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Subject: Weak points in the Thunderstone balance rss

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Brian M
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Thunderstone has some great potential, and is basically fun to play, but I think its really held back by some balance issues. A few cards utterly dominate games they show up in; a larger amount just never get used.

The worst offenders seem to be:

Selurin - the Selurin wizard is very strong. As the most expensive hero, that's not a total surprise, but when you get a few of them it goes over the top. As the multipliers stack, you can easily hit a 30 or 40 attack total. If the Selurin's get spread out, this isn't a big deal, but if one player can get an early majority, they'll quickly overwhelm the game.

Given their cost, this can come down to luck of the draw - the player that keeps getting good gold pulls will have a major edge.

The 3rd level is just nasty on top of nasty; getting to borrow another player's hero is helpful; depriving them of it hurts them a lot on their next, and being able to potentially kill off their hero against a good monster (or with a Banish) is icing on top of the evil cake.

Trainer - as long as everyone understands how the useful the trainer is, they shouldn't cause a balance problem normally. But, they can drastically emphasize a bad gold split. A player that gets a 6/4 and pick up a trainer and a cheap hero (or a second trainer) will have a huge speed advantage over a player who gets stuck with a 7/3. This can decide a game far too soon.

The overpowered cards aren't too common. What seems far worse is the cards that are just so bad, or so ridiculously situational that they aren't worth using.

The heroes are the most pronounced. With only four available each game, it really shows when one of them isn't worth using.

The mages and the straight fighters tend to overshadow the others, but the Archers are the real weak points. Each just doesn't pack the punch and ability of the other heroes. Compare the Faeryn to the Mage; costing 2 more gold, he gets you a point of strength but a painful disadvantage. The Amazon fares similarly badly; her attack bonus is weaker than dwarves, she lacks the strength, and her top rank adds very little.

It looks like he expansion will try to "fix" this with bows that benefit archers more; this will increase the number of cards that aren't worth using except in combination with each other. As the number of cards increases, the odds of those combos showing up will go down.

While any village card can be used in certain combos, a few cards are very rarely useful:

Barkeep - by the time you can afford two cards at once, you probably don't want two cards (except the very expensive ones) and you probably could have just gotten one of the cards you wanted instead of the barkeep. Not one of the worst offenders, but usually a dud.

Hatchet - again, not a terrible offender, but it comes in behind every other weapon (except maybe the warhammer) and never gets used if there are other choices.

Magical Aura - the aura helps you salvage a bad deck situation. But you would have been better off not getting into that situation in the first place. The odds of this coming up in a useful combo is very low, while you'll suffer any time it comes up without an appropriate weapon or the weapon comes up without a way to lose it. Drawing a card helps modify that, but leaves you in the position of relying on blind luck to know whether you can defeat a major monster or not; if you can't, there's probably something better you could have done with your turn.

Warhammer - much too situational. It gets a bonus if you've got a very limited selection of monsters and if you've got a cleric - and one of the two clerics can't use it until level 3! Its better to skip it and get a reliable weapon.

So, there's my take on some of the most problematic cards. I'm typing this around midnight, so I hope its coherent!
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James Cartwright
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The Selurin doesn't get played much in our group, most go for fighters like the Dwarf and magic users like the Elf if available.

True, Trainer can be very powerful.

Agree with you about this, haven't used the Barkeep at all yet, as you say, better cards available.

I find the Hatchet very useful, especially combined with the magic users such as the Elf. It does a reasonable amount of damage but isn't to heavy.

Magical Aura comes in handy occasionally but hasn't been used much.

I find Warhammer usually wins me the game when combined with the Paladin and if there are Undead and DoomKinights in the Dungeon.



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Maciej Teległow
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Selurin: there is written on the card that you borrow the hero from an opponent and that you have to give the hero back to him after your turn. We play it like this and I cannot see reason why you destroy borrowed hero if you have to give it back at the end of the turn. If it is not what official errata or faq says pls inform me. Selurian 3lvl can be devastating but Khan is even more especially in the last stages of the game with plus 2 for every monster card in your hand. They are both the biggest heroes in the deck for sure but... you never ever need 30 or 40 atack in the game. I propose you try tactics with cheaper heroes which often can be better and quicker. Often any hero of 3rd lvl is enough to kill any monster if you build your deck properly and you do not have to wait for gold or build heavy gold deck if you do not want to.
Trainer is very good card and i cannot see any ballance issues here. you can always buy some engine building card which will give you better chances later. In "D" there are much more deballancing cards then this one.
Amazon is great. I love to play Amazon strategy with light and/or banish and/or wizard. She can kill 3rd rank monsters very easilly much quicker then most other heroes.
Other cards: i would not comment them as they are not important for me. Personally like hatchet.
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Yusuke Hasegawa
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MacTele wrote:
Selurin: there is written on the card that you borrow the hero from an opponent and that you have to give the hero back to him after your turn.


The OP is saying that if you borrow a card, then there is a dungeon or battle effect that destroys a hero, you can choose to destroy the borrowed card because otherwise it would've gone back to the opponents discard pile.

In my group, whenever there is a Selurin, who ever has the more Selurins earlier always wins the game.

Basically there are some cards that; when they are in the village, prioritize getting them or else player that does get them usually wins

Priority goes:
Selurin
Fireballs
Outlands
Trainer
Dwarf + edge weapons

Pretty much any game without those cards are interesting and have many strategies to win. My group sometimes plays with ban draft, where we each choose a hero to ban from the game before randomizing. Selurins are the first to be banned; After that it's pretty diverse what we choose to ban; Sometimes we ban really weak cards that we don't want to play with.
 
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Ed Browne
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A different kind of balance is why you need weapons like hatchet and warhammer that seem a little "weaker" by comparison to others. Without those in the mix in a random village game, then more often you might end up with no weapons to choose from at all. The Warhammer is still worth a basic bonus to your attack even if there are no clerics or undead.

I picture it as the heroes having to use what is available to them ("Sven only knows how to make warhammers?!").

And don't forget, if you don't want to actually have to beat the monsters, you can just chase them out of the game with a couple torches, some rations, and a disease (a rule I choose not to use). Then wait for monsters you can beat without having to actually take some time to fine tune your deck.

I very much enjoy the puzzle aspect of figuring out a way to deal with the monsters involved only with the tools at my disposal. It can make the game move slower than Dominion, but this game isn't supposed to replace, or even simulate Dominion. I see it much more simulating a draft in a Collectible Card Game, where you have to make the best with what you have to work with, and in Thunderstone, game turns are used instead of a time limit to make your deck. It adds the element of "When do I quit fine tuning and start getting some victory points?" to the game.

Comparisons to Dominion are the worst thing to happen to this game. Because people expect it to be played as Dominion with a different way of gaining victory points. Perhaps when more "deck building" games appear, Thunderstone will get away from this and be able to be accepted on its own merits as a completely different game in intent and execution.
No one calls Talisman a "fantasy themed Monopoly" because they both share roll and move mechanics. The two share some mechanics, but the goals, and feel, of the game are completely different.

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Ted Vessenes
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I've been meaning to write a follow up review that echoes a lot of these points. Here's the basic summary though.

Thunderstone: The System is amazing
Thunderstone: The Game is mediocre

This game badly needed another six months of play testing. There are SO many cards that need at least one or two numbers adjusted. I wouldn't be surprised if after six months, every single card in the set had some kind of tweak applied to it. The game just isn't a finished product, and it really hurts the replayability.

It really highlights the dichotomy between game design and development though. Design is making the game fun for you and development is making the game fun for your opponents.

So design involves the theme and basic turn structure and mechanics-- things like dungeon versus village, equipping weapons, gaining XP, monster powers, and so on. Development (in this context) involves picking all the associated numbers. How much should a fireball cost, and how much power should it pack?

The development for this game is woefully lacking, and I suppose I should have suspected it just from reading the rulebook. The best developers are those people who spot corner cases in the rules that can be abused or exploited. So the fact that the first rulebook was a mess was a huge clue that there wasn't a enough development time spent on the game.

Don't get me wrong, I still love Thunderstone: The System. I just hate 90% of the cards in Thunderstone: The Game. I'm hoping that there's a future "large expansion" with much better balance. I suspect Wrath of The Elements is too far ahead in production for it to be any better than the base set, but perhaps the expansion after that will be good.
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Yusuke Hasegawa
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tedv wrote:

Thunderstone: The System is amazing
Thunderstone: The Game is mediocre

This game badly needed another six months of play testing. There are SO many cards that need at least one or two numbers adjusted.

It's a shame because this game could've been as elegant AND balanced as Dominion; while still being a complete different game. Despite these feelings of "it could've been the perfect game if ___", my group has 3~4 marathon sessions of this game regularly.

Quote:

Don't get me wrong, I still love Thunderstone: The System. I just hate 90% of the cards in Thunderstone: The Game. I'm hoping that there's a future "large expansion" with much better balance. I suspect Wrath of The Elements is too far ahead in production for it to be any better than the base set, but perhaps the expansion after that will be good.

Just having more types of cards will go a long way to extend the re-playability of this game. Sometimes you get a lot of Powerful cards, and sometimes you get very weak cards and you look for some way to make it work; the variety of strategies is a big draw of this game.

