Thunderstone Quest is my favourite deck building game to play competitively. I love the dungeon theme, the huge choice of cards and the many different quests that were pre-written in the quest book to make set up both less daunting and provide a balanced game, without having to read and choose from all the combinations. It also somehow feels like a collection due to its expansion format, with an incredible choice of heroes, items and enemy packs to switch in and out each game. The game has been one of my favourites since the Advance edition, which i still have. It’s weakness if you can call it one was that it was never really designed as a solo or co-operative game, and maybe that it could play a little long at times. The latest expansion called Barricades seeks to address some of this.
Opening the kickstarter box, which surprisingly is as large as the original and great for the on-shelf impact, i was again so impressed and my expectations were exceeded. Whilst quite expensive for an expansion, albeit a big one, the quality is so nice. To shine a light on just a few items, the new boards for the dungeon rooms, guardians and the prestige class levelling are lovely and thick and the artwork on them is fantastic, and way above the thin card style often offered making it feel premium in design. The choice of new quests were also right up my street, a sewer infestation and a icy landscape, with guardians added to suit the occasion, it just felt good to see the thoughts tying it all together. I have also warmed to the artwork, now that i am used to it against the Advance edition, i am really enjoying its up close presentation to characters and monsters. I could keep going, but that would just reduce it to a list, but the box and rules artwork is great and there are arctic mosquitoes and sewer racoons to fight, which just really appealed to me as being so cool.
The key to this expansion was not only to add to the competitive quests but to provide a co-operative game that worked. Early thoughts from my first game solo was that it really engaged me, and new rules were pretty easy to follow. Silverhelm and Hawksmoor were selected to fight Smorga the Queen Spider, and i used the quest set up from ‘A Mirror In The Dark : One Door Opens’ to throw out some pesky spiders at me. The prestige class i chose was ‘bloodhound’ which just sounded so good. In solo you select just two heroes to focus on, and 4 items, so even this initial choice can drastically affect your gameplay in one quest scenario. You are tasked to defend the village, although in reality the great news is that you will spend equal time in the dungeon attacking the creatures. The guarding works against you by rolling dice, which cause differing effects from various symbols, but then each guardian has its own abilities as well, and i felt it worked out great. Smorga is apparently one of the easier guardians, but my first game went to the wire, defeating her with just one village spot left undamaged and a hopeful last guardian roll going my way to give me time to place a second damage on her to win. I do think i can play these heroes together a little better than i did, but i wasn’t a complete novice either and this initial test made me very pretty happy from a balance perspective. I think every different combination of heroes, enemies and items will shift the difficulty and it is really inexhaustible to consider the permutations.
I always wanted this game to be a decent solo or co-operative game, and while i have not played the latter yet, the solo game really felt alive to me and did not have a tower defence feel that i may have expected. I felt i was constantly on the aggressive, trying to take down the monsters to improve my skills position. The prestige class boards add that needed extra layer of choice, deciding whether i level my rank or my heroes each time i am rewarded. This is an early review, and over time people may find some faults in the system, but i love this game anyway and to me this is no small tack on to a kickstarter we often see to claim its solo status, but is a deep enough and well designed challenge with choices everywhere. I need to get better acquainted with the order of an occasional trigger at the moment admittedly, but this is common even in Lord of the Rings LCG which i have played for years. In the end my first game was really so much fun and the new content gives me so much more re-playability for my outlay. Overall to get this game is quite costly, but i have gladly traded out other deckbuilders to enable me to focus on this one, and i feel my patience has now been rewarded.
A quick note on the neoprene mat that i also added in the kickstarter, as i thought it was a really useful addition, reducing the play area of the village area to a more manageable size. It is thicker than other play mats i have and looks pretty nice too. It also means i did not have to add stickers to my original board, which was nice.
Some thoughts on the original game can be seen here > Thunderstone Quest v Advance