I played a long game of Runebound using the Isle of Dread variant and class decks. If you have not tried the class decks yet they add several interesting mechanics to the game. There are two components of each deck. The first is a group of 5 talents, labeled 1 through 5. The rest of the deck are cards you can form a hand of that either can give you bonuses or give your opponents some serious trouble. You also get 10 malice tokens. Use of the cards depends upon the amount of malice you’ve built up. For example to throw a really strong challenge at an opponent they will have have to have built up a good deal of malice. You can build up your own malice by playing cards that benefit you. When you play against an opponent you reduce their malice.
I found the cards and abilities to overwhelm the game. The extra steps seem to slow it down far more than general game play is benefitted. Sure, it gives players who are behind a chance to take down the leader (their intent I guess) but the talents add such a new level of power that there isn’t an excuse to not use them every turn. As a result not one character was ever knocked out during a challenge. While this can happen when one is playing very conservatively it wasn’t the case here. The extra talents just made the characters that much more experienced. There was one knock out, with the first player to try the final challenge on the Isle of Dread but even that was partly due to bad dice and not bad strategy.
I think the decks would be great – in a totally different game. That game would be about the players dueling or fighting each other and not about exploring the land and getting into adventures. As is they add too many mechanics to remember and handle during the game play of Runebound to be really useful. They also overwhelm the actual game and dominate it.