyard to bring the top card back into play on the battlefield. Plus there are other ways and power that will allow you to do this.
Now let's talk about the heroes. There are about 20 in this version of the game, each coming in three levels. Each will bring you a certain amount of water at the beginning of your turn. It is this water that is the currency of the game, allowing you to recruit and play cards into the Battlefield. Also this water will permit you to level up your Hero so they can activate more powerful cards from your deck. In fact, you may spend your first 3 to 5 turns doing so, while your opponent starts chiseling at your life points. Not only do they give you access to more powerful cards but also themselves, collect more water or even give the ability to draw a card into your hand each turn. All have the same regular power, of an additional water or card, but each also has their own unique power to discover. We also played with the optional rule all of technology cards. Again, these are dealt out at random. Of the five cards dealt to you, only three of them can be played into the game. These changed the balance of the game as they were introduced, once more leading you to adapt your gameplay to what you have in your hand. Plus giving each player a unique playing style.
The quality of the product is pretty high. The card quality is good, although there is no proper storage solution in the box. The tokens for marking damage or power-ups and power downs are chunky and easy to read. In fact the whole icon system is simplicity itself. The dark apocalyptic art is somewhat lost in the cards, but if you stare at them closely you can appreciate the wonderful details the artist has created. The rule book is nicely spaced out and easy to read. But could still do with some “easy to find” chapter markers and possibly being a bit more profound in its descriptions and definitions. We did run into some questions that we could not answer from the rule book or even the videos that we watched.
This is definitely a Board Game that Everybody Should probably get better at, with time and an understanding of some of the hundreds of cards. A great idea for those who just want to jump in a card battle, without having to collect or trade from blister packs. Plus very little down time to explain the rules. It's theme of scavenging the wastelands of a destroyed utopia is there at the beginning of the game but slowly dissipate into dust as you realise that this is primarily a two player Magic/Yu-Gi-Oh card game. But you can also play as 3 or go up to 4 players team matches, which is a bonus for this type of game.
As I said, these are the thoughts and feelings after one play of the second edition. The complete edition with expansions is currently running on Kickstarter. If this sounds like your type of thing, click on the link below to be zapped to an alternative universe.