Thunderstone Advance is a favourite deckbuilding game of mine which has a dungeon theme. It is designed as a competitive game where obtaining victory points from killing monsters, recruiting heroes and buying items will decide the winner. It also has a solo game built in, however different enemy combinations can change the difficulty level immensely, so here is my way of playing it.
Solo Rules Variants
Set Up – I prefer to theme my dungeons and will use three sets of monsters, as the basic rules suggest, one for each level and 8 of each (leaving 2 in the box). I always use the 4-4-4 monster deck building method from the main rules to produce better long term difficulty balance as you progress deeper through the dungeon. Shuffle the thunderbearer with 4 level three monsters to form the bottom of the deck, shuffle the remaining 4 level three with 4 level two monsters and add, then shuffle 4 level two monsters with 4 level one and add, then top up with the final 4 level one monsters which will be the first to emerge.
Heroes Levelling Up – You can buy level 1 heroes but after that levels 2 and higher can only be obtained by paying XP and then only one per village visit. I have always thematically felt the main value of earning experience should be to level up heroes.
Monster Spawning – The most critical change is to adapt the dungeon spawn rules depending on the game in front of you.
Standard Level : The solo rules state when you defeat a monster you gain a respite and do not fill the dungeon. This will usually provide an easy game to beat.
Difficult Level : The dungeon refills every round regardless of whether you kill a monster or not. This works well with easier monster combinations but can be overpowered with others.
Alternative Level : My own variant where the above do not seem to be working well is to take a decision after you defeat a monster. You can choose to either place the beaten monster in your discard pile as usual and earn the victory points, in which case you deal a new monster into the dungeon at the round end. Alternatively you can destroy the beaten monster to buy time, and you wont deal out a new monster but you will lose the victory points from it not being in your end deck – you still get the experience and resolve any aftermath. This gives you an ongoing decision, do I need the points or the gold the card gives you, or do I need to stall the monsters right now. This has the added benefit of keeping your own deck smaller, and provides an alternative game balance to the boxed rules.
Victory Conditions – I always feel a solo victory is achieved from killing the thunderbearer, this is the main aim and you are building the deck to complete this. Your secondary aim is to save the village, and you will do this by having more victory points in your end deck than the points of monsters that got through and attacked your village. A double success is the ultimate challenge, and managing which monsters to destroy and which ones to keep for victory points becomes important for saving the village.
Each random game of different available cards provides variable levels of difficulty, so you have to be willing to tailor you game to combat this. I am currently playing the Worlds Collide set and Into the Abyss expansion, and really like the oozes, spiders and doombringers. Taking level 1 oozes, with level 2 and 3 doombringers and the last doomknight guardian boss is a great solo game. Spiders work well as they have breach rules which add problems if you let them leave the dungeon.