Review of Thunderstone Quest – Part I. The Unboxing and First Impressions

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So, about a week ago, one of my “Pandemic Legacy” friends had to cancel because he was sick.  Bogus!  My other two friends were still coming over, but what would we play?  It turns out my copy of Thunderstone Quest arrived early that afternoon!  So, I scrambled home early, unboxed, and started reading the rules so we could play that night.

Wow, That’s a Big Game!

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Lots of stuff!

Okay. So, that’s a big box.  It’s not quite as big as Gloomhaven, but it’s pretty big.

It has two levels!  See how tall it is above!  The top level has a little drawer with handles is for non-card things …

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See the nice handles? The non-cards are all in a tray …

The main board and player boards are in the top tray …

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… And then everything else under the boards!

The left of the tray has some little miniatures (they are nice), and some nice wood components.  The right side of the tray has a bunch of thick cardboard dungeon locations.  Really nice quality components.

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Oh, and by the way, even though I took all these photos with my thought of doing a review, I am REALLY GLAD I did!  I wasn’t sure how everything fit back in the box!  In fact, I now always take some pictures of my games when I unbox for just this reason!

What’s Under The Tray?

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What’s under the tray?
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Cards!  Glorious cards!

 

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So, there are a LOT of cards.  Like, a LOT.  I think I counted 30? decks of shrink-wrapped cards!  But, you’ll notice the middle two sections are empty.  Why?  C’mon!  You deckbuilders know!  So the cards will all fit EVEN WHEN IN CARD PROTECTORS.  And for expansions.

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The Rulebook

The rulebook is good.  I have never played any of the original Thunderstone variants, so this game is brand new to me.  There are a lot of cards, and I wasn’t sure where to start, but the rulebook guides you pretty well.  Within an hour, I was set-up for a two player game.

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I wish there had been some pictures so I knew which component was which … but I was able to figure it out
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Are the numbers so you know the order to unwrap them? NO! It just says how many deck there are to unwrap!

My main frustration was not knowing if I should ONLY unwrap deck 1, and then unwrap deck 2 later?   You see, I had an EXCELLENT experience unwrapping Aeon’s End:

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Aeon’s End tells you EXACTLY how to unwrap all your decks, and in which order, and when

So, after festering a little, I came to realize: YOU OPEN ALL THREE AT ONCE.  AND SORT THEM ALL AT ONCE. The reason for three decks was more of a manufacturing reason.  I just wish the rules were a little clearer.  They also messed up in the first game: they tell you what cards to play, but one of the Adventurers is the wrong name!  So, I had to figure that out …

 

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Ashley, Drew and Adam.

This is a minor pet peeve, but it bothered me: the players were Ashley, Drew and Adam.  In cryptography examples, they always use Alice, Bob, and Charlie.  Why?  Because all the names start with different letters (ABC) so you can tell which player at a glance is which.  Ashley and Adam are poor examples because they start with the same letter.

Yes, it is a pet peeve.  The rulebook does a good job or going through some sample turns, but occasionally you have to reread a section and ask “Wait, was the Ashley or Adam”?  It just makes things harder to learn than they should have been.

Components

The components are pretty darn nice.  The cards are great looking.

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Cards are high-quality and look great

The board is easy to read and easy to get around.  It has rules labeled on it to help you remember things.

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The player boards are incredibly high-quality!  They can FOLD!  They are of the same quality as the board!  The also have summaries of rules on there.  I applaud that!  Rather than having a separate card for the rules, the player board has just about everything you need to get through a turn.  These player boards were really phenomenal!

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High Quality Player Boards!

My only gripe about the boards is that each player has EXACTLY the same one. There are no special player powers in the game, but each player does gets his own mini.  It would have been nice to have a picture of the mini on the board … (but then they would be stuck with only 4 minis, and you can see that they give us 6 …)

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The minis are pretty nice.

So, each player can choose which mini they want.  But honestly, since there are no special powers, it doesn’t matter for gameplay.  It just looks nice.

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The tokens are all wood.  Very nice, and you get plenty.  The dice were great!  But I couldn’t find ANY MENTION of using the dice in the rules?  Why were the dice included?  It turns out, after you deck build, some of the later cards require dice.  But, ya, you may not use the dice in your first few games.

First Game

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So, my first game is all set-up and ready to go.  Looks good set-up, doesn’t it?  You’ll notice I have two players set-up.  Why?  THERE ARE NO COOPERATIVE OR SOLO RULES. 

“But Rich!  This is a Cooperative Games blog?  Why are you reviewing a game that doesn’t have a cooperative mode?”

