Open Seat Gaming: Thunderstone Quest Review
Designed by: Mike Elliott, Bryan Reese, Mark Wootton
Art: Jason Engle, Gunship Revolution, Matt Paquette, David Su
Published by: Alderac Entertainment Group
Player Count: 2 to 4
Main Mechanisms: Deck building, Action selection
Game Time: 60 to 90 minutes
Thunderstone Quest is, at its heart, a deck builder, but unlike games like Dominion it has more than just that: it's also a dungeon-crawling RPG-like experience. You start with basic adventurers and gear and over time buy additional heroes, weapons, items, and spells for your deck. The main purpose of this is to venture into the dungeon tiles and defeat the monsters present there.
Defeating monsters usually gives XP (and sometimes other rewards like treasure or item tokens). XP can be used to upgrade your adventurers/heroes to higher levels, but is also the scoring mechanism of the game so you need to balance making your deck better to kill bigger monsters while keeping in mind how your deck will score (cards in your deck sometimes have XP on them as well that also counts at the end of the game).
As the players kill monsters, Guardian Keys will be found in the dungeon. Once enough Keys are found the Guardian spawns and each player gets one final turn to gather as much XP as they can before final scoring (this is usually done by attacking the Guardian, but players are free to take a normal turn at their discretion). Count up the XP on cards in your deck, add it to your XP tokens, and the player with the most wins!
Scott: Deck builders are one of my favorite game types, and Thunderstone Quest does it really well. I usually prefer solo or cooperative play for them, but TQ's competitive play is still really fun and enjoyable. I'm excited that solo and co-op are getting added, but even in its current form, the game is great.
I like the number of cards available in each game, 4 heroes and 8 items/weapons/spells, that combine with the guild sponsorships and side quests to give each player a unique goal and strategy (even with the full 4 people). There's also a TON of content among all the quests (like ~250 cards per quest). The downtime between turns can take awhile at higher player counts if people aren't sure of what they're going to try to do on their turns but, overall, it's still a really good experience.
I like the quest design as well. They start you off with a set of heroes and other cards for the first chapter. That gives you a nice intro and lets you experience the dungeon tiles and monster groups, change up a few things for subsequent chapters, and then the last chapter really feels like the big showdown with the baddie (even if you've faced them several times before). Being able to choose your difficulty for the Guardian (they each come in 3 levels) is great, too.
Sarah: I greatly enjoy deck building games, but when there is something else added in, my enjoyment can be cranked up to eleven. Like most deck builders, there are times when the cards don't come out your way, which is always frustrating. Yet in Thunderstone Quest you are still striving to level up, acquire better weapons and spells, and eventually be able to defeat the big baddie (Guardian) at the end.
One of my favorite things about the gameplay is that the weapons, spells, and items that you can purchase in the market have awesome combo abilities with the different classes of heroes you have available to you. The availability of different set ups and contents of dungeons within the different quests and the different parts of each quest is tremendous in terms of replayability and sheer amounts of content.
The production value of Thunderstone Quest is top notch: box organization (with plenty of room for more content), the all of the art is well done, the player miniatures are highly detailed, and component quality is excellent from the cards to the tokens to all the boards and tiles. There is plenty of gender diversity within the heroes, there are even characters that you can't easily identify their gender.
I'm greatly excited for the Barricades (Co-op and Solo) Mode that is upcoming. The ability to work together to defeat a monster in the dungeon and of course the evil Guardian who is trying to destroy the village.
Marti: I like many deck builders, and even though Dominion is the granddaddy of all of them, I’ve found that I lean more toward what many people refer to as “deck builder plus” in regards to how these games play and how much more they bring to the table in terms of depth and complexity. I had heard about the original Thunderstone and Thunderstone Advance, and had always hoped that they would come back into print - but AEG did one better and took Thunderstone to a new place, instead.
The cards do some really interesting things, and I love the fact that, as you build your deck, you're basically building your team for dungeon diving, and that's a really unique way to look at deck building. You take your adventurers, then you train your adventurers, then you train them to be better and better so that you can go into the depths of the dungeon. It's such a neat concept and I'm so glad that they brought back the Thunderstone
I do have one big criticism when it comes to Thunderstone Quest, and, frankly, it's the same issue that I have with most deck builders. The downtime when you're playing at 4 is a bit long. We haven't gotten to play Thunderstone Quest at just 2 players yet, but I feel like it's probably going to be the sweet spot, even though the downtime was about average at 3 and it definitely dragged a lot less than at 4. Honestly, that's probably also due to the number of choices that you need to make and how you need to play out your hand, because it's definitely not your beginner deck builder!
In short, I really like it and I want to keep playing it and see what's next. I'm excited that we have the game and that we're going to be getting the expansion, which has co-op rules (which I'm always happy with in the long run). While I’ll always go back to Dominion when I want basic deck builders, Thunderstone Quest is a game that I want to explore again and again to see what is waiting for us in the campaign.
Try, Buy, Deny:
Thunderstone Quest is a deck builder plus that does it pretty well. The game design is tight and works well, there are different paths to victory so each player can go the way they want, and there is enough content (5 quests worth of cards already, plus more to come with the current Kickstarter, which also adds solo/co-op play) to allow replayability for a long time. Thunderstone Quest is an OSG favorite, and we definitely recommend trying it if you can do so.
The current Kickstarter is a great way to get in on the action if Thunderstone Quest seems like the sort of game that you would enjoy. The Kickstarter is for the expansion including Barricade mode, which has solo and co-op options for play. There is a pledge level that includes the Kickstarter version of the base game, so you can get everything with one pledge. The Kickstarter ends August 17th and is looking to fulfill in April of 2019.
Scott, Marti, and Sarah