Thunderstone Quest is the latest 2018 edition of this great deckbuilding game by AEG, which was first released in 2009, was updated to an advance edition in 2012 and now called quest has arrived in 2018. The original Thunderstone begun with a core set and had five main expansion releases, then the Advance series was released across two core sets starting with Towers of Ruin and later Worlds Collide, adding three main expansions Caverns of Bane, Root of Corruption and Into the Abyss, and a separate themed set on Numenera. The artwork style and gameplay of these two series was very similar, and I own all the Advance set (excluding Numenera). Being a dungeon crawl fan, the fantasy theme is great, for this pretty standard deckbuilding game, drawing six cards each turn, requiring players to recruit heroes and upskill them over time. Weapons, items and spells are bought from the village to help heroes defeat monsters that dwell in a dungeon area. It is principally a competitive game, but basic solo rules have been historically provided.
Both Advance and Quest have large boxes, the Quest kickstarter box in particular is huge, and is big enough to fit everything in, including expansions sleeved, which Advance could not achieve. The lovely plastic insert tray of Advance is gone sadly, and i do miss it, but both games have nice dividers to organise everything, often overlooked in some other deckbuilding games. Also both games have a large board for the village, but Quest adds in some new tokens, plastic figures to represent you, nice new player boards and its star addition, some lovely thick card dungeon rooms. There is overall a feeling of having a little bit more from Quest, but Advance was never lacking either, and the linen quality finish of the cards for me is better in the earlier version. Quest cards have more gloss and shine and are smoother to the touch, so it may depend on your preference as to which you like best, but if you sleeve them then its largely irrelevant.
Quest is a little more of a departure from the first two series, and what stands out the most is the change in artwork which, unlike the changes in 2012, definitely feels like it is a new game. It is very likeable too with a sharper focus and a more colourful palette and has a modern feel. Overall i would say there is an up close and more ‘in action’ style pose to heroes and enemies in Quest (top image), however Advance counters with a little darker and arguably more menacing approach (bottom image). I am perfectly happy to have a new style, it helps to justify the purchase as an existing owner, but it is not a clear cut statement to say all the older or newer artwork is better, and i can see opinions divided over this one for sure. Comparing the artwork generally, the drawings of heroes, monsters, weapons and items in Advance are slightly more to my taste, but the action conveyed within Quest is certainly growing on me. I would have to call Advance ahead visually, but i can see some newcomers certainly preferring Quest.
On the face of it the game is the same, the six card draw and village versus dungeon options each turn is unchanged. However Quest really starts to go the extra mile as the village has different places to visit which trigger extra actions, such as buying bread, lanterns or potions, healing additional wounds or buying treasure. It really feels like you have choices to make there now and is better for it. Mechanically wounds are now taken when you fight monsters, which will eventually affect your hand draw, and light is required to move around the dungeon rather than causing you to just need extra attack power, and this is more thematic and realistic. The dungeon is also upgraded, with a series of rooms to move through, adding different effects to the monsters or rewards, and the thick card tiles and artwork used here are excellent. The whole experience is improved, making it a little more interactive and whilst adding a small layer of complexity, it really offers more choice and interest. Whilst i have not played all Quest has to offer, i have found the Advance dungeons seemed a slightly tougher proposition.
Options & Victory
Another key change is that monsters are now defeated and discarded in Quest, rather than ending up in your own deck as victory points, which is now related to XP tokens and treasure cards instead. This makes deck building easier to manage and helped make it a better game to play. There is however currently no solo option in Quest, but we are advised that this is coming in a new expansion. As i like to solo play, if this becomes a deeper experience as a result i will be extremely happy to add it, as it could potentially lift this game to an even higher level. Previous edition solo rules were always a little on the basic side anyway so an improvement is welcome.
Quest is certainly a fuller, more interesting game to play, and is i feel the more engaging game experience. That said, if you want have a simpler style of game, focused on buying equipment and levelling up, then Advance will offer you the quicker set up and speedier play and seems the greater challenge. I personally will need to keep both games, as my Advance collection and card art just feels too nice to lose even with Quest in my cupboard. This game has been in my top 10 games since 2012, and Quest ensures that it stays there.