31 October 2016 | Runewars Miniatures

Sound the Warhorns

Inside the Design of Runewars Miniatures Game


Terrinoth is a realm that’s filled with adventure—but it’s also a land of danger. Great armies campaign ceaselessly against their enemies, led by mighty heroes who harness the magical powers of Terrinoth to destroy their enemies. For years, the battles between the Daqan Lords and Waiqar the Undying have shaken the very fabric of the world. Now, in Runewars Miniatures Game, you can enter these epic battles and lead your armies to victory!

Runewars is a rank-and-file miniatures game for two players that invites you to experience war on a grand scale. Rather than small groups of figures in a frenetic skirmish, you’ll command powerful blocks of figures as they wheel and maneuver across the battlefield. With plenty of different figures, countless ways to upgrade your units, and the blank canvas of unpainted figures, it’s easy to make your Runewars army completely unique. 

We’ll cover every aspect of Runewars in a series of detailed previews, and today, we begin our previews by interviewing designer Andrew Fischer on the creation of Runewars!

Designer Andrew Fischer on Runewars Miniatures Game

FFG: Runewars Miniatures Game was obviously a big project for you and the Miniatures Department to tackle. What were some of your objectives or goals going into the design?

Andrew Fischer: Our main objective when we set out to make Runewars was to draw on our experience with X-Wing and Star Wars™: Armada to create a game that simulated large-scale fantasy battles. We wanted a system that evoked the strategic spirit of these epic battles, while remaining flexible, fast-to-play, and approachable. We also wanted to create something that appealed to experienced miniatures gamers, while remaining easy for new players to pick up—all with amazing models for players to paint and customize. It was a tall order, but I think we did a great job filling it.

FFG: Some of the systems in Runewars undoubtedly have their roots in the massively popular system of X-Wing. How did you redesign and innovate on those existing systems?

Andrew Fischer: We definitely wanted to take our lessons from games like X-Wing and bring them into Runewars. The mechanic of pre-planned, hidden orders that we used for movement in X-Wing was a great fit for a fantasy battlefield where commands take time to be delivered to the troops. You always have to be projecting what will happen next and planning ahead! But, since marching and maneuvering is only a small part of what soldiers do on a battlefield, we decided to shift the functionality of a unit onto the dial. When a player looks at their dial, they see everything that unit can do with its turn.

Units in Runewars move across the battlefield by following maneuver templates.

On top of that, the X-Wing maneuver system (sliding figures along fixed movement templates) ended up being a great fit for the slow, careful movements of trained soldiers marching on the field. Of course, we had to makes some changes to accommodate the modular trays of Runewars and to easily resolve collisions—which are fairly common in a game with lots of brutal melee combat!

FFG: What were some challenges that you encountered as you were creating the game?

Andrew Fischer: One of the bigger challenges for the game was that we wanted to create a system that could easily scale from small battles to very large ones without much sacrifice. What this meant was keeping battles with fewer models interesting and strategic while making sure that battles with massive armies don’t take all day to resolve. This latter goal was definitely the most challenging, since the complexity of group combat has so many elements you want to account for—the skill and potency of the attacker, the toughness and armor of the defender, the number of soldiers on either side, magical effects, battlefield conditions, and so on. Replicating and simulating all these things for every combat could have been quite time consuming, but I think we found some very clever ways around it.

One of the main ways that we dealt with this was by thinking of an entire formation of soldiers (called a “unit” in Runewars) as a single entity. Instead of rolling an individual die for every figure, the unit rolls the same dice at any size, but it has various bonuses that scale based on how many soldiers are involved. For example, the more soldiers in the front line, the more damage the unit deals, and the more ranks backing up the front line, the more dice you can reroll. What this means for the game system is that a unit of any size takes the same amount of time to resolve its turn and can still factor in all of these different elements.

FFG: What is one of your favorite mechanics in Runewars or something that worked out especially well in the final version?

Andrew Fischer: Early on, we knew we wanted to have actions planned on a hidden dial, and we wanted those actions to determine when the unit activated. This mix of hidden and public information created a challenge for physically implementing the dials. We tried a variety of different approaches, but none of them quite worked—they gave too much information to the opponent or not enough to the player. Then, while joking around during a playtest, we said that we wished the dials could stand upright… which gave us a bit of a lightbulb moment. After all, why couldn’t they?

Command tools in Runewars use a plastic stand to stay upright.

The result is the command dials you see in the final game, and I’m very happy with the way they work. They’re an easy reference for everything that you have planned, while still keeping everything hidden from your opponent.

FFG: You’ve obviously played plenty of miniatures games before you started work on Runewars. What’s some of your background with the miniatures game hobby?

Andrew Fischer: Personally, I’ve been playing miniatures games since I was in middle school, collecting (and poorly painting) Wood Elves for Warhammer Fantasy. Over the years I’ve painted, collected, and fought with armies from a large number of games. In fact, I always keep a painted army at my desk, ready to play a game at a moment’s notice!

But really, my experience pales compared to some of the other members on our team! Our department is made up of veteran miniatures players who have collectively won dozens of tournaments and painting awards. I’m really excited to see what they can do with the Runewars miniatures once we finally have them in our hands.

FFG: You and the rest of the miniatures team poured a lot of time and energy into making Runewars as amazing as it can possibly be. It may be a little unfair to ask, but do you have a favorite unit?

Andrew Fischer: At the moment, my favorite unit in the game is probably the Rune Golem (in no small part because of the awesome sculpt). I had a lot of fun designing a dial that played to the Rune Golem’s nature as a magical construct. While its options are limited, it’s still an extremely powerful unit that feels utterly unique on the battlefield.

That being said, some of the things coming down the pipe for the future have me very excited. I’m probably not allowed to talk about them here, but I imagine I’ll have a new favorite unit before too long!

Thanks, Andrew!

Prepare for War

Whether you plan to fight with the regimented legions of the Daqan Lords or join the shambling undead under Waiqar the Undying, your battles in the realm of Terrinoth will soon begin. Stay tuned for more previews that cover every part of the game, and pre-order your copy of Runewars Miniatures Game at your local retailer today!

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