Our reading today will be from the Book of Deckbuilders, Chapter 2, Verses 1 through 12
1: In the beginning (2008) there was Dominion. And it was Good.
3: And Mike Elliot gazed upon Dominion and saw it was Good. “But,” sayeth he, “The theme sucketh. I want me a deckbuilding dungeon crawl.” And so (2009) he brought forth Thunderstone. And it was Good. And many fans did gather to it. And many expansions did emanate from it.
4: But Mike Elliot was not happy with his creation. He thought it an abomination upon the land. So (2012) he brought forth Thunderstone Advance and made it backwards-incompatible with Thunderstone, thus destroying his initial creation.
5: And great cries arose from the gamers. Some gnashed their teeth and wailed with lamentation: “Waaaah! We like our old Thunderstone! Whence this new heresy? Whyfore must we ditch all our old cards and sleeve anew?” And others exulted: “Thunderstone was broken! This new version fixes all the problems! Suck it up, snowflakes!”
6: And thusly did Thunderstone Advance gather many fans both old and new unto it, and many expansions did it in turn spawn.
7: But Mike Elliot was still not happy with his creation. He ached to wipe the slate clean and start again.
8: And so didst Mike Eliot embark on Kickstarter with a whole new version of Thunderstone, this time called Thunderstone Quest, with lots of changes to gameplay and goodies for backers. “No more shall slain monsters clog up thy decks!” sayeth he. “And I shall bestoweth upon thee Room Tiles, so that thou canst move around the Dungeon and have different effects!”
9: “Tell us more!” shouted the multitude.
10: “All righty then!” answered he, “I will allow Heroes to multi-wield! And you shall be able to buy Light tokens in the Market to use in the deep dark recesses of Level Three!”
11: And the multitude cried, “We have seen the Light Tokens! We have seen the Light Tokens! We shall fund thy project to the tenth degree, verily!”
12: And Mike Elliot looked upon the multitude, and smiled.
Thus endeth the lesson.
* * *
I have no idea why I went all Biblical on you there, it just felt right. In fact, I was one of those fanboys who had all the expansions to the original Thunderstone and was mightily pissed off when Advance arrived–but bought it anyway. Then when Elliot announced Quest I got sucked in again. All I want is a good solid delving-themed deckbuilder, is that so wrong?
Last year’s D&D-sanctioned Dragonfire is good. Mind you, it’s ten listed designers give me pause; games designed by committee are rarely successful, and frankly I don’t want to go down the rabbit-hole of “skimpy base-game followed by shelling out umpteen dollars for expansions that make the game actually good”. Thunderstone Quest offered a ton of content right out of the box, especially at the Champion level, and I was intrigued to see whether Elliot could reinvent the game yet again.
This time around he was joined by Mark Wootton, a veteran of several Advance expansions as well as the overlooked-but-excelled Romance of the Nine Empires, and Bryan Reese, best known for his work on the L5R-themed boardgame War of Honour.
My KS copy arrived a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d give you a heads-up look of what you can expect when it hits stores. There’s no way I’ve had a chance to play through even a majority of the content, but I think I have enough to convey a taste of what this third iteration of Thunderstone is all about.
The first thing to notice is that the box is YUUUUUGE, and solid. It has to be to hold all the cards. And if like me you bought the card sleeves add-on, you better save a season of something to binge-watch while you sleeve.
Veterans of previous iterations won’t have much to unlearn–but there are quite a lot of changes all down the line aside from the ones I mentioned in the opening:
The sorts of irritations that use to arise in the first iterations of Thunderstone are gone. Monsters and wounds don’t clog up your decks any more. Well, there are festering wounds…but just avoid those, k? Level 0 Adventurers can level up more quickly, and the other starting deck cards are surprisingly useful deep into the game, making more for interesting decisions about how to tune your deck. Monster groups are levelled, so you don’t have those dead turns when no one can kill the demon-lich that’s hogging the Level One space and everyone spends turn after turn in the Village.
The game comes with a Quest Book with lots of pre-fab scenarios you can play out, or you can randomize to your heart’s content. There’s also a Campaign variant which lets you carry forward cards from one play to the next, which is simple and elegant.
The artwork is excellent throughout, but feel free to skip the scenario flavour text, which is amateurish (which is putting it kindly). But if you want something more story-based, you’re probably better off with something else–Dragonfire, perhaps, or the Pathfinder CG. But truth be told, the true RPG/Deckbuilding hybrid has yet to appear, though there are various contenders in various stages of completion out there on BGG if you care to look.
In the meantime, there’s Thunderstone Quest. Or Gloomhaven–but that’s another story…