For this week’s Geek Game Night we will be taking a look at Thunderstone. Thunderstone is a deck building game from Alderac Entertainment Group for 2-5 players. It has been around for a few years and has numerous expansions, but I will be covering the base set in this review.
First I’ll talk about the overall quality of this game. The cards are excellent and fairly durable, with a sort of linen/woven look and feel. The artwork on the cards is top notch and done by Jason Engle. The quality of this game with the amazing design and art really brings together the feel and completes the whole “dungeon crawl” theme. If you are already familiar with deck building games, you will instantly know what it’s all about even if you don’t know the finer details of how to play. You start with a small deck of cards (6 militia,2 knives,2 torches and 2 iron rations) which you use to buy better and more powerful cards, which will allow you to defeat more powerful monster cards and attain victory points.
The game comes with 530 Cards in all:
- 1 Thunderstone card
- 5 Reference cards
- 32 Experience Point cards
- 38 Randomizer cards
- 80 Monster cards
- 90 Basic cards (including Disease)
- 132 Hero cards
- 152 Village cards
For every type of card that comes with this set, whether it is a sword, a hero or a monster type, you get a randomizer card that matches it. These randomizer cards are used to set up the game. The first thing you’ll do is shuffle all of the Village randomizer cards and pick 8 cards at random. These cards will be the cards in village for this game. Next do the same for the Hero randomizers and pick 4. These will be your Heroes for this game. Then shuffle the monster randomizers and pick as many as you want. I would pick 4 in this case. These are the monsters you will be facing in the dungeon. Shuffle the monsters up real good. This will be your dungeon deck. Take bottom ten monster cards and insert the Thunderstone card randomly, then put them back on the bottom of the deck. All of the cards that you have chosen will be laid out like this.
On your turn you can do one of 3 things. Go to the village and buy things like weapons, a torch or other light item to help you in the dungeon, a hero etc (Based on the gold value in your current hand). Or you can rest, which means destroying a card from your hand. This takes the card out of the game forever. Or, if you are feeling strong enough, you can go into the dungeon and fight a monster. If you defeat a monster, the monster goes into your deck and you get victory points for it. The idea is to build your deck strategically so that you can conquer the most monsters and score the most points at the end of the game. When the Thunderstone is revealed in the dungeon and the last monster is killed, the game is over. If it’s a tie, he who has the Thunderstone wins.
This is one of my favorite games of all time. I love love love this game. With so many cards and the random setup, no two games are ever alike and once you get the expansions, things just get better and better. There are so many strategies that can be employed that it really keeps you thinking. While you will have to do some math to calculate your attacks in the dungeon, it’s nothing super complicated. Even if you kill a lot of monsters, it isn’t quite that simple. That just means that your deck is getting clogged up with them and so your heroes and weapons might not show up as often. So you have to constantly balance what is in your deck and adjust.
Let’s talk hero cards. You start with Militia. These guys are the weakest heroes. Consider them the red shirts from Star Trek. These guys will be your cannon fodder. You get 8 heroes in the base set like: the Elf Wizard, Lorigg Thief, Regian Cleric, and Thyrian Squire to name a few. Each has their own unique abilities and the best part is that you can level them up and make them even more powerful. That’s because when you defeat monsters, you get XP. This means that when you go to the village you can trade in that level 1 Elf Wizard for a more powerful level 2 Elf Sorceror and so on. Militia can only be leveled up to a level 1 hero.
Another interesting mechanic is strength. If a hero has a strength number of 5, he can carry a weapon that weighs up to 5. Some heroes will be weak, while others will be stronger, again encouraging you to build your deck appropriately.
The dungeon is a dark place. That’s why you need light items like torches and lanterns. The three cards in the dungeon have light ranks of 1, 2 and 3 so that it gets darker as you go deeper in. Rank 1 has a light penalty of 1, rank 2 has a light penalty of 2 and rank 3 has a light penalty of 3. You either need that much light, or your attack has to be a bit higher to account for the penalty (2 points extra per light penalty). You’ll use cards like Lightstone Gem, Lantern or fireball to bring light into the dungeon.
If you enjoy a good dungeon crawl, there’s a lot to love about this game. I love a game with a good theme and this one is awesome. There are so many ways to use your cards that you have many strategy options. The art is great and it is super fun to play. Even better with the expansions, which I hope to cover in a later review. This is one of my favorites. You can find it on Amazon for just $31.81 right now. You’ll play it all of the time.
My friends and I have a love/hate relationship with Thunderstone. I love it, they like it, but dislike the expansions. They all prefer Dominion, which uses the same mechanics but has fewer traps and curses than Thunderstone.