Strategy Series: Assess the Setup

AEG’s own Mark Wootton has written the first of a series of strategy articles on Thunderstone. Starting at the beginning, his first article focuses on the first choices you make early in the game. Read on for the full article.

I thought I might go through the sort of process that I go through when I first see the cards laid out. Perhaps this can both be a help to newer players, as well as the topic of a general conversation for more experienced.

There are several factors I am looking at.

First off, I want a sense of what the monsters do. Are they a hard-to-kill, high victory point group? Is there a mixture of hard and easy, with a commensurate range in victory points? Is there a consistent theme or issue – diseases, immunity to magic, immunity to certain classes? In essence I am looking for keys that point me to the sort of deck that I need and perhaps more importantly the speed with which I need to be ready to tackle the Dungeon.

It is no good spending a great deal of time having a highly tuned and thinned deck, with multiple high level Selurins, if the Dungeon is filled with smaller, easier-to-kill classes like Humanoids, Orcs and Enchanted. Spending an extra two or three turns getting to that point while others are sniping the medium range victory points could cost me the game. Unless I get lucky and hit one of the few high-point monsters (which to be honest the other players are not going to let me do unless it drops on my turn), there is no real reason to be able to consistently have an attack value of +16 in this Dungeon.

Now I understand that this will not always be easy for the newer players. Knowing what a monster class does is not always clear from the 3 cards that you see, or even from knowing what the classes of monster are, unless you are familiar with the game. So, in general, we always allow everyone to have a quick look at the monster groups before we start shuffling the Dungeon deck.

Having assessed the pace at which I think that the Dungeon will play out, I then look for where the power lies in the Village. Is the power in one or more of the Heroes, is it in the Village cards, either weapons, villagers or spells? Is the power in the attack values, in card-draw or deck manipulation. And then perhaps importantly, how does that relate to the Dungeon, and the pace of the game that I expect?

My next question is always, “Is there an obvious strategy?” Experienced players will know what I mean – Pawnbrokers, Trainers, Selurin etc. Depending on the number of players, what I am trying to do is to assess the number of any key cards that I will get. If there is a particularly all-around strong card, you do need to figure out what your next step will be after that. But this step is more than about just one or two key cards, it is about whether I think that the obvious strategy is so obvious that I can beat it with a more consistent second strategy, because I am the only one drafting those cards. Often, you can spring this on people, though you need to be aware of the number of players.

It is an optimal strategy in, say three-player games, whereas in a five-player often someone else will see your move and follow it, not allowing you to dominate that strategy in a way that you can with three players, as the other two squabble over the “big cards”.

A subset of this is whether there is an effective counter to the main strategy, I will give you an example of this another time, But they do exist.

I am also looking at a variety of issues with strategy, so it is not all about one thing. In Thunderstone you need different things at different times. In the first few “Village Phases” I think that thinning your deck with destruction effects can be as good as anything, however, card draw, with decent gold values, is good. You have to make that call, depending on the nature of the two combined with your initial gold draw. Certainly by the time you are Dungeon-ready, your deck wants to be at the right level of tuning for that set-up, so thinners such as Pawnbroker are key. As the Dungeoneering progresses card-draw will often become stronger, as your deck is clogged with Monsters that you simply cannot afford to thin out of the deck.

The other key issue you have to have in mind, is that no matter how much you thin your deck and how much card draw you have, you need attacks to kill the monsters. And the point at which you start buying into the attack values is critical, so always keep an eye on when people start buying their attack values, as you are going to need to have enough of your own. Also be aware that the sooner they start buying the sooner they will be in the Dungeon, and you have to keep pace.

So checklist is:
1) Card destruction effects
2) Card Draw
3) Gold Values and Gold costs of my target cards
4) Where do my key attack values come from and how many do I need and are there any other key elements, like, say, Dungeon deck manipulation.
Ultimately I am trying to create a reliable and achievable deck goal, and to do so in a way that takes note of what I think other players might do, and adjusts based on what they actually do.

So, there you go. That is what is going through my head in the set-up stage of Thunderstone.




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Author: Todd Rowland View all posts by
Todd is AEG's Director of Marketing, as well as a Board Game Producer & Developer. Follow him on Twitter: @toddrowland