It’s time to take a look at the second (and last?) expansion for Thunderstone Advance, The Root of Corruption.
Other than bringing new cards and variety to the table ROC brings with it a brand new co-op variant known as Siege, which offers a very interesting change of pace, but more about that in a moment…
Root of Corruption sets up a new villain, King Caelan, corrupted by the power of the Thunderstone his own realm is destroying itself from within. Can the Heroes face this threat and bring down the corrupted King without being corrupted themselves?
Root of Corruption comes with 336 cards plus a player mat for the co-op variant. As usual the quality here is great and the expansion offers a little bit of everything (although still no additional familiars), 7 new heroes, 6 new monster groups, a new Guardian and Thunderstone Bearer, 15 new village cards, a set of treasure cards and 4 new curse cards. In addition it also added reprints of previous TA cards making the Ambushers easier to spot from a distance.
The artwork on the new cards and on the siege mat are up to the usual standards and the only thing I would criticise is the mat itself. It’s a poster as opposed to a board so it doesn’t really lie flat and it’ll succumb to corner fatigue and tearing eventually. That said I understand why it’s a mat rather than a board, a board would increase the price point, which for a variant play style people might not want or enjoy would be a bad thing.
So overall I have no complaints about the contents, you definitely get a good sampling of cards and some really unique heroes and monsters, along with a new and interesting way to play the game… speaking of which…
Thunderstone was never designed to be a co-operative game, far from it in fact. The game can be played (and often is) as multiplayer solitaire where the only interaction is other players depleting the cards available to buy or fight. However there have been many cards over the years that actually affect the cards in another players hand, deck and discard pile.
So adding a co-operative variant was going to take some work! First lets look at the new board which replaces the dungeon entirely.
The mat represents a siege with the monsters moving towards the walls that surround the village. Along the side there are spaces for the monster deck, curses deck and a victory pile for the monsters. In the middle there are three ranks of five rows, each with space for one card.
To set up the game the players select 2 monster groups from each of the three levels. Each level is shuffled together and then 15 are drawn and the other five discarded. The deck is then stacked so Level 1 is at the top and level 3 is at the bottom with a Thunderstone Bearer shuffled into the last 10 cards as usual. This leaves you with a deck of 46 cards.
Five cards are then dealt face down into Rank 3 which has the same properties as Rank 3 of the standard dungeon, i.e. 3 Darkness. At the start of each players turn they turn over one face down card. If there are no cards to turn over all the monsters in Rank 3 move into Rank 2, pushing any monster in their way to Rank 1 and five new cards are dealt facedown into Rank 3. If a monster needs to move into Rank 1 and another Monster blocks its path the monster in Rank 1 is moved to the Successful Besiegers pile and the wall is reduced by one hit point.
There are 5 wall sections, each with 5 hit points, meaning if five monsters break through that wall section it will be totally destroyed. If another monster moves through the wall after the last hit point has been removed the players automatically lose the game.
If the players successful hold off until the last of the monsters are destroyed or have moved into the Successful Besiegers pile then the game ends and the scores are counted. All the player add their individual VPs together. The monsters score the VPs on all the monsters in the Successful Besiegers pile plus 3 VPs per hit point removed from the wall. The highest total wins.
Thoughts on Co-op
I really liked it. Obviously there are cards that just don't wok as well in this format but it doesn't take much to re-randomise those cards. The game has a nice pace to it. The monsters start out in Rank 3, which is pretty much impossible to hit with your starting hand, which gives you a good 12 turns to prepare for their arrival. Once they do arrive however, at most one player a turn can afford to go shopping the rest need to fight and fight hard! The endless waves of attackers really makes it feel like an unrelenting siege and by the end you really are fighting tooth and nail to keep the wall intact.
Sure, it doesn't work as well as a game that was designed to be pure co-op, you have to fudge some cards to make them work and house rule others for them to make any sense, but it is a completely different format of play and for me that is a nice addition that adds something extra to the game. It’s not a variant I thought was missing from Thunderstone but it’s one I’ll occasionally break out for a change of pace.
It does take a little while to get through, one and a half to two hours, but not that much longer than a regular game because the monsters are always pushing forward. Overall, if you enjoy Thunderstone Advance I think you owe it to yourself to give the Siege variant a try, it’s certainly a tough challenge, but a fun one!
And now a quick breakdown of the cards in this set.
This guy adds another dwarf to the ranks. His Rank 2 and 3 dungeon abilities allow you get weapons from the village and use them during your turn.
She is an all magic attack hero who also provides a light. At ranks 2 and 3 she can convert spells into weight 0 magical weapons that still grant the bonus of the spell.
A Cleric/Fighter that hates disease. From level 1 he is effective against diseases but as he levels up he can destroy and discard cards for bonus attack.
The first and only Avian (Corvaxis) Character. His initial form is weak and will be destroyed if you fail to defeat a monster however he is powerful for how cheap he is and his later ranks allow you to manipulate the dungeon.
One of my favourite anti-disease characters. His initial ability allows you to accrue diseases in exchange for light, while his later forms can do so for cards, but they can also (repeat) destroy diseases for Magic Attack. Of course if you fill your deck with disease you better hope you draw the Profaned in the same hand!
The silvertongue thief can initially return village cards for 2 gold however his later forms allow you to pass village cards to other players for bonus attack and cards.
The only treefolk character in the game, adds a light and a massive strength of 10, however he cannot be equipped with weapons! With the strength 0 = destroyed rule being removed I can’t quite figure out why he has a strength of 10. However his ability to boost his physical attack in exchange for other players drawing a card is a great boon in Co-op play!
