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Subject: A Quick and Brutal Review: Is there thunder in this game? rss

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rich n
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After playing Thunderstone a few times, it’s a good time now to offer my initial review of the game.

The review is intended to be light and not in-depth regarding game play/mechanics/rules but to serve as a guide to potential would-be purchasers of the game.

What is Thunderstone all about?

Its fantasy-themed deck building game, very similar to the popular game Dominion. Each turn you can decide to go to the village to buy weapons, items, heroes, spells then add them to your deck that you are customizing to defeat the creatures in the dungeon. The other option is you can visit the dungeon and try to defeat a creature. If you do defeat the monster, you can gain experience to level up your heroes, victory points, gold and potentially other loot. When the Thunderstone card is revealed and moved to the last “point” in the dungeon track the game ends and players add up their victory points, with the highest being the winner.

Is it similar to other deck-building games?

I’ve played Dominion quite a bit and most recently Quarriors (a dice-building game). Some may disagree with this statement, but Thunderstone plays and feels very similar to Dominion. The exception is its fantasy themed – instead of building a dominion and trying to score VP’s, you go into dungeons with custom adventuring parties and go hunting for creatures. Both my wife and oldest daughter both asked “did the guys from Dominion make this?” I thought it was pretty funny. In my opinion, you’re getting a Dominion-like game with a strong dungeon/fantasy theme. If that’s the itch you want to scratch then this may be the game.

How are the rules?

Not very impressed – I have rules v1.4 and thought the rules could have been a bit more organized with better instructions on game play. True they have examples in the back of the rule book, but for some reason, the rules weren’t clicking as easily as other rules come to me.

How are the components?

Let’s say I’m pissed. I had two militia cards corners tear on me while during normal/light shuffling. The tear was pretty bad (basically the artwork ripped off from the edges). I’ve NEVER had this happen in all the card games I’ve ever purchased. I’ll be calling AEG on Monday asking for replacement cards. The card stock is so-so and the wife made a comment that the materials looked cheap. The artwork is “dark” meaning it has more of a realistic feel than lets say a world of warcraft artistic style – kind of murky/dark but suits Thunderstone adequately. The game box also contains a bunch of cards (with the thunderstone symbol) still not sure why they put those in the box? Seems like I paid for a bunch of meaningless cards (can anyone explain?)
The artwork, in general, is good but not fantastic.

What are the turns like?

VERY FAST – I love it! While others are taking their turn, I can easily plot my next move. But this plays very much like a solitaire deck-building game with little interaction during my game plays.

Game time and set up?

Game takes a bit to set up. Thunderstone takes a while to get going. The creatures are tough especially if you have light penalties. I’d like to see a variant that gets the game going a bit quicker – it’s a slow process to build up your forces which makes for a long game. Where as in Dominion I think it’s a great game time balance (note I’m not a fan boy of Dominion just making contrasts if you’ve played Dominion).

Replayability?


So far I love the assortment of cards and how the game is randomized during set up. Plenty of tactical options for a long shelf life of gaming.


Will kids and the wife like it?

My wife actually kept asking me to play it again (she loves Dominion). The kids really liked it too! At first it seems a bit overwhelming to understand, but after a couple turns they’ll get it.

Expansions?

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’ve heard a lot about Thunderstone and I decided to take a risk and buy the main game then a few days later ordered the expansions (haven’t arrived yet). With a lot of expansions out there, I’m sure this will only enhance the game and game replay.

Final Thoughts

At first, I didn’t like Dominion. It wasn’t until after several game plays I started enjoying the combos and mechanics of Dominion. It felt tense. I felt like each turn made me make tough decisions. Thunderstone was more laid back for me. I liked collecting items, heroes and adventuring but didn’t feel that urgency.

Did I have fun? Yeah – I did – but what hung me up was how long Thunderstone takes to ramp up in terms of “getting tough enough” to beat the monsters. There’s a bunch of random going on and drawing the right cards – sure some cards improve your chances but keep this in mind if your not a huge random fan. I’m still on the fence with Thunderstone. I love fantasy and dungeon games but as of now, this feels like another flavor of Dominion. I don’t need both games and one could satisfy the itch for deck building games (plus I have Quarriors). Knowing me I’ll likely keep the too and use Dominion as a intro-game to non-gamers and if they like the fantasy element switch them to Thunderstone.

I really, really want to love this game – I’m just not seeing it right now.

Fun Factor 6.5/10
Components 6/10
Family Factor 7.5/10
Theme/mechanics 7.5/10
Game Time (for what the game is and should be) 6.5/10

Overall with tilt (6.5/10)
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rich n
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Re: A Quick and Brutal Review: Is there thunder in this game?
SAVING FOR FUTURE UPDATE
 
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Christopher Ebert
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The main difference that I found between Thunderstone and Dominion is that in Dominion, you have a buy and action in the same turn. In Thunderstone, you can only pick on of those. (Action being going to the dungeon.)
All-in-all though, to me there are a lot of differences between the two that the only two similarities that I find between them is that they are deck-building games with randomizers.

