The Daqan general looked up from his battle plans and gruffly acknowledged the adventurer. Outside, the camp was teeming with activity, but the air in the pavilion was still and heavy. “I hope you have good news.”
Without a word, Trenloe tossed his leather satchel onto the large parchment map, scattering pebbles that represented Uthuk forces. Seemingly unimpressed, the general set it aside. “Good. Then I have more work for you. The demon-worshippers are advancing on our position, and we’re readying a response. I aim to meet them in the field, and...”
“And you want me to scout ahead of your army, right?” interrupted Trenloe. “Send back reports?”
“No,” the general went on. “I want you to lead them.”

Earlier this month , Fantasy Flight Games announced Banners of War , an upcoming expansion for Runewars . With over 50 new figures and hundreds of new cards and tokens, Banners of War builds on the strategy and diplomacy of the war for the dragon runes. But perhaps most exciting is Banners of War ’s modular design. While many of its core mechanics are mandatory (including Tactical Fate cards and supplemental units), several others are optional. This allows players to include or omit them at will, tailoring their own Runewars experience.

One such variant, “Commanders of the Battlefield,” elevates heroes to a new level of strategic importance, allowing a player to promote one to the role of Commander! Today, we’ll take a closer look at this variant, and we’ll see how the presence of a hero can tip the balance of an all-important battle.

Brilliant Maneuvers

Commanders are special heroes who take part in battles in their areas, conveying a unique ability to the troops beneath them. These abilities, prescribed by randomized Commander cards, present compelling new hero-related choices. Will you continue your quest for ancient and powerful artifacts? Duel other adventurers to rob them of their wealth? Or will you place your greatest hero in command of a mighty army?

To begin, each player receives two starting Hero cards matching his faction’s alignment, and one random Commander card which he may then “attach” to one of his heroes (to mark a Commander on the board, simply place its figure on top of a Commander token like the one at the right). Commander cards offer a range of advantages. For example, Flanking Charge essentially increases the initiative of all units with the Fast ability, while Zealous Fanatic can give a boost to your weaker units. Meanwhile, Iron Will lets high-wisdom heroes (like Landrec the Wise ) influence the outcome of battle with their superior intellect!

The Pressures of Leadership

But it’s not all surprise attacks and deadly strikes. Commanders are subject to a number of restrictions that manage their movements and actions. Essentially, Commanders are no longer “heroes” for purposes of many mechanical interactions, but nor are they considered “units.” Here’s a quick rundown of a Commander’s characteristics:

As you can see, this new category of figures combines some of the properties of both heroes and units, resulting in a figure type that bridges the gap between the two. What’s more, since Commanders aren’t considered heroes per se, the presence of one doesn’t count against your normal hero cap. You can have three heroes, plus a Commander, on the board at any given time!

Meet the new boss...

But what if your randomly drawn Commander card doesn’t fit in to your strategy, and you want to replace it? For that matter, what if your Commander perishes, or you simply want to retire him and replace him with some new blood? Commander status isn’t permanent, and it’s a simple matter to demote one hero and promote another.

To replace your current Commander card, just earn the supremacy bonus of the “Rally Support” Order card. You’ll pay influence to draw cards, as usual, but instead of drawing Hero cards, you can draw Commander cards; then choose one (or retain your current card) and discard the rest. Use this option to cycle through the Commander cards until you find one that fits your play style, or keep your enemies guessing by constantly changing your Commander ability!

Looking for a change in leadership? To promote a new Commander, simply wait until the start of the Quest Phase, when your Commander card can be transferred to any hero currently at a friendly stronghold. Did your Commander die valiantly in battle? Unfortunately, he took his Commander card to the grave, but you can use the “Rally Support” supremacy bonus to get a new one, then promote a new hero at the start of the next Quest Phase. So whether your Commanders have a tendency to die young, or you want to transfer power to an army half a world away, the “Commanders of the Battlefield” variant gives you the strategic flexibility you’ve been looking for.

Keep checking back for more on Banners of War , and look for it on store shelves in the fourth quarter of 2011!

Runewars is an epic board game of conquest, adventure, and fantasy empires. Two to four players raise armies, gather resources, and race to collect the elusive and powerful dragon runes in the high-fantasy universe of Runebound.

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