Dotting the battle-ravaged landscapes of Terrinoth, massive strongholds are centers of military power for the warring factions. Built to withstand months-long sieges, these fortresses host great armies, gathered to conquer the surrounding countryside. But the mightiest strongholds of all are named capitals, the seats of Kings and Councils. Lithelin, The White City... Archaut, The Citadel... these nigh-impregnable castles are the places of ancient legends, forever standing as awesome symbols of their lords’ power.

Back in July , Fantasy Flight Games announced Banners of War , an upcoming expansion for Runewars that builds on the strategy and diplomacy of the war for the dragon runes. In our first preview , we looked at the “Commanders of the Battlefield” variant, which elevates heroes to a new level of strategic importance. We also began to see how Banners of War ’s modular design lets players incorporate only the variants they choose, resulting in a tailor-made Runewars experience. Next, we looked at the increased importance of cities established by the “Rise of the Free Cities” variant and the Lost City mechanic.

Today, we’ll look at another optional rule: Development cards. These versatile cards represent advanced spells or technologies researched by a faction, and they confer all manner of special advantages to their owner.

Explore a Range of Strategies

Further differentiating each faction’s unique play style and available strategies, Development cards provide a range of benefits. But how do you get them? When a player resolves the Supremacy Bonus of his “Harvest” Order card , he may purchase one of his faction’s Development cards in addition to the usual development token. While not required to purchase any of these cards, the player may choose from his faction’s eight available bonuses... so long as he can pay the resource cost listed on the card by immediately adjusting his resources dials.

Among each faction’s eight Development cards are six that improve certain units (including a selection of new units from this expansion, which we’ll cover in future previews). Each faction also has access to one Development card that upgrades a home realm stronghold token to a capital (the cards for which can be seen above), and another Development card that gives its faction a long-term game altering ability.

We’ll look at unit upgrades a little later on. First, let’s begin with capitals and faction abilities.

Change the face of battle

Capitals are especially powerful locations that can be built using one of the strongholds in your home realm, so long as the appropriate Development card is purchased. These tokens are the same as strongholds in every way except two. First, they boast a whopping seven strength when undamaged! Second, they have two “slots” for upgrade tokens, meaning they can simultaneously benefit from additional income and potent faction-specific defensive abilities.

Want a benefit with broader strategic implications? Each faction has access to one Development card that delivers a game-altering special ability. The Daqan Lords, for example, can gain the Support of the People, collecting three useful peasant tokens. These tokens represent a local populace that remains loyal to the Daqan, so even when your troops are long gone, you can still collect an area’s resources.

Soulbind, on the other hand, is a devious mind-control ritual that aids Waiqar the Undying in “persuading” neutral forces to join him. With it, he can sacrifice Reanimates to draw additional Fate cards when attempting diplomacy.

Upgrade your armies

The majority of Development cards, however, are devoted to upgrading the special abilities of your various units. Eagle-eyed Archers helps the Latari Elves maintain dominance of Terrinoth’s great forests, while Frenzy fills the Uthuk’s Berserkers with even more rage. Meanwhile, Reinforced Battering Rams lets the Daqan Lords get in a cheap shot before a siege even begins, and Liches improve on Waiqar’s already invaluable ability to raise the dead.

But these are just a few of the available Development cards, the entire collection of which allows players total command over their faction’s strategic direction. In the coming weeks we’ll look at each faction’s new units, so keep checking back for more, and look for Banners of War 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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