Thunderstone Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:48:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Full Look at Worlds Collide! Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:48:52 +0000 A full look at Worlds Collide is now online.  Worlds Collide brings  many of the best cards of the original Thunderstone into Thunderstone: Advance.  Visit the product page to learn more!

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A Look at Learned Fri, 13 Dec 2013 21:00:25 +0000 Read More »]]> This week Thunderstone expert Will Baker takes a look at the new Numenera hero “Learned” and how you can best use him in your quest to claim the Thunderstone!

A Look at Learned
by Will Baker
Thunderstone Design Team member


One of three wizards in Numenera, Learned is also the most timid. His Strength 2 at all levels makes him the weakest of Thunderstone’s 95 heroes. Only seven other heroes are that weak at Level 1; only two at Level 2; and no other at Level 3.

Not counting a Dagger, Learned can equip a mere ten weapons unaided (of 53). Though the chances of being paired with one of these weapons is slim, most are designed with weak heroes in mind, and some will even be better on a weak hero than on a strong one. Selecting a weapon to meet Learned’s Strength requirement has the added bonus that a Regular (or even Militia) can also equip it.

Bluefire Staff is a terrible weapon (discussed more here). Short Spear is even worse (for Learned, anyway), as it only likes Regulars. However, pairing Learned with another card draw engine can be super powerful. Thorn Caltrops is only useful if there are some nasty Battle effects on the horizon.

Polearm allows Learned to share a deck with stronger heroes, without penalizing them for catering to his low Strength. Punch Dagger, though nothing special, is easy to buy and forgiving of a hand with more weapons than heroes. Bio-energy Cutter is an odd one. Typically it will deliver between Magic Attack +1 and Magic Attack +3, proportional to the monster’s Health. It performs particularly well against monsters with disproportionately high XP, such as Abyssal•Darkspawn, Doppelgänger•Humanoid, and summoned Thralls.

Cursed Dagger can yield up to Physical Attack +5, though at a price (Learned is better equipped than are most non-clerics to manage diseases). Divine Staff delivers a solid Magic Attack +3 and Light +1; Flask of Oil can do even better, though only once. Liveoak Staff is a wizard’s best friend, and pairs better with Learned than with any other hero, providing a walloping Physical Attack +5 at all levels. Learned + Liveoak Staff will wipe up the dungeon.

Learned’s other stats are nothing to write home about. No gold. No Light. Magic Attack +1/+2/+4 at his three levels. Only three heroes are worse at Level 1 (Feayn and Evoker at rank 1, Glamercast by himself), and only two at Level 2 (those same two rangers at rank 1). (In the rarest of occasions, Clever might contribute zero attack at Levels 2 and 3.) Ignoring those conditional exceptions, Learned’s attack at his first two levels is the worst in the game. Magic Attack +4 at Level 3 isn’t all that bad, as it turns out. Forty-three of ninety-four Level 3 heroes have worse base attack, and only twenty-one have better (though seven of those are in Numenera, so Learned is wimpy by comparison). Interestingly, in the first six sets of Thunderstone, only five Level 3 heroes had 5+ base attack; in the more recent five sets, sixteen do (three times as many).


Learned may draw 1/2/2 cards at his three levels. Drawing cards in the dungeon is probably the single-most powerful ability in the game. More cards means more options to defeat a monster. More weapons; more heroes to equip those weapons; more spells; more chances to pull off an unlikely combo; more raw attack. A handful of heroes allow me to draw 1 card in the dungeon unconditionally (i.e., without first destroying a disease or meeting some other requirement). Other than Learned, only three draw 2 cards: Regian, Forcemage, and Tower, all at Level 3. That would seem to make Learned Level 2 the rare exception of a lower level hero who can draw 2 cards.

Ah, but there is a catch: Learned’s card draw is not unconditional.

