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Subject: Why This Hit Seems to Miss For Some. rss

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Jason Farris
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When I first played Thunderstone, I could take it or leave it. On my second play, I hated it and could not believe how unbalanced it was. Ordinarily that would be the end of me playing any game. However, Thunderstone got a reprieve when I started doing some online research on it. I really liked the art and the dungeon delving aspect, so I was willing to make sure my original dislike was accurate.

What I found here on the geek surprised me. Thunderstone was rated well, but the rating comments seemed to be conflicting with one another. Low ratings were given by those who felt it was just a Dominion clone, who said it was simplistic, and who felt it was too long. Low ratings were also given for the game being too complex. High ratings were given for the depth of complexity in the game and for the simplicity of the game. Also, it received high marks for not being like dominion despite having some if its predecessors core mechanics. Apparently Thunderstone is good because it is like Dominion, bad because it is like Dominion, good because it is a longer game,. Bad because it is a longer game, good because it complex, bad because it is simplistic, good because it is simple, bad because it is complex, and everything in between.

In this review, I want to introduce the game using the most recent rules, 1.4, and discuss how this game seems to be all things and nothing at the same time.

PRESENTATION:

I generally do a section on how nice the game bits are despite the fact that you can look at pictures here on the geek whenever you like. With a card game it is much easier as there is only one set of bits.

The artwork in card games has gone up in quality over the last ten years to the point that almost everything looks like it was done by a top fantasy artist. Thunderstone is no different and the art s of excellent quality. Some have complained that it is too dark and I can see that to a point. The reason the cards appear dark despite some of the artwork being very bright is that the borders are all done in shades or dark blue/purple. This makes the cards dark overall.


Does this look dark to you?

The cards have an adequate linen finish but will quickly show signs of wear. If you’re crazy like me, you will shell huge amounts of money for decent card sleeves to prevent this from happening. Don’t be like me, life is too short t o worry about these things.

The iconography on the cards is the matter of some complaint and may be the first reason this games misses for some people. There is a lot going on with the cards and it can be easy to miss things the first few games you play. This creates a high learning curve which makes early games take longer and can be frustrating to players who feel it is clunky. Is it worse than other CCGs or Dominion? I don’t think so. Part of the problem with judging the iconography of a card game is that by the time you know how to play it, it doesn’t bother you anymore. Just imagine playing poker and never having seen a deck of cards before, WTF is up with those J, Q, K, A cards that have nothing to do with the number cards. New games seem to always have worse icons than the ones you play regularly. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is Race for the Galaxy and 10 is a deck of standard playing cards, I think Thunderstone is about a 5 for intuitive card icons. It’s not great, but easily understood once you understand the game.

Lastly, let’s look at the box and set up. The box and card set up sucks! The box is pretty and functional. The insert is not. The oversized card dividers are a good idea but with no labels, they suck in practice. AEG appears to understand this as the first expansion will come with/in a card box designed to hold it and the base game with proper card dividers. So, while the current iteration of the organizer has intimate knowledge of goats, it’s great to hear that the company will fix that. Frankly, it’s good marketing as well.

RULES:

Rules for a game are like the screenplay in a movie. If the writing is good, bad actors can be made into stars. If the writing sucks, not even the best actor can save it. Thunderstone is a movie with a-list actors and a b-movie script. Unlike a movie, you can keep refining the rules of a game after release, but the question then becomes why you have to in the first place.

For those in the like/love Thunderstone camp, the game works fine out of the box and it’s just “anal retentive” players who have found loopholes and are over analyzing effects. To all those people, I’m sorry, the rules were pretty bad when the game was released. If the rules were adequate, we wouldn’t be on version 1.4 now. On the other hand, if the rules were the equivalent of Leonard Part 6, I wouldn’t be writing this review and this game would have sunk to the bottom.

I think an important lesson needs to be learned by AEG and needs to be learned sooner rather than later. I own both Tomb and Thunderstone. Both games had poor initial rules but both games are quirky and original enough for me to overlook them and continue playing. Not everyone will do this. You need a good technical writer and/or editor, and he/she is worth paying for!

GAMEPLAY:

This assessment of game play is based on the most recent version of the rules (1.4). This does not mean you cannot play the game with earlier rules sets as the 1.4 is mostly clarifications and examples. I recommend getting them to reduce questions during the game, not because there are some major game changes.

The game set up takes awhile if only one of you knows what he/she is doing and longer if nobody knows. However, with 3-4 people who are clued in, the game can be setup relatively quickly. It is definitely no worse than setting up an ordinary 1-2 hour game. You have to select 4 random heroes, 8 random village items to purchase, and 3 sets of monsters. Heroes are placed in piles with their level 1 incarnation on top and level 3 on the bottom. The 8 sets of village cards need to be found and arrayed on the table, and the 3 sets of monsters need to be shuffled together and the thunderstone placed within the bottom ten cards. Three monsters are then drawn and laid out next to each other face up to create the dungeon. Basic cards need to be brought and everyone is given a pre-constructed deck of 12 cards (6 militia, 2 torches, 2 iron rations, 2 daggers). The game is ready to start.

