Review: Thunderstone Thornwood Siege

Guest post by Mark Calder

Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege is the 4th expansion in the fantasy adventure deckbuilding game designed by Mike Elliott and published by AEG. In this latest expansion, the Thunderstone lays in the Thornwood Forest which home to a brand new set of dangerous foes. These enemies not only defend the Thunderstone’s location but introduce new game mechanics wherein they attack the town, hindering you in your quest. Read on for the full review.

Just the Facts:

Players: 1-5

Playing Time: 45 minutes

Age: 12 to adult

Publisher: AEG

MSRP: $34.99

Release: June 2011

The Gameplay:

Thornwood Siege requires one of the previous two standalone Thunderstone releases for play and is therefore not playable by itself. This review will assume you have played some version of Thunderstone or its previous expansions and will concentrate on the new heroes, village cards, and monster cards available in this expansion. For more information on the basic mechanics of Thunderstone, see Matt Morgan’s review of the standalone Thunderstone: Dragonspire.

First up, the theme of this expansion warrants discussion, as it really shined in this edition of Thunderstone more so than the others. The game has the usual Thunderstone feel to it with some changes that really bring it to life. Most cards have a dark, ominous forest theme to them which is consistent in the naming as well as the artwork, but the biggest change here is the fact that the adventurers are not the only ones doing the attacking (hence the siege).

Wulfburg (the village) is under siege by the very monsters that are guarding the Thunderstone, introduced in gameplay as the new “Raid” ability attached to certain monsters. This mechanic had a pronounced effect on the gameplay and will cause players’ strategies to change as the village gets pounded by the Doom’s forces. The gameplay is deeper, as there is more to consider now when making the decision to go to the dungeon or village. The grim reality is that monster cards often attack the cards in the village with the most worth, removing them from the game and placing them in the discard pile. This means that even though you may have the ability to take out that tiny 2 VP monster in the dungeon this turn, you may want to visit the village instead and spend the gold if you have it. There is a good chance the card you were potentially passing up will be unavailable to you the next time you have the sum of gold you need to purchase it.

An additional rule adds another ability to the monsters called Stalk. The Stalk ability causes the monsters to place nasty counters on you that have negative effects on your next turn. All the Stalk abilities have this 1 turn effect and the counter is removed after the effect is resolved.

The Components:

The following is included in the Thornwood package:

  • 1 Thunderstone card (the Stone of Blight)
  • 90 Hero Cards (7 different types)
  • 112 Village Cards (14 different types)
  • 50 Monster Cards (5 different types)
  • 1 Guardian Card
  • 30 Randomizer Cards
  • 27 Card dividers
  • 18 Status Tokens

The rulebook is only 8 pages and assumes you are familiar with the base mechanics for Thunderstone. It does a great job of explaining the new cards and abilities, as well as addressing any questions that could come up during play. During our playtest rounds, all of the answers we needed were easy to find and properly explained.

The cards in this set really do have a great look to them. Artwork is solid and varies in style from image to image as you can see in the card preview above (click for a hi-res version), and as is standard for the series, AEG has used some of the best card stock in the business. This Thunderstone set is printed on thick linen card stock.

The only issue was with 2 counter's Stalking effects being reversed in the first printing of Thornwood.  AEG has provided a fix on their website which consists of you printing and gluing the correction to your existing counters.  I would have preferred if they would have mailed replacement counters to those that wanted them.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I felt this expansion played especially well when the game was mostly Thornwood Siege cards. That is not to say that it doesn’t play well with previous editions, but you can tell AEG made a strong effort to have the cards play off each other creating new and interesting situations. I think that fact really adds value to the expansion as it stays true to the core gameplay but adds something new and exciting. While Thornwood Siege won’t convert any Thunderstone haters out there, I feel this expansion is a welcome addition no matter what sets you previously own or whether you are a casual or hardcore fan of the series.

Disclaimer: AEG provided a complimentary review sample of this game.