Anyone who has been following the Twitter Stream should know that very few games get played in my house as often as Thunderstone. In fact it is my Mum’s current favourite, which is odd as previous to that it was Valdora and Stone Age, but it takes all kinds right?
Anyway, as soon as review copies became available I shot off an email and was rewarded with my very own copy of Thornwood Siege. In the following review I will be concretizing solely on how the expansion works, so for a full overview of the game check out my Dragonspire Review.
You are a hero, using gold you have drawn further Heroes to your side. You’ve bought magical blades, sinister spells and honourable mercenaries. Together you forge deep into the heart of Thornwood, looking for the fabled Stone of Blight. While you were gone however the village came under attack by brigands, they left none alive, they stole, raped and pillaged, reducing your stores, using up precious resources and slaying potential allies, making it that much harder for you to complete your quest and find the stone!
Thornwood Siege contains:
- 1 Thunderstone
- 90 Hero Cards (7 Sets)
- 112 Village Cards (14 Sets)
- 50 Monster Cards (5 Sets)
- 1 Guardian
- 30 Randomisers
- 27 Dividers
- 18 Tokens
The first thing that struck me about the contents of the box was the lack of types of cards. There were no traps, no treasures and no settings. I had expected at least one of each, perhaps Forest Snares for traps, or at least a Thornwood Settings card.
That said, I’m not that disappointed, overall I dislike the extra faff that settings, traps and treasure add, I just found it interesting that this expansion did not expand existing elements from previous expansions.
The second thing to note about the components is that there is a printing error on the Stalk tokens. This is nothing major, just that the text on two of the tokens is wrong based on the image on the token. They are still perfectly usable but AEG has released a corrected version that can be printed out if you desire.
Other than that the components are pretty standard, although I think the printing may be the crispest yet, the layout on the cards stands out really well and looks beautiful. Again, great art across the set and a lot of variety included in the box.
Playing the Game
Thornwood Siege introduces two new elements to the game. These are Stalk and Raid.
However, Raid is not really “new” it’s just a shorter keyword than “When Revealed” and it only affects the Village. Basically if a card with the Raid Keyword is turned over from the dungeon deck the active player will remove a certain number of cards from the village.
Making Raid it’s own Keyword seems a little pointless in my own personal opinion, unless of course they introduce anti-Raid cards. “When Revealed” works just as well.
The second effect introduced in Thornwood Siege is Stalk. When a monster with Stalk is revealed from the deck you take the appropriate Stalk Token and place it in front of you, this token will take affect at the start of your next turn, regardless of whether or not the monster that was staking you is still in the dungeon
The stalk effects are pretty simple, affecting either your hand, your gold or forcing you to go to the dungeon. While these are interesting effects, they’re not really debilitating. I can see the Stalk Effect being really cool if used with a Demonic or Undead monster set in a later expansion.
Overall these two effects are not ground breaking. Raid reduces the options in the village drastically, targeting the best and cheapest items equally. As there is no effective way of cancelling the effect I find it less fun to play with.
It’s also less thematic, the title of the expansion is Thornwood Siege, but it doesn’t really feel like a siege because you can’t stop the village being destroyed. Even if you use the Scout or some other method of searching the dungeon deck and moving cards around they will still come up eventually.
Overall “Breach”, for me, works better for simulating a Siege.
As I said, Stalk is an interesting mechanic, but the “bad stuff” is generally not too bad to make a noticeable difference. Also, despite the cool Centaur Artwork, I felt the effect would have worked better on perhaps a set of Ethereal Undead.
Thornwood Siege brings the focus of the game back onto some of the core elements of the base game. For example the Militia are the focal point of many of the new cards and 2 of the 5 monster sets also focus heavily on giving disease.
I’ve already talked about the Raiders and the Centaurs, but what about the other 3 sets.
Siege – Most of the Siege Engines have global effects that targets the village, usually triggered by a player buying something or simply going to the village. If they come out early in the game they can be pretty destructive, although they are relatively easy to take out later in the game as they don’t require special attacks etc.
Verminfolk – As you may expect Verminfolk concentrate on giving out diseases. They also tend to target Militia, either giving you diseases for each militia or simply preventing them from attacking. There is some pretty nice artwork in this set too, I think there are my favourite of the new monsters.
Abyssal Malformed – These weird and wonderful beasts concentrate on card destruction. Each one destroys a different type of card, some of them are not too bad, destroying food items, others destroy monsters in your hand. Worst still these monsters give you diseases for each card they destroyed, making them really unpleasant to deal with, but a fun challenge.
