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Still the annoying shuffling of Dominion, but a more interesting theme. Significantly more complex than its predecessor as well. I wonder if the Light and/or Hero Strength rules could be done away with and still be a fun game. Anyways, I enjoyed it more than Dominion.
Alright, I really liked Thunderstone. I like it much better than I liked Dominion after a similar number of plays.But also similar to Dominion, I think I might burn out on it fairly quickly. Once you solve the puzzle, I feel like the same thing is happening where the game is driving me, rather than me driving the game. This is not as extreme as in dominion, but it is still there, lingering in the background. I'd like to try that Epic Thunderstone variant some day. Not sure when I'll get that chance though.
Mechanics are similar to Dominion, but the this one has good theme and beautiful art. I also don't think its mindless Dominion clone as many think about it. Its diffrent enough and not so dry.
So it's Dominion, and yet it isn't. Its qualities are directly the inverse of Dominion's--it's got good theming, you'll never focus on just 1 or 2 cards (or money), and you'll never have endless "+draw +action" turns (that usually end up with 3 money anyway). On the other hand, the iconography and game text is a borderline nightmare and the game takes a bit too long. The random monster setup can lead to strange situations, and the balance is off in places. Overall, I prefer this to Dominion, but I do feel like it could have kept more of Dominion's strengths while improving on its weaknesses. I am very much looking forward to the expansion. [EDIT] Simple variant that makes things all kinds of better--show five monsters (or even four) instead of three in the dungeon hall. [EDIT] Use the Intelligent Randomizer online. It's not a neccesity, but man does it improve things.
A bit like Dominion but with noticeable differences, especially with having to choose where to go each turn. I think it's likely to be harder to pick up initially because there's more iconography on the cards but still seems easy enough to follow after a game.
After playing enough, I do prefer dominion to this game. It was a good attempt, and the theme is great, which is why it still sees some action here. My main complaint is that the game goes on for far too long after your engine is working. Dominion ends at the right time.
The game has a much stronger theme and a more interesting scoring method than its predecessor. Because you have to choose between preparing for battle or actually battling on every turn, you must balance your deck between being strong at deckbuilding and being strong at scoring points. The abilities of the cards are probably about as varied as the core Dominion's mix of cards, but knowing how much preparation you need before going into battle is thematically fun and strategically interesting. Now for the part of the comment where I whine. Parts of the game seem unpolished. Several times during our inaugural Thunderstone session, my fellow players and I just asked each other "Why is this card worded like this?" or "How is that supposed to be a balanced card?" (though we haven't played much, so this one is just a n00b's opinion). Unless my group just evaluates cards and wording differently from most people, these seem like avoidable problems. The other problem I have with Thunderstone is the cards themselves. First, why XP cards? They don't add anything, and I would rather just have cardboard chips. Second, although the art is pretty good, the cards themselves are rather poor quality (many stacks were starting to warp as soon as we took the plastic off!). If you're going to sell a card game as a big-box game with a big-box price, I'd appreciate it if you at least made sure the cards were high-quality. I love the theme, I love the dungeon/village division, and judging on core mechanics, I'd call this game Dominion's equal. With some higher production values and some minor tweaks for balance and wording, I would probably rate this game a 9.
The game is not actively bad. But (to bring comparisons to Dominion), this game was not properly developed. Design = great. Development = the crapper. This could have been as good as Dominion, or even better, and the game gone through proper development time. As it is, clumsy AEG rules, and unclear definitions make this less fun for me.