On your turn you can do one of three things. Go to the village, Go to the dungeon, or Rest.

Rest:

When you rest, you do nothing but pitch (aka destroy in Thunderstonese) one card from your hand out of the game , discard the remainder of you hand and draw 6 new cards. Your turn ends

Village:

The village is somewhat more complex and is what everyone who calls this game a dominion clone is referring to. All of your starting cards have a gold value on them. You reveal all your cards in the village. You add these up when you go to the village and buy one card, either from the village piles or one of the heroes, which is placed in your discard pile. You may also play any cards in your hand that have village abilities listed on them in any order, before buying. After you play village cards and buy, you may upgrade any or all hero cards in your hand if you have enough experience. Ordinarily to get to the higher level heroes, all the lower level ones must be bought. Upgrading heroes bypasses this requirement and allows you to pay the experience points (XP) listed on the hero, destroy it, and take the next higher level hero straight from the deck (no gold required). You then discard the rest of your hand and draw six new cards.

The Dungeon:

When a player declares they are going to the dungeon, they reveal their entire hand, Any card with a dungeon effect may be used at this time. The player then adds up all their attack values (e.g. +1 attack, +2 magic attack, etc. ). While magic attack values and regular attack values are calculated separately, they are combined into a total to get the overall attack value. Payers also add up how much light (an effect produced by some cards such as torches) they have. The player then chooses one of the three face up monsters to battle. The monster farthest from the monster deck is closest to the dungeon entrance (aka rank 1 in Thunderstonese) and can be battled at -2 attack if the player has no light sources in his hand. Otherwise 1 or more light sources eliminate this penalty. The monster second farthest from the monster deck is deeper in the dungeon (Rank 2) and can be battled with a -4 attack penalty without light, -2 with one light, and no penalty with 2 or more light. Finally, the monster closest to the monster deck is the deepest in the dungeon (rank 3). The light penalty here -6 light and reduced by 2 for each light source up to three. You can’t get a positive light bonus, only eliminate a penalty. After factoring in any light penalties from the chosen monster, and applying battle effects (usually on the monster card) which can change the player’s attack value, the player compares his/her final value to the monster’s attack rating. Equaling or exceeding the monster’s value is a win. The player resolves any battle effects that occur at the end of battle (usually effects that say to destroy a card in the players hand), takes experience point cards equal to the experience value of the monster, resolves any spoils effects on the monster card and place it in his/her discard pile. If the attack value is lower, then the player loses, suffers all battle effects and the monster is placed on the bottom of the monster deck. Either way, all remaining monster cards that can be advanced toward the entrance are, and cards are flipped from the monster deck to fill in blank spaces. The player then discards his/her hand and redraws 6 cards. The player’s turn is over.

The game continues until the Thunderstone is placed face up in the dungeon and makes its way to the entrance (rank 1). At that point, the game ends. If a player manages to kill a monster at the entrance, and this results in the thunderstone moving to the front, then that player also gets the thunderstone. Otherwise the game just ends.

Players add up the victory points in their deck and whoever has the most wins.

Cards Types:

Heroes:

Heroes are the back bone of your deck. You start with 6 militia cards and each gives you a +1 attack and 0 gold. These are cards you usually want out of your deck as soon as possible and replaced with heroes purchased in the village Not only do heroes in the Village usually have better attack ratings, they also have unique abilities. Village Heroes may be upgraded by spending experience points. You can upgrade militia to level one village heroes but it is prohibitively expensive. It is usually better to just buy the level one hero and upgrade form there. There are diminishing amounts of heroes each level. There are 6 level 1 heroes of each type, 4 level 2 heroes of each type and only 2 level 3 heroes of each type. If you manage to upgrade all the way to a level three hero (or get lucky enough to buy one), you get victory points for them at the end of the game.



Monsters:

Monster cards are drawn from the monster deck and are the main way heroes get experience points to upgrade heroes and get victory points to win the game. You will not win the game if you can’t create a deck for taking on monsters. Weak monsters can net you 1-2 XP and 0-2 VP. Strong monsters can grant you up to 3-4 xp and 6-8 VP. Monsters often have special abilities that modify how combat is conducted. Some add an additional light penalties, some give players disease cards which lower their attacks in future battles, and some will outright destroy a card in the players hand. Figuring out how to kill them with minimal loss to the player is one of the key strategies to the game. While some complain that you cannot make an effective deck if you don’t know what the monsters do, they all have themes. I will let new players know that undead often cause disease, and dragons are almost all tough and will destroy thinks. I will also point out that clerics are good for getting rid of disease. In other words, I’m saying that the only way a new player will have no idea of what they are facing is if the person teaching the game throw them to the wolves. However, even the best explanation will not make a new player into an experienced one. Choices very much matter in the game, but you have to understand the ramifications of them, which takes multiple plays.



Village Cards:

There are basic village cards that can be purchased cheap (the same ones in your starting deck). There also more advanced ones that have more varied costs. Cards fit into five main categories, spells, food, weapons, light producing items, and villagers.

