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Subject: A Cranky Old Man’s Review: Thunderstone (8.1 out of 10) rss

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Aaron Bohm
United States
Appleton
Wisconsin
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A Cranky Old Man’s Review: Thunderstone
8.1 out of 10


thumbsup Highs:
Takes existing concepts and makes them better in (almost) every way
Many high quality cards with multiple purposes


thumbsdownLows:
Some general built-in confusion
“Slower"
Balance of cards


Gameplay in 5 sentences or less:

1. The 500+ cards - the sole component of the game - are divided with a few stacks laid out either in the "village" in piles of items, heroes or, helpers which can be acquired by players or in a"dungeon" pile as monsters which can be fought.
2. The players are then each dealt 12 cards which represent some basic heroes (militia) as well as some helpful items and each turn they draw a hand of 6 with the objective of either (A) going into town and acquiring additional cards for their deck or (B) going into the dungeon to fight one of the three face-up monsters from the dungeon deck.
3. Each card in a players' hand has several different values; when the player chooses to go to town some have gold values which, when totaled, can be used to make one purchase or may have actions allowing some additional options (such as making additional purchases, drawing more cards, etc).
4. Additionally, the players will be trying to get cards with the right "fight values" - such as enough strength to carry needed weapons or enough light to see the monsters they are fighting - into their hand to be able to instead go into the dungeon and kill a monster which is then added to the deck and counted as victory points later.
5. By killing a monster XP is also awarded which can be used later to "level up" in-hand heroes at the village (which can also gain that player victory points) and this also depletes the dungeon deck and brings the Thunderstone, shuffled near the bottom, up to the surface triggering the end of the game.

"Shouldn't this be called the Lightningstone?"




Review:

Go ahead and shout "Yu-gi-Oh!" or "Pokemon!" the next time you’re in a crowded store as all the kids turn and look at you with familiarity (and probably all the adults with disgust). Collectable card games are well-known and have been around forever so it seemed like only the next step that people would begin to improve on them. Cue games like Thunderstone.

While not the first of it’s kind, Thunderstone addresses some of the drawbacks of collectable card game like Magic: The Gathering or Overpower and throws in a fresh spin and theme of it’s own. The two main advantages pre-box card games have right off the bat are 1. they are more "fair," as everyone plays with the same cards and 2. only one purchase is necessary for you and your friends to play. Thunderstone additionally incorporates the brilliant fusion of a dungeon-crawler theme: you command a party of heroes in your hand, level them up, add party members, and equip them with items in hopes of being able to venture into the dark dungeon to kill one of the fabled monsters.

Your adventure is represented by over 500 cards, each with stunning artwork and some interesting multipurpose attributes. For instance one card may have a village value, usually in how much gold it is worth, but also many separate attributes and combinations used in fighting monsters. Okay, so you drew one of your heroes - a mage - as well as a polearm but it seems the hero doesn't have enough strength to wield it. What’s this? You also drew torches allowing you enough light to venture deeper inside the dungeon to face a weaker demon. "Light," for example, is a favorite new mechanic of mine and balancing it in a deck can be important. If you don't want to fight you might instead use your eight gold to buy rations in town which could make the mage stronger next time.

It only takes a few rounds for the game to really pull you into it's world but as the game progresses some issues will inevitably arise. First, with the plethora of information displayed on each card combined with some poorly worded and ambiguous game rules, you’ll have to stop quite often to check and recheck the rulebook, look up online errata or even make house rules before proceeding. "What’s with the little fist and star symbols again?" or "do we round up or down when taking half?" ...little things like that pop up quite often.

The pace of the game is further affected by play design. On one hand with a 3 or 4 player group maybe you're looking to finish in around one to two hours. But again due to the wide variety of cards, other players' actions can significantly cause you to have to re-evaluate your next turn. "The monster I wanted to fight is dead" or "Level 3 Elves just became available in town" and now every turn may drag on that much more, which in a 4 player game can create quite a wait before it gets back to you. On the other hand with only 20-30 monsters to fight before the end of the game you may also get the feeling that you didn’t get to do all the things you wanted to, ironically making the game feel too short.

I should probably follow to say this is only a minor grievance and doesn’t overshadow the enjoyment of game play. Another minor issue is that, as in any card game, some cards are more powerful than others. In this one particularly, card balance should have been more of a focus as usually out of the eight village piles only three main items are used and only one or two of the four heroes types, with all the rest being significantly less useful.

It’s not hard however to tweak the card selection, with the base game containing 11 heroes (4 heroes used each time), 19 village card types (8 used), and 8 different monster classes (3 in each game) I’ll leave it to you math geeks to come up with all the possible combinations. You’ll also get more accustomed to the game play which should speed things up. Ultimately this game is not one to shy away from even if you haven’t played anything similar before. While addressing many weaknesses apparent within it’s genre and still managing to keep near limitless combinations and mind-boggling strategic options, Thunderstone offers one of the best tastes available in a card game.

Flaming Sword: +3 against Bear Cavalry

Score

Game play mechanics: 7.5
Presentation: 8.5
Playability: 7
Value: 9
Bias: 8.5
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Walter Greer
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Mint Hill
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Solid review. Keep it up.
 
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Robert Taylor-Smith
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Okotoks
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I found Thunderstone didn't have the same replayablity for my gaming group as Dominion and it's expansions. Odd since the games share so much. I'm interested to see what the expansion brings.
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Aaron Bohm
United States
Appleton
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Yeah, obviously there is a lot of back and forth between Dominion fans and new fans to Thunderstone... with our group we had the opposite problem as we couldn't get Dominion on the table after the initial spurt.

What you say makes sense though and I wish our group would have stuck with it more as with Dominion the big intrigue (pardon the pun) of the game is trying out the different kingdom cards whereas in Thunderstone so many of the village cards are useless or at least very similar to one another. Still, I find mixing the hero/monster combinations keeps it pretty fresh. Try out monsters with heavy light penalties, for example, with no additional light sources besides tourches or monsters immune to magic or magic only and you'll see that players almost need to develop new creative strategies in each game vs. the kind of same ol', same ol' that works in Dominion. Still, both games are very good so I wouldn't see why someone who has Dominion would necessarily want to rush out and get Thunderstone and visa versa. Thunderstone has more theme and Dominion has a more trimmed and fluid play style.
 
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Andreas Josefsson
Sweden
Lund
Skane
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Badges? We don' need no stinkin' badges!
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Never Knows Best wrote:

Flaming Sword: +3 against Bear Cavalry

The big drawback in my experience is that Flaming Swords tend to attract a lot of Trolls. cool

Thanks for the review. Thunderstone as is feels a little limited, but with a solid fanbase there has been promised several expansions, and with such I see the game come into full bloom and surpass it's parentage. Come Spring! Come Wrath of the Elements!

/A

(edited for spelling)
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Wayne O Connor
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Played this game last night. Hadnt heard of it and additionally none of our group have yet sampled Dominion. Anyway, long story short...It looks great, nice artwork etc...The game took about an hour to play and after an initial "getting into it" period, we were all up and enjoying it. So solid review on what is a pretty solid little game, looking forward to another try at it..
 
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