Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
The Rone world has been building since 2016 with its initial game release, Rone. In 2018, the second edition was released with some tweaks and added expansions. The original Rone games were card duelers with deck construction. The designer has switched up the formula for Rone: Invasion. Rone: Invasion is a standalone deck and dice-building game for 1 to 2 players (expandable up to 4). We are still in the same dark, post-apocalyptic wasteland, battling for scarce resources. This time, however, a new foe has entered the fold. Celesta, a powerful AI being, is invading Earth along with the armies that she commands via mind control. Battle each other or work together to take down Celesta.
This game can be played either competitively or cooperatively. This overview will focus on the competitive mode.
If you’re familiar with deck-builders, this will be intuitive to pick up. The goal is to reduce your opponent’s health to zero. Players will work toward reducing each other’s health with attacks on cards. Many attacks (melee) reduce armor first which must be fully depleted before affecting health directly. However, there are also ranged attacks that directly deplete health.
Throughout the game, players will take turns which are broken into 8 phases. First, beginning of turn effects are resolved. Next, the active player draws as many cards as they want. Then, they will roll any available dice and move on to their main actions. This is where they collect resources from dice and spend newly collected and previously stored resources to play cards and take actions.
Players round out their turns by storing leftover resources on their board and putting any cards left in their hand into the garbage dump, collecting resources equal to the card’s activation cost. Then they collect spare parts, take spare parts actions, train cards in their training center, and activate any end of turn effects. Cards are discarded in the order they were played. This timing is important.
Resources are gained from playing cards, using stored resource abilities, spare parts abilities, and most importantly, rolling dice. Each die face has up to three resources on it. Certain actions allow you to upgrade the faces of your dice to add more resources. Each resource is represented by a colored screw. When changing a die face, you remove one screw (usually a grey/blank) and replace it with the colored screw of your choice.
There are some other unique elements to the gameplay that set it apart. First, gaining new cards into your deck does not involve purchasing from a market. Instead, cards are recruited (draw three, keep one) and then must be trained to enter your deck by allocating a specified amount of resources to them. In essence, you are creating your own market with the recruit action and paying for them over time with any resources you choose. You will also build out your base throughout the game with your leader and technology cards. These provide passive and/or active abilities which help you with your strategy.
The cooperative mode employs a robust AI system and players work together over two scenarios to survive waves of enemies that get increasingly more difficult. If successful, they will play the final boss. In this mode, player turns are taken simultaneously to keep the game quick.
Rone: Invasion is dynamic compared to many other deck builders since you are also building your dice to tailor your resource generation. There are a lot of paths to victory in this game and many things to focus on when building a deck. Do you go for additional resource generation? Direct attacks? There are also spare part tokens that open up a whole new set of actions, such as improving your dice and gaining powerful technology. You have to carefully allocate your resources between things that help you immediately vs. building your deck and dice to be more powerful for later.
The recycling action is one I really love for a deck builder. It allows you to place cards from your hand, discard them, or garbage dump onto the top of your deck. It’s a great way to get your new cards quickly, save cards from your hand, or get back your best cards quickly instead of having to wait to cycle through your whole deck. This is all built around strategically managing your deck to avoid refreshing which has some negative consequences.
Component-wise, while I don’t have the final version, it’s clear this publisher knows how to put together a high-quality package. Chunky dice, with screws that you change to upgrade your dice. It’s a gimmick, but a super fun one. Screw your dice before they screw you… yeah, the play on words alone was worth it. On top of that, the artwork is stunning and evocative. It’s some of the best art I’ve seen in a game in a long time. Really draws you into the post-apocalyptic world they are trying to create.
Overall, if you are looking for a fresh take on deck building, Rone: Invasion is it. They’ve dramatically changed the way you build and manage your deck while also smoothly incorporating dice building. The prototype components I received were top-notch, and I trust that the actual ones will be even nicer. If playing competitively, I would strongly suggest playing best two out of three as recommended in the rule book. The games are quick enough and this really lets you build a powerful deck and dice as well as see their full potential.
I’ve always been big on the deck builders that have a little something extra. Rone: Invasion feels like where deck builders should be 10+ years after the release of Dominion. It’s fresh and dynamic, which will allow it to hold up for many plays. It’s also ripe for future content should they decide to keep expanding it.