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Go to the Dominion page
Go to the Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin page
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Go to the Thunderstone Advance: Root of Corruption page
20 out of 20 gamers thought this was helpful

If you are like me and enjoy Thunderstone, then more cards is always a good thing! What really sets this expansion apart, however, is the cooperative siege play option, so I’ll focus my review on that. The quick version: I think it’s a really great addition. Read on for the details!

Game play in a nutshell:
The coop mode is for 3 or more players who start out with the same basic deck as in Thunderstone Advance, with the same basic village setup. The major change is that you place the siege playmate over the dungeon part of the board. This sets it up so that there are several ranks of monsters who are moving towards the village. They start in the back and progress slowly so that you do have a chance to gear up before they arrive. Experience tokens are placed in front of the ranks to represent the blocks of the wall. If a monster makes it all the way past the first rank, you lose one block from the wall. Then, its a race to see what happens: a monster makes it through (players lose), or your survive to the end of the siege in which case you add up the victory points of the players and compare that to the victory points of the invading army (those creatures that survived + 3x each block).

The monsters start in the furthest row, all face down. After each player you flip one face up. When all of the back row is face up, it moves forward one row. If there is a creature in front of it, this creatures moves forward. Etc. In this way the creatures move slowly, but inexorably forward. This also lets you know who you need to pick off next to avoid a creature getting through.

The rest plays more or less the same as the basic rules with each player taking a turn and choosing whether to hit the dungeon, village, rest, or prepare. And, of course, the players are aiming to work together to protect the village, not to defeat each other.

The box is a bit cheaper than the others, but that doesn’t really matter if you store all of your cards in the base box as I do.

The cards are great. They all reflect the Caverns of Bane quality without the color issues of the Root of Corruption print. At first I was bothered by the color differences in the cards, but I really didn’t notice them during play. Also, its kind of awesome that AEG replaced the Ambusher cards from the base set to make them more easily identified. Kudos to them for that.

The playmat. This is the most controversial piece and the reason for my low score on components. Rather than a board as in the main set, it is basically a poster that was somewhat badly folded. It shows some creases pretty easily, and I imagine that will only worsen with time. It is big and clearly printed, and mostly does its job. I do wish it had a few more spots because siege mode requires you to track even more cards than usual (all of the monsters that make it through, and the monsters that you discard in the revised rest action but still need to score the endgame). But for its primary purpose of helping you to line up all the monsters and remember their light and attack penalty, it is just fine.

I really really like this additional option. I think it plays quite well, and the best part is that 95% of the mechanics are identical to what you are used to from Thunderstone already. The cards play the same, the actions are the same, and all of your cards just work. That means you can get up and running quickly, and it brings all of the aspects of Thunderstone that I really enjoy along for the ride.

The monster advancement is a simple but clever approach to making this a challenging and fun game. We very quickly felt the “pressure” of the monsters moving in on us, the excitement of being able to fight off some of the creatures, and the disappointment of having to go through a turn without attacking. The decision of whether to hit the village to level up or to attack became a tense one in a fun way. I played with my wife, and we settled quickly into a nice balance of feeling “ownership” over our own heroes, but also consulting on which monster to kill, and occasionally which village purchase was most valuable. Which is to say, it was a nice balance of individual versus cooperative choice. I imagine that like any coop game, it might run into trouble if there is a real alpha personality in the room, but we didn’t run into that.

The three player minimum might be an issue for some. For us, we got around it by having me play 2 characters instead of just 1. I’ve seen posts somewhere by a person who tried 2 players and thought it worked just fine.

So, to sum up, I think this is an awesome way to get more bang for your buck out of Thunderstone. I’m excited to use the new cards in a traditional game, but also thrilled that I now have a coop game that works with all the Thunderstone cards I’ve got, and with the same basic mechanics. I’m definitely looking forward to this hitting the table again sometime soon.

Go to the Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin page
88 out of 97 gamers thought this was helpful

In an effort to avoid duplicating other reviews, I think my title sums up my main take on this game and why it is one of my favorites: For me, Thunderstone does the best job of and deckbuilding game I’ve played of truly wedding theme with the deckbuilding mechanic. The result is a really fun dungeon-crawling game which reminds me of what first drew me to D&D. When I play other games like Dominion (which I love) I feel like I’m gaming the numbers, while in Thunderstone I’m truly debating whether I want to expand my party by visiting the village, prepare to enter the dungeon (using prepare or rest), or head down into the dungeon to tackle some monsters! Simply put, I’m a huge fan. Now, for some quick comparisons to help you think about Thunderstone because that’s what I find helpful:

Complexity: Middle of the road. Takes a lot more time to setup then Smash Up, a bit more time to setup then Dominion, but less then Nightfall. The rules are mostly straightforward, and like other deck-builders, once you have the basics you can focus on what the cards say.

Replayability: Is fantastic. Out of the box you have some really nice depth and complexity. With expansions, you have more combinations then you are likely to ever hit. Unlike some games I’ve had (e.g., Quarriors) where I find you need an expansion by the end of the first day, this has some nice depth and you might never need one. Though I want them all! The double-sided board also adds an nice additional option, though its not terribly huge / necessary. But a nice bonus.

Theme: It’s a fantasy theme, which I love. They’ve done an OK job of trying to build this up even further using some short stories on the website that frankly didn’t add much for me. But within the game, it’s outstanding and much better integrated than most other games I’ve seen. I really do feel like I’m prepping my team for the dungeon.

Compared to Thunderstone: This is an extension / reboot. The learning that occurred from the original really shows as Thunderstone Advance is tighter, faster, cleaner and generally a better experience. Some folks complain about the artwork and whatnot, but I generally find its a great reboot and you don’t need the original. Having said that, I’ve got a few earlier sets and I find they fit in just fine and let you play with even more cards which is nice. I’ll likely keep them, though if you are new I’d stick with the new expansions until you feel like you’ve got the rules down solid.

Overall, one of my favorite games.

Go to the Smash Up page

Smash Up

19 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

This game takes literally 2 minutes to teach or learn, and is fun and fast to play. It is surprisingly well balanced even though the winner each round seems convinced their factions are the best. Great for a quick and light game that has some serious replayability. The variety that stems from mixing and matching the factions works really nicely, and I love the fact that each faction essentially has its own mechanics that fit well with the core rules. Even better is the fact that the mechanics are quick and easy to learn from the cards and play really well with the other factions.

I’m itching for the expansion already!!

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