I love Thunderstone, so when I had an opportunity to get my hands on the expansion packs, I jumped at it. Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements is the first of several expansions to be published for this game. It features a few new elements (such as the Horde, champions, and traps), and expands on older ones to add more options to the game.
When I opened the box the first thing I noticed was the big bulky plastic tray was gone. In its place were several foam blocks to help divide the cards up. This made the box infinitely more flexible. The second thing I noticed literally made me squeal. This time around they had included dividers that were significantly larger then the cards, with little labels and everything. As I started going through them I noticed that there were some familiar looking card names. THEY HAD REPLACED THE ORIGINAL THUNDERSTONE LABELS! Bless them. Really, this got me very excited.
With box arrangement all done, I started digging through the new rules to find out what all these new cards did. The first significant new rule I came across involved the champions. These are new big baddies that get mixed into the dungeon deck in a similar fashion as the Thunderstone. By this I mean, you count off ten cards, shuffle in a champion, and then put those on the bottom of the deck. So you know that the champions won’t show up till late game. This is a good thing because they are also rather large baddies.
Reading about the champions caused me to run across my first complaint with the rules, however. How many champions do you think come with Wrath of the Elements, based upon my previous description? More then one I would presume due to all those plurals. In the rules they talk about there being four champions. Well now I was confused, as I clearly remembered only one champion card when I was sorting out all those cards. Did I miss three others? I, with the help of my fellow players, pulled out all of the little stacks of cards and sorted through looking for these missing cards. Not finding them, we decided to move on and perhaps write the company about it later. I mean, surely we couldn’t get the full benefit of the game with a defective copy. A couple pages of rules later and we see it:
*NOTE: Only one champion comes with Wrath of the Elements.
Really!? Really!? You say that now!? You couldn’t have put that note *before* the section on the champions?! Exasperated, we moved on.
The next section discussed the new horde mechanics. The Horde is a new special type of monster card. While they show up randomly in the dungeon deck, they get increasingly strong as the game progresses, and they are worth more and more points as you take out multiples. This is accomplished with place holder cards for the dungeon deck, and a progressive deck of Horde cards separate on the board. This new mechanic led to some very interesting game play as we were all vying to be the ones to kill these, and a few choice words flew when our opponent beat us to them.
Traps are the other new mechanic present. These are called “Dungeon Features” and are added to the dungeon deck. As soon as one of these flip, their effects are immediately felt by the players. Then that trap card goes away and is replaced by the next card in the dungeon deck. Ultimately, these didn’t have as big of a bearing on the game as I originally thought they would. When I heard that traps were going to be part of this set, I got excited, but in the end they really didn’t do much. There are cards in the set that help you avoid their effects, but I didn’t find them to be worth the space in my deck it would have taken.
In addition to the traps, champions, and hordes, this set comes with new monsters (Elementals) that are quite vicious, villiage cards with nifty new abilities, and new heroes to help you make things go smash. But what was the overall effect? Well, for us it meant a slower game. We initially played with the suggested starting set, which combined heroes from the base set and this expansion, as well as village cards and monsters from both sets. Our average game takes about an hour and a half; this one took right around three hours. We just had a hard time getting our feet underneath us. One of my opponents thought that the more difficult game was a really nice change of pace and appreciated that we couldn’t breeze through the dungeon so easily.
My end analysis? To me it was practically worth getting the set just for the card dividers, but I know that doesn’t matter to everyone. The new mechanics were interesting, but none of them really had a huge amount of “wow” effect. The new variety that the cards added was nice, as our original set of Thunderstone had been thoroughly played. We all knew the card combos that we favored and gravitated towards those. This spiced it up a bit. Really I guess that’s exactly what an expansion should do: leave the game you love intact, just give it a new coat of shine.
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