Review: Thunderstone Quest – journey to fame is long
You are rumored to be a champion. And that does not mean just glory, free drink and a comfortable bed, no matter where you crash. Such a reputation at the same time attracts many dangers. Sooner or later, challengers will appear and rumors begin to spread, that you are afraid. Just have a good adventure to show everyone, that you have what it takes!
Thunderstone Quest was an event from the beginning. That’s because it belongs to the family of the tremendously popular Thunderstone games, which are pure adventure fantasy. Designer of this new incarnation is again done by Mike Elliott, helped by Bryan Reese and Mark Wootton and the resulting game was released in 2018. A year earlier, however, it was collecting glory and dollars on Kickstarter in enormous campaign. All this happened in the production of Alderac Entertainment Group and it was just now, that Esdevium Games launched an European retail distribution.
The box is huge and on the lid, all evil forces are intimidated by heroes. The box is especially high, so that apart from all the cards, there are also individual board – one big common (double-sided) and then one for each player. These boards are spread on the table at the very beginning. Each player gets their starting set of cards (for all the same, especially basic cards of adventurers, as well as lanterns or daggers), and place life pointer in a box with the number six of player board. Everyone chooses one pawn, their special side quest (from three random cards) and one gild.
On the common plan, there will be a selection of four hero decks, which should be ranked from the lowest level one to the top three at the bottom. In the market area, players prepare a range of spells, items, and weapons. Right side of the board contiues with space for spreading four rows of room cards. The path always starts with a wilderness board, followed by a dungeon floors with increasing difficulty (indicated by Roman numerals) and a boss card waiting in the wilderness. Each of these squares additionally needs one card from monster deck, from which players assign one random monster to each room in the corresponding difficulty. Many of the cards mentioned so far vary according to the adventures the players have chosen within the scenario. In the prepared boxes of the big plan, the players will also put piles of tokens and treasure packs.
Each player has exactly a dozen cards at the beginning. On a specific turn, however, all participants gradually alternate, and they always have to decide, whether to go to the village or adventure. In the village, he can shop items, improve his hero (level up) or heal for hardly acquired experience. In addition, player can also take advantage of the special skill of one building.
The heroes always start at the top of the wild and gradually descend deeper into the darkness. But they always need the light to move forward, that is currency they receive from their cards. Each room has its own requirements for light and the player has to pay for each passage. Only when he decides to stop, he must match his strength with monsters waiting in each room, he can expect a duel and a possible evaluation of the text from the location card.
The player adds his attacking power from the cards he has at the moment in hand. There is no surprise here, all he has to accomplish is to have power greater, than monster’s number of lives. Any armor may reduce the number of hits. Regardless of the success, hero gets a wound, usually in the form of a token, that overlays the highest value on his board. This also means, that for the next round, there will be less cards in his hand. This means, that healing is important. Instead of these physical scrambles, the monster may hurt the player for a longer amount of time even by placing a curse card in the package.
For killing monsters, the player will gain experience and possibly other rewards. The monster is then replaced by a new from drawing deck. However, some of the monsters can also guard the watchkeeper’s token. This is how the players are gradually approaching their destiny of waking up the guards.
At the end of his turn, the player deactivates all cards, whether played or unused, and draws a new hand out of the deck. If his stock runs out, he will shuffle the discarded cards and create a new pile.
So the players alternate up to the moment, when the last fourth chip is found and guardian of the whole adventure gets awaken. He will appear in the wilderness, where he has to be fought. All players have only one turn to accomplish his defeat. After the end of the round, players will add up all their experience from the cards in the deck, successfully completed side quests and experience chips. The one who has the most in the sum total becomes the winner.
Thunderstone Quest is a game, where players fight a common enemy, but eventually they score each for themselves. From the beginning to the end, he must first of all think of his success, because it needs a really good optimization of the package and the right selection of enemies from the dungeon.
As the title of our review says: the road to fame is long. But Thunderstone is more of a perennial, that has a place in the hall of eternal glory. All its variants were fun and popular, but the new Quest goes even further. It improves everything it can and makes Thunderstone really the best and most fun way in deckbuilding. The big disadvantage is the size of the box and the high price tag associated with it.
Feeling of adventure here is ubiquitous, and it is absolutely essential for us in such a fantasy game. Over time, you are improving, not only through a deck, but also by upgrading hero and developing stronger skills. It is these levels, that give extra charge to combos, that are inseparably associated with the deckbuilding games.
But the game is fantastically open to expansions, that can always come up with something of its own. This is because the adventures are always given a separate story and they contain their own cards. Unfortunately, as we get the game up in the shape, that goes into the shops, you will not get the second of the three parts of the story. And the overall impression of the story goes wrong. For someone so much, that they can walk away without the story itself. Fortunately, Thunderstone Quest is going to play well even without this missing story. Prepared scenarios are definitely fine idea with their specific cards. But nothing prevents you from building your own adventure from the available components.
In fact, the designer himself urges players to use the box this way. At the end of the rules, you will also find rules for random preparation and especially epic Thunderstone, which will use all the cards you have! Generally, it is important to highlight re-playability, which is unrealistic with the basic box. Even the fixed number of locations is two-sided, making it different every time you play.
There are plenty of details in the game, that will deepen your experience. Whether it is a light, that restricts the passage to deeper floors, various advantages for monsters in particular rooms, special rules or traps. Moreover, even the passage through the rooms may not be smooth, because some rooms injure the hero even if he only runs through. For a simple deckbuilder, the game is ultimately overwhelmingly complex. This is plus and minus at the same time.
But the number of components brings with it another significant disadvantage – the organizers make the box really nice, but the clean up is difficult. You have to sort out all the cards you have mixed together. On the contrary, the preparation of this requires quite a lot, but thanks to the good organization it does not last too long.
And then there is the length of the game itself. Because it is influenced by the luck of monster draw (keys are shuffled between them), you can count on a regular investment of at least ninety minutes, but it is more likely, that the time will reach two hours. The game is fun in all counts, but ultimately we enjoyed two player, when the progress is far more drained. Its obvious that there is actually no significant interaction between the players.
Processing itself is very good. Primarily illustrations are really great. There are even plastic figurines in the game, that do not have any important role this time. They simply walk around. Players do not take skin of any particular hero – starting decks are all the same. And miniatures are just a minor aesthetic supplement. Quality is pulled down only with rulebook containing a series of unspoken instructions and unclear parts. Fortunately, this is a notorious concept, that you have already played (we all have played a deckbuilder before). But if you are an inexperienced player, it can completely confuse you.
Thunderstone Quest and the impression of it ultimately remains to hang on whether you like building a deck. In the game, of course, there are possibilities to optimize and throw away unnecessary cards. Still, it remains deckbuilder in its core. Fortunately, the adventure really successfully beats most of the common problems and walking through monsters is a real hunt for experience. You are trying to get more glory, than others and that’s exactly where the adventure game should be. Thunderstone Quest does not do everything perfectly, but it is still the best incarnation of this family.
Review: Thunderstone Quest – journey to fame is long
Thunderstone Quest is definitely an evolution within its predecessors and it is definitely for the better. It lets you not just build deck, but then use it to walk through the underground and enjoy the fight. And while it received so many cons from us in the table, it's just a piece of action, because this game is great and allows lots of fun. So you will not care, that it is random, how long it takes and that you will have to sort the cards again after you’re done. You will go and play again. Smiling. By virtue of its variability, it actually creates such a category of its own, where there is not much competition. Thunderstone Quest has joined Clank! at the top of the deckbuilding game list of ours.