The regular readers may remember that in January we presented an article about the incoming Thunderstone Advance deck-building game, a card game using classic dungeon crawling as it’s theme. As the release date (March 12) is getting closer we know more and more about the rules changes and the possible compatibility issues with previous Thunderstone products.
I already covered most of the base mechanics in my previous article about the series, and I also mentioned several changes. In this article I want to check each change one by one and tell my opinion if the change is good or bad, based on the information I collected.
So, lets get started.
Setup Changes – 5/5
The first thing I have to speak about is the new game board, I already mentioned before. It has triple purpose : it’s offer a clear and nice-looking playing field, it’s remind you if you play in the dungeon or the wilderness, and how darkness apply, and it’s also change card setup a little. By giving a maximum to the number of certain type of cards available it’s provide a much more balanced village than before. In the end you will always have at least a Weapon (above the Longspear), a Villager and at lest one Item or Spell.
The another change is that monster groups now have a level between 1 and 3, so combined with the 2 sided board you may set difficulty as high or low as you want. There is also a new thing to place at setup : familiars, but I’ll talk about them later. All in all, I think the setup changes are good.
Basic deck changes 5/5
I already told my opinion before about the basic deck changes – they are great. The Regular and the Thunderstone Shard are so much improved upon the earlier cards, which means a much better and intense early game. It’s also mean that it will be much easier to level up your regulars to level 1 heroes, since they cost only 2 to level up, and he shards provide some extra steam.
New turn option 4,5/5
In the original Thunderstone you may Enter the Dungeon to kill monsters, Visit the Village to purchase stuff and hire or level up heroes, or Rest to get rid of a card. now you may Prepare, which means that you keep some of the cards and replace others. I think it has some merits, as you may wait for a better hand by sacrificing your turn. On the other hand, I’m not completely convinced that we needed this change.
Monster / ability changes 4/5
As I said, monster groups now have levels, which is quite useful for setting up a desired challenge rating. What is maybe much more important is that several abilities are changed. The biggest change : Battle effects now happen at the beginning of combat, while the old Battle effect is now renamed Aftermath. Well, I’m not sure, how the old monsters should be used now, which is a problem. If they now suddenly use the new Battle keyword then they became more powerful, if not then it’s a serious compatibility issue.
Familiars – 3/5
You gain a random familiar when you first defeat a monster in the dungeon, and it provides you some minor benefits in return. While an interesting idea I have several problems with it : first, the familiars don’t seems to be really balanced against each other. On the other hand they work completely different way than any other card in your deck, and I’m not sure if the add that much to the game to bother with them. I guess I will ignore them in my games.
Curses – 5/5
Curses are basically a variable version of the Disease deck, much like the improved Disease deck from the earlier expansions. The main difference is the build-in “get rid of it” options which is a great change, and make them less crippling in the long run.
Races – 5/5
Now heroes have a race too above class to define them, so for example you may see elves, dwarves and so on. This opens up many possibilities, which is already shown with a dwarf hammer in one of the previews. (dwarf heroes could ignore it’s prerequisite strength) A small change in general, but something I like.
The change of the basic decks and some mechanics cause some questions regarding compatibility, and some of them remains unanswered. For example there are monsters who are unbeatable without Food (as it was mentioned on BGG), which wasn’t a problem while Food was always available, but a real pain now that maybe there won’t be any qualifying card in the game.
Other changes are easily manageable in the other hand. Cards what could affect Milita now should affect Regular, and it’s the same for the Archer/Ranger class. However I can’t grasp why they renamed the later.
The last kind of compatibility issue is what needs a reference in it’s own : Races. Since the old heroes don’t have a race as a keyword they have to provide a table to know which heroes are dwarves, elves half-orc or human from the previous releases. I’m not a fan of reference tables, but it’s a must in this case.
I still think that Thunderstone Advance is a great step forward. I think most of the changes they made are really good, and the few I don’t like is easily ignorable. In the end, I’m really waiting for the release.
Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros