Upon opening the box of Thunderstone, Tiger111 com you see a number of cards and some xp tokens. Artwork on the cards is beautiful and detailed. And then comes the difficult task of reading the rules. Although the rulebook is well written, there is so much information in it that one needs some time to absorb it and put it into use, especially if you never played a similar game, like Dominion.
But even if you have, Thunderstone provides advanced mechanics along with extensive terminology and may at first discourage you from playing it. Of course things get a lot better if there is someone willing to explain the basics to you, this way taking away the burden to read all the 24-page manual.Thunderstone Advance makes a better first impression by providing a board (it’s also a double-sided one), which helps you to easier get involved in the game and understand what’s happening.
There are slots drawn on the board for monsters in the Dungeon Hall as well as village cards and all seems better organized and gamer friendly. The two-sided board serves as a way for both novice and advanced players to enjoy the game experience. When you reach the point of understanding how the game works, gameplay is smooth and you will soon find yourself very engaged and captured by the theme, striving to find the right combinations of cards to build a working, and hopefully winning, deck!
The components of Thunderstone are only cards and some xp tokens. Cards have beautiful and carefully designed artwork. In Thunderstone Advance, things get even better. There is also a gameboard, which gives a sense of organisation and cards are redesigned with more variety in colors, even more detailed graphics and more clear card layout. (Thunderstone: 7/10, Thunderstone Advance: 8/10)
Gameplay is interesting and gets you really involved. The game mechanics are well-thought, blending the theme with game actions and abilities. I think the idea of using the light / darkness element is a really brilliant one as is the ability to level-up your heroes with xp won from beating monsters in the Dungeon Hall. There are many more small details that enhance gameplay like dungeon effects and spoils, and all prove that gameplay has been designed very carefully.
However, during setup, it is possible that weird combinations of village or monster cards will come up, making the game hard to beat, or somewhat uninteresting. Good news is that this problem has been eliminated in Thunderstone Advance, which provides specific number of slots for different village card types, as well as monsters of different levels. In Thunderstone advance, the extra option of “preparing” as a game action, allows you to design your next hand and provides more flexibility and the ability to utilize better your strategy.
Moreover the replacement of Militia by the more efficient Regulars is a very important improvement, allowing players to enter the dungeon quicker and somewhat reducing the existence of “dead cards” during late game. The power of the game lies in developing the best strategy to win, by using the best combinations of cards and in the right amounts. (Thunderstone: 7/10, Thunderstone Advance: 8/10)
The game has a rather steep learning curve. The first game will last a lot more than 60 minutes and you probably will have to go back to the rulebook and look up some details throughout the game. However, after this first game, things will run smoothly and you will probably feel glad for all those small details in the game, that make it a bit complex but, in that way, more interesting too. 6/10
The element of theme is dominant here, in contrast to Dominion, and you constantly feel the urge and anxiety to reach further down the dungeon and beat those despicable monsters. There are many elements that contribute to the sense of immersion like the light/darkness element, curing diseases/curses with Clerics and more. 8/10
With dozens of different heroes, monsters and village cards, no two games will be the same. Randomizer cards can be used during game setup, to randomly choose heroes, monsters and village cards that will be available in the game. If you like the deck building/card drafting mechanic of the game, you will probably spend many hours playing this game and enjoy it a lot. A number of expansions have been released and more will be released in the future, bring to the game more heroes, monsters and village cards as well as new card types, thus enhancing replayability.