Thunderstone Quest – Back to the Dungeon Guardian Dice

Guardian Dice

As discussed in a previous blog post, Barricades Mode needed an Engine, something that was going to push the players forward through the game. The form the Engine takes is the Guardian Dice, representing the Guardian’s attacks each turn. Players will each roll Guardian Dice at the beginning of every turn. 1 die each when the game begins, but as the threat of the Guardian grows, so do the number of Guardian Dice rolled. Each time a Guardian is defeated, increase the Threat Level by 1, permanently increasing the number of Guardian Dice each player rolls. Other effects may cause players individually to roll an extra die or two.

But the Guardian Dice were not the first form the game’s Engine took.

Before we used Dice, we used cards, specifically Daily Quest cards. Each turn you would flip over a number of Daily Quest cards equal to the number of players in the game. Each Daily Quest would have a small task that needed to be done. When the task was done quickly, you received a reward. When it was not done at all, you and/or the Village received a penalty. These Daily Quests pushed the players to move forward in the game, and were interesting, but were more time consuming than anything, and didn’t have the right feel for the game we wanted.

After trying a few different variations of the Daily Quests, they altered into Threat cards. Threat cards were a single Threat that the players had to deal with that turn, lest they suffer the penalty. No longer were they small tasks the players had to perform. Threat cards were in depth and each told a little story, but they unfortunately suffered from many of the same issues as the Daily Quests. Even though they gave players interesting obstacles to overcome, they were still the less interesting part of the game but yet took the longest time to resolve. For months every approach was taken to try and rectify this, and always to no avail.

At this point in Barricades Mode’s Development, the Guardian was shaping into the final form it would take, and the Threat cards were good, but time consuming. Their current form also had a bit of a disconnect from the Guardian. We were finding the game to be like Return of the Jedi: the game had two good halves to it that didn’t really seem to go together. It was decided that the problem, oddly enough, was fundamentally the form the Engine was taking; cards. No matter how interesting the cards were that we made, they were never more interesting than the main game itself, and ultimately the game’s Engine should not be more time consuming than it is worth.

This is when the move to Guardian Dice was made, and the dice were an instant hit. Like the automobile crank engines of yesteryear, the Daily Quests and Threat cards took a lot of time to get the engine going. The dice now move that aspect of the game through a lot quicker, while being more fun in the process.

But is switching to dice the right call? Thunderstone Quest is a deck-building game, not a dice game, and the randomness of dice can be frustrated to people who want to play with the greater certainty of cards. Will the players like dice? These were big questions we were asking ourselves during design and playtest of these dice. We kept a close eye on making sure that while these dice randomized the ill effect that was befalling you, much as the randomization of drawing a Threat card, while not being wild or swingy, lurching the game this way or that depending on the die roll. We are very pleased with the results: Guardian Dice which randomize the negative effects on the players, do not determine the outcome of the game if too many rolls go one way or another, and customize the feel so that each Guardian you battle will have a different set of challenges to it.

So what are the Guardian Dice? They are 12-sided dice with different icons on the various sides, rather than numerals.

  • 1 side forces you to discard 1 Gear token 
  • 1 side deals 1 Damage Chit to the Village 
  • 5 sides are Monsters attacking the Village 
  • 4 sides are special Guardian attacks
  • 1 side is a Heroic Opportunity (this is good) 

While all Guardian Dice are identical, how the different Guardians interact with them are different, and thus the same Guardian Dice Engine gives you different experiences against the different Guardians. 4 sides of the Guardian Dice will activate a series of special attacks from the Guardian, which will have varying effects depending on the Guardian’s particular flavor. Some Guardians will spend extra effort wounding the players, some will aggressively attack the Village, others will gum up your deck with Wound cards, while others will try to disrupt your plans by discarding your cards into other players’ discard piles. Each Guardian has its own particular flair, and each will take a different strategy to overcome.

5 of the sides of the Guardian Dice are Monsters attacking the Village, with 1 of the 5 sides being worth 2 Monsters. All of the players will pool their Monster dice together. When the turn ends, you will remove Monster dice from the pool equal to the total level of Monsters defeated in the Dungeon that turn. Deal 1 damage to the Village for each Monster icon remaining in the pool, and then clear the pool for the next turn.

Heroic Opportunities are a special, 1-in-12 chance of getting a benefit from the Guardian Die, rather than a penalty. What form your Heroic Opportunity takes is determined by your Prestige Class, and will be discussed more in depth when we discuss Prestige Classes in a future blog.

The remaining 2 sides force you to discard 1 Gear token (your choice) or it deals 1 damage to the Village (doh!).

And so with that, our Engine was settled. The Guardian Dice are quick and fun, and really allow for the flavor the Guardians to come through in each game, without bogging down the pace of the game as the various card-based Engines did. And with the Heroic Opportunity, there is always a chance for a crit, and who doesn’t love that.

Look for the next Behind the Scenes blog where we will reveal possibly the coolest new addition to Thunderstone Quest: the Prestige Class boards.

  • Bryan Reese, Development Lead for Thunderstone Quest

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