Thunderstone is a deck-building game by Mike Elliott, published in 2009, one year after Dominion hit the market, creating a frenzy with the introduction of a hot combination of mahjong ways mechanics: deck building and card drafting. In games using these mechanics, players choose cards from a common pool laid out on the table, and try to gradually built the best deck of cards with which they will acquire the most victory points. The theme of such games may differ but the main idea remains the same. With this review we will look at 2 games, the original Thunderstone released in 2009 and the new Thunderstone Advance, which is a new improved implementation of the original game.
In Thunderstone, you are the leader of a heroic party of adventurers arriving at Barrowsdale, near Grimhold Dungeon where the first Thunderstone, an artifact of evil power, is kept. You seek to find the Thunderstone but in order to do so, you have to battle powerful monsters that guard the dungeon. You must build a deck of cards, consisting of adventurers, weapons, magic spells, food and other items. Before beginning the game, you have to setup 3 different kind of decks. Remember that in each game of Thunderstone you won’t be using all cards available in the game but each time the cards you use will be different:
Dungeon deck: There are 8 different classes of monsters. You choose 3 or more classes at random, take all monsters belonging to these classes and shuffle them to form the dungeon deck. Shuffle the special Thunderstone card with the bottom 10 cards of the Dungeon deck. Now you are ready to populate the hall which is the area where you fight the monsters, placed next to the Dungeon deck. There are 3 ranks of monsters in the Hall Area.
The card farthest from the Dungeon deck is rank 1 and the one closest is rank 3. These ranks are populated with monsters from the Dungeon deck. The rank of each monster, is associated with a specific amount of Light penalty, subtracted from the heroes attack power. This element of the game tries to simulate a real situation in a dungeon, where the farther you advance into it, the less light there is, inhibiting you to properly see the monsters, thus lowering the power of your attack. Each point of light penalty subtracts 2 points of power from your attack. Monsters placed in rank 1, give a light penalty of 1 (thus attack -2), monsters in rank 2 give 2 points of light penalty (thus attack -4) and those in rank 3 give 3 points of light penalty (thus attack -6).
Village deck. The village deck consists of Heroes, Magic spells, weapons and various items. Those are chosen randomly each time you play, using randomizer cards, just as monster classes are chosen. However there are 4 basic card types that will always be present in the village: Militia, Torch, Iron Ration and Dagger. In each game you will choose 4 different Heroes and 8 different Village cards to populate the village along with Basic cards. All these cards populate the village. Each time you choose to visit the village as your action, you can buy one of them.
Starting Deck. Each player is dealt 6 Militia (6 Regulars in Thunderstone Advance), 2 daggers (Longspears in Thunderstone Advance), 2 iron rations (Thunderstone Shards in Thunderstone Advance) and 2 torches. This is your starting deck which you will gradually grow, filling it with cards from the village and monsters you defeat. You shuffle your deck and place it face down in front of you. Draw the top 6 cards of your deck and you are ready for adventure. Visit the village: The cards you have in your hand, give you a certain amount of gold coins. You can use this gold to buy cards from the village as you see appropriate. In fact that’s what you will mainly do in your first few turns, as you wil probably not be strong enough to attack monsters in the hall.
Enter the dungeon: Each hero has an attack power, indicated on the card. The combined attack power of all the heroes in your hand is your total available power to defeat monsters. Moreover some cards, like the torch, give you light, thus reducing or even eliminating light penalties. If you are strong enough to defeat a monster in the Hall, taking into account light penalties, you can enter the dungeon, equip your heroes with weapons if available, cast spells and defeat a monster. Each monster, when defeated, awards you with a certain amount of victory points and some experience points which you can use to level up your heroes. Rest. By choosing this option, you can rest and may destroy one card from your hand. It goes to the destroyed cards pile, not to the discarded pile.
At the end of your turn, you discard all cards in your hand to the discard pile and draw six new cards. When your deck is depleted, shuffle all cards from the discarded pile to form your new draw pile. The game ends when a player collects the Thunderstone (by defeating a monster in Rank 1 thus causing the Thunderstone to move to that open rank) or it enters Rank 1 because a monster wasn’t defeated. Players count up victory points from cards they have collected throughout the game. The player with the most victory points is the winner. In 2012, a new updated version of Thunderstone was released: Thunderstone Advance. The first set of the new version is called “Towers of Ruin”. Cards from original Thunderstone and Thunderstone Advance can be mixed together. Here are the most important new features of Thunderstone Advance: