A Tribe Called... A Double-Take Review of Thunderstone Quest

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It's Thunderstones you're after. And you know JUST where to find them: deep in the depths of the dungeon. So what if it's full of monsters. That's no problem for you, though. You've prepared well, and those nasty monsters don't stand a chance. Probably. 

Thunderstone Quest is the newest release in the Thunderstone line, a fantasy deck-builder that sends 2-4 players questing through multiple scenarios, at 60-90 minutes a crack. 

So does Thunderstone Quest have our sword, our bow, and our axe? Or should this quest stay back in the Shire? Best read on....


The Components

Thunderstone Quest was Kickstarted by AEG, and boy was it successful! They hit a ton of stretch goals and it shows in the list of components below!

  • Main Game board
  • 4 player boards
  • Dungeon tiles
  • 6 miniatures (your player avatar)
  • A crap-ton of cards - (we reviewed the Champion Edition with over 1,000 cards, including nearly 750 just from the 3 scenario decks!)
  • Thunderstone Tokens
  • 48 Lantern, Potion, and Iron Rations tokens
  • 5 d6

The Setup

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Everyone gets a player board, a Miniature, and a Starting Deck of cards. The Starting cards you get are: 6 Adventurers, 2 Lanterns, 1 Thunderstone, and 1 Dagger. You'll also have to set up the main board according to the scenario you're playing. This determines the Market cards that go out, the 3 sets of Monsters, as well as the Dungeon Rooms you'll set up. There are also Guardian Key cards, and you'll shuffle one of these into each of the 3 sets of Monsters. These are the game timers, essentially, once you discover a certain number, the round will finish and the game ends. There's also a Treasure deck that you'll shuffle, and a set of Side Missions that you can choose to use or not. Players will draw their starting hand and gain resources for the start of the game. Then you're ready to play.

 

The Gameplay

 

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So, there are a few housekeeping rules here and there, but we'll try to distill the gameplay down so we can give you a feel for how the game plays.

Basically, on your turn you will choose to go to one of two places: the Village, or the Dungeon. You have more options in the Village so let's start there.

Here's what you do:

  • Reveal your cards so you can show what you have to work with (money, etc.).
  • Buy 1 card from the Marketplace.
  • Heal 1 Wound.
  • Level up a Hero.

You can also go to different locations in the Village that will do other things for you:

The Temple: You get to heal an extra wound, and also place cards back on top of your deck, BUT you can't level up Heroes or go to the Dungeon.

The Bazaar: Buy a Gear token (Lantern, Rations, or Potion). 

The Guild's Quarter: Going here lets you level up a Hero twice, or two Heroes one level. 

Leveling up Heroes is a great way to cull your deck of weaker cards which will allow you to kill bigger, stronger baddies, which in turn will help you score more points.

 

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When you go to the Dungeon you're basically going to kill a monster. You'll reveal your hand again and then move from the Wilderness through the rooms of the dungeon. Some rooms require light to move through them, so you'll have to have Lantern cards or other cards with the "light" icons on them to move through to get to the bad guy you want to slay. You can also spend Lantern tokens. 

Then you'll just have to make sure you've got enough attack to take out the monster you're attacking. This is the main way to gain VP and XP plus usually some other sweet bonuses.

Monsters can damage you, too. And as Wounds add up, your hand limit gets smaller. It’s a cool mechanism that adds another layer of things to keep track of, and another decision tree. 

Again you can only go to either the Dungeon or the Village--not both, although some cards will allow you to do that. Once all of those Guardian Keys are revealed the end game is triggered, and you'll score VPs on cards, unspent Thunderstones, and Side Quests if you're using them. 

There are numerous scenarios, each of which brings new Heroes, Monsters, and setups to the game. And each scenario has multiple chapters in it. It'll be a while before you reach the end of this box. 