That’s a real good question.   Let’s take a look at the Kickstarter:

We have had a lot of questions about co-op or solo play rules. Our developers have great ideas for these modes of play but they won’t start working on them until after work is finalized on the regular competitive rules. We don’t have an ETA on when we will have co-op or solo play rules ready but we’ll make them available as soon as they’re ready.

In more detail, from the FAQ (on the Kickstarter page)

 

And finally, from Update 31 from the Kickstarter:

AEG Developer Bryan Reese is actively at work on Solo & Co-Op Rules for the game. He recruited a small group of playtesters to help and once they’ve progressed towards a more final ruleset we’ll be sharing those rules with you as well. This project has blossomed into something much more comprehensive than just a rules addenda and our plan now is to bundle the Solo and Co-Op Rules into a future Quest release. Our plan now includes special cards and other materials to facilitate Solo and Co-Op play.

 

In other words, no CO-OP or solo play comes with this game.

Granted, they never promised it would come with the game, but I guess I felt like they were implying (maybe I was just inferring) that a CO-OP mode would come with the game … just as soon as they finished with the competitive game.   And, it sounds like it will be another product I have to buy.  Sigh.  I am disappointed and feel like a little bait-and-switch happened.  But, yes, they didn’t promise it … but I really felt like I was lead down the garden path a little ..

 

Anyways, Part II of this review will come out AFTER they publish the solo and co-op rules.

 

Play

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Set-up for myself to learn the game, playing two positions

How does the game play?  I played a single player version with 2 players (just a few rounds to get the sense of it), then my friends Sara and Teresa came over and we played a three player game.

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A Three player game underway! (I’m taking a picture …)

So, the game was fun.  It was a deck-building game with lots of little twists on that.

  • Exploring.  On your turn, you can either go to town to buy something, or go exploring in the Dungeon and fight something!
  • Wounds.  Every player take wounds when you fight.  You can heal those in town with cards or by going to special locations.
  • Treasure.  You can get some amazing cards for your deck either by fighting a monster or buying it in town.
  • Light.  You can’t go too far into the dungeon unless you have enough light
  • Big Bad.  There’s a big bad YOU ALL FIGHT at the end of the game
  • Tokens.  You can buy tokens with your money in case you don’t have enough for something big.  (Light, Healing, or Iron Rations). In other words, you always have something you can buy, even if you don’t have much.  The Iron Rations are nice because you can buy a ration for 2 gold, and use it for 1 gold on your next turn—it’s a way to “preserve” some of your gold for a later turn.

At the end of the day, it felt a little like Legendary (the super-hero version).  You pick adventurers (like superheroes in Legendary) to go into your deck, and you have to buy things to go into your deck.  And you fight a big bad.  And whomever has the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins!  At a high level, very much like Legendary.

Thoughts on Gameplay 

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After playing through, we had fun.  We want to play again.  Players don’t really get in each other’s Kool-Aid too much.  Someone may fight a monster you wanted, or buy a resource you wanted, but that’s about it.  Again, very much like Legendary. 

One thing we DO with Legendary is just ignore the Victory Points at the end of the game and just play like it was a CO-OP.  Can you do that with Thunderstone Quest?  Kind of?   In this game, the Big Bad comes out at the end, and no one really defeats it, you just all fight it.  If you fight it and win, it doesn’t die.  It just gives you victory points.  And then the next player can fight it. And get victory points.   And that’s the end of the game.  So, you could play that way.   I guess?  It just doesn’t feel very satisfying or thematic in this configuration because the Big Bad doesn’t die.

One way to play solo would be to just take one player and get the most Victory points you can, and try to beat that score next time.  It’s not a bad way to play solo.

Conclusions

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At the end of the day, I liked this game.  But, I think I like Aeon’s End better.  Aeon’s End is an amazing solo and cooperative co-op game: it was built from the ground up as a co-op.  This is a good competitive deck -builder that’s pretty fun to play.   And I don’t regret getting it (although I am annoyed how the co-op and solo modes fell off the radar).  When the co-op expansion comes out, we’ll see how well it fares.  Watch this space for Part II  of my review  … which may be a while … because they don’t even have it yet …

But, as a competitive game, it was good.  The components are amazing, there’s a lot of variety in all the decks, and the game just wows you with the components.  It was fun.  I’ll play again and my friends want to play again.  And my other friends want to try it out.

It was fun.  But be clear: THERE ARE NO COOPERATIVE OR SOLO MODES INCLUDED.  You must wait for some expansion you have to buy.

 

 

 

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