Gareth Davies
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Croydon
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I picked up a copy of Caverns of Bane, the first expansion to Thunderstone Advance, during my recent visit to the Gameskeeper in Oxford. I’m not going to try and cover all of the new cards in this review. Instead, over the next few weeks I will play each of the three scenarios listed in the rulebook and report back on how it played and what the new cards are like. I won’t go into too much detail about the Towers of Ruin cards but I will discuss how well they fit in with each quest. The following review is based on a game involving two players.

The first set up we played was Goron’s Den, which uses the wilderness side of the board and the following cards (ToR denotes Towers of Ruin set).

Heroes – Forcemage, Skinshifter, Spellsword, Tuath

Village – Bloodhound, Charm of Venery, Filigree Amulet, Innkeeper (ToR), Longsword (ToR), Mass Teleport (ToR), Seedbomb, Thorn Caltrops

Monsters – Chiroptid, Troll (ToR), Ogre, Goron Singlemind (Thunderstone Bearer)

The quote that comes with the scenario ends with a hint to the players about the task ahead: “Gorond Singlemind is good at one thing. He keeps coming. He’s a typical orc though, not too bright. Come at him with a variety of tactics, and he gets overwhelmed.”


Thunderstone Bearer Goron Singlemind


Goron Singlemind
has an imposing 16 health, significantly more than any other Thunderstone Bearer. But, as his name suggests, he’s rather one dimensional. Furthermore his battle ability is actually a hinderance. For each hero class in your hand when you take him on, he suffers -2 health. So come at him with a “variety of tactics” (as the flavour text says) and he will be a far more manageable proposition. Defeat him and he nets you four victory points. More on how we fared against Goron later on. For now, let’s take a look at the heroes you can pick from in this quest.



As the forcemage gets stronger he helps you to draw more cards


The Forcemage is a human wizard which, as he levels up, helps you to draw more cards as well as benefit from spells in your hand. At level one (Shaper) he costs eight gold and has a strength of three (rising to four at level three). This means he is capable of using either of the scenario’s two magic weapons, Seedbomb and Thorn Caltrops, but not the Longsword (without a Thunderstone buff). He has a magical attack of +2 which increases by +1 for every spell present. As there is only one spell in this set up (Mass Teleport), the Forcemage will rarely receive more than a single buff at this level. Nor will you want him to. Mass Teleport is a useful spell, allowing you to draw three cards in the dungeon, but drafting too many early on will clog up your deck. This is because after drawing the extra cards you won’t be able to use other dungeon abilities. However, Mass Teleport provides useful synergy with Forcemage at level two and three. These levels allow you to draw one and two cards respectively in the dungeon, and additional draw if that card is a spell. Drawing so many extra cards is going to make taking down Goron (or any other moster) a far easier task, making Forcemage Shaper useful addition to the scenario and the game as a whole.


The Skinshifter gets stronger as you discard cards


The Skinshifter is an entirely different proposition. Almost the mirror image to the Forcemage, he becomes stronger as you discard cards. At level one (Clawhand) this dwarf cleric costs seven goal, has strength three and a modest physical attack of +1 . However, his dungeon ability allows him to become significantly more potent and stronger by discarding a card, which adds +2 attack and +1 strength. Early on in this scenario he’s held back from getting out of hand because he can’t carry the longsword (+3 attack) without assistance. But as he levels up his vanilla strength increases alongside his dungeon bonuses for discarding cards. At level 3 (Terror) he’s a killing machine, with a potential +8 attack and +3 strength when you discard a card. He even has the opportunity to discard another card if the first was a disease, resulting in a massive attack +12 from a single hero. The only downside is that discarding cards doesn’t fit in with Goron’s dungeon ability, but with this much power in one card, it hardly matters. Also, combining the Skinshifter with a Mass Teleport can offset the damage of having to discard.

There are two other things I really like about the Skinshifter. Firstly, he’s a dwarf so he gets the big benefit from chugging a dwarven ale (+4 attack). Secondly, the art is fantastic. The skinshifter appears to be a half-dwarf, half-bear. Which is more than half-cool.


The Spellsword benefits from each magic item, weapon or spell present


The Spellsword is not quite as interesting as his shapeshifting compatriate but, with the right set-up, he can be just as potent. The elf fighter is a fairly straightforward hero who, in a nice twist, benefits from the magic items, weapons and spells you have in your hand. At level one (venturer) he has a solid +2 physical attack and a hefty five strength, allowing him to carry the longsword available in this scenario. He also gets +1 magic attack if at least of the items or spells is in your hand. At level two this becomes +1 for each. Given the abundance of magic items and weapons, as well as the presence of Mass Teleport, there is already potential from some serious stat increases at this level. Move up to Vanquisher (level 3) and the Forcemage gets +2 magic attack for each item as well as a basic physical attack of +4. Defeat a monster and as a bonus you will be able to buy a magic item, magic weapon or spell. From level 2 the Spellsword also gains one light, which is handy (though it can make him an unwitting target for the Chiroptids). Overall he’s another good addition to the roster (particularly in this scenario) though not as fun as the Skinshifter. Both are worth three victory points at level three.



