There was a time when Dr. Reiner Knizia was the premiere name in board games. The hits were an annual expectation of board game enthusiasts and were eagerly anticipated. Modern Art, High Society, and Tigris & Euphrates still hold a dear place in my own heart.
It was with a similar feeling that I looked forward to gaining my own copy of The Siege of Runedar - a cooperative deck-building game about dwarves. A fantasy setting with deck-building? By Dr. Knizia? What could go wrong?
It turns out some things could go wrong. Putting the game together takes a small amount of time as part of the initial, initial set up. Each bottom of the box is a fortress which remains forever assembled to welcome players to the game upon opening the box. In some ways, this felt like a toy from my childhood (the 80's if you are curious). However, that nostalgia wasn't shared by my younger son who though the setup looked somewhat flimsy. Standees and barely distinguishable dwarf heroes? He shrugged at the thought of playing it; not quite the reaction I was hoping for when I showed it to him. "It's dwarves defending their gold!" He shrugged again, "Do they get to go anywhere?" he said. "No, they just want to escape with their lives and some gold," I said hopefully. He let me know he would check it out after I was ready to teach; at least he sounded like he wanted to spend time with me.
Why spend so much time talking about our experience not bonding over the game? Well, this game should be a bonding experience game night sort of game. And it can be. But remember not to take it to seriously, or maybe not seriously at all because you might get frustrated with your luck. The main mechanic of the game is definitely deck building, but you only get 12 cards in your deck. Sure, you can cull the deck and keep it nice and thin, but every time your deck runs out you will put 2 of them below your personal discard token as you once again shuffle your deck. Also, you can never, ever get rid of the 2 orc cards in your deck. This makes both thematic and mechanical sense (maybe) as they are needed to make you flip over the square siege cards. Without the orcs, the game doesn't progress towards an ending. Could this have been accomplished by using a bigger deck? Yes. Do players start with any unique powers at all? No.
Players have access to market where they may buy cheap, better, and
best upgrade cards to help them do things like mine, kill enemies better, and gain additional resources. Oh yeah, and you can always spend 2 gold for mercenary cards once per turn. I totally forgot about that on a recent live stream. Or did I? There are times when you really want the game to just end, whether positively or negatively. That seems to be a product of the boorishly novel limited deck. I don't want to have to shuffle every other time I access the deck.
The components are fun in that they are hides, little pieces of timber, gold, and some rubble that needs to get removed. There are also some random events like trolls and goblins which add a nice bit of absurdity to the mix. The problem with the components bears a resemblance to the deck-building; or maybe it is a feature of the deck-building? In any case, the fact that you have to keep running around getting the same stuff to get the cards all while shuffling the same cards in your very limited deck leads to too much sameness.
I wanted to like this game. I wouldn't say I dislike it, but it's not going to be the first game I grab when I want to just hang out, do some deck-building, and have a fantasy themed game night. Would I play it if asked to teach or help others? Absolutely, it's just not what I would pick first. The dice are chunky and fun, but still lead themselves to awkward situations since only one side has ranged damage which you need to defeat things like catapults and siege towers.
My favorite player count for this game is 3-4 as it seems to break up the choices with good table talk. Since it plays well with others and still feels like a toy, I'll be keeping this one as nothing quite else does what this does that I currently own.
I'd definitely rather have the randomness in this game than Castle Panic which I grew tired of some years ago. So, this game has that going for it. I'll still be looking forward to the next Reiner Knizia release, but maybe not quite with as much bated breath.
Time 45-90 Minutes
Mechanics: Co-operative, Deck-Building, Area Movement, Dice Rolling