Races of New Era – RONE: Review

Races of New Era, or RONE is a strategic card game for two to four players, designed by Štěpán Štefaník. Its First Edition was published in 2016 and the Second Edition is getting another Kickstarter Campaign on the 17th of October under the title ‘RONE: Complete Edition‘ and ‘RONE: Last Stand Expansion‘.

RONE is a post-apocalyptic strategy card game that uses the players deck and hand as their health points. Players weigh up losing health to play a card to reduce their opponents deck, or save the card to try and tank the hit later.

Each player has a “hero” leading their army that they can level up to gain extra benefits and play better cards, as well as increase their “water” which acts as the summoning cost for cards.

Players also use their graveyard to bring cards back onto the battlefield after they’ve been dismissed, but each recycle from the graveyard forces you to exile other cards, removing them from the game permanently.

With an impressive 50+ page rule book players might be deterred, but the rules are structured nicely, to show what each component does and each key word allowing players to flick past examples if they understand, but read on if they’re still confused. There’s also a How To Play video on the Kickstarter page. If reading rules isn’t for you, you can watch that one instead.

On the surface, RONE played similarly to other well-known strategy card games like Magic: The Gathering, but differentiated itself from other games in some unique, key ways.

The 24 card deck makes the games run time pretty consistent at about 45 minutes; and the graveyard recycle mechanic means players are managing their hand, battlefield, life points and graveyard with scrutiny. It’s a game that’s easy enough to get a handle on after you know some key terms, where you manage your limited water resources to summon units and attack your opponent. The fact that there are so many components means a dedicated player will be able to put as much strategy in it as they like. It’s clearly a game that’s hard to master and lends itself to the discerning player.

RONE can be played 1v1, 2v2 or as a three player 1v1v1, where players must attack the opponent on their left first, which stops people ganging up on each other. There are four card types in RONE starting with the ‘hero’. Each player picks or is randomly assigned a hero, each with different abilities that influence your options every turn of the game. The player gets that hero’s three hero cards, each of a different level (one, two and three). Unit cards are your fighters and creatures that you put to the battlefield to attack your opponent. Tactic cards are the ‘instants’ you can use at any time to counter each other’s moves. The last card type is the technology cards, which add more complexity to gameplay and generally more options to the player. They’re permanent cards on the table, used either to counter opponents or further your own agenda.

Another unique mechanic in RONE is the exhaustion system. Other strategy games have you tap a card or rotate it once to show that it has been used this turn. RONE takes this mechanic and adds some extra depth to it by making each card have three different exhaustion states. A card played upright is active, and able to be used. A card rotated 90 degrees clockwise is exhausted once, 180 degrees twice and 270 degrees is exhausted three times. Attacking with a unit card exhausts it different amounts, depending on the card; and an exhausted card can’t block attacks from your opponents, so you have to carefully evaluate when you should attack and defend, because both leave you vulnerable in different ways.

Unlike some strategy card games, RONE has an easy way to combat any skill gaps in players. Where other games might have you build a deck only to get repeatedly smashed by someone that spent more time crafting theirs, RONE encourages new players to randomly select cards to form their deck and the deck of their opponent. A random deck on both sides of the battle means experienced players can’t memorize combos of cards and the new player will be able to learn as they go. When everyone’s comfortable with the mechanics of the game, they can choose to craft their own specialized decks, or just swap out their current one for a different random 24 cards.

The art in RONE is all in line with its war-torn, post-apocalyptic aesthetic. The water dials to keep track of your water resource and the tokens to keep track of bonuses are all standard thick token cardboard. The symbols are easy enough to understand at a glance and the layout of the cards is familiar and intuitive.

RONE is an easy to learn strategy card game, that allows more depth of tactics the more you play it. It’s a polished game with easy to read rules and great thematic art on its cards. The exhaustion mechanics mean you’re paying close attention to your, and your opponent’s, cards, trying to think three moves ahead. The lifebound system that puts the hand and deck count as the player’s health points means every card you play has to try and do more damage to the other players than to you, and the graveyard recycling means that even a hit on the enemy can help them get their best cards back into the game. If you love strategy card games, or would like to introduce a friend to them, then RONE is the game for you.

Until the project launches on the 17th you’ll be able to sign up for updates, and when it goes live you’ll be able to check out the full details and pledge.

You can check out the Kickstarter here or website here.

If you’re curious to see exactly what is in the box, check out our unboxing video below.

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