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Yesderday's game experience - Thunderstone: Dragonspire

Richard Martin
United States
Overland Park
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NOTE: I decided to start writing down my thoughts/opinions of games that I play, especially those that I'm playing for the first time. On the one hand, this is just a fun excercise for me with no real purpose. On the other hand, I want to see if any others have had similar experiences with this particular game, the first time they played it. It would also be interesting to get answers to the following questions: "How similar were your experiences in subsequent plays?" "Has your opinion of the game changed?"

Another important point is that I am just talking about one particular experience with the game, not about the game in general. So I don't consider this as any kind of "review", just some casual observations. My feelings about the game can be vastly different than my feelings about one particular game experience.

So I recently purchased Thunderstone: Dragonspire and Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements and decided to give it a shot yesterday. My first game was a 2-player game with my wife and we used the inital setup recommended in the Dragonspire rulebook.

I had played Thunderstone once before at a local game group (used a mixture of cards from the base game and WotE), so I was somewhat familiar with the gameplay. My wife had never played before.

My overall feeling with our first Dranspire experience is "slightly underwhelmed". I enjoyed it a lot more when I played it before at our local game group. I think the main cause of my problems with this game experience lies with the recommended "first game setup". This combined with the fact that we were new to the game and not making the optimal strategic choices, really slowed down the game for us.

Here are some thoughts on what I liked/didn't like about our first game

- Understanding the rules was pretty simple, especially since we were both familiar with Dominion.

- Setting up didn't take too long since we were using the recommended "first game setup".

- So the first thing I noticed was that the monster deck was pretty large..considering that this was a 2p game. There wre 31 cards in the deck (30 monsters + 1 thunderstone). We would have had to face a minimum of 20 monsters before the thunderstone would show up and end the game. Considering that one of us visited the dungeon maybe once every three/four turns (just guessing),that meant playing through more than 80 hands!!! That was quite a lot. I hope I didn't miss any setup rules, but I felt the game took a little longer than it should with 2 players.

- The next issue I had was with the types of monsters in the monster deck. I know this will change with each game, but the monsters in the "first game setup", were't really varied enough for me.

- Thanks to some unlucky shuffling, we started off with a bunch of monsters that needed magic attack only. Due to our unfamiliarity with the strategies required, we rarely intentionally lost to a monster in order to send him to the bottom of the deck. So instead, we tried to stock up on magic attack spells and heroes which provide magic attack only. We eventually got rid of the initial wave on "magic attack" monsters, but our decks were full of these cards which didn't turn out to be useful for most of the other turns. This really slowed it down for us since we had to spend many turns either resting or in the village.

- Another thing that slowed down the game for us was that a majority of monsters that we defeated initially kept giving us disease cards! This didn't make our hands any better suited for dungeon attacks and again, we would end up resting or going to the village.

- Unlike Dominion, I didn't find a lot of cards (at least in this particular setup), that allowed for multiple purchases or to draw more cards. Like I already mentioned, we kept drawing hands that did not allow us to visit the dungeon successfully, and this really limited our choices and we were therefore forced to rest (and prolong the game further).

- Finally, putting the game away was a pain! Not only do we have to separate out the decks (which is fine - have to do it in any deck-building game), but you also have to arrange the heroes in order so its ready for the next game. Additionally, it seems that there are a LOT more destoyed cards in this game compared to dominion. So that just adds to the game-end sorting thats required. This is really a small point, but thought I would mention it anyway.

Even though there were some things I didn't like about this particular experience, it has not deterred me from wanting to try the game again. After thinking about our first game, I realized that a lot of the problems we had with the length of the game was simply due to us not making the best gameplay choices. Also, using the randomizers to determine the heroes/monsters/village decks will also do wonders for our future games, IMO.

So did anyone else have similar experiences with Thunderstone?
Any ideas on how to speed up the 2p game?

Thanks for reading!
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