TS12_Hero_Learned TS12_Hero_LearnedNano TS12_Hero_EnhancedLearnedNano

That nets me 0/-1/1 card at his three levels. Rubbing salt in the wound, at Levels 1 and 2, he must discard first, potentially throwing away a merely mediocre card only to draw a worthless card. So what’s the deal? Why would I ever want this hero when instead I could invest in a hero who lets me draw cards, no strings attached?

Discarding to Dodge Effects

On its face, discarding appears to be a cost. Pay the cost, get the reward. However, few hero or village cards in Thunderstone feature punitive costs. Typically when I must destroy a disease or a hero to gain some other benefit, destroying that disease or hero is also a benefit in itself. Discarding follows the same pattern, as there are a variety of circumstances in which I’d find it advantageous to selectively remove a card from my hand.

Of 420 unique monster cards, 150 brandish a Battle or Aftermath effect that destroys a card. Assuming I don’t want to lose the card that would be destroyed, and assuming I could win without it, I’d prefer to dismiss the card prior to Battle. Examples of some monsters with particularly nasty effects I might want to dodge include The Voice (Destroy one level 2 hero), The Bloodless (Destroy the hero with the highest total Attack Value), and any monster who destroys monsters in my hand (Thunder Wrath, Blood Torment, Death Polyps, Thorned Walker, and Guardian Automaton).Those 150 card-destroying monsters will attack my hand in a multitude of ways. Learned, able to discard any card, is prepared to minimize the risk.

Evil Druids grow stronger if an Evil Druid is in my hand, and Doomknight•Undead grow stronger if any monster is present. Learned can tuck my previous kills under the carpet just in time. Infected are sniffing around for Doomladen, but Learned ensures they don’t find any. Basiliks•Animals punish me for having certain cards present, and Cultist•Humanoid are buffed when I bring specific hero levels to the party. Learned to the rescue. (Learned Level 2, with a net loss of cards, is useful against Dracolisk and Convergence Master, who gain health for each card present; Learned Level 3 will fare less well against these two monsters.) Quark Accipiter doesn’t care how many heroes I have, but tries to ding me for having an odd number of them. Learned evens the score.

Convergence Master, in addition to caring about hand size, also re-activates the Battle effects on monsters in my hand. Learned can sweep the more dangerous monsters under the rug prior to this final confrontation.

One of Numenera’s more fascinating and elusive monsters, the Ultraterrestials concede defeat only to a narrow range of Total Attack. For any other monster group, overkill is not penalized (Undead•Treefolk punish players for lack of overkill), but for the Ultraterrestials, having too much attack is just as fruitless as having too little. A player already has discretion in equipping weapons or using Dungeon abilities to help defeat this monster group, but Learned can step in to hide persistent traits as well.

Monsters are no longer the only cards with effects. With Disowned in my party, I might discard another hero for its own sake, or discard Disowned to protect my other heroes. If the outcome is looking bleak, I might dismiss Moonclaw Level 1, or a weapon to protect it from the frustrated Armsman Level 2. If I have two Fearmakers, Learned can ensure only one is destroyed when I lose to a monster.

I’m not always crazy about Trophy effects triggering either. I’d prefer to discard a disease before it kicks in. Learned can also help me dodge the nasty trophies from the Incarnate•Abyssals, and to keep the elusive Phoenix in my deck. If I’m looking to sacrifice a Regular, I might also want to ensure Bracers of Defense don’t step in to rescue him.

Discarding to Enhance Village Cards

Discarding a used village card can be as painless as discarding a monster or disease. If Learned discards a used Summon Storm, I lose the Light but retain the Magic Attack +2. There are a few village cards, though, that actually benefit from Learned’s discard.

Shock Nodule allows me to draw until I have eight cards. At Level 2, Learned decreases my hand size by one, a loss recouped by an equipped Shock Nodule. (Some other hero will need to do the equipping though.) Maul wants to be unequipped; after using its ability, I can have Learned toss it to my discard, saving me from its negative trait. Again, though, Learned will need to partner with a stronger hero to make this work. Of 15 weapons with a dungeon ability, 7 have delayed effects that will linger even if Learned discards the weapon (perhaps to dodge a monster’s effect).