The Tuath lets you fiddle with the order of the dungeon


The Tuath is the scenario’s ranger. At level one the human has +2 physical attack and, like Tower of Ruin’s Bhoidwood, comes with the downside of -1 gold when you visit the village. She’s quite a bit cheaper than the elf (4 plays 6) though this gaps narrows and then closes as the levels increase. She’s also weaker, with four strength compared to 5 (though this difference also ends at level 3). Like the Bhoidwood, the Tuath’s dungeon ability allows you to manipulate the dungeon. However, instead of switching positions, she can place monsters at the bottom of the deck and then refill the hall. At level three (Banisher) she also gains the potentially critical ability to ignore darkness penalties alongside a +5 physical attack. Her gold penalty at this level (-2) is favourable to the Bhoidwood Slayer (-3) who has a superior strength and allows you to rearrange the hall as you please. The Banisher, however, is worth three victory points compared to the Slayer’s one.

During our game the ability to move a monster to the bottom of the deck certainly came in useful, particularly against the more stubborn foes and the Desmodic with its global ability that penalises players for going to the village. Alongside the victory points she is worth, it was certainly enough to make drafting several copies of her worthwhile despite the gold penalty.

The Village


The Bloodhound, the adventurer's best friend


The Bloodhound certainly proved a faithful companion in our fight against Goron. The hound costs a reasonable five gold considering it offers +2 physical attack if at least one hero is present (given the number of regulars in your starting hand, you will rarely miss out on this bonus, even early on) and a further +1 physical attack if another bloodhound is present. So the more Bloodhounds in your hand, the better. Even with just two (and a hero) that’s +6 physical attack, which is pretty neat. Thematically I like the idea of the hound’s brutality increasing as the pack swells. It’s also worth two gold in the village. All in all a great card. I can see why the Bloodhound was the winner of a card design contest.



The Charm of Venery offers a lot of light, but quite a caveat


Another of the Caverns of Bane cards I like is the Charm of Venery. For just two gold you get yourself a magic item (buffing the Spellsword) and an impressive two light. However, this comes at a significant price. Draw this card and you will not be able to go to the village. While I’m not sure about this thematically (the flavour text doesn’t make it any clearer) it offers up a real dilemma. Two light is really useful but draft too many, particularly early on, and not only do your options narrow significantly but other players may leave you behind. However, what makes this charm even more enticing is that it is worth two victory points. So take the gamble at the right time and the rewards could win you the game.

Good cards should pose the player tough choices. Charm of Venery certainly ticks this box. I drafted three during our game and while it was certainly annoying when I was left unable to buy a card or upgrade a hero, I won the match by four points, some proof that I had made the gamble had paid off.


The Seedbomb allows you to keep a hero when levelled up


Another interesting card from the new set is the Seedbomb, a magical utility weapon which provides magical attack +2 with a React ability which allows you to keep, rather than destroy, the lower level hero when you level-up a card, destroying the seedbomb in the process. This is an interesting ability, which saw a fair amount of use in our game, though again I’m not sure it makes thematic sense. Quite how a bomb of seeds allows you to duplicate a hero is beyond me. It some senses this might have been better off as a spell. But it’s not. Instead you get a fairly easy to carry magic weapon for four gold, with an attack strength which will be useful early on before the card is destroyed for its React bonus.


Thorn Caltrops can come in handy in the right situation


Thorn Caltropsis another utility weapon which offers a very modest physical attack +1 for three gold. But that’s not why you will draft this card. Firstly, it cancels Raid effects. In Goron’s Den these threats are posed by the Chiroptids, Life Drinker and Tenebrate, which are both situational with the Amubusher keyword. Both destroy a card with a light icon but the Drinker steals 3xp too. Perhaps more useful (for this scenario) is the Dungeon ability which allows you to destroy Thorn Caltrops to cancel a battle effect. This will come in handy against almost any enemy, particularly the trolls and ogres you will face on your way to Goron. The card is pretty cheap so it won’t cost too much to replace, though it doesn’t provide any gold at the village.