I'm hoping for a reprint with a better layout of the icons on the cards. If you could fan the cards a certain way to see the village numbers and fan it another way to see the dungeon numbers, it would've been a nice polish point that would've gotten positive points on a review.
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Brian M
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Quote:
The Selurin doesn't get played much in our group, most go for fighters like the Dwarf and magic users like the Elf if available.

If the Selurin doesn't get played much, try getting several of them the next time they are in the mix and watch the nastiness ensue.

Quote:
... you never ever need 30 or 40 atack in the game.

No, but with Selurin combos you can hit that kind of total as a incidental effect of getting the 12-18 you need to take out any monster in the deck.

Quote:
I find Warhammer usually wins me the game when combined with the Paladin and if there are Undead and DoomKinights in the Dungeon.

Thus the "much too situational" comment. In 20+ games of Thunderstone, we've got the warhammer about every other game but have never had it come up in conjunction with the Chalice and the monsters its effective against.
 
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xhydralisk wrote:
Quote:

Don't get me wrong, I still love Thunderstone: The System. I just hate 90% of the cards in Thunderstone: The Game. I'm hoping that there's a future "large expansion" with much better balance. I suspect Wrath of The Elements is too far ahead in production for it to be any better than the base set, but perhaps the expansion after that will be good.

Just having more types of cards will go a long way to extend the re-playability of this game. Sometimes you get a lot of Powerful cards, and sometimes you get very weak cards and you look for some way to make it work; the variety of strategies is a big draw of this game.

I'm hoping for a reprint with a better layout of the icons on the cards. If you could fan the cards a certain way to see the village numbers and fan it another way to see the dungeon numbers, it would've been a nice polish point that would've gotten positive points on a review.


Agreed on the layout point. My dream card layout assembles all numbers you care about during the village in one area and all dungeon values in a separate area.

Village:
- Gold value
- Purchase price
- XP to level up
- Level of hero
- Type of card

Dungeon:
- Strength / Weight
- Trophy values
- Most text boxes
- Light

Values that are irrelevant once a card is in your deck:
- XP for killing monster
- Victory points
- Monster health

In particular, it would be nice if the base attack value for each hero was not in the text box, but in a clearly identifiable icon. The text box would only describe conditional things (like Amazons getting more strength when attacking deeper in the dungeon).

Since people naturally fan a hand of cards such that only the upper left half of the card is viewable, this means you only have two edges that can hold information-- the top and the left side. The dungeon has more values, so all its information goes on the left. Village values go on top.

So the ideal card layout would look like this. Across the top, below the name text box, include these values from left to right:

- Gold Value
- Card Type
- Purchase Cost
- XP to level (for heroes)

And on the left side, from top to bottom, include these values:

- Base Attack value (use color to denote magic or regular) or monster Trophy value
- Light bonus
- Strength

Values are are irrelevant once a monster is in your deck can be put on the bottom, going left to right, as their occlusion during card fanning won't matter:

- Monster Health (leave space blank for non-monsters)
- XP for killing monster
- Victory points of card

There! Infinitely better card design that facilitates game play, and it only took a few minutes to do. Having done a bunch of game design on my own, I can attest to the value of good card layout in how much fun people have with a prototype. This isn't just polish in my mind. Layout is a fundamental part of making a good game.
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Mike Malley
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xhydralisk wrote:
MacTele wrote:
Selurin: there is written on the card that you borrow the hero from an opponent and that you have to give the hero back to him after your turn.
The OP is saying that if you borrow a card, then there is a dungeon or battle effect that destroys a hero, you can choose to destroy the borrowed card because otherwise it would've gone back to the opponents discard pile.

You're missing his point. He's saying that the card reads that you *have* to give it back, which means that you *can't* destroy it. Like him, i'm curious if there's an official ruling.
 
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Joshua Harris
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tedv wrote:
xhydralisk wrote:
Quote:

Don't get me wrong, I still love Thunderstone: The System. I just hate 90% of the cards in Thunderstone: The Game. I'm hoping that there's a future "large expansion" with much better balance. I suspect Wrath of The Elements is too far ahead in production for it to be any better than the base set, but perhaps the expansion after that will be good.

Just having more types of cards will go a long way to extend the re-playability of this game. Sometimes you get a lot of Powerful cards, and sometimes you get very weak cards and you look for some way to make it work; the variety of strategies is a big draw of this game.

I'm hoping for a reprint with a better layout of the icons on the cards. If you could fan the cards a certain way to see the village numbers and fan it another way to see the dungeon numbers, it would've been a nice polish point that would've gotten positive points on a review.