At his two lower levels, Learned’s requirement to discard before drawing will actually help to manage Unstable Crystals, Thunderstone’s most volatile item. If two are already present, he can use their abilities, but then discard them before potentially drawing more, decreasing the risk of having three present at the same time.

Filigree Amulet, Circle of Protection, and the aforementioned Fearmaker don’t do me any good if Learned discards them, but this might be useful to delay their self-destruction until a more opportune time.

Discarding to Enhance Heroes

Discarding a hero usually means also losing its trait, but as with many village cards, a hero’s Dungeon ability will often outlive the hero itself. Clever is an extreme example of this. At her higher levels, her attack is derived entirely from persistent Dungeon abilities. Once she’s used these abilities, Learned may safely discard her to keep her from harm’s way.

Some heroes are picky about the company they keep. Learned may discard Light items to satisfy Blind Level 3 and Nightblade Level 2, or Light in general to obtain Caliginite’s bonus. Veteran Level 4 performs best when surrounded by heroes of Level 3 and higher; Learned can dismiss the inexperienced riff-raff (including himself). Learned might also excuse himself and other magic users to make a Magehunter happy.

Typically Learned will discard a card to get it out of my hand, but there are a few circumstances where the goal is instead to get it into my discard pile. I might want to discard a Regular to fuel Dark’s destructive energy, or a high-level hero I’ve already used so that Charming may recall it to my hand, to use its abilities a second time. (For the same reason, I might toss out any undesirable card to make Stablehand more effective.)

Deep, pre-equipped with a massive mallet, lags in battle if I encumber him with a different weapon. There are a few weapons, though, that Deep can use effectively if Learned is there to toss away the weapon when its purpose is done. Weapons like Flask of Oil, Taproot Blade, Cursed Dagger, Shock Nodule, and Partisan will hurt Deep more than help him, but he’ll happily use their dungeon abilities then accept Learned’s offer to unequip him (at rank 1, Jondul Bow would fall into that category as well). (It’s worth noting that even without Learned’s presence, Deep likes equipping Thorn Caltrops against Battle-effect laden monsters.) I’ve already praised Maul many times; Deep, one of the strongest heroes in the game, is especially envious of this weapon, and now Learned can help him equip and discard it, thus avoiding both penalties. Learned Level 1 + Deep Level 1 + Maul = Attack +11 and 1 card draw, contrasted to Attack +9 from three Deep Level 1s.

Other Uses

Learned can also help manage my gold production in the village by discarding a negative gold ranger, or even himself or a non-gold producing Regular, replacing the hero with the chance for a gold-endowed card.

Much like teaming with Charing to draw back a discarded hero, with a shallow deck Learned might intentionally discard a card prior to a deck cycle in the hopes of then immediately drawing it back.

Although Learned will work best in conjunction with other cards, if I invest heavily in this hero, he will make it possible to fill my hand with nothing but Learneds. Not the most effective dungeon party, but enough to defeat lower level monsters.

Pairing Learned with another card draw engine increases his options for what to discard, and balances out the negative side effects of that draw engine drawing too much (e.g., drawing a disease, or a card the target monster will destroy).

Bad Matchups

There are a few cards that won’t partner well with Learned. The net loss of his Level 2 will compound Reckless Conjure’s own net loss (Reckless Conjure and Shock Nodule love each other, though.)

I already mentioned Learned Level 3’s unfavorable draw against Convergence Master, but there are three other Thunderstone Bearers who will trip him up. Mowtil, Djinni Lich gains the same bonus against card drawers like Learned Level 3. His Level 2 won’t fare well against Phylethis for the same reason he doesn’t like Reckless Conjure, as the bearer might reduce his hand to too few cards to be effective. Xobmokt, Ichor King neuters Learned in a major way, unless I have handy some non-essential, non-VP cards I can burn before ending the game.

