Seriously? This was is just atrocious in terms of organization. All the info is there - there was never a question we couldn't answer (though some we couldn't answer until much later after thoroughly reading the rulebook again), but the index is inexcusably bad. And there are really major rules tucked away in example sidebars and no where else.
I'll agree that the index isn't all that great, but I'm with Steve-O on the rulebook here; I have never had a problem finding a rule I needed. The organization seems to be pretty good to me, especially compared to prior FFG games like Descent. Like Steve-O, it's not perfect, but when I've needed to look something up, it's never taken me more than a minute or so. But then again, different people have different organizational patterns, and thus what makes sense to me won't for others.
Well, the goal is to get dragon runes. Outside of sending out your heroes and waiting for auctions, the only way to do that is take them from your opponents. Which requires fighting. Since the vast majority of the game is about recruiting troops and fighting, I'd expect it to work well.
How much combat do you usually have in your games?
I think the issue can be is using the auctions and influence to help manipulate them when the time comes. Putting yourself ahead in the influence count can be a huge advantage, and that can be done by conquering territory to put your resource dials in the best places to gather them, or to take cities that give good influence. Also, learning when to take which title cards (which also costs influence) can be important, especially the Primarch one (for winning bids) and the Captain one (for turning in rewards).
Part of managing influence, too, is trying to keep your heroes around. Unless you get lucky and have all matching-alignment heroes, you need to keep some influence handy in the Fall, in case one of the two Revealing their True Nature cards shows up.
As for how much combat there is in a game, it depends on the game. Some have very little, but those often have a lot of the 'threat" of combat, too. Others have a LOT of combat, but it's not for the sake of combat - often they relate to secret objectives (another way to get runes), but sometimes they can revolve around the control of cities, trying to capture a hero using Coercion, or the border-runes. If using Exploration Tokens, the Dragon Thrones can often be a hotbed of conflict, and the Magic Portals can also be interesting (even though in my games they tend to be used rarely).
Similar to TI3, I think the recruiting and fighting can be a big part of the game, but it has to be done with a purpose - every territory you capture needs a reason, even if that reason is just to distract from other purposes.
We never fought neutrals, always attempting diplomacy and forcing them to retreat. Though, had we known how unlikely this was to succeed (good grief this game has obfuscated stats) we might have not bothered, but two players had objectives requiring controlling neutral units.
I fight the neutrals more often than diplomacy, unless I want to avoid a battle for Mobilize purposes, or I really want the neutrals for my forces. In my games, the neutrals tend to act more as buffer zones than anything, but buffer zones that COULD be turned to your advantage. Remember, you can check the odds of diplomacy at any time, which makes diplomacy attempts much less random. For what it's worth, there are 4 "gold" cards, 8 "grey" cards, and 18 "red" cards in the Fate deck. Knowing the odds can often make the difference in deciding "do I want to try it or not?"
Thanks for the feedback so far. I'm really wondering if we screwed something up, either in terms of rules (double checking, we've found a few minor goofs - usually things we tired to clarify but couldn't find at the time - but nothing major), or in terms of bad tactics that drug the game out, but I have no idea how to figure out what.
I'll admit, I'm a bit biased, as I love Runewars - I've had very, very few games that didn't "feel" right to me. But on the other hand, I will say that Runewars is a different type of game; not because it's just so out there or anything, as much of the mechanics are fairly typical or whatever, but more because the way they mesh makes for a different type of experience. It took me several games to really get grips on how to do well, and I'm not even really sure I could "explain" it. For a dumb comparison, I think I'd compare it to using pointers in programming languages. For awhile as I was learning (especially as a teenager), it just didn't make sense why you'd use them. But then one day, when working on a project, it just suddenly clicked. But when other people ask, I don't always know how to best explain
Hopefully it will "click" for you like it did for me, as I think the game is very enjoyable. It just takes some getting used to, and so the question is, is it worth it For me it was, but I can only speak for me