Ah, it’s about time to write a review for one of my favorites and one of the games i’m proud of, Thunderstone. Do not be deceived by the look of the box / package, it’s a card game, a simple card game though the box really made you think otherwise (like some medium heavy box games which contains lots of components and board, but it’s heavy alright). Published by AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) in 2009, this game was designed by the designer Mike Eliiot (the man who brought you Earthquake, Battle Spirits, Duel Masters and the soon to be hit dice game, Quarriors).
For ages the vile Doom Knights have sought to gather the remaining Thunderstones to fulfill a prophecy of corruption over the lands. Now the first Thunderstone has been discovered in the Dungeons of Grimhold and the Doom Knights have sent their minions to claim the relic. The Villagers of Barrowsdale gather brave souls to face the dungeon and keep the Thunderstone out of the hands of the Doom Knights.
1. The Theme
Thunderstone is a fantasy deck-building card game which players take the role of heroes trying to fight the threat of the Evil forces and gain the Thunderstone (Stone of Mystery). As it was written, the Thunderstone is a supernatural stone which need to be collected by the Doom Knight to fulfill an evil prophecy which can bring corruption throughout the lands. Now the first Thunderstone has been discovered in the Grimhold dungeon near the village of Barrowsdale. While the Doom Knights are set to claim the relic in the dungeon, Barrowsdale must gather forces consist of brave souls to face the threat of the Doom Knights and get the stone before the Doom Knights have it. So it’s a fantasy based with dark and grim atmosphere (presented by the image of the monsters and the dungeon exploration itself). So anyone with the feel of adventures are likely gonna love the theme.
2. The Artworks
I would say no doubt that the game artworks are marvelous. Love all the illustrations from Jason Engle (A Game of Thrones, Castle Ravenloft, Magic The Gathering and Legend of The Five Rings). His artworks are simply stunning and it really fits into the theme. I like his illustrations of the Doom Knights and other monsters and also the heroes. If your’re fantasy RPG fan, you’re gonna like his artworks.
3. The Game Components
Well, this one is simple, what else, cards… lot of cards (guess what 530 cards in the box), that explains the card game category right? The 530 cards consist of different categories range from heroes, village, monsters and the randomizer cards (also include the separators). The box is big and heavy (for more than 500 cards, no wonder) and also inside the box there’s a separate containers to categorized each type of cards for easier setup. And cause it’s a card game, sleeve is important accessory, so i spend 530 sleeves just for the base game (pheew….)
4. The Game Play
This 2-5 players card game gives you the opportunity to embark on an adventure in dungeon crawling to colect points and of course the objective of the game, the stone of mystery. First start each player receive 12 cards which formed as their deck (in time this deck will be growing) as 6 militia, 2 iron rations, 2 torches and 2 daggers.Shuffle the deck and draw 6 cards (alway 6 each turn, unless there is special condition stated otherwise). The main deck consist of 2 separate place (village and dungeon) which each place provide an action (go to village or to the dungeon). These places are set with randomizer to balance the game. When players enter village, they can buy items (weapons, spells, foods & lights), heroes (4 different types), upgrade their heroes or play cards in their hand (6 cards in hand) with the village ability. Dungeon hall is filled 3 rank of monster that are drawn from the monster deck (randomly shuffle the monster cards and insert the Thunderstone). Just as the ocean from If Wishes Were Fishes, this hall provide special condition when battling the monsters. Rank 1 monster is the face up monster card that placed in the farthest of the deck, and rank 3 monster is in the nearest from the monster deck. Each rank gives light penalty of 2 (-2 attacks), which mean rank 3 monster card gives the penalty of 6 attacks when engaged. Upon entering the dungeon, player can choose which monster he wants to fight, and reveal all cards in his hand and resolve the fight. Whether he win or lose, the cards in his hand are discarded. The last action available is rest (which sums up the actions available for players to choose, village / dungeon / rest).
Monster cards provide players with coins, xp points, special ability and VP, while the last and highest level of heroes also provide players with some VP (though the range is between 2-3 points). The goal of the game is to collect points, and player with the highest VP when the Thunderstone is claimed win the game. Weapons, items and spells provide modifier for players attack. While character cards in the village provide special action which can be used in the village. Discarded card will be placed on the used card deck and will ba shuffled again to form a newly deck after the deck is empty, while destroyed cards are completely out of the game. Players will take turn to do their action, expand and build their decks to challenge the dungeon.
5. The Replay Value
Honestly, i haven’t play the game often (just about 4-5 plays) and i still find it interesting and always eager to play it again. Well, so far the replay value did meet my criteria. When i analyzed the replay value, it did come to my mind that the game play must getting us bored by the time about such individual interactions between players, since nobody does give a damn about others action and only concern to build their own deck. But somehow it really turned out to be different (well must agree there is aspect that showed the light of this matter), since the competition aspect of the game really well placed, so you must (or were forced) to take account every actions your opponents take. And the situation is more gripping when the Thunderstone card is revealed in the dungeon hall (now we’re talking, this is some intense bull-shit situation which you hope that players before you doesn’t have the right cards in his hand this turn. And also you must pay attention on the card ranks and how the game flow after the Thunderstone is revealed in rank 3 cards. Well, this really gives you something to think about. The randomizer also add replay value of the game since with it there will be different experience each game. And don’t forget all the interesting expansion that AEG has to offer (4 expansions) with new additional heroes, monsters, items and many more and also new game rules and systems.
My Thought of The Game
This game is so outstanding, i love it very much. Well if i would say about the good and the bad, it almost strike 10. The theme, the artworks, the game play, are perfect. The only downside of the game is the setup process and the complicated rules that need lots of clarifications. Whenever i play the game, there always one time like “what’s that supposed to mean?” or “we should ask someone!” or “shit…it’s dead end, the rules doesn’t explain it” or else… so yes, the rules did sucks, but the rest are epic!
When you mention this game, it’s always bring the arch-rival into matters, which is Dominion, some said both of the games are resemble each other. Since Dominion was realeased previously, some said that Thunderstone did was made by Dominion’s game system (i wouldn’t disagree on that). But let’s state the fact that Thunderstone is known as the Dominion game with theme (now that’s something i tell you). I haven’t played Dominion yet and really wnat to try it, but if the theme is that makes it different, then i would prefer Thunderstone. The downside of Thunderstone is the game setup (preparation of the deck is taking little bit steep overtime, and so is after the game). I love the game and probably have the plan to get a copy of all the expansions (already got the hold of the ‘For The Dwarf’ Promo Card from Geek Store.
You can also view this review on boardgamegeek.com here.