Of the Towers of Ruin cards available in this scenario, Mass Teleport and Longsword are the most useful. As discussed above Mass Teleport has synergy with the Forcemage, allowing you to draw three cards with the caveat that, after use, you can’t apply any other Dungeon abilities. The Longsword provides a not particularly interesting but handy +3 physical attack. Filigree Amulet is similar to Charm of Venery in that it provides 2 points of light on the cheap but exhanges the victory points for the ability to buy more than one card in village. Like Venery it has a drawback in that when it is discarded it is destroyed instead. I didn’t end up drafting Filigree as I didn’t find myself in a situation where buying two cards was critical. Perhaps that would change with more than two players at the table. Another card I skipped entirely (as I do every time its available) is the Innkeeper. For me destroying a villager or hero for an additional buy is far too steep a price to pay.

The selection of village cards in this scenario is a mixed bag. Bloodhound is excellent, Venery poses an interesting choice and there are some good utility cards (Mass Teleport, Caltrops and Seedbomb). However, the Longsword is a bit boring and Inkeeper/Filigree never reached the table. One positive note is that the better cards were mainly from Caverns of Bane, which bode well for the expansion.

Monsters



Life Drinker is one of the more formidable Chiroptids


The Chiroptids make up the scenario’s Level 1 creatures. Firstly, big thumbs up for the killer bat creatures. There’s lot of nice thematic light/darkness related gameplay (which runs throughout Caverns of Bane) and even the monsters at the lower end of the scale can pose a challenge. For example the Darkling has a weak base health of four. However, at the start of the battle you turn over the card on the top of the deck and add its gold cost to the monster’s health. This adds a huge amount of uncertainty and no small degree of difficulty, particularly if you turn over a level three hero. Worse still, if the card has a light icon, it is destroyed so this is one occasion you do not want to reveal a fully upgraded Spellsword. All of this makes the Darkling one of my favourite baddies of the expansion. Finally overcome him and he’s worth two experience and two victory points.

The Tenebrate is an easier proposition. It has just five health and his raid effect is situational in that he only destroys a card with a light icon if there’s a card with the Ambusher keyword in the dungeon. As such he offers just one experience and two victory points. When he is in your hand he’s worth two gold.

Another card which makes use of the Ambusher keyword is the Desmodic. This Chiroptid has six health and a global effect which means the top card of a hero stack is destroyed every time a player visits the village. That can get annoying if left unchecked (though we simply destroyed a regular each time – is this legal?). Defeat the flying fiend and earn yourself one experience and two victory points. He’s also worth three gold when you draw him.

Dusk Hunter is the first and only Chiroptid to have two abilities. It’s very much like the Darkling in that he adds a cards gold cost to his strength. However, you only destroy the card (whether it has light or not) if you fail to defeat the Dusk Hunter. Additionally you lose two experience points. As a result this monster is probably less punishing than the Darkling though it has a higher base health of six. Certainly in worst case scenarios they are both difficult creatures to defeat. As such he’s close second in the race for my favourite bat beast. Dusk Hunter, who has the Ambusher keyword, is worth more experience points (3) and victory points (4).

The final creature in this set is the Life Drinker. With seven health but not buff up or battle ability he is generally easier to defeat than the Darkling or Dusk Hunter but comes with a Raid effect which destroys a card with a light icon and takes 3xp. Again, I’m a fan of the flavour. He’s worth two experience and three victory points.

I liked the Chiroptid set (perhaps my favourite first level critters so far), particularly the way they can pose a tough challenge in the mid to late game, though my one caveat is that they weren’t particularly useful cards once they were in your deck. Yes there’s a decent amount of gold in there but towards the end of the game I got the feeling they were taking up space, as there’s no trophy abilities to be seen (something which is apparent throughout this scenario). That said, they’re useful fodder for the Skinshifter.


The Trolls are a stubborn bunch which don’t leave the hall when not defeated


Another of the new monsters in Caverns of Bane are the Trolls, each of which has a common trait – they do not leave the dungeon hall if a player loses the combat. Again I like the flavour this produces. Trolls are stubborn and not easily swayed from the task (pounding you into dust) at hand.

First up is the Troll Osteomancer, a five health beast with a Battle ability which makes you discard a hero unless you have a curse in your hand, which is a nice twist. He won’t be much of a challenge towards the end of the game but the discard can be a pain early on. When defeated the Osteomancer is worth two victory and two experience points.

The chillingly named Troll Spinecutter is a fairly basic creature which makes you gain a curse during battle. He has six health, is worth two gold, two experience points and two victory points. He also sports some fairly bizarre artwork.

The Skullcracker is one of the more interesting trolls. This seven health creature has a Raid effect which means the next player must enter the dungeon and fight. It’s a nice card which can catch you unaware but its missing an nasty Aftermath effect which would elevate it to one of the game’s best bad guys. As it is, the only downside to not being able to defeat it is that you’ve effectively missed a turn. Once given a taste of his own medicine the Skullcracker is worth two experience and two victory points.

The Troll Marrowgaunt has eight health and causes a player to gain two curses during battle. So he’s basically an upgraded Spinecutter, worth the same experience but two more victory points.