Djinnbound – Corrupted
The Djinnbound are low level curse giving monsters. In particular I like the Minion of Horror which cannot be attacked if there is darkness.
Elemental – Earth
The Earth Elementals are some of the toughest monsters to date, high hit point values, magic attack requirements, lots of destroy x heroes abilities and some nasty breach effects.
Continuing Thunderstone Advance’s D&D-esk style the Gnolls entering the fray. The Gnolls are mid-level monsters with raid and battle effects which are triggered by ambushers, giving them a nice barbarian-esk feel.
Incarnate - Abyssal
Super powered versions of the Djinnbound these monsters offer high victory points in exchange for terrible trophy effects (which remember are mandatory). These include minus attack, removing a hero from battle and reducing your hand limit!
Royal Guard – Corrupted
These corrupted humans sap your will to fight reducing the strength of your heroes, by as much as 6 in some cases! So while they appear weak they become trickier to fight, forcing you to rely on your heroes attack value alone.
Summoner – Old World
Finally my favourite of the new monsters the Summoners. These chaps are replaced when you select them to fight (i.e. after all dungeon abilities have been resolved) with a random monster from the deck of Thralls. These monsters reintroduce classic monsters from the original base game and its great to see them in the new design layout!
The new guardian reintroduces the concept of sub-bosses and the concept of Rank 0. He’s reasonably tough with a health of 12 but he also boosts all other monsters health by 4 so you’re going to want to deal with him quickly.
King Caelan is the Thunderstone Bearer for this set, following in the footsteps of his forebears his ability is about denying the heroes their hard fought abilities as you cannot target Caelen if you have used a dungeon ability on any of your heroes or villagers! He can be a tough cookie to take out.
Treasures of Dun Ordha
Adding another set of treasures to the game Dun Ordha brings some interesting abilities. My favourite, rather risky, one is the immolation orb, “draw 6 cards, destroy 6 cards”, seriously, use with caution!
This set introduces some interesting cards that offer great abilities but generate minus VPs. Blood Debt costs 1 but generates 5 gold and –3VPs. However it can be gotten rid of if you generate 10 gold, you destroy the card and end your turn immediately. It’s thematic, but just make sure to get rid of it before the end of the game!
Circle of Protection
This card goes in front of you and protects you against the next raid, breach or aftermath effect that occurs on your turn. After that it is destroyed.
A return for cursed weaponry, this is a favourite of mine. With its low weight and +2 attack it’s a nice boost for Regulars. In addition they can take diseases to boost it’s attack up to +5.
The debased wizard allows you to repeat dungeon abilities or cancel battle effects in exchange for curses.
When used normally this is just identical to iron rations, but when destroyed it allows you to put a hero back on top of your deck instead of discarding it.
The greatsword allows you to kill an additional monster by discarding it and the attached hero and taking a monster with health equal to or less than the combined attack value.
The Hedge Witch provides more disease destruction but she also allows you to burn those excess XPs for attack and or card draw.
Want to deny your opponents the opportunity to buy high level heroes or to get rid of low level heroes so you can buy the next rank up, then the hysterical villager is your friend. You can also destroy him to get 3 gold!
The great dwarven axe simply adds +5 Physical Attack!
Light-weight and short ranged this bow is Attack 5 minus the rank of the monster.
This weapon works great in the hands of powerful heroes. It’s physical attack –2 + the strength of the hero!
This spell allows you to mess with another player’s strategy. You choose a monster and place it in front of them, that player must face that monster on their turn, whether they wanted to or not!
Rage of the Disowned
Another negative VP card this one makes Regulars into super powered killing machines and handily destroys them after. It adds +5 to any hero and that hero cannot be affected by dungeon or battle effects! However Rage of the Disowned is impossible to get rid of…
The stablehand gives you some control over your discard pile allowing you to destroy a card or to put your deck into your discard pile.
Tincture of Victims
For 1xp this card allows you to convert all of your attack to Physical or Magical Attack and it can also add 2 Attack and 3 Strength to a hero in exchange for a curse or destroying the Tincture of Victims.
The cards in Root of Corruption offer some really great choices to make. They are all fairly powerful, but that power comes with a price, which is of course the theme of the set. I really like the minus VP cards as they really do corrupt your deck. In our first game using them we were left with some truly low scores (I believe the lowest was 4).
There are also some cards that shine really well in co-op such as the Woodguard and the Silvertongue.
Cards like the Hedge Witch are a welcome addition because finding a late game use for your XPs is always tricky.
The monsters offer some interesting, if somewhat brutal effects. The decision to bring Guardians back but to then only include one seemed strange.
As mentioned above I really like the co-op variant and it feels like a bonus because the price point remained the same as the previous expansions so I’m happy to have new ways to play Thunderstone.
I’m undecided as to whether I want to play the latest Thunderstone Advance set: Numenera as the mix of sci-fi and fantasy is a little jarring, thematically, for me. I don't know if AEG plans to publish any more, non-numenera themed Advance expansions, I hope they do, but at the same time there is plenty to be going on with and with a little tweaking all the previous Thunderstone games work well with Advance.
If you like Thunderstone Advance just pick this up, you wont be disappointed. It offers more of everything you like plus some things you might never have thought to try. All the cards offer interesting decisions and deck building opportunities. It isn’t going to fix anything you think is wrong with the game, but fans of the game will not be disappointed.