Other Cards that Discard

In the village, Quartermaster may discard any or all heroes present, more effective than Learned at bolstering my gold in the early game. Border Guard is as effective as Learned Level 1 at massaging the cards in my hand, but with the added benefit that he may draw first, then discard. He can’t equip weapons or level up, but he’s also immune to effects that target heroes, and he has a Veilminder’s ability to protect a hero from destruction. Although I value discarding a card, Reckless Conjure goes a bit overboard with a net loss of 2. It may discard itself to effectively decrease the net loss to 1, but in almost all cases I’d rather have Learned in my party than Reckless Conjure.

Imp allows me to discard 2 cards in the dungeon to draw 2 cards. Since Imp is going to be discarded at the end of my turn anyway, he’s a likely candidate to satisfy one of the discards.

Half-Orc Level 3, Skinshifter, and Honormain may all discard cards to gain attack (and Strength in Skinshifter’s case). Honormain has the added flexibility of discarding in the village at Level 1, and as a repeat ability at Level 3, guaranteeing that every card in my hand contributes a minimum Magic Attack +1. Comparing Learned Level 3 to Skinshifter Level 3, it will depend on the predictability of my deck and the effects on the target monster whether I’d prefer Learned’s chancy Draw 2 cards to Skinshifter’s guaranteed Physical Attack +4.

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A Deeper Look at Numenera Fri, 06 Dec 2013 19:22:03 +0000 Read More »]]> Designing for one of the most popular games in the deck-building genre is a fickle, but rewarding, beast.

When you start out you keep it basic, to establish the line.

After a while though, you get to play mad scientist and start experimenting with things unheard of before. This starts getting tricky – giving the fans something that they haven’t seen before, making sure you’re not breaking what came previously, while at the same time trying to give each set and each design its own unique feel.

Obviously, the longer you do this, the more challenging it becomes.

In this respect Numenera gave us an incredible and exciting opportunity – a world that we had not dreamed of coming at us fresh from the mind of Monte Cook, one of the most creative people in the business. The more we looked into it, the more we realized that Numenera is a very cool setting to design for, and we were excited to meet the challenge of blending the two lines for this endeavor.

If you are a Thunderstone aficionado you can often pick up on some design themes lurking beneath the skin of each set.

When we designed the cards for Caverns of Bane, we tried to keep a focus on calculated risks. This is exemplified in the Disowned hero set, which cannibalizes other Heroes but has an outstanding stat line, or the Patternmage, which adds a little consistency to what would be mystery draws, or the Salamander monster group, which you go into fighting generally unaware of how the battle may change after you have selected your enemy.

In Root of Corruption, we focused primarily on two things, co-operative play, as exemplified by the Silvertongue and Woodguard hero sets; and the “devil’s bargain” as shown in cards like Blood Debt and Rage of the Disowned.

One of the things that we decided to do when designing Numenera was focus on class specialties. We wanted the existing Thunderstone classes to blend in a positive way with the Numenera setting. Numenera brings its own character classes and what we tried to do was find a way to accommodate both.

Backwards compatibility is always something we think about – part of the joy of Thunderstone is mixing things up! But Numenera gave us the inspiration to look deeper, and breathe more life into what each of the classes meant. Strong and Graceful are both Fighters in every way, but take very different approaches to what a Fighter is. We tried to use this approach with each of the key Numenera class types, looking to find something in the RPG description that could be represented in a mechanical way in the cards. It just had to be balanced, interesting and fun on its own, or with older sets, but also bring distinctive individual takes on that class. Just look at the Rangers in this game – who take on their traditional Thunderstone role of “scouting” in a very different direction.

We also tried to pick out some other flavorful aspects of Numenera with which to do something new – the cyphers for example. In all other versions of Thunderstone XP points are just used for leveling up. In Thunderstone Numenera we wanted to reflect the one shot “magical” effect of ciphers in the setting. So we decided to double up on the benefits of experience – it can now be used not just to level up your heroes, it can also be used for desperate one shot effects that help you defeat that enemy in the dungeon, or buy you that special item in the village.

