Thunderstone Quest – Back to the Dungeon Level 7 Guardians

Level 7 Guardians

When designing the Thunderstone Quest main game, we always knew that, if the game was as good as we all felt, that there would be lots of opportunity to expand the Thunderstone Quest universe and use the same components in new ways to give new experiences. One of those open-ended designs were the Guardians. Even though whether a Guardian does 2, 3, or 4 wounds to you (or any wounds at all) does not make much of an impact in the core game, yet we intentionally increased the stats on the more powerful versions, because we wanted to leave the door open to use that design space in the future.

So when Barricades Mode design began, this design space was put to use immediately. In any classic RPG game, the Champions always need to defeat the Main Boss multiple times before it is defeated for good, and so this is represented in Barricades Mode.

First Implementation

The first form this implementation took was in the end battle. When players progressed to the end of the game, instead of facing 1 version of the Guardian, they had to battle all 3 forms in a row. And the Guardians could each take multiple hits. This brutal end game was not for the faint of heart as it took on a more thunderdome, killed-or-be-killed vibe. In this version of the end game, there was a new Monster type called the Henchman. These brutes harrassed the players throughout the game and boosted the Guardian in the end battle. The theme of this ending was strong, but it was unfortunately a bit fiddly and cumbersome, and ultimately it didn’t feel like the big End Game Finale it should be.

Second Implementation

In one of Bryan’s wackier ideas, we tested a version of the Guardian battle where the players transitioned to a Battle Mat full of 1 inch squares, akin to a Roleplaying Battle Mat. In this version, the Champions (figurines) moved around on the Battle Mat to meet the Guardian and attack it, attempting to move into strategic positions and boost each other. Not wanting to lose the theme of the increasing power main boss, we removed the Henchmen and replaced them with the Level 4-6 Guardians. Thus, the game would play out as a relatively normal game of Thunderstone Quest, where the players shared a common goal and collaborated to achieve it. Periodically, a Guardian of increasing strength would show up, harass the Champions, and they would need to deal with the problem. When the time came, the game transitioned into a battle for survival against the Guardian on the Battle Mat. It was fun and interesting, and brought new aspects of gaming into the Thunderstone Quest world, but it was fiddly and a bit jarring of a transition. It also retained the killed-or-be-killed feel, so we put a pin in this idea for now. We can re-examine it in future versions of Thunderstone Quest.

Final Implementation

Back to the basics, and this time the focus needed to be on changing the feeling of the end game. We had left ourselves some more open-ended space from the first Thunderstone Quest that it was time to use. The Level 3 Dungeon Rooms have open doors at the bottom of their border even though nothing goes below them in the main game. We always knew we wanted to explore adding onto the Dungeon slightly, and this was the time to do it. We finally landed on the ending we all liked.

Barricades Mode thus introduces the Guardian’s Lair, a new, double-wide, double-sided Level 4 Dungeon Room placed below the Level 3 Dungeon Rooms. The Guardian’s Lair cannot be accessed for most of the game until enough Guardian Keys are found to unlock it.

(Mechanics & Layout Not Final)

From its Lair however, the Guardian will be assaulting the players and the village throughout the game via the new component Guardian Dice, trying to destroy the village with damage chits (). The number of Guardian Dice rolled each turn is determined by the Threat Level which starts low, but gradually increases throughout the game. Guardian Dice represent a wide variety of Guardian assaults, from sending its minions into the village to attack it, as represented by the () icon to attacking the player directly, represented by the (   ) icons. Guardian Dice will be discussed in more detail in a future blog post. For now, the players need to find a way into the Guardian’s Lair if they wish to defeat it and save the village.

The Lair cannot be opened, however, until enough Guardian Keys have been found. In Barricades Mode, the Level 4, 5, and 6 versions of the Guardian are stacked in The Wilderness, face down as normal, with 4 on top. When Guardian Keys are found, the next highest level of the Guardian reveals itself, harassing the players until wounded and driven back. But bosses always come back, and stronger than before. Throughout the game, first the level 4, then 5, then 6 version will show up in The Wilderness, and the players will have to defeat each version. Once the Level 6 version is defeated, the Guardian’s Lair flips over to reveal the Level 7 version of the Guardian on the other side.

(Mechanics & Layout not Final)

The Guardian is now accessible, and the time to end this is now. The players will need to work as a Party in order to defeat the Level 7 version of the Guardian. Unlike Level 4-6 versions, the Level 7 version of the Guardian can take multiple hits, so it will take several turns to bring it down. Will you be able to do so before the Village is destroyed?

There will be Level 7 versions of all Guardians in Thunderstone Quest, and each will attack the players in their own, unique way. Some Guardians will gum up your deck with Wound cards, others will will assault the village hard and fast, while others will try to sap the life from your Heroes, and even mix the player’s’ decks’ up. Each Guardian will turn its game into a unique puzzle to overcome. We are really happy with where the Guardians finished, and we are excited to show them all to you in time.

— Bryan Reese, Development Lead for Thunderstone Quest

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