Deep, dark jungle, ancient treasures, heroic explorers with backpacks, rations and toolboxes. Everything in this list drew me to Relic Runners designed by Matthew Dunstan more than ten years ago and it was my first foray in modern board gaming. A phrase which probably belongs with ‘normal tv’ – that’s channels 1-4 for you younger readers. But to me, the era of modern board games means when board games got good.
Components & Art
Relic Runners is published by Days of Wonder and artwork is by Cyrille Daujean and Julien Delval.
I think the artwork is great. The illustrations on the box and the player mats are like action shots, full of energy and adventure. The cardboard components are also carefully illustrated. I have read some negative comments about the impracticality of an all-leather suit in the jungle and I can’t disagree with that. Likewise, the blue dress of the female professor. There is even one male character in less than suitable attire. I’m sure the insects would make short work of his vest top and shark-tooth necklace. But hey, if they were all wearing sweat-soaked, long-sleeved shirts and mosquito nets it would be a lot less fun choosing who to be! At least nobody is in high heels.
There are ten characters to choose from, five with special abilities for advanced play. On you turn, you must move along trails and place pathways to extend the paths you can travel on freely. Once you’ve reached a destination, you may want to use up some of your rations to explore. Exploration of ruins will give you a chance to place another pathway adjacent to it. Exploring temples will reward you with victory points, a bonus special ability, or a special effect. The tiles of purple temples are face up, but with blue and ivory tiles you won’t know what the reward is until you’ve explored it.
Once a ruin or temple has been fully explored (all tiles have been removed from it), ancient relics are revealed and it’s time to race other players to collect these treasures. This can only be achieved if you start from the same type of relic as the one you want to excavate, and it’s the point at which the tension ramps up. You’ve worked hard to reveal matching relics for collection and then your darling ten-year-old scoops them up from under your nose. In a two-player game this might not happen all that often but if there are three or four of you there are bound to be times when your unguarded artefacts are popped into somebody else backpack while you’re off trying to get to a suitable starting point.
Run out of rations? Return to basecamp to re-fill your backpack. And don’t forget to use those toolboxes to gain extra actions like moving an existing pathway or doubling your victory points this turn. Talking of which, you’ll collect these throughout your expedition, and at the end of the game more will be awarded depending on how many different types of relic you’ve collected.
My Only Issue
It’s the laying down of the routes. Each turn you can move freely along any path you’ve already placed, and also along one trail you haven’t placed a pathway on as long as it’s at the beginning or end of your move. When you use a ration pack to explore a ruin, you get to place another pathway on an adjacent trail. This is all explained in the rulebook, with diagrams. So why is it so hard to get your head around? I thought it was just us, but in preparation for this review I watched a video by Rahdo and he said his other half couldn’t get her head around it either. Incidentally Rahdo (is that his name?), my spacial awareness is good, so that’s not the problem.
The theme of this game is exciting, the artwork and components are great quality and fun if you don’t mind a bit of stereotyping. Gameplay is always different because of the random nature of the set-up and how others actions can influence your own.
If you can understand and retain the pathway placement rules (and I believe lots of people can) then Relic Runners is bound to be a regular at the table.
That concludes our thoughts on Relic Runners. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Relic Runners today click here!