Spells are essentially cast by you, the player and their effect is automatically on when your hand is revealed. You can kill a monster in the dungeon with only spells in your hand but this is difficult as the only + attack spell in the game currently is also the most expensive spell to purchase.

Food cards generally increase the strength of your heroes which allows them to equip bigger and better weapons in the dungeon but some have additional abilities. For example, Feast increases all your heroes’ strength and gives them +1 attack.

Weapons: Weapons are items that give + attack value to heroes who have the strength to carry them. Only one weapon may be attached to each hero during battle in the dungeon. The lowly dagger requires only 2 strength (so any hero can wield it) and grants +1 attack. The mighty polearm requires 8 strength to get the most out of it for a +6 attack. Without a hero, a hand full of weapons is useless.



Light producing items: there are several items that produce light .The torch you start with give 1 light. A lantern grants 2 light, and the lightstone grants 3 light. While most light producing items have no other effect in your hand (except a gold value), they are necessary to take on monsters deeper in the dungeon. Some monsters, heroes, and weapons also produce light.

Villagers: villager cards grant you an effect in the village and can be destroyed to give an additional effect. Village cards are most closely related to the ones you would find in a game like Dominion.



Card Effects:

Village: Any card with a village effect can only have that effect used in the village. Often these are cards that help you get more gold for buying, give you experience for upgrading heroes, thin your deck out, or all three. Many of these cards have two village options, one which you can use every time it comes into your hand and one which destroys the card when you use it. You can use either or both in the same turn. Because you usually don’t want these cards late in the game, the destruction effect is a beautiful mechanic to keep your deck from bogging down.

Dungeon: any card with a dungeon effect is used only in the dungeon and can be used before going into battle. Some increase your attack, others grant you special abilities.

Battle: Battle Effects are applied during battle, but may fully resolve at the end of battle. For example, the Revenant card gives each hero -4 strength and destroys heroes that are reduced to 0 strength. While the -4 strength applies immediately (and can unequip weapons), the heroes are not destroyed until after the battle is resolved.

Breach: Beach effects occur when a powerful monster hits the dungeon entrance. They are one time effects which can force players to discard cards or even destroy unpurchased hero cards in the village.

Spoils: spoils effects occur after a monster is defeated. They range from getting a free buy from the village with whatever gold is in your hand to more complicated effects as such as drawing cards from your deck and destroying the ones you don’t want.


SUMMARY:

Thunderstone appears to have the makings of a great card game. So why does it get such bad press at times. I’ll take these on one point at a time.

1: It’s just a Dominion clone/rip off.

Dominion is the parent of Thunderstone just as Caylus is the parent of Agricola. The most basic core mechanics are similar, you build a deck as you play, tune it, there is a buy mechanic and VPs get put in you deck. That’s it. Every other mechanic including the dungeon, light effect, combat, heroes, upgrades, and even the fact that the VP cards are not useless in your deck, are all Thunderstone. If you really want to point fingers, both Dominion and Thunderstone are the children of collectable card games Just as there were worker placement games before Caylus.

2: It’s too simple/too complex

Here, Thunderstone did not help itself. The initial rules were murky at best. This led to slow games, rules referencing and some frustration. Newer Rules do not change the game as much as clarify and add to it. If the game were released with current rules, I think it would be better received than it already is.

Also, I don’t think there is as much of a contradiction in terms as it first appears. The game is simple and complex. I think the decision of what to do with your hand is very easy each turn. If I have a bunch of gold, I go to the village, if I have good fighting ability, I go to the dungeon. If I have neither, I get rid of a useless card. The complexity comes in with the deck building and tuning. Unlike dominion where your are essentially building a card drawing combo to get to the magical 8 gold province buying, your deck will be bigger in Thunderstone and you will have to figure out how to shrink it enough to guarantee multiple dungeon raids in a row. You are still trying to hit a threshold but there are multiples ways to do it through spells, light, heroes/upgrades. I want having simple decisions as to where to go each turn as it speeds the game along. However its nice to spend my down time thinking over the more complex overall strategy.

3: you can’t play the game without knowing what all the monsters do.

Once again, I will refer people to any game they have played for the first time. Sticking with Caylus as another game with a learning curve, nobody knows exactly what they are doing the first few games of Caylus, and when someone realizes just how to get to those blue buildings, everything opens up.. Strategies evolve with familiarity. I can also relate my own first time of, “It’s not fair, I didn’t know there was a card like that”. I played this (at the time) new game called Magic: The Gathering and loved playing monochomatic black which required, among other things, all you land cards to be swamps. My opponent loved playing black’s enemy color, white, and had recently obtained a card I had never seen before, called Karma. Its effect was to cause the black player to take one point of damage for each swamp he had in play. I was dead in two turns and pretty upset. On the other hand, I stopped playing monochomratic black and adapted. The same is true of Thunderstone. I can give you generalities, but I can’t explain every card to you before the game.

4: It’s Clunky and slow.

