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Thunderstone Quest – Part 2

by Blog, Reviews, Thunderstone

  • Mechanics 95% 95%
  • Theme 75% 75%
  • Game Play 85% 85%
  • Co-op-iness 50% 50%
  • Deck Clog (monsters in your deck) 0% 0%

When the hulking monstrosity, in all its 19lb glory showed up on my doorstep, I was ecstatic and I was not disappointed.

Steve

Dear Thunderstone Quest,

What can I say? I am so happy to have met you. You are near perfect in my eyes. I know that we have a long and happy life ahead of us. There’s no one else for me. I love you so. Let me count the ways…

 

So, along comes Thunderstone Quest. AEG launched it as a kickstarter and in no time at all, the game was fully funded. People were a little perturbed that you couldn’t use your Thunderstone Advance cards in this version of the game, but the folks at AEG promised that it was a new, streamlined experience and that Thunderstone fans would not be disappointed. I promptly backed it, followed the campaign closely and liked what I saw. When the hulking monstrosity, in all its 19lb glory showed up on my doorstep, I was ecstatic and I was not disappointed. Thunderstone Quest keeps everything I love about its previous iteration while it amends all that was problematic.

Theme

Most apparent is that the game’s theme remains the same and, if you want to involve yourself in the narrative and the flavour text, there is a grand fantasy tale to be found. This time around, the game casts the players as Champions of Thunderstone Keep. You have been enlisted to retrieve magical items from various dungeons in an effort to keep a powerful being imprisoned (at least that’s what I puzzled together from the first couple of scenario introductions). Nonetheless, you are still recruiting heroes and acquiring items and spells in an effort to destroy monsters and defeat Thunderstone Guardians.

While the art has changed a little with a brightened color palette, it remains top notch and engrossing. The goblins leap off their cards at you, the heroes look compelling and ready for adventure, and the festering wound card could make you lose your lunch. Most importantly, the female characters are sensibly clothed and can be seen wearing functional robes and armour like their male counterparts. The game has added a dungeon section, comprised of 7 different tiles that vary by scenario, and while it’s a bit of a table hog, the art on these dungeon locations are majestically rendered as well. If you happen to be into miniatures, the game also comes with some highly detailed characters for you to choose from as you need to place these minis in various locations in the village. Various locations in the village? Yup. Game-play has changed in Thunderstone Quest too. Thankfully, it’s for the better.

Gameplay

While the game remains singularly focused on deck building, a few streamlined upgrades markedly improve the game-play.

Firstly, players choose a side quest and a guild faction which not only gives more agency and decision making but also provides bonuses like extra XP and legendary treasure cards.

Players also have choices to make in the village beyond which card to buy or which hero to level up. You can choose to visit the Monastery to heal your wounds (because you can take wounds in the dungeon now!), or go to the Shop of Arcane Wonders to buy treasure (because you can buy loot right away!), or go to the  Bazaar to buy gear like lanterns and potions (because … more stuff!). And these are just a few of the options available to you in the village.

The Dungeon has also changed and now provides you with more choice and opportunity. Some of the rooms where you fight monsters will grant you spoils like a treasure or potion, while others will boot you out of the dungeon or deal you more wounds.  Speaking of wounds, fighting a monster in TQ, almost guarantees that you will take some damage. Take a couple of wounds, and your hand size decreases for your next turn. Battle a couple of big foes in a row, and you might just draw one or two fewer cards on your next turn. This adds a neat push your luck element in the dungeon as you may try to hold your ground and fight as many monsters as you can to rake in the VP’s. This addition to the dungeon also balances the game in such a way that a practiced player cannot just build a strong deck and remain in the dungeon slaying monsters. They will eventually have to retreat to the village and may have to spend a couple of turns to heal up.

Quality of Life Improvements

Possibly my favorite change to the game is that once you defeat a monster in TQ it no longer goes into your deck, but is discarded from the game. The inclusion of wounds is a much more thematic way to mess with a player’s turn. I’m happy to leave the bodies of my enemies in the dungeon and take their treasure and loot as my trophy. Ah, that feels so much better.

The pace of the game has also picked up quite a bit. Another one of my fave changes to the game is the card combo available to you in your starting hand. If you have your Level 0 Adventurer (TQ’s “Regular”) in conjunction with a lantern, you can take a village turn and immediately after, take a turn in “The Wilderness.” The Wilderness sits above the dungeon and has a giant rat that you can fight for a spoils ability that allows you to level up a 0 level hero. So, a bunch of your initial turns in TQ will consist of you buying a desired village card, followed by fighting a giant rat, thereby culling a starting card from your deck and adding a more powerful hero. You can also trash one of your starting daggers anytime they’re in your hand and you’ve bought something in the village. These two changes to the starting deck significantly speed things up.

Another element of the game design that seems to make things move along a little quicker is the addition of the guardian keys. These are represented on cards and are shuffled into the monster decks at the start of the game to effectively serve as the game’s timer. Once the fourth key is drawn, the guardian is revealed and each player gets a final turn to attack the games, big boss.

Finally! A climactic ending to a Thunderstone game. Players are on edge once the third guardian key is revealed, knowing that any minute the guardian may show up. When it does, players have one more turn, draw 6 additional cards to their current hand and then have to discard 4, which usually results in a powerful hand of cards capable of fun combos and able to generate some serious attack power. Your aim is to hit the guardian as hard as you can because you get VP’s equal to half of your attack! Once everyone has had an opportunity to attack the guardian, players total up VP which now includes your XP tokens and values on your treasure cards. A fitting and epic end to an epic game!

The only issue? Thunderstone lacks a cooperative play mode, which would suit the game. This looks like it will be rectified as AEG has successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign that boasts a very intriguing co-op mode that has big chunky dice and simultaneous turns! I’ve backed it and can’t wait to give it a try! It looks to be the final piece of the puzzle that will make for the ultimate Thunderstone experience!  

… Oh, my love. I know it’s forever. Someone joked to me the other day about what I would do if Thunderstone Quest Advance were to come along. I laughed and reassured them that it would never happen. Hahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahaha……

It will never happen right? 

{ nervously googles Thunderstone Quest Advance, gets no hits }

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahaha…

Love,

Steve  

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About The Author

Steve

Steve Haley is a musician and high school teacher with a penchant for comic books, RPG video games and exploring the world of craft beers one (or two) bottles at a time. His favorite game mechanic is deck building and he gets a bit light headed when he is able to chain together more than three cards in a hand.