On the Thunderstone only cards, I think you are referring to the divider cards. Are they larger than the rest of the cards? If they are, those are used to keep everything separated in the box.

The first expansion, Wrath of the Elements, comes with new dividers for the base game that have the names on them and offer a much better organization. Very good choice for a first expansion IMHO if you have the base game. (Doomgate Legion is my first expansion choice if you bought Dragonspire as your base game)
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rich n
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shacky22 wrote:


The first expansion, Wrath of the Elements, comes with new dividers for the base game that have the names on them and offer a much better organization. Very good choice for a first expansion IMHO if you have the base game. (Doomgate Legion is my first expansion choice if you bought Dragonspire as your base game)


Awesome excited to try -- !
 
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Patar Absurdus the Shananigator
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I am not sure if you mentioned these factors but here are a few more potentially negative points:

1. Thunderstone has fewer paths to victory (it seems like there is more variety in available strategies in Dominion)
2. More luck (what monsters appear in the dungeon can have a huge effect on your options)
3. The slow ramp up you mentioned can be pretty bad. I believe the following three factors really create this issue: #1 very limited options for trashing (most of the options are not very effective in comparison to Chapel in Dominion), #2 a larger starting deck (12 vs. 10 in Dominion) of mostly loser cards, and #3 a strong incentive to level up heroes as fast as possible when it is often easiest to level up by staying in the village for a while.
4. A semi broken mechanic in regards to the Disease cards (at least in the first edition they where supposedly unlimited). This is especially true when using the Creeping Death card.

It is a fine game, particularly for those who really put an emphasis on theme but in my opinion the elegance of Dominion is replaced by clunkyness and nothing is added to it that makes it different/special enough to play instead of Dominion. In other words, if I am in the mood for a deck building game, I will play Dominion and if I was in the mood for Thunderstone I would just think "I may as well play Dominion."
 
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Christopher Ebert
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Redward wrote:
1. Thunderstone has fewer paths to victory (it seems like there is more variety in available strategies in Dominion)


I have a hard time seeing this as a negative point. Thunderstone may have fewer paths to victory but I don't see by much. Overall both games' winner is determined by whoever has the most victory points. With both games, more paths are opened with different expansions. Dominion has curses and Thunderstone has diseases. Both games also have cards that have the "screw you" effect for opponents.

Quote:
2. More luck (what monsters appear in the dungeon can have a huge effect on your options)


Thunderstone to me is a deck-building game with a dungeon crawl feel, and with any dungeon crawler, that statement will exist. If you don't like dungeon crawlers, then yes, this will be a negative.

Quote:
3. The slow ramp up you mentioned can be pretty bad. I believe the following three factors really create this issue: #1 very limited options for trashing (most of the options are not very effective in comparison to Chapel in Dominion), #2 a larger starting deck (12 vs. 10 in Dominion) of mostly loser cards, and #3 a strong incentive to level up heroes as fast as possible when it is often easiest to level up by staying in the village for a while.


I agree with you a bit on point 1. It is hard to get rid of stuff sometimes, but you can get creative too. I've attacked a monster that gives -2 strength to heroes and lost on purpose only because I had 4 Militia in my hand, and that helped me get rid of 4 Milita. It's there, but it just doesn't come around often.
Point number 2 I disagree on. 12 card starter deck cause you draw 6 cards per turn. Seems to me the standard in deck-builders is to have a starter deck twice the size of cards you draw per hand. Ascension starter deck is 10 cards, 5 drawn per hand. Quarriors starts with 12 dice, draw 6 per hand. Etc... Plus, the starting cards are suppose to be the weak ones. Even in Dominion the starter cards are weak.
Point number 3 is true, if the other person is doing the same thing. However I have just stayed in the village and bought a bunch turn after turn and got to the point where I bought level 3's before even going to the dungeon, and I wound up losing cause I spent too much time in the village while the other was fighting. I also wound up with a bunch of XP I couldn't use.

Quote:
4. A semi broken mechanic in regards to the Disease cards (at least in the first edition they where supposedly unlimited). This is especially true when using the Creeping Death card.

Would you explain why you feel it's semi-broken? Cause I don't see it. (Not saying I don't agree, cause your point of view could make me think otherwise)

Quote:
It is a fine game, particularly for those who really put an emphasis on theme but in my opinion the elegance of Dominion is replaced by clunkyness and nothing is added to it that makes it different/special enough to play instead of Dominion. In other words, if I am in the mood for a deck building game, I will play Dominion and if I was in the mood for Thunderstone I would just think "I may as well play Dominion."


Interesting, I feel the same way except vice-versa. To each their own. Thunderstone seems to be a love it or hate it game. And we know there are tons of Dominion vs. Thunderstone wars here on the geek... I was going to conclude at one point that it seems like whichever one you played first is the one you get attached to, but I played Dominion first. Then I thought it was theme. But I prefer gameplay and fun over theme. (Theme does help though) I think what also attracted me more to Thunderstone is the fact that it's soloable. And I do loves me soloable games.
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