As compared to what? If you inevitably compare it to Dominion, you are probably right. Dominion is pure economics I must get X gold to buy Y which will let me win as fast as possible. Dominion plays so fast and is so simple that you get frustrated having to wait for the 10 card combo of one player and are already taking your turn as soon as you realize there will be no cards that affect your hand. Yep, Thunderstone is slow and Clunky compared to Dominion. To me, watching dominion is like watching a Monomaniacs convention. Play is rote and repetitive with little deviation and players playing as fast as they can. Compared to any big box Fantasy Flight game, Thunderstone is blazing fast.

So this point is really a matter of taste. Thunderstone feels much less clunky the more you play it but you will need to think and do math at regular intervals when playing. It is very smooth to me now. Also keep in mind that thunderstone probably takes about an hour to play or 1½ hours tops. That’s’ still pretty quick by the standards of other games. Once again, it is slow compare to the 20-30 minutes of dominion.

5: it’s too random

Yes, the game has randomness. Like any card game which has deck building in it, the best way to reduce randomness is to tune your deck. Reduce the number of cards that require combos, increase power level per card. That’s the point of the game. I understand criticism of the randomized monsters. With only three viewable, you have a more difficult time planning ahead. Some argue that the games bogs down when nobody wants to kill the small monsters who are worth little if any VP. I could see group think resulting in that, but you do not know that the next revealed monster is any good. I’d rather take the risk and get a two VP kill than just let them sit. Also, letting monsters sit is ultimately a losing proposition if you can take on a big boss monster. The longer you delay killing weak monsters to prevent the big nasty from coming out at the end of your turn, the more likely your opponents will catch up to you and nail it.

CONCLUSIONS:


There are a few reasons Thunderstone misses for a lot of people. People who do not like deck building games can get sucked into it and, big surprise, they don’t like it. The learning curve can be steep initially, which allows experienced players to wipe the floors with newer players. It can be hard to see the best ways to maximize your deck and it can feel random at times because of how monsters are brought into the dungeon after a kill. The rules were vaguely worded originally and have led to different interpretations by different players. All these may explain the frustration some have reported about Thunderstone.

However, I think Dominion has played a bigger role in the complaints of the game. What I have noticed is that those who think it is just a Dominion clone also don’t like it because it doesn’t play like dominion. The constant comparisons to Dominion, I think, are not apt. It’s like comparing a wheel of cheese, a grindstone, and a tire. All three are round and can roll, but all three have very different purposes. It’s made worse by the fact that these two games are currently the two most 'famous' ones in their subcategory of game. Thus, they must be alike, right? Once people start moving away, from looking at these as similar games, I think they may find Thunderstone is a different and enjoyable game.

I’m obviously a fan of Thunderstone, but I do think Dominion is an okay game. I’m one of those that fit into the camp of Dominion being a great mechanic that needed a game built around it. For me Thunderstone fits that bill. It scratches my old CCG itch far better than Dominion and it feels meatier to me. I don’t think people who are rabid fans of Dominion will necessarily like a slower paced deck builder, but I bet the Ex-CCG crowd will. Also, I think if you want to try a deck building game, but don’t want to have to play several times to get the rules down than Dominion is for you. Thunderstone is one of the few games that I feel requires multiple plays to “get.” I usually hate reviews that say that. I don’t want to play a game that I don’t like multiples times to reach the “aha” moment. So my advice is this: If you are interested in the game, play enough games to at least feel you have the rules straight. If the magic comes to you, keep on playing, if not there are many other games out there.



edited to clarify that Dominion and Thunderstone are not the only two games in their Subcategory.
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Ed Browne
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Nice review.

I agree that the comparisons to Dominion may be more harmful than helpful for Thunderstone. I think it is much more like a CCG draft than Dominion. Plus its depth and theme make it not for some of the lighter gaming types who enjoy Dominion.
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Ryan Taylor
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nice review.

I'm an ex-ccg player, which is why Thunderstone appeals to me. My copy arrives tomorrow.

I've looked at Dominion, and it has never appealed to me. I think that horrible title graphic on the box makes me run screaming as well.

First time I read about Thunderstone I was sold. You mean I can play a CCG with out having to buy all those stupid cards? Sign me up!

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Mike Kozlowski
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I, uh, guess I had a lot of geekgold?
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Smilinbrax wrote:
I think the decision of what to do with your hand is very easy each turn. If I have a bunch of gold, I go to the village, if I have good fighting ability, I go to the dungeon.


No, it's even easier: If there's anything in the dungeon you can defeat, you go to the dungeon. If not, then if there's anything in the village you really really want, you go there. Otherwise you trash a card. That's my main problem with this game, that after the early game village rush, it's just dungeon almost every turn.

You know the part in Dominion where everyone's buying provinces except for on their "bad" turn when they have to settle for a gold? Well, that's only a few turns at the end for Dominion, but it feels like 2/3 of Thunderstone.

(Despite which I like it a lot. I just wish there was a more interesting village/dungeon choice to make more often.)
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-=[Ran Over]=-
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Smilinbrax wrote:
... these two games [Dominion and Thunderstone] are currently the only ones in their subcategory of game.
Don't forget about Arctic Scavengers.
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Jason Farris
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rgmnetid wrote:
Smilinbrax wrote:
... these two games [Dominion and Thunderstone] are currently the only ones in their subcategory of game.
Don't forget about Arctic Scavengers.


