Eight months on and Thunderstone is still one of the most highly requested games in my house. However, when you play a game that many times its essential that you change it up as often as you can and so that brings me to another Thunderstone Expansion, Wrath of the Elements.
Wrath was actually the first expansion I bought for Thunderstone after Dragonspire but what did I think of it… let's find out.
In the box for WOTE you will find:
Card Dividers for both WOTE and the Original Base Set
30 Militia to replace the ones found in the base set
12 additional disease cards
51 Monster cards
84 Hero cards
112 Village cards
1 Thunderstone Card
33 Randomiser Cards
5 Reference Cards
One of the big things about this expansion was the box control. Obviously if you're coming in from Dragonspire, like I was this wasn’t such a big deal but at the time it was a huge improvement over the base game. WOTE included dividers for every card in both the expansion and the base set along with a box layout to help sort the cards for you.
The great thing about this for me is that I can stick all the cards into my Dragonspire box and use the WOTE box to store other card games, I’m currently using it for WFRP 3.
The 30 reprinted Militia cards were for players who bought the original print run of Thunderstone which omitted the word Hero on the Militia Cards. As a side note that has been corrected in later printings.
Everything else in the box is up to the standard I’ve come to expect from AEG, the rulebook helps clear up most of the ambiguity on the cards and the AEG team over on BGG do the rest.
Playing the Game
So, what new elements does WOTE add? Well, if you’re coming at the game from Dragonspire, nothing new. However if you only own the base set of Thunderstone then WOTE introduces 2 new card types and a couple of new mechanics.
WOTE introduces Death Traps and Dire Traps. These cards are Dungeon Features (like Treasures, Guardians and Settings in later sets) and can be added randomly to your dungeon setup at the start of the game.
If you are using traps they are shuffled into the dungeon deck in addition to the three normal sets of monster cards. If a trap card comes up when you refill the hall it triggers and generally does nasty things to you. For example the Rolling Boulder causes players to flip over cards, destroying the first 3 heroes that show up. This can be particularly nasty if you reveal high level heroes while your opponent only revealed militia.
The second new element in WOTE are Guardians, the set comes with only one of these, the Dark Champion. This is a big boss at the end of the dungeon, a rather thematic ending that isn’t too overpowered in game terms.
When setting up the game, after shuffling the monster cards but before placing the thunderstone in the deck count ten cards off the top of the deck and shuffle the Guardian into those ten cards and place them at the bottom of the deck. Then place the Thunderstone normally.
The guardian acts exactly like a normal monster except that when it reaches Rank 1 it immediately moves into a new Rank called Rank 0 allowing there to be 4 monsters in the hall.
What do I think of these two mechanics? Personally I’m not a fan of Traps, they are a bit too random, they can be very detrimental to your strategy, but most of all they are a bit of a faff and they slow the game down.
Guardians however I do like, they aren’t so much of a power house that they cause you too much of a problem, but they do add a nice thematic element, the Big Boss. I’d love to see a big Dragon Guardian card, that would be cool!
Obviously, in a deckbuilding game, the reason you buy an expansion is for the new cards so lets take a quick look at some of the stuff in the box.
There are 4 new monsters included with WOTE these are:
Elemental Nature – This is an odd collection of monsters that have no real unifying theme. For example the Earth Wrath requires Magic Attack, while the Fire Wrath is immune to spells and unequipped heroes and the Thunderwrath cannot be attacked if spells or weapons are used. This diverse nature makes these Elements quite challenging as you have to build your deck to face a multitude of challenges.
Elemental Pain – These monsters all have a breach effect which triggers if they move into rank 1, usually they will destroy a certain kind of hero from the top 5 cards of your deck. A couple of the Torments can be difficult to clear, especially the Magic Attack only ones.
Golem – The Golems focus on strength, meaning that Heroes with strength less than X cannot attack. In the most extreme case heroes with less than 8 strength cannot attack! Luckily the expansion introduces ways to boost your strength.
The Horde – The Horde comes with a set of placeholder cards that are replaced with the actual horde card when they come up. Each Horde card gets increasingly harder to kill (1 additional Hit Point). They start out easy at 3hp but rise to a difficult 12hp! Each Horde in your deck is worth 1 Victory Point x The Number of Horde in your Deck. It is worth noting that the FAQ in the book states that this is capped at a maximum of 5 Victory Points per Horde card, a clarification that really should be noted on the card itself.
Blind – The Blind monks are a really cool set of heroes that focus on Light. In their early incarnations they can destroy light items (repeatedly) to score additional MAGIC ATTACK, while the Level 3 version powers up by having no light present at all.
Diin – This is an interesting Hero that powers up using Militia. At level 2 he transforms Militia into an exact copy of other Heroes in your hand, at Level 3 he can discard a militia to take the top hero from any stack and have it join you until the end of battle. This strategy would work really well when combined with the Highland Officer from Thornwood Siege.