Agreed on the layout point. My dream card layout assembles all numbers you care about during the village in one area and all dungeon values in a separate area.

Village:
- Gold value
- Purchase price
- XP to level up
- Level of hero
- Type of card

Dungeon:
- Strength / Weight
- Trophy values
- Most text boxes
- Light

Values that are irrelevant once a card is in your deck:
- XP for killing monster
- Victory points
- Monster health

In particular, it would be nice if the base attack value for each hero was not in the text box, but in a clearly identifiable icon. The text box would only describe conditional things (like Amazons getting more strength when attacking deeper in the dungeon).

Since people naturally fan a hand of cards such that only the upper left half of the card is viewable, this means you only have two edges that can hold information-- the top and the left side. The dungeon has more values, so all its information goes on the left. Village values go on top.

So the ideal card layout would look like this. Across the top, below the name text box, include these values from left to right:

- Gold Value
- Card Type
- Purchase Cost
- XP to level (for heroes)

And on the left side, from top to bottom, include these values:

- Base Attack value (use color to denote magic or regular) or monster Trophy value
- Light bonus
- Strength

Values are are irrelevant once a monster is in your deck can be put on the bottom, going left to right, as their occlusion during card fanning won't matter:

- Monster Health (leave space blank for non-monsters)
- XP for killing monster
- Victory points of card

There! Infinitely better card design that facilitates game play, and it only took a few minutes to do. Having done a bunch of game design on my own, I can attest to the value of good card layout in how much fun people have with a prototype. This isn't just polish in my mind. Layout is a fundamental part of making a good game.


But but but...I think they are fine as is except for one thing I agree that attack should be on the left in it's own symbol instead of a text box, no argument there. But the rest is fine, and meet all of your criteria....

Fan the cards, and you have all the info you need for a village, OR dungeon. (except attack as mentioned above)

The only things hidden when you fan them out are:
Cost (not needed after the item is in your hand)
XP (not needed after the item is in your hand)
Monster hitpoints (not needed after the item is in your hand)
Victory point value (not needed after the item is in your hand)

I just don't get how your proposed redesign gives any more information?
 
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Devon Harmon
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Doesn't the Selurian Theurge say "Each player discards a hero..."?

We have been playing that the player with the Theurge has to discard a hero as well, since the card doesn't say "Each other player discards a hero...". Then they can choose to get their hero back, or "borrow" one of their opponent's discarded heroes.

Maybe this is some rules lawyering on our part. How is this card specifically being played by others?
 
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Cornbread46 wrote:
But but but...I think they are fine as is except for one thing I agree that attack should be on the left in it's own symbol instead of a text box, no argument there. But the rest is fine, and meet all of your criteria....

Fan the cards, and you have all the info you need for a village, OR dungeon. (except attack as mentioned above)

The only things hidden when you fan them out are:
Cost (not needed after the item is in your hand)
XP (not needed after the item is in your hand)
Monster hitpoints (not needed after the item is in your hand)
Victory point value (not needed after the item is in your hand)

I just don't get how your proposed redesign gives any more information?


It doesn't give MORE information. It lets you FILTER for the information you need! For example, if you want to go to the village, you can literally ignore all values on the left-hand side of the card. Those values are combat-only. All you care about is the total cash value of things in your hand and how much it costs to upgrade heroes. So you look for those things in the same area. In fact, if you want to see how good your hand is in the village, you can stack your cards in a column such that only this line is visible and know exactly what you can do. (Villagers excepted-- you have to view the text box there.)

Similarly if you're going into the dungeon, the only values that matter in your hand are those on the left edge and some of the text boxes. By stacking your cards in a row from left to right, you can see all combat values of your cards and you'll have a very good idea of how good this hand is for attacking.
 
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Devon Harmon wrote:
Doesn't the Selurian Theurge say "Each player discards a hero..."?

We have been playing that the player with the Theurge has to discard a hero as well, since the card doesn't say "Each other player discards a hero...". Then they can choose to get their hero back, or "borrow" one of their opponent's discarded heroes.

Maybe this is some rules lawyering on our part. How is this card specifically being played by others?


We spent time thinking about it and really weren't sure. However, it's ridiculously unfair to even have the option of destroying someone else's hero, especially a level 3 hero if they happen to get a bad hand. So we're playing that they get the hero back regardless of whether it was destroyed in combat.
 
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Paul Smith
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Since we're discussing card design, I'll throw out my initial impressions and confusions with the cards.

I found only two symbols that were intuitive by looking at the cards. The gold and light symbol.

