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Subject: A few tweaks make this the best Thunderstone yet rss

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Tom McVey
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I'm writing this for people familiar with the Thunderstone or Thunderstone Advance game already, and deciding whether to get this for their collection. So I'm not going to review the mechanics of TS.

TL;DR version: If you're a Thunderstone Veteran and fan, you need to get this game. If you're new to Thunderstone, this is the version you should buy.

The theme adds a lot to the pleasure from the game. Although I've been playing and buying Thunderstone since the first set, the generic fantasy setting that other TS sets didn't have any particular pull, and was even less compelling than FFG's Terrinoth (also artwork was shared between original TS and other AEG IP - like Tomb). I like the names of the heroes better to - more evocative, for some reason. The weirdness and otherness of Numenera comes through in the game and feels fresh.

The heroes and villagers are better tuned for gameplay and engine-building. For example, the Village Jack is both more versatile and less game-breaking than the trainer in original TS. The Aeon Priest is a better designed deck-thinner also. The Tough hero, with her ability to recruit other heroes as a spoil action, was a big favorite with my kid.

The biggest modification is the cyphers (allowing XP from monster kills to be used not only to level heroes up, but to be spent for one off effects like +1 magic attack) This adds additional tactical options, and makes "pushing your luck" in the dungeon more viable. It also makes using the "chase monsters" mechanic to clear the dungeon of a high VP monster more necessary if your opponent is sitting on a bunch of cyphers. It also makes killing low-value monsters a more weighty choice - that 3/4 VP monster may clog up your deck, but the extra cyphers it gives you may make the difference between killing a high VP monster or not in a later turn. A game aid with the powers of each cypher color would have been nice.

The monsters seem a little lower health and with less immunities than in previous sets, but with more battle and aftermath effects to add disease or trash heroes or weapons. There's fewer high-gold yielding cards, also.

Individually, the little tweaks to the game add up to a faster and more exciting gameplay. Often in the old TS you'd end up stuck for a few turns as some beefy monsters rolled out with immunities or strict conditions for battling (e.g. the Elementals or Bandits in the expansions to 1st Ed Thunderstone), which slowly the game round, meaning more time to thin and tweak the deck. I haven't seen that happen in TS:Numenera, and the opportunity cost of going to the village or resting is a lot higher.

I've lost twice to my kid following a deck-thinning strategy that normally would win handily against him. So the tweaks that TS:N has introduced, by upping the pace, mean more nuanced and "push your luck" strategy is needed than before.

The only problem I'd have with the set is that there weren't enough breaks with the rest of TS. I was sad that the base cards and the play mat didn't have different artwork, or even different effects: instead we have the same regulars, thunderstone shards, torches and longspears as in Towers of Ruin with the same artwork. I was really surpised at this - in 1st Ed Thunderstone there was new artwork for the base cards in the Dragonspire set. And given the Numenera books generated buttloads of gorgeous science fantasy art, I'd have thought there would have been *something* from those books that could have substituted for the Towers of Ruin art. I'd have liked new tweaks on the base cards. Say, drone regulars who, with certain class of weapon, could either draw a card of make a self-destruct attack for +1 attack which costs the weapon and the drone. Similarly, in a science fantasy setting, having nanos and technology called "wizards" and "spells" doesn't quite feel right, even bearing Arthur C. Clarke's adage in mind.

I think AEG in this aspect weighted continuity with other sets a little too much at the expense of the theme. I wouldn't expect there'd be any issues with using this set with cards from other TS:Advance sets, but TS:Numenera is such an elegant polished product I'd be reluctant that it'd impair the immersion in the theme.

Also, the settings, while more unpredictable and variable than the old TS settings, and with very nice settings cards, are a bit fiddly with the dice roll: we once chose the setting that was triggered when you leveled heroes up to L3, but by the time we got to that stage, we forgot to roll the dice and apply the effects. Also seems odd to being rolling dice for this one purpose seems odd in a card game, especially when most of the range of die rolls are "nothing happens". Having, say, 4-5 event cards for each setting and drawing a new card when a trigger condition occurs would have fit better, and probably cost about the same as the dice included.

There's a lot of extra potential mechanics that the cyphers open up. If there's an expansion to this, I'd like to see (if anyone from AEG is reading this) spells, heroes or villagers whose power is the manipulation of cyphers. Possible effects might be:
- double the effect of one cypher
- double the effect of ANY cyphers that player round (I benefit, but so do my opponents)
- discard to cancel the effect of a cypher just played (screw my opponent, but leave my hand weaker)
- discard to prevent any play of cyphers that game round
- reveal to change the color of an opponent's played cypher to blue [draw a card] (might screw your opponent or help them)
- reveal the card, sacrifice a cypher to cancel another cypher
- use a cypher as any color cypher
- use any cypher as a [specific color of] cypher (e.g. blue)
- permanently change the color of a cypher
- everyone sacrifices a cypher from their pool
- steal a cypher from another player (could have all kinds of mechnanisms for this, like have the target player take 3 cyphers in their card, have the stealing player name 1-2 colors to be stolen), stealing player keeps any cypher of the named colors)
- destroy an disease card and gain a cypher (instead of drawing a card)
- sacrifice a cypher to "chase" a monster from the dungeon.
- sacrifice X cyphers (say, monster level +2, or monster XP + 2) to defeat any monster (would need to tweak this for balance)
- have a setting where the trigger event occurs after X number of cyphers are used in the dungeon (or village).
- weapons or heroes where sacrifice of a cypher (any cypher or a particular color of cypher) gives a +2 attack or light boost

9/10.
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Donny Behne
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This is definitely one that I was going to purchase on the day it came out initially. I'm hesitant because I'm an expansion addict and I want to be able to expand the game a lot. I don't think I own but a couple games that don't at least have one expansion available. I'd like to know that AEG is planning to stay in this world before I commit to buying.

