Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements Review

So, this will be my first review of an expansion to a game that I have not bundled with the base game's review. There hasn't really been a reason that I've always previously bundled them except that at the time that I chose to write about the expansion, I hadn't written about the base game yet, so I killed two birds with one stone. Anyway, if you're interested in my review of the base game of Thunderstone, feel free to check it out here (or you can also navigate to it with the right-hand widget where the reviews are listed alphabetically). With all that said, it's time to review Thunderstone Wrath of the Elements.

Instead of talking about how Wrath of the Elements works (which would be a complete repeat of how Thunderstone works), I'll point out a few highlights and then get right to the pros and cons. The main things that Wrath did was 1) improved the box/storage layout 2) added "traps" and "guardians" 3) added several gameplay variants and 4) added lots of new cards of all kinds.

The first pro of Wrath of the Elements is the improved storage. Now, I realize that you are all incredibly concerned and think the game must not have been good if this is my biggest pro, but that's not at all true! Instead, it's important to realize how much I hated the storage of the original game. In fact, I believe it was my biggest con when I reviewed Thunderstone. Not only has AEG fixed this problem with Wrath of the Elements, they have also fixed my biggest complaint with Dominion. Both at the same time! I won't really discuss the pitifulness of the original Thunderstone storage, because there's really no need, but I will mention my complaint with Dominion - I liked the game and so I bought a ton of expansions. And then I had a ton of big, bulky boxes. Finally I stopped bothering to play it because it was a pain to carry around. Well, in Wrath of the Elements, the box (as seen in the picture) is wide enough to hold two rows of cards and has file cabinet style labeled separator cards to distinguish the different piles of cards. The separators are even color and symbol coded. And both the original game and Wrath fit in the box (except the original instruction book is a bit too big, so you have to fold it over the top or leave it at home), and they even left room for several more expansions so that I can carry it all around in a single (heavy) box. This made me incredibly happy before I even played the game.

Now that I have gotten off my soap box about storage, here are some gameplay pros. I really liked the traps, and my only complaint is that there weren't enough different kinds of them (I'm sure they'll fix this with more expansions). Whereas in the original version of the game monsters would come out and you never really had to worry about them unless they had breach (and then you were still safe unless they reached the first rank), the traps can occur when replenishing the dungeon cards, and can affect one or many players. I liked how this played out in practice.

The next significant pro (this may have been the big one if it weren't for the storage) is the different variants. I believe there were about 5 different variants on how to play the game. Whereas most of the variants were pretty similar, there were a couple that I deemed worthy of mentioning. First, there is a single player variant. Honestly, I haven't played this variant yet as I prefer to play multiplayer, but this variant looked interesting enough to me that I will probably try it out in the "near" future. Secondly, they added a variant in which the monsters don't just sit still in the dungeon waiting on you. We did try this variant out, and I will say I'm hooked. In the original, each player can wait out the other players before going to the dungeon - unless another player goes, there's no real need to go to the dungeon early when you can build up your deck in the village. This is no longer the case; if everyone starts going to the village, the monsters will escape from the dungeon and players will gain negative victory points (and others might breach, and traps might come out....).

Aside from those points, there were also new cards of every type. I am yet to play with all of them, but from what I have seen there are some that I like and some that I am indifferent about - just like in every deck building game. I would like to point out that we did try all the new monsters and I really liked them; they seem nastier than the monsters in the base set. Especially when paired with the variant rules about monsters escaping (a lot of the new monsters have breach).

Really, the only "con" is that the game is still Thunderstone. If you didn't like Thunderstone in the first place, you're obviously not going to like the expansion. Fortunately, I thought the base Thunderstone game was solid, and so this didn't bother me.

Overall, I give Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements an 8.5/10. I very rarely give expansions a higher score than the base game, because they often don't add very much, but I really thought that Wrath added a lot to the basic game and now that I have it, I can't imagine going back to just the basic game. If you are a Thunderstone fan, I can honestly say that I think you should check this expansion out. (And if you're not a Thunderstone fan, and you read this far into the review.... why did you read this far? You knew a long time ago that you weren't going to play this game.)

I would like to thank AEG for providing me with a demo copy of Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements to review.

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