Finally the Troll Bonebreaker (noticing a theme here). He has a hefty nine health and two annoying Battle effects (Discard 1 weapon, Gain 1 curse). Other than that, he’s fairly uninteresting. Killing him gets you three experience and three victory points.

Generally I wasn’t that taken with the Trolls. There’s some decent flavour amongst the cards and I can see why they are in this scenario but they just weren’t that interesting, or difficult, to fight. Stock up on your Caltrops and cancel those battle effects. Though I’m pleased to see plenty of obligatory curses.

The final set of monsters for this scenario are the Ogres from Towers of Ruin. Again, they fit in well with the rest of Goron’s horde. Though they are only level 2, they all have fairly high health levels and there are some strong Battle and Aftermath abilities in there too. They pose a sterner test than the Trolls, particularly the Ettin which has has a brutal Battle (destroy 1 hero without Magic Attack) and Aftermath (destroy 1 hero without physical attack) abilities. Though he is worth an impressive five victory points, we ended up using the Tuath’s ability to move him to the bottom of the monster deck twice during the game, such was our reluctance to engage him in combat. The Ogre Mage is nearly as challening.

Finally comes Goron Singlemind. Though avoiding the likes of the Ettin and the Ogre Mage meant we had assembled the varied group of heroes capable of taking him on (-2 for each class in your hand) a combination of card drawing and (and probably deck-building) and a lack of light meant the Thunderstone bearer managed to make it to rank one and escape, with both of us choosing to take down smaller fry for the last available victory points. While we didn’t manage to defeat him, I liked how Goron’s trait dictated how we built the decks throughout the scenario.

In the end the game finished 36 – 32, by far our closest match yet. I guess a good guage of what I think about Caverns of Bane is that I enjoyed the scenario more than the first one in the base game. For me the heroes I tried were one of the best aspects of the expansion, particularly the Forcemage and the Skinshifter. The scenario also showcased several interesting new village cards and the flavoursome Chiroptids, one of my favourite monster groups.

Check back with Rook & Roll later when we will be reviewing Caverns of Bane’s Ichor Pit scenario.


Caverns of Bane comes with a smaller box able to fit the expansion and base game


Note: Caverns of Bane comes in a smaller, more portable box than the base game, which has enough space for the all the cards, and dividers, published in the Thunderstone Advance series.

This article originally featured on http://rookandrolluk.wordpress.com/
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Martin Smith
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Great review and nice card scans. Is the new box any wider ? Just wondering if the ffg sleeves will fit sideways in this one unlike the base set.
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Thomas King
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Might want to swap out the pictures for lower-res versions. On highest resolution, the page loaded REALLY slowly.
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Dominique Roijen
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Flamehearted wrote:
Great review and nice card scans. Is the new box any wider ? Just wondering if the ffg sleeves will fit sideways in this one unlike the base set.


No, the expansion box is a huge miss sadly!

The spaces for cards are even smaller than the base game box. When you sleeve you're cards the box is useless.

Also, the base game box only barely fits all the cards premium sleeved from the base game and expansion. If you have to add the next expansion, it won't fit in box. Hope they fix it next expansion.
 
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Will M. Baker
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onemanlandslide wrote:
Another card I skipped entirely (as I do every time its available) is the Innkeeper. For me destroying a villager or hero for an additional buy is far too steep a price to pay.


I see the additional buy as an added benefit, and one I rarely can take advantage of. But being able to destroy a Regular while visiting the village is incredibly powerful, on par with the best of the deck thinners. And in this particular mix, where you have several cheap cards available, I would think that the additional buy would actually be quite useful.
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Gareth Davies
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You're probably right. I'm pretty new to the game so haven't discovered a lot of the complexities. After posting the review, three of us played the second scenario. The score finished 24-22-20 and the winning player made good use of the historian card, which I had dismissed a little to begin with. On another note, for a basic card I like the regular quite a bit (his neat card drawing with a polearm is useful) but do you think it's better to get rid of most of them as the game goes on? I'm not doing a lot of deck thinning at the moment.
 
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Will M. Baker
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onemanlandslide wrote:
On another note, for a basic card I like the regular quite a bit (his neat card drawing with a polearm is useful) but do you think it's better to get rid of most of them as the game goes on? I'm not doing a lot of deck thinning at the moment.


Yeah, the card draw is cool, and makes the Regular so much more fun to play with than the Militia. That card-draw power puts the Regular into the ranks of many other Level 1 heroes; in many cases, I'd rather have a Regular than a Gangland Thug, Canon Devotee, or Aird Cutpurse, just to name a few.

But certainly as the game goes on, ideally I would have only high-level heroes in my deck, which means the Regular has to go. Doing this sooner rather than later could mean a higher gold-per-hand average for longer, which would better enable me to buy better cards.
 
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