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Subject: Thunderstone for the solo gamer rss

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Mike Amos
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As I've been participating in Secret Santa this year I've been thinking about how long it's been since I added anything but a rules question to the site. I decided to see what games I've played the most but not reviewed and put in a few. When I looked at my plays (not an exhaustive list) I found Thunderstone near the top.

A few notes on this review:
1. As I write this Thunderstone Advance is the version of Thunderstone that is available at retail. This review is based on playing the original game. I have not played Thunderstone Advance and don't have the slightest idea what differences you may find.

2. This review is based off of my solo plays of Thunderstone, which was almost exclusively the way I played it

3. This review includes the base game, Wrath of Elements, Doomgate Legion, and Dragonspire. I played with various combinations of these throughout my plays.

Cost: At about $20(US) per box this clocks in at around $100 by the time you pile them all up and pay for shipping or a surcharge to your FLGS. You have to decide what your economy threshhold is. As you'll see below, you may find hours of fun from this but does that pan out for you. Personally, bought the game over a couple years and probably paid more than $100 because I was buying things as they came out, but I felt like I good good value for my money.

Accessibility: Thunderstone isn't super accessible. If you've played Dominion or Nightfall, you've got a good start. If you've never played Dominion then maybe Race for the Galaxy will give you a leg up. If you've got no background in deck builders, then this might be the wrong place to start with them.

Replayibility: Thunderstone has the typical deck builder feature that each time your roll, you will see a different combination of cards. Because of the way that the cards interact, you will get experiences that seem vastly different from one game to another. That said, after a dozen or so games focusing on any expansion, you will feel like you have it grasped and will be looking for that new wrinkle.

Fun: I had fun. I enjoyed trying to solve the puzzle of how to get the monsters each time. As I would draw my card for the game I would immediately start trying to solve the situations I would face. Every once in a while I would encounter a game that just wasn't fun, I had the wrong monsters and heroes. Given that it was a one player game, I could just redraw.

Summary: I enjoyed the game while I had it but I did get rid of it. I got rid of it because I only played it solo and I grew tired of the solo experience in general. If I had some people to play with I think I would have kept it. Now that I have some people who I think would play it, I have considered getting it again.

If you like fantasy dungeon delves and deck building, this is a must have.

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I think the worst thing about being a crime boss would be having to write performance reviews for all of those career criminals.
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My wife and I played this twice with my in-laws, who apparently really like the game. I found it frustrating and not much fun at all. You go to the village and buy the cards you need to defeat the next monster, add the cards to your deck, shuffle them and deal out a hand. There's no guarantee that you'll get the cards you just bought, and if you don't (which happened to me a lot) you can't defeat the monster. So you go back to the village, buy more cards, shuffle them into your deck -- which further reduces the odds that you'll get the cards you need -- then fail again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I figured I just had a run of bad luck the first game, so I tried a second one some weeks later. Nope, exact same experience. Now I have no interest in ever playing this again. If all deck-building games are like this, then there's no incentive to try those either.

The only thing that would get me to play Thunderstone again is adding a house rule that lets you choose the cards for your hand from the ones available in your deck. Working with the other players, that would give you a decent chance to win. Otherwise, forget it.

EDIT: Removed objectionable statement.
 
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Rick Teverbaugh
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claymore_57 wrote:
My wife and I played this twice with my in-laws, who apparently really like the game. I found it frustrating and not much fun at all. You go to the village and buy the cards you need to defeat the next monster, add the cards to your deck, shuffle them and deal out a hand. There's no guarantee that you'll get the cards you just bought, and if you don't (which happened to me a lot) you can't defeat the monster. So you go back to the village, buy more cards, shuffle them into your deck -- which further reduces the odds that you'll get the cards you need -- then fail again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I figured I just had a run of bad luck the first game, so I tried a second one some weeks later. Nope, exact same experience. Now I have no interest in ever playing this again. If all deck-building games are like this, then there's no incentive to try those either.

The only thing that would get me to play Thunderstone again is adding a house rule that lets you choose the cards for your hand from the ones available in your deck. Working with the other players, that would give you a decent chance to win. Otherwise, forget it. You'd have to pay me a serious chunk of cash to waste another hour on this game.


I have to ask, is that why you are here? To wait for an offer of cash? Perhaps it is just me but I don't hang out in the forums of games I dislike this much. I'm not really sure any games you would like to play. All of them I can think of except maybe chess or checkers have uncertainty of what will come up in drawing cards or rolling dice.

You also made a misstep is saying adding more cards was decreasing the chances of getting cards you need. Exactly the opposite is true, unless you are foolish enough to be adding cards to your deck from the village that you don't need. Perhaps that is your problem. Another misrepresentation you made is creating the impression that there is only 1 monster to attack each turn. If you are playing that way it isn't according to the rules.
 
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Jason Birzer
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claymore_57 wrote:
My wife and I played this twice with my in-laws, who apparently really like the game. I found it frustrating and not much fun at all. You go to the village and buy the cards you need to defeat the next monster, add the cards to your deck, shuffle them and deal out a hand. There's no guarantee that you'll get the cards you just bought, and if you don't (which happened to me a lot) you can't defeat the monster. So you go back to the village, buy more cards, shuffle them into your deck -- which further reduces the odds that you'll get the cards you need -- then fail again. Wash, rinse, repeat.


From what you are saying here, I would guess that you don't quite understand the strategy for most deckbuilders. The first part of the game you will be spending building your deck, which you will be buying the cards that you will need to defeat the monsters in the dungeon, and getting rid of the cards that don't help you as much, so that what you do draw will help you more often than not in the dungeon. (Either through resting, or through village cards.) Going to the dungeon early doesn't gain you that many advantages

It may be helpful to you to take a look at the monsters that will be in the dungeon deck to know what kind of abilities would be most helpful to you.

