Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Thunderstone

Thunderstone is a fantasy-themed deck building card game from Alderac Entertainment Group. It is for 1 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, and the average game takes about an hour. That's right - this game has solo rules.


The base game comes with over 500 cards and the goal is to build your deck with stronger and stronger heroes and better weapons and gear to defeat the monsters until you finally claim the Thunderstone. There are three expansion sets for the game as well (Doomgate Legion, Dragonspire, and Wrath of the Elements).

The setup for the game can take a while at first, until you get used to it. Learn from my error - the cards come in groupings so don't mix them up. :-) Once you get a handle on the setup and sort the cards properly, setup becomes much quicker. 

You don't use all the cards in every game. To determine what will be in the game, you use the special randomizer cards - there are randomizer cards for each type of Hero cards, Village cards, and Monster cards. To start, find the monster cards that match what you picked from the randomizer - shuffle these together to form the Dungeon Deck. Count off 10 of these, shuffle in the special Thunderstone Card, and put them on the bottom of the pile. Leave space beside the Dungeon Deck for the 3 ranks of Monsters to defeat.



Next you set up the Village. There are the four types of Basic cards that are used in every game of Thunderstone - Militia, Torch, Iron Rations, and Dagger. Additionally there are the Village cards chosen by the randomizer cards. Do NOT shuffle the Village cards - each type is put on the table in its own pile.

Last thing to set up are the Heroes - for each class of Hero there are 3 levels, and each is piled with the level 3 cards on the bottom and the level 1 cards on top.

To start, each player draws 6 Militia cards, 2 Dagger cards, 2 Iron Ration cards, and 2 Torch cards. Shuffle these together and draw 6 cards to form your hand. The remaining 6 cards stay facedown as your Party Deck. As you play the game you discard cards into your discard pile and work through your Party Deck. Only once the Party Deck is gone do you shuffle the discard pile and place it facedown to form your Party Deck. Each time you purchase cards or defeat monsters the cards go into your discard pile, so the deck gets bigger all the time.

On your turn you have 3 options - you can Visit the Village, Enter the Dungeon, or Rest:

1) If you Visit the Village you reveal you hand, count up the amount of gold you have (indicated on the cards in your hand) and can purchase one card with a value up to the amount of gold you have. You can buy items, weapons, spells, or heroes. Anything you buy goes into your discard pile. If you have enough experience points, you can also choose to level up any or all of the Hero cards in your hand. At the end of your turn you discard all cards in your hand (whether you used them or not) and draw 6 new cards from your Party deck.

2) If you Enter the Dungeon you reveal your hand, declare what monster you are attacking, and resolve the combat. If you defeat the monster you put that card in your discard pile. Shift the monster cards on the table to fill empty ranks from the Dungeon Deck (ie if you defeated the monster in Rank 2, move the monster from Rank 3 to Rank 2, and draw a new monster card and place it in Rank 3). At the end of your turn you discard all cards in your hand (whether you used them or not) and draw 6 new cards from your Party deck.

3) If you choose to Rest you may Destroy one card from your hand (remove it from the game, it does not go in your discard pile). At the end of your turn you discard all cards in your hand (whether you used them or not) and draw 6 new cards from your Party deck.

The game continues until a player has collected the Thunderstone or the Thunderstone moves to Rank 1 of the Dungeon because a monster was not defeated. Each player then counts the amount of Victory Points they have (not all cards have Victory Point values) and the player with the highest total wins.

Overall the game is a ton of fun. There are a few suggestions I would make - I think the pictures on the Hero cards should be different for each level so you can easily see what level it is (eg perhaps older, or better equipment). The divider cards in the base set are not much larger than the game cards themselves which makes them almost useless - but I undertand this has been remedied in one of the expansions. I think the biggest challange of this game is keeping the cards in order :-)

I would highly recommend this game to anyone who has played Dominion or Ascension, or anyone looking to get into a non-collectable card game.

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