Thankfully, your review has made the above my ONLY concern because it looks like the gameplay is top notch. Thanks!
 
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Tom McVey
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I don't think there'd be any problems with using this with the rest of Thunderstone Advance or even 1st Ed TS, except for the mix of themes.
 
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Derek Tan
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kelann08 wrote:
This is definitely one that I was going to purchase on the day it came out initially. I'm hesitant because I'm an expansion addict and I want to be able to expand the game a lot. I don't think I own but a couple games that don't at least have one expansion available. I'd like to know that AEG is planning to stay in this world before I commit to buying.

Thankfully, your review has made the above my ONLY concern because it looks like the gameplay is top notch. Thanks!


Well this version is technically an expansion for Thunderstone Advance, which is technically an expansion for Thunderstone, since they are compatible with each other.
 
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Joshua Danish
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tmcvey wrote:
I don't think there'd be any problems with using this with the rest of Thunderstone Advance or even 1st Ed TS, except for the mix of themes.


This is true, and in fact it seems they took great pains to make everything work well together. Also, +1 to the suggestion that this is an absolutely great expansion and does the Thunderstone line proud.
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Joe babbitt
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As a member of Thunderstone Design, thank you for the kind words. We're all quite proud of how Numenera turned out, and even some people lukewarm to the game have loved this set. As I'm not an employee of AEG, I can't speak with any certainty on these matters, but as a designer, I can say that changing the starting cards in a deckbuilder is a waaaay bigger deal than one might think. We know that there are a lot of people that blend all of their cards, so we would need to test a new line up against stuff from all previous sets (that's 10 for those keeping score at home) to make sure we aren't breaking anything. Sometimes in design these quirks happen. When we design almost any new card going forward, we have to get ourselves in the habit of asking "How does this interact with Royal Summons?" Changing starting cards mean we have to think about how they interact with things because they will be in every game. Yes, I know other games (like Nightfall) have done it, but I think that we can all agree that Nightfall and Thunderstone are only alike in that they are both deckbuilding games.

In terms of different art, again, I can't say for sure, but continuity is certainly a big deal, and I would imagine some customer backlash would happen as well, for people who felt that they had to buy this for alternate art. There are a million other reasons to buy it, I assure you.

I can't legally speak of what is next for the Thunderstone line, but I don't think I'd be in trouble for saying that we haven't quit yet. Again, thank you for the vote of approval. Numenera is a fantastic set for fans of Thunderstone Advance (or Thunderstone in general)
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Tom McVey
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amigo de fuego wrote:
As a member of Thunderstone Design, thank you for the kind words. We're all quite proud of how Numenera turned out, and even some people lukewarm to the game have loved this set. As I'm not an employee of AEG, I can't speak with any certainty on these matters, but as a designer, I can say that changing the starting cards in a deckbuilder is a waaaay bigger deal than one might think. We know that there are a lot of people that blend all of their cards, so we would need to test a new line up against stuff from all previous sets (that's 10 for those keeping score at home) to make sure we aren't breaking anything. Sometimes in design these quirks happen. When we design almost any new card going forward, we have to get ourselves in the habit of asking "How does this interact with Royal Summons?" Changing starting cards mean we have to think about how they interact with things because they will be in every game. Yes, I know other games (like Nightfall) have done it, but I think that we can all agree that Nightfall and Thunderstone are only alike in that they are both deckbuilding games.

In terms of different art, again, I can't say for sure, but continuity is certainly a big deal, and I would imagine some customer backlash would happen as well, for people who felt that they had to buy this for alternate art. There are a million other reasons to buy it, I assure you.

I can't legally speak of what is next for the Thunderstone line, but I don't think I'd be in trouble for saying that we haven't quit yet. Again, thank you for the vote of approval. Numenera is a fantastic set for fans of Thunderstone Advance (or Thunderstone in general)


Thanks Joe, for the response. It was really evident how much work had went into making TS: Numenera compatible with previous TS sets, and I understand that if you'd made too many innovations there'd be more people jumping up and down upset about them. But even with me having 8 other Thunderstone sets on the shelf, I'd have loved if you'd have given yourselves a bit more freedom to tweak the start cards to further match the theme.

I'm glad there's more Thunderstone to come - my kid loves it, as do I. My kid would dearly love more co-op scenarios like in Root of Corruption.

I also forgot to say that the new treasures are real improvement to the mechanics of those in 1st Ed TS.
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Chris Haese
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It's actually not a huge departure from lore to have the basic cards be standard fantasy-type characters. The Ninth World is only a 900 year-old civilization. You see a lot of fancy tech because there are 8 highly advanced civilizations that have come and gone in the billion years that have passed since present time, and their artifacts act as the "magic" that you would see in most other fantasy settings.

Most normal people in the Ninth World would be wearing mundane clothing and would be wielding basic weapons. People don't get weird until they get bored or power hungry and start seeking out the mysteries of the Numenera. This translates thematically because as you play you gain more advanced weapons/allies/cyphers.
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David Hebart-Coleman
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I haven't been taken by Thunderstone at all. However, the theme of this set does grab me enough to be looking into it seriously.

It makes me think of Skyrealms of Jorune setting in the 90s, one of the best looking rpg graphically along with an immense alien world ecology and history, but Numera has more steampunkish elements.

Maybe it was the floating rocks.
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