Guardian of Virulence – The only guardian included with this set, she has the Global effect of giving anyone who goes to the village a disease. With a 14 health she is not a weak opponent, but she shouldn’t be too much trouble. Once again this Guardian follows the rules of this set which is about making heroes choose to fight rather than buy.
Krell – Krell is another Hero that can achieve level 4, however he is only at his most powerful when surrounded by militia. If combined with the Highland Officer and Elite Militia this guy could be a seriously great hero, but if it was a choice between him a level 4 Veteran I know which I would take.
Lurker – The Lurker is an inexpensive thief with a light and a gold, very comparable to the Chulian in Dragonspire. As he levels up he causes players to discard items and at the highest levels he can use one of the discarded items. The Thieves Blade included in this expansion can give this hero a great attacking boost.
Magehunter – This Hero is very powerful if you are focusing solely on ATTACK as opposed to MAGIC ATTACK. He’s reasonably strong and has a max attack of 7 at Level 3 as long as no MAGIC ATTACK is revealed.
Nightblade – Again another cheap Thief, this time one that encourages you to buy low weight weapons such as the Dagger. As I said earlier this set really brings the focus back on the basics as you see ways of using your cheaper starter items to powerup your heroes.
Thornwood – The Thornwood Archer is a pretty powerful hero, if nothing else his +1 ATTACK per rank cuts light penalties in half. Another archer is a great addition for the Short Bow from Wrath of the Elements. At higher levels he rewards you for killing Rank 3 monsters as well as giving +2 attack per rank.
Veris – The Veris felt almost broken in the game I played with it. If bought early they are exceptionally useful. They confer a +1 light bonus on all equipped Heroes. Now that handful of militias with daggers has enough light to see into rank 2 and enough attack to kill stuff. As it levels up the Veris becomes a machine. At level 3 each equipped hero gets +2 ATTACK and +2 Light and the Veris gets MAGIC ATTACK equal to the amount of light!
Because his special ability grants ATTACK to heroes, not MAGIC ATTACK he is reasonably useful regardless of what you are fighting.
Woodfolk – These are one of my favourite new Heroes. Relatively cheap Clerics that give you a +3 MAGIC ATTACK against disease giving monsters. At level 3 you can use them to destroy diseases to gain +4 MAGIC ATTACK and a card – And it’s a repeat effect!
I’m not going to cover all the village cards in detail because that would take ages, however this set does have some great synergies, a lot of the time these are with basic items.
Some of my favourites include:
Time Bend – This card allows you to draw a card and then save any one of the cards from your hand for your next turn. Like the scout and other cards this is great for fighting the luck element inherent in Thunderstone.
Highland Officer, Elite Militia and Drill Sergeant – The Elite Militia count as Militia for all purposes, but they have an ATTACK +2 and a strength of 4, plus you can destroy a militia and buy another card the turn you buy an Elite Militia. The Highland Officer allows you to draw an extra card in the village and you can buy a militia in addition to your normal buy. In addition in the dungeon you can draw a card for each revealed militia. The Drill Sergeant allows you to destroy Militia in the dungeon to draw 2 cards and gain an experience point.
All of these cards allow you to manipulate the Militia in your starting deck in interesting ways. In addition they are cheap to buy meaning you can start using them really early in the game.
Power Word: Kill – This is a seriously powerful spell that can take out Monsters worth up to 5 Victory points. If another player is using these and you aren’t you’re probably going to lose. To make the most effective use of the card you will need high level wizards or clerics though.
Thieves Blade – With two Thieves included with this set this is a great addition to the game. It’s light and can give upto a +4 ATTACK bonus in the right hands.
Stalking Spell – This is just a fun card, it costs 3 but it allows you to draw 2 cards and forces everyone into the Dungeon on their next turn.
So, my final thoughts on Thornwood Siege… Overall I think it’s an Ok expansion, but it’s not the best. The “new” things it includes are not that exciting and it doesn’t expand old ideas at all. I find that many of the new effects like Stalk and Raid, along with new cards like Guiding Light and the Global Effects on the Siege Engines are pretty fiddly to keep track of.
That said there are some great village cards and the focus on basic, always available, items is a good thing. Many of the new cards force you to consider using a totally new strategy, like keeping Militia alive.
There may be a little bit of power creep in the heroes, particularly the Veris, Thornwood and Woodfolk, but overall the new heroes add to the base set rather than detract from it.
Once again the components are great and the artwork is very nice to look at. I don’t think that Thornwood is an essential expansion in any way but it does include a lot of good stuff and lots of variety.
So, that was Thornwood Siege and until next time, have fun gaming!