Welcome to another game day here at spalanz.com! Today it’s the turn of the first expansion for Thunderstone, which came under the spotlight of awesome back in February: today, it’s time for Wrath of the Elements!
At the most basic level, every Thunderstone expansion is along the lines “more of the same”, as we see more monsters for the dungeon, more items, weapons and spells for the village, and more heroes to level up. However, there are a number of synergies and new areas of focus that are explored…
A lot of the traits from the core set are explored further here, so we get monsters who can only be affected by Magic, etc – luckily, we have items and heroes who have some real buffs to this.
Some of the heroes are really pretty interesting, too – the Gohlen, for instance, gains +2 attack if you reveal a monster from your hand, which can be really useful in the late game when you’ve defeated a fair number of monsters. A great little sub-theme is the exploration of Strength, with monsters that can only be attacked by heroes of specific strength values, and assorted cards that give all heroes Strength buffs. With something like the solo rules, things like this add an extra level to the proceedings.
There is a lot of new here, however, starting with the dungeon deck – or, should I say, Dreadwatch Keep! Two interesting ideas come here: traps and guardians. Both are shuffled into the deck – the guardian into its own stack that will appear in the mid-third of the game, in something of an effort to mitigate the fact that he is a very powerful enemy. The guardian can move into its own rank – rank 0 – which triggers a special breach effect that targets the village! That breach effect continues for as long as the guardian is in rank 0. It’s a nice little addition that is fairly simple yet adds another layer to your strategy. Wonderful stuff!
Traps act as soon as they are revealed from the dungeon deck, acting almost as event cards that trigger an effect and are then destroyed. Another interesting addition to the game!
There is also a completely new kind of enemy called the Horde. A deck of “placeholder” cards is shuffled into the dungeon deck, while a separate deck is placed off to the side: each time one of these placeholder cards is fought, you actually fight the top card of this Horde deck, which increases in strength the more you fight. It’s another interesting idea, though it can make the game somewhat easier, as in the early game you can be reasonably assured you’ll have an easier enemy to defeat, rather than revealing something like a Knightmare in the first position.
It’s a really good expansion for giving you more options to play with. There are interesting hero options, new dungeon options along with more interesting monsters, but the manual has what is possibly the most exciting option, with half a dozen or so pages of campaign variants!
All in all, it’s pretty great, though in terms of more modern games (a ridiculous idea, given this came out in 2010, but you know what I mean), it’s definitely in the “more of the same” category. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it doesn’t feel like a really innovative experience. There are a couple of tweaks, but the basic concept remains the same – if you’re expecting something more, then you’re better off with one of the later expansions. However, if you’re just looking for more options, then it’s pretty much an insta-buy.