I stand corrected. laugh
 
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James Cartwright
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Excellent, well thought out review have some gold. It neither bashes Thunderstone to much or praises it to much.

I must admit I was getting fed up with the reviews that where just saying how Thunderstone was or was not like Dominion.

I just never got into Dominion, 500 cards for £35 and no real theme, count me out.

The only comment of yours I don't completely agree with is that I DO think Thunderstone was playable right out of the box. I taught it to my young daughters and we never had a problem. I do think that some people have been over analysing the rules and some of the rules questions have been down right silly.

I will admit however that the new rules with more examples clear things up and cut down on the 'downtime' taken to make a 'rules decision' on the fly.

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mkozlows wrote:

No, it's even easier: If there's anything in the dungeon you can defeat, you go to the dungeon. If not, then if there's anything in the village you really really want, you go there. Otherwise you trash a card. That's my main problem with this game, that after the early game village rush, it's just dungeon almost every turn.


I am beginning to think this is a mistake. Last game, I used this strategy, but one of my opponents spent the first half of the game in the village, buying up most of the heroes and weapons, leaving little for everybody else. Then, he proceeded to waltz into the dungeon and stomp all the monsters! He won the game, and managed to get twice as many points as me, as well.
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Mik Svellov
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Smilinbrax wrote:
Sticking with Caylus as another game with a learning curve, nobody knows exactly what they are doing the first few games of Caylus, and when someone realizes just how to get to those blue buildings, everything opens up...

Poor example. Caylus may have a learning curve, but no hidden info. Good players see immediately what can do.

Quote:
I played this (at the time) new game called Magic: The Gathering and loved playing monochomatic black which required, among other things, all you land cards to be swamps. My opponent loved playing black’s enemy color, white, and had recently obtained a card I had never seen before, called Karma.

I knew each and every card before I played the game the first time. That was not hard to do, as you needed to build your own deck anyway, and part of the fun was reading about all the new cards.
In fact, I stopped playing M:tG when I couldn't keep up with the changes to the cards.

I have seen new players sitting down playing Dominion for the first time, and buying only the few select key cards they have analysed would lead them most effectively towards victory.

You can't possibly do that in Thunderstone unless you first show them all the cards...

This is the key difference between a strategy game and a experience game.
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Glen Graham
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Great Dane wrote:

This is the key difference between a strategy game and a experience game.


Well said. That's exactly why I find myself bored with Dominion (although my group is obsessed with it) and why I look forward to weaning them away from it with this more experiential game.

Great review!
 
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thr33why wrote:
You mean I can play a CCG with out having to buy all those stupid cards? Sign me up!


Yes, they're called LCG's.
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Ryan Taylor
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MScrivner wrote:
thr33why wrote:
You mean I can play a CCG with out having to buy all those stupid cards? Sign me up!


Yes, they're called LCG's.


Actually, LCG don't interest me. I've not seen any where the theme or mechanics get my attention.

good in concept though.

Oh, got my copy of Thunderstone today!
 
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Peter Varga
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Nice review, and I mostly agree.
My only complaint still is, that even though I really do love this game very much, and like it much more than Dominion, I still strongly believe that without the success of Dominion, the designer (with all due respect) would never have thought of this entire game, and it's not like he only borrowed some mechanics as it is common in game design. I'm actually one of those who thinks a mention in the rulebook would have been nice, and that saying that it doesn't rely that much on Dominion's rules is a mistake.
I mean, the Disease cards alone tell me that this designer wanted to create 'something like the Curse cards in Dominion', only here they seem much more unnecessary. I strongly think that it is only politeness and our love of the result that keeps us from referring to this game simply as 'a Dominion ripoff', even with the additional theme and mechanics. But it all has probably been discussed before so sorry for bringing it up again.
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Rob Lyon
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Great review man, thanks for that. I had almost written the game off as lacking in excitement, particularly in the combat phase.

But tell me, you used the words 'deep' and 'complex'. What do you refer to exactly? I don't see a lot of icons on the cards and I don't get 'deep' from the village/dungeon/discard drill.

Thanks,

robbage
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Jason Farris
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Robbage wrote:
Great review man, thanks for that. I had almost written the game off as lacking in excitement, particularly in the combat phase.

But tell me, you used the words 'deep' and 'complex'. What do you refer to exactly? I don't see a lot of icons on the cards and I don't get 'deep' from the village/dungeon/discard drill.

Thanks,

robbage


It's hard to explain easily, but I will try.

Part of the complexity for me, comes from deciding on buys and what to do with my strategy based on the monsters in the game, the heroes, and the village items. The complexity, I would say is greater than vanilla Dominion overall, but there are some Dominion cards with more complex interactions than most cards in the base set of Thunderstone.