The purchase cost is in a very odd location. It feels like its a random number thrown on there. I think it would be much more intuitive if it was on an icon of a gold bag. I don't know the best location for it. I would say the top right or bottom right. If it went top right, I'd rather have the monster health moved to the bottom right of the art.

The strength/weight don't really give any visual clues for what they are. I don't know if they need to, but it took a bit to figure it out. The good aspect of the design is that they are both in the same place.

I think it's easy to get the XP and VP points switched around. I would rather the VP number was put on an icon of a mini-thunderstone.

Notice that 5 icons are circles only differentiated by color and the monster health and VP are very close in color. Changing the shapes up would create less confusion.
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David Vanden Heuvel
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chucker101 wrote:
Since we're discussing card design, I'll throw out my initial impressions and confusions with the cards.

I found only two symbols that were intuitive by looking at the cards. The gold and light symbol.

The purchase cost is in a very odd location. It feels like its a random number thrown on there. I think it would be much more intuitive if it was on an icon of a gold bag. I don't know the best location for it. I would say the top right or bottom right. If it went top right, I'd rather have the monster health moved to the bottom right of the art.

The strength/weight don't really give any visual clues for what they are. I don't know if they need to, but it took a bit to figure it out. The good aspect of the design is that they are both in the same place.

I think it's easy to get the XP and VP points switched around. I would rather the VP number was put on an icon of a mini-thunderstone.

Notice that 5 icons are circles only differentiated by color and the monster health and VP are very close in color. Changing the shapes up would create less confusion.

Whole heartedly agree. I think they were trying to not take away from the art... but after the initial viewing, who notices it. Much rather have clearer iconic cues rather than having to remind new players which values are which all the time.
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Chris Cieslik
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I know they won't do this due to costs, but they quite honestly should abandon the card design completely and start from scratch. Print a second edition and go from there (for the expansions as well).
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Yusuke Hasegawa
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tedv wrote:
Devon Harmon wrote:
Doesn't the Selurian Theurge say "Each player discards a hero..."?

We have been playing that the player with the Theurge has to discard a hero as well, since the card doesn't say "Each other player discards a hero...". Then they can choose to get their hero back, or "borrow" one of their opponent's discarded heroes.

Maybe this is some rules lawyering on our part. How is this card specifically being played by others?


We spent time thinking about it and really weren't sure. However, it's ridiculously unfair to even have the option of destroying someone else's hero, especially a level 3 hero if they happen to get a bad hand. So we're playing that they get the hero back regardless of whether it was destroyed in combat.


from page 22 of rulebook 1.4
Quote:

Selurin Theurge: If the borrowed Hero is destroyed
by a Battle Effect, it is not returned to the original
owner. Instead, destroy the card.

This seem to imply that borrowed Heroes can be destroyed (only by BATTLE effects and not DUNGEON effects?)
 
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angelkurisu wrote:
I know they won't do this due to costs, but they quite honestly should abandon the card design completely and start from scratch. Print a second edition and go from there (for the expansions as well).


I'd love this but agree it probably won't happen. But hey, didn't Legend of the Five Rings get away with new card template designs and improve as a result? I know Vampire: The Eternal Struggle did as well, as did Magic: The Gathering.
 
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I believe it was ruled that borrowed heroes CAN be destroyed, but that may have been somewhere between rules v1.0 and rules v1.4 where various rules were still in flux.

I agree wholeheartedly with all the card design discussions. I may have to resort to re-creating the game via Photoshop + Artscow so I can put all the various icons/costs where I would prefer them to be.
 
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Dave G
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xhydralisk wrote:
tedv wrote:
Devon Harmon wrote:
Doesn't the Selurian Theurge say "Each player discards a hero..."?

We have been playing that the player with the Theurge has to discard a hero as well, since the card doesn't say "Each other player discards a hero...". Then they can choose to get their hero back, or "borrow" one of their opponent's discarded heroes.

Maybe this is some rules lawyering on our part. How is this card specifically being played by others?


We spent time thinking about it and really weren't sure. However, it's ridiculously unfair to even have the option of destroying someone else's hero, especially a level 3 hero if they happen to get a bad hand. So we're playing that they get the hero back regardless of whether it was destroyed in combat.


from page 22 of rulebook 1.4
Quote:

Selurin Theurge: If the borrowed Hero is destroyed
by a Battle Effect, it is not returned to the original
owner. Instead, destroy the card.

This seem to imply that borrowed Heroes can be destroyed (only by BATTLE effects and not DUNGEON effects?)


I think the problem is that the rulebook is apparently still a work in progress rather than a finished product. This may be the rule today, but it'll probably change again tomorrow. If only there was some way to test the gameplay before releasing the game....
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