The Verdict

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Jeremiah--This is really my first foray into the world of Thunderstone, and what a massive it is! Quite literally Thunderstone Quest is the BIGGEST game in my collection in terms of size of box, number of cards, etc. it's massive, yet somehow it's not overwhelming. Sometimes I look at a game on my shelf and think: "Man, that is going to take some work to get into", sometimes it's because of the size of it, the complexity, or both. But TQ plays great, and is a really nice addition to my deck-building catalog.

Firestone--I managed to collect all of the first edition Thunderstone expansions, and I've had a ton of fun with it over the years. But I don't know what I'm going to do with it now, because Thunderstone Quest is just a bigger, badder, and more polished version of that game I love. It's still a bit of a chore to set up and tear down (a feature of most deck-builders), but that's the price you have to pay, and I think it's a reasonable one. 

Jeremiah--Our good friend AJ Skifstad has mentioned this before over on our show "Boardgames FM", and in a way I agree: TQ is almost over producedThere are minis, player boards, modular dungeon boards, seven hundred and thirty-two million cards (non-scientific approximation), wooden bits--it's a physical spectacle of a game. And I love that about it. You see publishers offering custom play-mats for their deck-builders all the time, but we've often said that all deck-builders should have a board to help with setup. Well now you've got it. It's well done, shoot it's overdone, and I think it's great!

Firestone--I love, love, love those player boards.  Such a simple thing, but one that adds a lot. The puzzle aspect of this is terrific. "Here are the cards I have; what can I do with them? I want to fight that monster, but he's in that deep room of the dungeon. How can I get light there. Can I set up this turn by grabbing a Lantern, and maybe fighting next turn? Oh, but he's got Magical resistance and I have that Magic Missile." I love that. 

Jeremiah--In a way TQ feels more like a hyper expanded deck-builder, and maybe a little less questy. Yes, there are a ton of quests in the book that have you setting up different scenarios, which walk you through all of the different cards in the box. But the gameplay itself doesn't necessarily feel like a quest as you're playing it. It's a bit more of a straight deck-builder after you've setup and read the flavor/quest text. This is probably my only true (albeit very slight) knock on the game.

Firestone--Yeah, there's a story framing these scenarios, but I never feel like I''m "questing." It's a bunch of new games with new Heroes, Monsters, and Dungeon Rooms. That's cool. But there's really not a campaign feel here. Perhaps that's something that'll come from the community. That's the great thing about the hobby: Fans can take something and run with it. (And don't get me wrong: That's not a huge deal at all. This game is still super fun.)

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Jeremiah--Let me say this about the gameplay: It's solid, it's fun, and to me it plays super cleanly. When you open the box and you see all the massiveness of the game, the cards, and the bits it's easy to think you're getting yourself into a super fiddly, cumbersome three-and-a-half hour excursion. All of that couldn't be farther from the truth. While it may not be your next Gateway game, or something you pull out at Thanksgiving, TQ is definitely a "next step" kind of game. If you're friends are super into deck-builders you need to introduce them to Thunderstone Quest. 

Firestone--There's definitely more meat on the bones here than a lot of deck-builders, but it's not overwhelming--despite how overwhelming that massive box appears. I've played this with gamers. I've played this with my 10-year-old. And I love playing it. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Thunderstone Quest has skyrocketed up the ranks of my deck-building favorites. I've gone on record as saying that Dominion is the best, and Star Realms is second to it. Now I don't know what to believe, but I do know this: Thunderstone Quest is an amazing, complete, and elegant playing experience--tons of fun in a HUGE box, and a MUST have for any deck-builder fan!

Firestone's Final Verdict--I was already a fan of Thunderstone, and I can say this is easily the best version yet. It's massive. It's clean. It's streamlined. It's one of my favorite deck-builders, and I love the wonder of opening each new pack of cards and seeing what's in store for me. And even when I'm done discovering, I'll want to revisit this game. Thunderstone Quest is great. 


Thanks so much for reading! Have you played Thunderstone Quest? We'd love to hear your thoughts on it! Just comment below or email us by clicking the contact button up top!