Saturday, September 21, 2013

Starting Thunder

Thunderstone: Starter Set
Designed by Mike Elliott
2 to 5 Players
45 to 60 Minutes
Deck-building Game

Dragon. Magic. Heroes. Weapons. Gold. Fantasy. Cards. Deck-building. Awesome.

This starter set is a great introduction to the world of Thunderstone, or I think so anyway. This is actually my first and only experience with the Thunderstone realm of deck-building and I really like it. I was introduced to deck-building by playing Dominion and it was a really new concept to me. Deck-building games are exactly what it sounds like; they are games where players start with a minimal starting deck and throughout the game cards are chosen to be added to a players deck by utilizing the cards already in his deck. The winner is the player who best builds and utilizes that deck (usually obtaining victory points of sorts). Take the fun of deck-building and add a solid fantasy theme with heroes fighting monsters in dungeons (leveling up your heroes as you go) - and you have Thunderstone! (Plus the name is really fun to say, and I find it a bit funny that recently there has been a big thunderstorm every night for the last two weeks - coincidence?)

Components / Rule Book
First of all, the box feels amazing. Yeah, is it really weird that I like the feel of a box? The box is nice, the cards are great. The inside of the box allows for many more cards to be added from other expansions and it also comes with card dividers. This starter set however does not include any means of keeping track of experience points (I just use dice face which works pretty well - although, I do believe some or one expansion(s) exist that provide means of keeping track of experience points). The rule book is pretty easy to understand and does well at providing visual examples/instruction on the cards. The rule book does have a nice summary on the back that can be referred to as you get used to the different actions etc.

Game Overview
Setting out with 6 basic soldiers, 2 torches, 2 stone shards, and 2 spears each adventurer sets out to strengthen their coffers, heroes, and gain the most glory (victory points) by defeating monsters and of course the dragon which is found deep in the dungeon. 12 card start, players draw 6 cards for their turn. Players can then choose to go to the village and use the cards in his hand to purchase/hire other cards to help strengthen their deck adding cards with greater money, attack values, or light (to help fight those nasty monsters). In the village players can use experience to level up heroes making them much stronger to handle the more difficult monsters getting a greater reward. The other main action to be taken is to run into the dungeon and fight monsters. You win, you get experience and victory points (maybe a disease card or two - battle damage is not uncommon even in a win). You lose, the monster heads back into the dungeon and you lose the opportunity for progression (sad day for you). Game progresses, monsters flee or get killed and players rack up victory points. Once the dragon is slain (or sneaks out of the dungeon) the game is over! Easy as that.

Gameplay and Thoughts
In these cards, there really isn't any way to attack or affect your opponents other than defeating the more valuable monsters before they do, or getting the level 3 amazing heroes first. Although there isn't great player interaction, the gameplay and theme of the game is fantastic as you and the other players battle through the dungeon and choose different ways to strengthen and use their decks.

Players take turns deciding what would best help their deck with the cards they currently have in their hand. Usually, that means checking to see if you can easily defeat a monster gaining victory points, experience points, and perhaps a bonus provided by that monster. Killing monsters means obtaining victory points and very important experience points which help level up your heroes to become more powerful (and get you another 2 points if you get them leveled up to the max level 3). If you don't have a good fighting hand, then you need to decide what village card can best help you in either future battles, or in purchasing better cards
in the future.

There are many ways to improve your deck and things to consider. If you venture into the dungeon without any "light" (certain cards like the torch, and rolling sparks have a light value - or the Tower hero) the monsters become more difficult to defeat due to the darkness (darkness increases as you go farther into the dungeon). Getting too many victory points upfront could cause issues, but that is generally want you want to do. You may want to start getting cards that have a nice dungeon ability while also providing money if you need to expand your deck that way or purchase new heroes.

Some cards have a "magic attack", which just gets added to your other attack numbers. Some monsters require magic however to defeat it. I like the concept here, but this is one area where it is a bit disappointing because the game only has one of the monsters in the entire monster deck that requires it (would love to see some of the expansions). Some of the magic cards such as Rolling Sparks doesn't require a hero to use it which is nice though - which takes me to weapons. Weapons can add great numbers to your attack, but they do require a hero to wield it (and that hero must be strong enough to lift the thing in the first place).

There really is just a lot going on in this game, and yet it isn't too much. Everything is understandable and I really enjoy the defeating monster concept of the game. There are 3 different variety of monsters and they all have a nitch of sorts (beginner - battle damage type, medium - infest you with disease undead type, and hard - just a lot of hit points type; *keep in mind these are not the official name of the types). There is a lot going on with these monsters! Experience points, victory points, gold rewards, trophy rewards, disease infestation, battle damage, and the timing element of the game. And it all works beautifully.

Keep in mind that this is a "starter set" and the game comes with just enough to wet your palate. For example, 4 different heroes are chosen and available for purchase (or leveling up) and the game comes with 5. The village is made up of 8 cards and the game comes with 10. The game is amazing, and there are opportunities for great variety and expansion with other sets. Not being familiar currently with the other sets of cards, I think these cards are good ones and I do feel that this is a great base/bare bones version. I really can't wait to try some of the other expansions and I think that after playing this game, you would be right there with me adding all the expansions you can to your wishlist and that is How Lou Sees It!

A big SHOUT OUT to AEG for making this review possible. THUNDERSTONE!

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