I’m on a study project to improve my understanding of roleplaying games. To this end, I already have two reading projects, A Game Per Year and An Adventure Per Year. This is the third, with the goal of reading or playing 52 games made in the last few years. Originally I considered making this “A New RPG Per Week” and that’s where the number 52 comes from, even though a weekly schedule is probably not within my abilities.
Kansallisrunnojat is a Finnish board game with roleplaying elements by Jukka Sorsa. It’s one of the more obscure games I’ve written about here: I got my copy as a loose leaf stack of papers at a con. The title is difficult to translate because it’s a play on words. Kansallisrunoilija means national poet. Kansallisrunnojat could be loosely translated as National Thugs.
As you play the game, you take on the roles of Finnish 19th century intellectuals such as Elias Lönnrot, J.L. Runeberg, Aleksis Kivi and J.V. Snellman. Together, you form a group of monster hunters who seek to stop Baba Yaga and her servant, Koschei the Deathless from escaping the city of Porvoo.
The game uses improvised components: You can print out the board and use a normal card deck and coins for tokens. The characters run through the streets of Porvoo, hunting enemies and trying to catch up to the villains before they leave the map. As they do so, the players can roleplay the characters around the game table.
Combat is handled so that the players have hands of cards and try to play them in specific combinations. The different characters have special powers activated by a combination of cards.
It’s difficult to write about a lot of the humor in the game in English because it’s based on very specific Finnish cultural knowledge. How to explain what it means when Elias Lönnrot activates his special ability “Ilmarisen ahjoärjy”?