A long, long, time ago in a post far, far away; I verily pronounced the emergence of Thunderstone for free on facebook. Now the developers have deigned give us an iOS implementation of the game…or is it just a portal to the facebook game? It is an interesting approac, which I shall deconstruct far more considerately in the implementation section below. It’s a game that has achieved reasonable popularity, though not universally so, but enough to spawn a number of expansions and even a second edition (Thunderstone Advanced). The game has a lot of content from which to draw from.
For those of you who don’t know, Thunderstone is one of those new Card Drafting games that emerged in the wake of Dominion, which could be summarised as a fantasy deck-building game that urges heroes into a dark dungeon. As a victory points based game, the person with the most of those is the winner at the games’ end, which is triggered when someone captures the Thunderstone. You gain victory points primarily through the defeat of monsters from the dungeon deck, points ranging from 1-8 or so, you can gain points from the capture of the Thunderstone itself (3VP), from the highest level of fighters you can acquire, and from other various purchasable cards.
The Thunderstone is one of many cards placed near the bottom of the dungeon deck, which as you might have guessed is filled with various monster cards. At any given time, up to three of these cards are drawn and placed in sequence next to that dungeon deck. This order is relevant as the further away from the deck, the closer to the “surface” of the dungeon the monster is. This is relevant towards combat, explained below. During your turn, you draw a number of cards from your draw deck, and then choose either to visit the dungeon, visit the village, or rest.
Visiting the dungeon means you take your cards assembled and wage a fight with one of the monsters available. The further from the ‘surface’ they are, the more in darkness they are. If you have inadequate sources of light, you will experience a penalty in combat. There are two main types of damage, magical and physical, and weapons can deal either edged or blunt force. Use the appropriate combination of powers, tricks, and utilities to win in mano e monstro combat. Some cards have effects that activate upon fighting, which can be game changers, and even should you be unable to defeat the monster it will be placed back into the dungeon deck. This might not seem like a great move (it isn’t), but there can occasionally be strategic advantage to it. A defeated monster will provide Victory Points (a static value) but also experience points (not static).
Visiting the village means purchasing a card (various cards have monetary values upon them). You may buy one card of value equal to or less than the monetary value of all your drawn cards; like the dungeon, there are various cards that have effects specifically in the village. For choice, you have weapons, spells, and heroes. To begin, there are four types of rank 1 heroes available (bronze), and when they run out, a smaller supply of rank 2 versions of those heroes (silver) are made available, and when they run out, rank 3 (gold) versions appear (only two of these).
The last action is to rest: which means you discard a card; useful for thinning your deck and for discarding unwanted cards. The least useful option, but can work in a pinch.
You will be spending most of your time trying to assess whether to use your existing combination to cut and run with victory points, or whether to build up your forces and powers by a trip to the village. The more players there are, the more crucial it is to be economic with your decisions. Take too long to build your engine and the game will end before you get going, start too quickly and you’ll be playing catch up the rest of the game.
Having played this game on facebook to the point where I’ve gotten into the later campaigns, there isn’t anything really new for me to experience. So while I recognise that for many, this might be the first time they’re experiencing Thunderstone in its videogame glory, I have grown a little jaded. So I can review the implementation on two levels; 1) how well it works as a computer implementation, and 2) how well it works as an iOS portal. Short answers: 1) very well; 2) meh.
There are a number of problems here. You’re really only accessing the facebook version of the game with a difference shell to make it seem like it’s being played on the iPad/iPhone. Having played on the facebook version, I instantly noticed the amount of lag every single decision was taking, which is because your device is trying to communicate with the Facebook app each time. To play a game I have to log in through facebook, and I suppose to play with other people it has to be through Facebook too. Admittedly I was so frustrated with the lag, that I just gave up and didn’t even bother to face opponents in real time. I guess the bonus for me was all my progress up to then was valid.
Personally, when I play a game on the iPad I don’t want it to be dependent on being connected. Big example, if I’m playing it on a train ride, reception is inconsistent. I will play a game rather than surf the net because it’s not supposed to be reception dependent. It kind of just feels to me a short cut, especially after waiting so long; our answer is you get to play the facebook version. Not to mention this will alienate people who don’t use facebook.
5/10: Normally I’d say don’t waste your money until they release a real version, but hey it’s free so you’re getting what you pay for. I can only hope this is some kind of place-holder show case until they do release a native iOS version.Thunderstone: Gateway,