Divine – The Divine is a selection of clerics which powerup off diseases and monster cards. In his level 3 form he can be hugely powerful allowing you to destroy a disease to draw 2 cards and to draw 2 cards for each monster in your hand.
Gangland – An interesting group of heroes that allow you to generate gold in the village for each hero card in your hand. This turns these normally worthless cards into a gold mine for you meaning you might be able to afford items you previously couldn’t. They are also capable fighters, with the level 3 version getting an attack of 7 if you reveal 5 gold or more.
Gohlen – These fighters allow you to get an ATTACK bonus for monster cards in your hand, turning potentially useless cards into additional power. At level 3 he gains the power to potentially poach victory points from other players.
Runespawn – The Runespawn is a capable Wizard Thief who not only gets MAGIC ATTACK but also grants strength bonuses to her fellow heroes.
Toryn – The Toryn can be a potential machine of infinite damage. The Toryn can carry any number of weapons, turning a potentially useless hand of 5 weapons and 1 hero into massive damage. His attack of 2 and strength of 7 in his basic form is awesome, rising to a massive ATTACK 4 Strength 9 at level 3.
New Village Items
Ambrosia – This is a great card, not only does it give you 2 Victory points but it also grants all heroes +2 Strength and +1 ATTACK, great for dealing with Golems and for carrying heavy weapons.
Amulet of Power – This grants all heroes +3 strength and gives off 2 light, a nice multipurpose item.
Blacksmith – This handy fellow allows you to draw an extra card in the village and he allows you to make an additional purchase if you buy a weapon. Very handy if you have lots of Toryns!
Claymore – IF you can find a hero to wield it this is an awesome weapon that metes out 5 damage and allows you to claim 1 additional monster worth 1 or 2 Victory Points from the hall.
Creeping Death – This is one of the most expensive Village cards out there with a cost of 9. The card reduces the HP of all monsters in the dungeon by 2 allowing you to take them if it would kill them. It also gives all other players a disease!
Cursed Mace - +6 ATTACK but you gain a disease, perfect for use with the Divine or other clerics that powerup off destroying diseases. Downside is that it generates no gold.
Foresight Elixir – This is a nice card for reorganising the top of the dungeon deck, but it also allows you to draw 2 cards and reveal it to ignore the effects of a trap.
Illusory Blade – Take a weapon from the village for a turn but destroy it at the end of battle. Very helpful in a tight spot but it can also be very destructive.
Magi Staff - +1 MAGIC ATTACK but also destroy the card to remove monsters from the hall. It’s a good way to not have to waste a turn to get rid of a monster you can’t defeat, or one that has a battle effect you’d rather not deal with.
Magic Missile – An awesome early game spell that deals +4 MAGIC ATTACK but only against rank one. Very helpful for dealing with Magic Only creatures like the Smoke Torment.
Sage – This villager allows you to destroy non-Hero cards for XP. i.e. you can destroy diseases to gain experience! He can also be destroyed to gain 1 gold per hero in your hand. This is an ability that rarely seems worthwhile given that he costs 4 to purchases.
Shortbow – Another bow that is effective in rank 2 and 3 with a bonus if equipped to an archer.
Tavern Brawl – This card is all about messing with other players hands or decks, neither of which I care to do very often.
Tax Collector – This card generates 1 gold for each player in the game, making it less useful in two player games. It can also be destroyed to force all other players to discard a card with a gold value and you gain that much gold, however with many cards having a 0 Gold Value on them you can’t guarantee this will be a helpful move.
Wrath of the Elements does a lot of things very well. Firstly it corrects a lot of mistakes made in the original game. The organisation of the game is a lot better, the rules are clearer, more diseases were added to stop you running out and reprints were included to make the game work better.
There are still occasional cards that could be clearer, usually these are fully explained in the glossary but in some cases the card is lacking information it needn't to have.
WOTE adds new monsters that force you to think differently and new heroes that allow for deckbuilding along a theme. It adds some great new village items and quite a few multipurpose items that collate multiple abilities into a single card.
What it adds that I don't like are ways to mess with the other players decks and hands. If you include a lot of the cards from Wrath of the Elements in a single game your deck and hand can end up being decimated, either by monsters, traps or other players. While I can see that there is strategy in destroying another players hand or deck it doesn’t feel particularly heroic to me.
However, when this effect is diluted down with other expansions it doesn’t bother me as much. Overall I really enjoyed Wrath and I think that the new cards offer great new ways to build your decks. Each of the Heroes is very focused but they also work well in concert. Some of the village cards are not as useful or appealing as I’d like but in general this is a great expansion that adds a little of everything!