Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Game Review: Thunderstone

Time for a little game blogging this week - and the promised review of AEG's Thunderstone.

Before I go into the review, let me preface it by saying that I have been advised that Thunderstone's core mechanics are very similar to Rio Grande Games' Dominion. I have seen Dominion played in passing, but I didn't watch long enough to learn much about it. I did hear this statement from more than one person - even a guy who just chanced upon us playing at the local game shop - so I feel I'm offering more than hearsay.

The game takes the fantasy dungeon quest and turns it into an interesting game of resource management and acquisition. Players build a card pool of heroes, weapons, spells, and items and use them to defeat the game's monsters. Every turn one must choose whether to go the village to purchase more heroes/powers/whatever or go the the dungeon and engage the monsters. Defeating the villains gives players experience points and victory points; experience points may be spent to increase a hero's abilities, and victory points win the game. Another way of looking at the game is the recurring question: Should you grow your forces this turn or make a grab for more victory points? For the most part, the players don't directly conflict with one another; when they are able, it tends to be in the form of temporary losses of cards.

We played the intro scenario, which gave a fairly quick and balanced game. Then we played a scenario with randomized resources and it proved much more challenging. We did not have an easy time with making hero/weapon/magic purchases and the monsters were already pretty tough. The lesson here is that the mix of player resources can have a big impact on how fast the game plays and how much determination and strategy one needs to succeed. I recommend the game, and I can definitely see how the same game might not ever be played again.

The last thing I'll mention is that the game looks great - very nice production values and quality artwork. I really like the thick cards too.


  1. I think a very interesting part of this game is the random draws when populating the village and the dungeun. In the second game that we played there was very little 'light' sources available and that made the players really think hard about how to defeat the game.

  2. Agreed. The players can't rely on necessarily using a standard strategy based on perceived "must have" resources. The potential to stab the other players in the back also varies; regardless, it's still handled in a rather indirect way and keeps the game from turning into a player v. player conflict that totally throws out the dungeon quest aspect - players have to go into the dungeon to win.