Friday, 28 September 2012

Lesbians Review: Thunderstone Advanced: Towers of Ruin

G'day gamers, we're two lolzy lesbians from the land of the drop bear and today we bring to you a review of a game where heroes sometimes fight for players and players always fight for hereos, Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin.

Thunderstone Advance Fact File
Payers: 1 - 5
Playtime: 45 - 60
Genre: Deck Building/ Fighting

Our journey with Thunderstone Advance started when my GF failed to recieve a mysterious package in the mail. For three days and three nights a great famine of Board Gaming swept the land (by which I mean our house). There were complaints. There were depressive spurts. There were complaints about the depressive spurts. Just when we thought that the delivery truck containing the game had definitely been abducted by aliens and deposited on a random desert planet to observe human board gaming behaviour in times of intense stress, A KNOCK CAME ON THE DOOR.
When we opened it, no human was in sight, just a white package the size of two shoe boxes, and a faint whisper through the air saying "lose not faith....lose not faith..."
As you can imagine, it did not take us long to get from a cardboard box to a snowfall of torn white paper and a fully set up board.


Thunderstone Advance has in general opted for a welcome-to-Middle-Earth style fantasy iconography, with all the usual pointy-ears, bearded midgets, and glowing mages, none of whom are called by their canonical names (shh....maybe players will think the creators were being original). Given the um...particular perspective... of my GF and I, the highlight of the artwork were definitely the female heroes, who when unboxed we greeted with the appropriate wolf-whistles, offers of drinks in the nearest tavern, etc. etc. In some cases however, odd creative choices seem to have taken place. Here's my top three ???s:
1. Draken Lairds. T'is a scottish konbold fight I?
2. Tree-Folk. Why is this a thing? Why are they harder to kill than dragons?
3. Glamercasts. No. Just no.

Yeah....I would take this guy in my elite band of heroes to kill a fearsome dragon....

Overall though, the theme is strong, and carried out with a reasonable level of success.

In terms of the component quality, this game is slick. The colours are intense and bright, and the game board and card stock are great. 


Thunderstone's Rules of Play happens to be one of the most well-presented and accessible rulebooks we've had the pleasure of reading (see our earlier post on the terror of the Ghost Stories rulebook). In this particular case I would actually refer you to this 4-page learn to play booklet that easily summarizes the game if you are interested in learning how to play Thunderstone: HERE BE BOOKLET

BUT, if you only want a quick few lines on the gameplay... Thunderstone is a deck-builder game. You have starting deck of a few sub-heroes, weapons and items. At the start of your turn you draw six cards. You use these cards to:
(a) go to the village, where you can purchase moar and shinier heroes, weapons, villagers and items; or
(b) go to the dungeon, where you can fight a nice array of evil creatures and gain xp to level up your heroes, as well as gaining victory points for defeating the monsters.

Obviously incredibly fearsome

When you defeat a monster, they are added into your deck as 'trophies'. Some of them have useful effects you can use in your turn (e.g. count as +1 attack), but for the most part, they sit around in the style of dominion estates, clogging up your deck till the end of the game where they count as victory points. 

The idea is to balance the different kinds of cards in your deck to put you in the best spot for monster collecting. In other words, in the style of most other board games, you get more stuff to get more stuff.


Thunderstone Advance feels a little bit like a five year old kid making his own milkshake. DECK BUILDING, yummy, we'll throw that in. FIGHTING, yes, fighting SUPER-BADASS MONSTERS, everyone likes to fight monsters. With HEROES, with DIFFERENT COOL SKILLS that you can LEVEL UP! Then blend it all together, and it's got to be delicious right? Right, right? But somehow, despite the fact that Thunderstone is a pick-and-mix of all the gaming elements I really love, something about it falls flatter than a solo game of Scrabble.  All the right elements are there but game play often makes me feel as if I am stuck in a traffic jam. 

If I try and diagnose this problem I would put it down to most card sets just really not working well together.  The problem with this is that it lays waste the idea of strategic deck building. There is no sense of challenge in Thundersone for me, nothing I can sink my metaphorical brain-teeth into. Instead, Thunderstone often feels like a track team race to grab those heroes and level ‘em fast before your opponent steals both those Thundermage Bolters and magically zaps their way to victory. This is not particularly fun. 

This is particularly not particularly fun when you are losing. Now I’m a person who likes to view losing as a challenge rather than a problem, a transitory state to be swiftly passed through on the way to crushing your opponent and using their morale as your personal footstool. In Thunderstone however, triumphant comebacks are rare, and this is a systematised effect of the game. In other words -  “I heard you like winning, so I’ll give you xp while you get vp so you can win while you are winning.”

The GF has XP

You'll notice that a lot of the problems I've been talking about are multi-player. Oddly, I've actually found Thunderstone Advance a more satifying ridin' solo (or fightin' solo). Suddenly, you are plunged into a deathly struggle that requires wits, and planning to defeat, rather than spending your time worrying about your opponents XP pile. The difficulty of solo play can be easily adjusted, and as a masochist, I love the fact that you start off facing the unbeatable, which gradually becomes the beatable and then hopefully, the beat.

I am well aware  that I've only played Thunderstone Advance 2-players (or solo), and perhaps it is a game where more is actually merry. Any Thunderstone players around who can share their experiences here? We would well appreciate some discussion on this game, because if there exists a way for us to enjoy it more we would love to try it. 

Final Review

Me: Thunderstone Advance is a game with more cool things then you can poke a stick, pike, or dwarven bear hammer at, yet despite that it doesn't really fit together. There is still a certain satisfaction however in deck-building and monster blood splattering, especially in the games beginning - stabbing that first skeleton in the bony ribs holds a charm that even a dodgy game mechanic cannot vanquish. But multiplayer the game is more frustrating than fantasy adventuring, as players with xp earn more xp and those without find themselves drowning their sorrows continually in the tavern (read:village).
Rating: 6.5

GF: The coolest thing about this game is the vast amount of cards you get. So many heroes to level up, each with their own distinct charm.... the problem is that you don't get to use many of them in the one game... funnily, I never had this problem with Dominion, but here in Thunderstone, I feel the lack. Perhaps it is because Dominion has more of a slant towards strategy, meaning that card sets are more like a deck-optimization puzzle that makes you work with what you've got. Thunderstone slants more towards the fantasy theme and involves you more in a story, an epic tale of Thunderbearer-killing quests... and it's actually a bummer you can't involve yourself with all the elements of the game in one play. It's like if you played a demo version of something like Final Fantasy where you're locked to only playing the Knight, but you know all the cool kids are playing Black Mage. Thunderstone has that kind of feel.
BUT WAIT.... THERE IS AN EPIC VARIANT, which lets you use all the cards! This is great, albeit a little long to set up. I had some fun with this game, but it quickly grew stale for me, sadly.
GF's Rating: 6

...solo, I'm fightin' solo, I'm fightin' solo, I'm fightin' solo solo....

1 comment:

  1. I dug your review and I'm looking forward to reading more of them, however, I disagree with 2 things.

    1. Thunderstone offers a LOT more strategic depth than Dominion does. That's the main reason I prefer it, though both are excellent games.

    2. Glamercast is one of the most powerful hero sets in Towers of Ruin.