In going back to settings, a card type we had not done in a while, we wanted to reflect the d20 idea in some way. So aside from making them oversized and fantastic to look at, using some of the gorgeous Numenera art, we incorporated a d20 roll into their effect to invoke the relationship between the two lines.

The end result is a fantastic game that adds a lot of unique strategies and interesting foes and plays excellently as a stand-alone game or blends seamlessly into the Thunderstone Advance line. We on the design team are very proud of what we did with Numenera and are excited about what comes next for fans of the game.

We’ll be posting more mini-articles about card analyses, combos and the best uses for the cards in Numenera in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

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All New Thunderstone Starter Set! Wed, 03 Apr 2013 21:22:40 +0000 Read More »]]> Coming this summer is the all-new Thunderstone Advance: Starter Set.  This set includes just enough for new players to get started in the world of Thunderstone Advance, as well as brand new cards for experienced players.  Visit our Starter Set product page for more information. Look for this set in June/July 2013!

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Root of Corruption of GFBR’s House Rules Sat, 12 Jan 2013 00:07:54 +0000 Read More »]]> I’m not saying we set out to corrupt episode 51 of Giant Fire Breathing Robot’s House Rules podcast.

But once a Thunderstone enters the picture, its enticements can be too hard to resist. Perhaps host Drew Massey has felt the lure, with his tricksy, probing questions, trying to pry secrets out of a beleaguered project lead. Perhaps he too has felt the burn of one of Doom’s curses, and it turned his soul to a sickly ash.

Mmm, it’s probably something else.

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Thunderstone a Game Informer Top 10 Game of 2012 Fri, 04 Jan 2013 17:10:03 +0000 Read More »]]> Game Informer! Were you aware of their ability to inform you of games? It’s true!

And in the last year, they’ve taken bold steps to become a site for board games as well as video games.

If you knew these things already, perhaps it will come as no surprise to you that Game Informer placed Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin in its Top Ten Board Games of 2012!

Thunderstone is, of course, listed last, using the the “best saved for” protocol of list making. So don’t get discouraged when you click through and see OTHER GAMES. They’re all OK games too!

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Thunderstone on the Rising Tide Sun, 04 Nov 2012 21:54:37 +0000 Read More »]]> If you’ve been following board game sales trends (I don’t know why you would, but maybe you’re like me, and you just find this stuff interesting), you might have seen online articles that say things like board games sales are way up this year, on track to match the 20%-25% growth rate seen last year! At the same time, our beloved video games have taken a dip.

“Yes, very interesting,” you say. What does this have to do with Thunderstone?

It has to do with Thunderstone because video game designers and journalists are looking to take lessons from success. This video talk from Quinns at Shut Up & Sit Down was delivered at the UK video game festival, GameCity. He tells about a golden age we’re in right now with board games, and name checks Thunderstone (among other good games), praising it for its rich theme.  Which you already knew, but isn’t it great for other people to confirm your good judgment?

Check out the talk. It’s about 40 minutes long, but if you’re like me, you just find this stuff interesting.



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Thunderstone Module: CoB2 – Old Home Fri, 02 Nov 2012 09:00:10 +0000 Hey Thunderstone Fans!

We’ve got another cool module for you guys this week – CoB2 – Old Home Week! You can find it here!

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Root of Corruption: Treasures Await! Mon, 29 Oct 2012 09:00:33 +0000 Read More »]]> We saw in Caverns of Bane the reintroduction of treasures to the Thunderstone: Advance world, and Root of Corruption will continue this by giving brave adventurers access to some how the most powerful treasures to date locked away in the depths of King Caelan’s keep. Seek out these artifacts to give you an edge as you fight your way to the root of corruption of Tala!

Also keep in mind Thunderstone fans – Root of Corruption is out next week! Make sure to get down to your local retailer and reserve your copy today!

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Thunderstone Module: Bones to Pick CoB1 Fri, 26 Oct 2012 21:24:01 +0000 Hey Thunderstone Fans,

We’ve got another module for you this week! This is CoB1 – Bones to Pick! You can download it here!

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