The depth includes what monsters to go after or leave alone, what heroes to upgrade and when, trying to figure out ways to kill off my militia when there are no pawnbrokers and trainers out (Bless you Revenant), and when to rest. I would say none of these decisions are difficult individually but they get really good mid game. Early game your decisions are very easy. Late game is similar to early game in my opinion as you are just getting as much VP as possible and decisions become easier once again. Luckily, that part is brief as the monsters get snapped quickly. The mid game is where everything comes together for me and I see if I sink or swim.

So I guess the depth comes from timing your decisions, weighing what is worth sacrificing when, and how much its worth taking low VPs to move the track along and giving others a chance at big monsters. I do recommend familiarizing yourself with the monster decks when you are not playing to have a better idea of what heroes you want to take with a particular set up. For example, in my last game I bought and upgraded heavily into the elf mage when facing Dragons and Undead Spirits. I knew I couldn't take on Ebon Fume (8 VP), or the two Revenants (7 VP apiece) at all, but figured I could make up the points by nabbing the blue Dragons and other monsters quickly. Sure enough, our Dwarf/redblade heavy player plowed through Ebon Fume like he was nothing and ate a Revenant with only minor losses.

As a caveat, I will say that I did not mean to imply that Thunderstone is a highly complex or deep game currently (who knows what expansions will bring). This is not Through the Ages: The Story of Civilization. And that's a good thing for a fast card game.

I expect both complexity and depth to go up as some expansions start pushing the rules.
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Great Dane wrote:

Poor example. Caylus may have a learning curve, but no hidden info. Good players see immediately what can do.


We will have to disagree on this. I think Caylus is still a good example. New players have every piece of information in front of them and few of them still figure out how to beat experienced players. Perhaps your gaming group is filled with people who instantly grasp the ramification of rules, memorize every tile, and can out think their opponents during the worker placement phase on their first play. However, the people I play with all had an initial learning curve. Some had trouble with the favor track, other had trouble with timing green and blue buildings or figuring out where the provost would likely end up. That's the essence of my example, not just memorization. I suppose you could argue that everyone knows exactly what they are doing in Caylus but it is rarely the most effective strategy in their first game or two.

If you believe the opinions of some that say Thunderstone is too random, then new players should actually have an easier time of it than in Caylus. I have not noticed that to be the case.

Great Dane wrote:

I knew each and every card before I played the game the first time. That was not hard to do, as you needed to build your own deck anyway, and part of the fun was reading about all the new cards.
In fact, I stopped playing M:tG when I couldn't keep up with the changes to the cards.

I have seen new players sitting down playing Dominion for the first time, and buying only the few select key cards they have analysed would lead them most effectively towards victory.

You can't possibly do that in Thunderstone unless you first show them all the cards...

This is the key difference between a strategy game and a experience game.


I'll admit that having to track down card lists on the usenet was not the easiest when magic first came out but we did it eventually. We originally just bought starters and boosters. We did not instantly become "serious" players. However, we eventually got card lists. I will say that I really enjoyed Magic as it expanded. It was wild to be surprised by cards again. It was also fun to figure out how my existing cards could compete with the new ones. I guess that's experience gaming if I understand you correctly, although I would argue serious strategy was involved.

I'm confused on why you consider Dominion a "strategy" game and Thunderstone an "experience" game. If we are talking perfect information, can each game of Dominion be "solved?" as far as I know you can pick a strategy but the behavior of other players and your draws will affect how your games go. I think you are also saying Magic is an experience game but I'm not sure. I think Thunderstone is much closer to Magic than Dominion. I would say all three games have strong elements of "strategy" and only one has very little "experience" to it.

Let me know if I'm misunderstanding you.


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There's a fair bit of bullshit on this thread.

Thunderstone is a low-brow cardgame for low-brow gamers, comprising about two rules which the "rulebook" eventually manged to expound after four attempts. As such it has the inestimable advantage of being very easy for anyone to learn and play. It commits various design sins, in the boardgame sense, such as a high degree of redundancy in many of its features. I note that the designer hails from the world of collector card games, which was not and never has been known for brilliant design flair. This quantity is not required by the great majority of CCG buyers, which is why they never got any. I recall Mick Uhl, a onetime Squad Leader man, being told by Fleer to dumb down his superheroes game because it was too good. In these respects Thunderstone is not Dominion.

Quote:
Part of the complexity for me, comes from deciding on buys and what to do with my strategy based on the monsters in the game, the heroes, and the village items. The complexity, I would say is greater than vanilla Dominion overall, but there are some Dominion cards with more complex interactions than most cards in the base set of Thunderstone.


For example, occasionally one deck of Dominion cards may have little relevance in combination with the others present in a playing, whereas in Thunderstone there are going to be many more. It seems that Thunderstone will work best with certain card deck combos, and badly with others, this being a bigger issue than with Dominion. What drives a coach and horses through this purported "complexity" is that in the first half of a Thunderstone game you will be putting cards into your deck from the village, and then when critical mass is achieved the second half will commence as players start to fizzle off to the dungeon. Sometimes one player gets lucky and kills a monster off a lucky shuffle/deal in phase one, but he will revert to village vists subsequently. There are no Thunderstone cards with complex interactions.

