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[Full Disclosure: We here at Undergopger Central received a free copy of Thunderstone for review purposes.]
This month I will be reviewing Thunderstone from AEG. Thunderstone is, to quote the box, a deckbuilding game of fantasy adventure. Because of the theme I refer to Thunderstone as red box Dominion. Those of you that started with Basic D&D back in the eighties will see why. The idea of the game is to build a deck of Heros and equipment that will allow you to defeat monsters in the Dungeon Hall. Defeating monsters gives you xp and victory points. Xp allows you to advance Hero cards to higher levels. The theme is certainly one that will appeal to fantasy role players and deckbuilding games attract CCG players.
The first thing I noticed when unboxing Thunderstone was that the instruction book is pretty thick and I became concerned about the complexity of the game. That was proved to be an unfounded concern after reading the instructions. They are very thorough and contain several examples of play, which is always helpful. There is a plastic insert in the box to hold the cards. I consider this a requirement for a deck building game that uses several seperate stacks of cards. When unwrapping the cards I found my hands covered in what appeared to be glitter. I guess the coating used on the cards was flaking of that there were residual flakes from the manufacturing process. Other that making me look like a stripper had exploded on me, the cards are fairly sturdy and the art by Jason Engle is great. The art on the cards really helps set the tone and feel of the game. It does take a while to get all the decks divided up but fourtunately it only needs to be done once. There are dividers provided to seperate decks while in the box. The dividers are slightly larger than the rest of the cards help you see where one deck begins and ends. The dividers have the same design on both sides as the back of the cards. I really think that the dividers would work better if they were more noticeably different from regular card backs. The could be a touch larger as well but I don’t think that would help as much as a significant color change.
The game is set up in three areas: Dungeon Hall, Hero cards, and the Village. Xp and Disease cards are placed to the side of this set up, which is well illustrated in the instructions. On a players turn there are three options that affect what actions can be taken. A player can choose to visit the Village, enter the Dungeon , or Rest. Visiting the village allows the player to buy cards and level up heroes. Entering the Dungeon is where monsters can be fought for XP. There is a really cool aspect to the Dungeon, which is composed of three cards each representing a deeper level of the Dungeon. You can attack any of the monsters but the deeper they are in the Dungeon the more light sources are required to attack without penalty. As monsters are defeated they remaining ones move up a level and the deepest level is restocked from the Dungeon deck. The endgame mechanic is the Thunderstone its self which is shuffled into the last ten cards of the Dungeon deck. When the Thunderstone reaches the first level of the Dungeon the game ends. Resting allows a player to destroy a card in his hand culling it from the game. So that is basically the game.
We found that when we played Thunderstone with 2 players that the game can easily get out of hand if one player has a particularly successful turn or two early on in the game. I beat 8one6 by 54 points one game. It was brutal. The game seems to balance better with more players. I have been told that Thunderstone benefits significantly from the expansions. I personally have not played any of them at this time. I love the theme of Thunderstone but personally find the game can be very frustrating. If the monsters appear in wonky order everything seems to breakdown. I also feel like it is difficult to catch up when you are behind. That being said I know a lot of folks who love Thunderstone and play tons of it. There is a very real possibility that I’m just not very good at it and thus my frustration. I certainly will be playing the game again and hope to check on the assertion that the expansions make the game much better. While Thunderstone is not one of my favorite games, it is a solid game and despite getting frustrated I generally enjoy playing. For Fantasy role players looking for a deckbuilding game it bears taking a long look. I do recommend giving Thunderstone a try.
The next stop on the Game Night Blog Carnival is Geek Ken. Be sure to check out the main page of the Game Night Blog Carnival!