One of the difficulties of playing Magic: The Gathering for many years is that players can eventually grow tired of the collectible nature of the hobby. The physical demands of managing a large collection of cards need considerable time. Those same players who are looking for more compartmentalized games often seek out designs with a similar play style, but focus more on delivering a full experience out of the box. Publisher REXhry in the Czech Republic has just such a game from designer Štěpán Štefaník.
RONE: Races of New Earth (RONE) is a competitive card game for 2 or 4 players that takes about 40 minutes to play.
Players in RONE are leaders of post-apocalypse survivors who have banded together in quasi-military groups. Players use their water resources and ability to recycle equipment (cards) to defeat each opponent. A player’s hand and deck of cards represent their life points, so as soon as both are depleted, that player loses.
The cards in RONE are of exceptional quality. They shuffle well and hold up to repeated play nicely. Included also in the box are cardboard tokens and water resource tracking dials. These are also very well constructed.
The art style in RONE is one of the negatives. Even though the graphic design is well done and the card iconography is clear once explained, the mediocre illustrations bring down the whole package. They’re fine and accurate representations of the card’s subject, but just not the same level as other more mass-market publishers’ games.
How to Play:
Play in RONE is similar to Magic: The Gathering with a few curveballs. These are the main elements that make the game function on a different pace and level than Magic.
A set of three hero cards represent the player’s avatar in the game. Each card has a level of 1 to 3. Players will start with a level 1 hero and can spend water to level up further. This will almost certainly be necessary at times because a player can only play cards of a level equal to or less than their hero level.
Players also start with a pseudo hand of technology cards. They have either ongoing or activated abilities, and are played on a player’s turn, usually for very little water cost. Even though players have a hand of five technologies, once three are in play, they cannot play additional techs.
The main resource gathering in RONE happens through a player’s hero. This card indicates the number of water resources and card draws a player acquires each turn. Usually level 1 heroes will not draw cards, which is something quite distinct from many card games.
This also adds an element of strategy to the game because a player’s life is equal to the cards in their deck and hand. If an effect causes a player’s hero to take damage, cards are removed from either from the deck into a player’s discard pile or then from their hand.
Another distinct element here is that players can also “Recycle” cards from their graveyard by removing cards from the graveyard. The top card of a player’s graveyard has a cost which indicates how many cards a player has to remove in order to play it again. Units return to play exhausted and Tactics are removed from play once resolved.
Yet another difference comes in the form of card rotation, a.k.a. exhaustion mechanisms. RONE allows cards to be exhausted to different degrees (90, 180, 270), and the icon for card rotation includes a number which indicates to what degree the card is turned. Since cards only refresh 90 degrees each turn, some cards will take awhile before they are available again.
The RONE rulebook does a great job at explaining the course of play and more card abilities. For more depth, check out the rulebook.
One of the caveats to this review is that any good competitive card game is built upon the variety and breadth of strategies available from the cards. Having a nice selection of cards with different tactics can really solidify a game’s replay value and functionality. This review’s rating is a reflection of playing the Core Box without expansions.
From just the core box, RONE is a solid game. Having played other games with a deck-as-life mechanism, this reviewer was worried that RONE would allow one player to snowball and drive a defeat with little ability from the other player to recover. This happens more often in RONE’s randomized basic format for beginning players where each player takes a random set of tactics and units. The constructed deck format is really the only way to play.
With that said, deck construction is enjoyable and deep. Deciding just the right mix of cards to implement a strategy feels just like all other well-crafted competitive card games. There are a lot of decisions to be made around attack timing, card level, and combos with Technologies. It’s exceedingly well done in this regard.
As was mentioned earlier, the deck-as-life system can possibly be something implemented poorly, but in this case, RONE gets it right. Hero abilities never force players to draw cards from their deck. Because of this, players have a lot of control in terms of card management. Likewise, because cards in hand can be chosen when taking damage, a player has a lot of control against card denial strategies. This makes for a much more engaging play experience.
One aspect of play which drives a lot of tension but also slows the game considerably is the multiple card rotation mechanism. As much as RONE is similar to other games, it plays more methodically and carefully. Getting caught without defenses to an opponent’s attack can do considerable damage to a player’s ability to control the battlefield. Because of this, games feel much more tactical and strategic than other designs.
Another consideration of the core game box is that there isn’t enough support for new players. The basic format might be fine, but the randomness in game structure can wear on players in such a tactical game. Card lists for “introductory” decks would have really helped here.
In addition to this, there are just a basic set of cards in the core box. RONE requires expansions (thankfully one has already been released) to add to the scope and replay value. There is also currently a Kickstarter running for an additional expansion which has more interesting card abilities.
The RONE Core Box is just shy of being a great game. Expansion of the game system and some refinements to the core offering would make it even better. Even though the art is a disappointment and the basic format isn’t really viable, RONE is a notable feat. The setting and card play mesh well to provide a very enjoyable experience. Competitive card game fans with an eye for expansions should seriously consider RONE.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A solid standalone experience in competitive card gaming, but lacking the scope of more expanded games.
• Unenjoyable basic format
• Art is lackluster
• Starter deck lists would have been nice
• Needs one or two expansions to deepen play