Quote:
The depth includes what monsters to go after or leave alone,


obvious

Quote:
what heroes to upgrade and when,


everyone always upgrades whatever you can immediately, obviously, as the chance is a rare and fine thing and you don't want to be left behind.

Quote:
trying to figure out ways to kill off my militia when there are no pawnbrokers and trainers out (Bless you Revenant), and when to rest.


A method of concentrating cards into a small high-value deck is about the only thing in the game worthy of discussion, and yet the game mitigates against this is a variety of ways such that there's a preceding debate as to whether it is worthwhile or possible. If you kill a monster it becomes a permanent albeit gold-bearing fixture in your hand. If you "rest", missing a turn in order to ditch one card, your opponents may get "ahead" with a deck-expanding upgrade that is nevertheless denied you for good. Some friendly monsters kill off militia, although these are better at fighting than iron ration vomit. Some heroes take cards out of opponents' hands, which tends to wreck the small-deck idea, although their effect is often REDUNDANT because there's so much crap in your deck you can usually lose one or two cards in a six-card deal WITHOUT IT HAVING ANY EFFECT. Thus if I can't kill a monster I tend to buy whatever is best in the village, as there's not a lot else to do.

Quote:
I would say none of these decisions are difficult individually but they get really good mid game. Early game your decisions are very easy. Late game is similar to early game in my opinion as you are just getting as much VP as possible and decisions become easier once again. Luckily, that part is brief as the monsters get snapped quickly. The mid game is where everything comes together for me and I see if I sink or swim.


I haven't noticed any hint of this "midgame" yet. The transition from early to late may be uneven but again its about getting a killing total first, or buying from the village if that fails. Which occurs more often indicates game position.

Quote:
I do recommend familiarizing yourself with the monster decks when you are not playing to have a better idea of what heroes you want to take with a particular set up.


I suppose its just too obvious to suggest reading any meaningful card text when you are playing. Not quite as long as War & Peace, nor Life & Fate, so it is do-able.

Quote:
As a caveat, I will say that I did not mean to imply that Thunderstone is a highly complex or deep game currently


a tough assignment, even for a Russian literary genius.

Quote:
(who knows what expansions will bring).


more of the same is not uncommon

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aforandy wrote:
There's a fair bit of bullshit on this thread.



Indeed, and we thank you for your large contribution!

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aforandy wrote:
There's a fair bit of bullshit on this thread...


I took the liberty of editing out the rest of your comments in the quote as this seems to sum up the substance of it.

I like dissenting opinions just fine. Personally, I prefer civil comments but you do what you feel you have to. kiss
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Excellent review, thanks.
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Smilinbrax wrote:

I'm confused on why you consider Dominion a "strategy" game and Thunderstone an "experience" game...


Thunderstone encourages you to get "into" the experience. No one denies that it has an RPG theme. I've played a lot of Dominion, and while it can be intellectually stimulating, I've never found myself role-playing it:

"I think I'll wander over to the Festival to earn some extra money and gain some extra time, and then head to the Chapel to trash some of my more profane baggage, and go to the Smithy to see if there's some money hiding in my wallet that I hadn't noticed."

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Jethrone wrote:
Smilinbrax wrote:

I'm confused on why you consider Dominion a "strategy" game and Thunderstone an "experience" game...


Thunderstone encourages you to get "into" the experience. No one denies that it has an RPG theme. I've played a lot of Dominion, and while it can be intellectually stimulating, I've never found myself role-playing it:

"I think I'll wander over to the Festival to earn some extra money and gain some extra time, and then head to the Chapel to trash some of my more profane baggage, and go to the Smithy to see if there's some money hiding in my wallet that I hadn't noticed."



Okay, I agree there. I just want to make sure this isn't compared to a total experience game like Tales of the Arabian Nights. I think there is more strategy than that. Thanks for the clarification.
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Smilinbrax wrote:
aforandy wrote:
There's a fair bit of bullshit on this thread...


I took the liberty of editing out the rest of your comments in the quote as this seems to sum up the substance of it.


No, its because bereft of argument you wish to lapse back into the false security of mediocrity [sp?], made more noisome by the likes of McTwat and his ilk. This will never be good.

Quote:
I like dissenting opinions just fine.


I prefer fact to views and opinions, since then one gains a sense of achievement from having moved on, possibly from the barbarism of discriminating against negative remarks for being negative.

Quote:
Personally, I prefer civil comments but you do what you feel you have to. kiss


yeah but first you have to be able to tell the difference, doncha?

Tonight's game was not to the design's advantage. Three-player, 48 - 28 - 21. Brute force won very neatly: kill any monster, otherwise buy the strongest card, no need to rest. We did the Feasts first, then the Spears. I had a quiet smile at Lantern for being the half-way point between Torch and Lightstone, but then they were effectively one point better than Warhammer or that odd-looking axe. The eschewed decks comprised Goodberries, Banish, Barkeep. All the random decks cost 4 gold, except Barkeep [2] and Feast [5]. The numbers on Noxious Slag were way out of kilter in this playing. It seems you cannot really play small-deck in this game, since cards tend to come in faster than they go out [even without Barkeep], and there's no need to since large-deck ain't weak [it hampers opponents], and sustains required losses of valuable cards.