Quote:
The only thing that would get me to play Thunderstone again is adding a house rule that lets you choose the cards for your hand from the ones available in your deck. Working with the other players, that would give you a decent chance to win. Otherwise, forget it. You'd have to pay me a serious chunk of cash to waste another hour on this game.


You might want to take a look at the Thunderstone Advance ruleset to see what you can take from it to help you. For example, they have added an additional action on your turn called "prepare", which allows you to put x amount of cards on top of your draw pile. They also limit the amount of certain types of village cards to get a better mix in the village.

I'm sorry your experience was disappointing.

rickert wrote:
I have to ask, is that why you are here? To wait for an offer of cash? Perhaps it is just me but I don't hang out in the forums of games I dislike this much. I'm not really sure any games you would like to play. All of them I can think of except maybe chess or checkers have uncertainty of what will come up in drawing cards or rolling dice.


Dude, that was uncalled for.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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Sorry you feel that way, Dude. He stated his opinion. I stated mine and then I cleared up a couple of errors in his post. Didn't see anything out of the way there.
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Roger
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Nice review.

I only disagree with one point: Accessibility. I don't think that "Thunderstone isn't super accessible". Once you got the light effect it is just about adding your attack and magic attack together + weapons to match that of the monster. Most Monsters and Dungeon effects are quite obvious. I have never played Dominion, and my first deck builder was Ascension: Deckbuilding Game which has two currencies and a vaguely similar mechanics.

I don't think anybody should be affraid or worried to start playing a deck building with Thunderstone.

~j
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Quote:
From what you are saying here, I would guess that you don't quite understand the strategy for most deckbuilders.

I guess I don’t.


Quote:
The first part of the game you will be spending building your deck, which you will be buying the cards that you will need to defeat the monsters in the dungeon, and getting rid of the cards that don't help you as much, so that what you do draw will help you more often than not in the dungeon. (Either through resting, or through village cards.) Going to the dungeon early doesn't gain you that many advantages.

It may be helpful to you to take a look at the monsters that will be in the dungeon deck to know what kind of abilities would be most helpful to you.

It’s been two years since I last tried playing, so my memories may be faulty, but I remember that my sister-in-law and her husband did a good job explaining the way the game worked and what we were trying to do. I suspect that the whole concept just didn’t “sink in”, especially since that was the first (and so far, only) deck-builder I ever played.

I remember that we did look ahead at the monsters, and they seemed pretty intimidating. My SIL is a “completist”, meaning that when she likes a game, she automatically buys every expansion as soon as it comes out. She really likes Thunderstone, so I’m fairly certain that we were playing with all the expansions available at that time. It could have been that that was too much for a beginner like me.

I don’t recall discarding any cards, so either I’ve forgotten doing it or I was neglecting to do it during the game. I just remember that my biggest frustration came from buying the card(s) I needed to go to the dungeon, then shuffling them into my deck and hoping that I would deal out the ones I had just bought. It was so random. I kept wondering why I couldn’t just choose the cards I wanted/needed from my deck and place those in my hand to use. Is this an integral part of the game that I’m misunderstanding?


Quote:
You might want to take a look at the Thunderstone Advance ruleset to see what you can take from it to help you. For example, they have added an additional action on your turn called "prepare", which allows you to put x amount of cards on top of your draw pile. They also limit the amount of certain types of village cards to get a better mix in the village.

That sounds good. If that rule was added in the last two years, then that sounds like it would change game play enough that I might want to try it again. The game looks cool, and I want to like and enjoy it, but right now I’m confused and frustrated by it.


Quote:
I'm sorry your experience was disappointing.

Thanks, but I strongly suspect that it’s just me.
 
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Damien Browne
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claymore_57 wrote:
I kept wondering why I couldn’t just choose the cards I wanted/needed from my deck and place those in my hand to use. Is this an integral part of the game that I’m misunderstanding?




I believe so.

The game is about building a successful deck.

It's about choosing the practical combinations of cards that have greater success rates than others, and greater ways to interact.

For example, let's say I am desperate to buy a weapon and there are three to choose from. There's the cheap one, which has +2 attack on it, there's the medium one, which is dearer but has +3 magic attack on it and +1 light.
And there's the expensive one which has +5 damage on it, and some other uber skill, but has a high strength requirement.

I'm only going to buy that expensive weapon if I have enough champions with high strength.
If I buy the middle one, I'm unlikely to buy a ton of light items or spells. If my deck is already heavy in these, I'll buy the cheap one that every single champion in my deck can wield.

The game is about building an 'engine'.
I use card effects that allow me to strip bad cards out of my deck, and also cards that quickly allow me to earn the cards I need. If I need high cost cards, first I buy cards that have high gold values.

Once I have a lean mean fighting machine, I then kill monsters for as long as the luck of the draw will allow.

The game is about seeing your every hand dealt to you (lucky or unlucky) and making the most of that situation.
If you can kill a monster, great. If you can't kill a monster, go to the village. If you can't afford anything vital, then rest and strip a bad card out of your deck.
Yet sometimes you need to reverse the order of that set of priorities. (Stripping cards out can be more important than buying them. Yet in other times buying the last card of its type might be crucial.)
Sometimes buying the most expensive card you can afford is a mistake if it doesn't combo well with any of the cards you have already bought.

And so on. These facets are why we don't just pick out the cards we wish for.
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