Bottom line is that there's a host of reasonably clear design-related problems, whose effect will be to reduce repeat play value. No wonder there's hope for the expansion.
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Great review. Me and my gaming group really enjoy playing Thunderstone. It usually hits the table a couple of times a week.
 
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aforandy wrote:

No, its because bereft of argument you wish to lapse back into the false security of mediocrity [sp?], made more noisome by the likes of McTwat and his ilk. This will never be good.


Opinion stated as fact. If you really prefer fact, try to stick to facts.


aforandy wrote:
Tonight's game was not to the design's advantage. Three-player, 48 - 28 - 21. Brute force won very neatly: kill any monster, otherwise buy the strongest card, no need to rest. We did the Feasts first, then the Spears. I had a quiet smile at Lantern for being the half-way point between Torch and Lightstone, but then they were effectively one point better than Warhammer or that odd-looking axe. The eschewed decks comprised Goodberries, Banish, Barkeep. All the random decks cost 4 gold, except Barkeep [2] and Feast [5]. The numbers on Noxious Slag were way out of kilter in this playing. It seems you cannot really play small-deck in this game, since cards tend to come in faster than they go out [even without Barkeep], and there's no need to since large-deck ain't weak [it hampers opponents], and sustains required losses of valuable cards.

Bottom line is that there's a host of reasonably clear design-related problems, whose effect will be to reduce repeat play value. No wonder there's hope for the expansion.


Basically, I think you have no interest in seriously discussing the game. But, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt once. An attack is not a well reasoned discussion. A tirade on CCGs and your personal opinions presented as facts do not help the discussion. A semi-coherent rant about how your last game went poorly, does not help me either. If you are not interested in seriously discussing this game, then I expect more of the same and will not bother responding again. If you are not, you will need to clarify your issues with the game.

What would be most helpful when talking about why the most recent session was a bust, would be a rundown on what heroes were available, what monsters were in the deck, and a complete list of village items. Also, what was this brute force strategy? Did anyone else try a different strategy? Does everyone in the group play the same way?

This is what I got from your miniature session report:

Village:

Feast, Spear, Lantern, Warhammer, hatchet, Goodberries, Banish, Barkeep.

Noxious Slag = Oozes, monster 2?, monster 3?

Heroes: ?

Not knowing any of the heroes, it is really difficult to discuss strategy, but there are some things that I can glean from this.
You mention that you can’t thin your deck well and having a big deck does not matter. In fact you mentioned it might be preferable. But then you go on to say that nobody rested which is sometimes (but not always) an important way to chuck a useless card. From what I can see of the town deck, there were no good cards for getting rid of other cards, but at least some of the monsters you faced could have helped thin your deck. May oozes destroy things. Rest may have actually been a powerful tool to get rid of militia. Also, upgrading over buying helps keep your deck thin. I think goodberries should usually be ignored but are worth grabbing toward game end when you can't hit the dungeon. They are VP in your deck. Without knowing your monster and hero layout, I can't assess the usefulness of spear over Warhammer or hatchet.

I agree the barkeep is not the best choice. I also agree that monster are not always worth the same amounts in any given game. Sometimes they are much more difficult to kill than others. They balance point of this is that they are difficult for everyone equally. So while they are not consistent from game to game, they are internally consistent within a game.

I agree that decks are bigger in the Thunderstone, but bigger than what? I assume you mean Dominion. Decks are still much smaller than any CCG I've played and allow you to have more control because of this.


aforandy wrote:
For example, occasionally one deck of Dominion cards may have little relevance in combination with the others present in a playing, whereas in Thunderstone there are going to be many more. It seems that Thunderstone will work best with certain card deck combos, and badly with others, this being a bigger issue than with Dominion.



You harp on the uselessness of village cards in both of your posts and seem to think that Dominion does a better job here. I fail to see how that is true. In my opinion, Dominion often has just as many, if not more, useless cards per game and only a few really good combos. If you object to deck building games in general having this problem, that’s a fairer assessment and I agree that it is in the nature of random layouts. If you are picking on Thunderstone alone, I think that’s taking a very narrow view.



You have made many claims about how obvious all the choices are in Thunderstone. I hate to say this, but that is not a fact and no more provable than your other statements. I'm sorry, but because you say so does not make it true. I believe in your previous post you noted that, when facing a potential good VP kill in the dungeon vs getting a hero upgrade in town, it is always best to get an upgrade. Sometimes this is good and sometimes not. You may lose the monster that would have put you over the top for VP. Having a hero upgrade is great, but it takes another deck cycle to get it out. These are decisions that have to be weighed and answers are not always clear cut. I do not think one answer fits all.


One thing I will say is that I am impressed that you continue to play a game that you clearly consider flawed. Hopefully you are getting some enjoyment out of it. Otherwise, I would recommend that you consider playing something you do like.

Edited by my own decision (no coercion here) to be in compliance with BGG policy be removing any reference to dwellers under a bridge.
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