New Improved Thunderstone with Retsyn! A Review of Thunderstone Advance

DM's Guild at DriveThruRPG

Game NameThunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin

Publisher: AEG

Designer: Mike Elliott

Year: 2012

Players: 1-5

Ages: 12+

Playing Time: 45 Minutes

Retail Price: $49.99

Category: Deck Building Game


  • More than 500 New Cards
  • Dividers
  • Learn to Play Booklet
  • Rulebook
  • Game Board
  • XP Tokens

 From AEG:

Thunderstone Advance features all-new art, brand new cards, and completely revised rules, all designed to help games run faster. New mechanics include allied familiars, and villainous Thunderstone Bearers!

And, for the first time, Thunderstone Advance features a storyline, allowing deeper immersion into the game.

Thunderstone Advance contains:

  • A Learn to Play booklet to get new players going right away.
  • Improved card design and layout for easy play.
  • A two-sided game board for smooth setup in the village and the dungeon.
  • Familiars join the fight to aid your quest.
  • Powerful new Thunderstone Bearers lurk in every dungeon.
  • 11 new heroes! 9 new monster groups! 19 new village cards!

Thunderstone Advance is designed to be compatible with existing Thunderstone cards, but requires no previous knowledge to play. Thunderstone Advance is the perfect starting point for new players, and a serious level up for experienced players.

Welcome to Thunderstone 2.0. Allow me to preface by saying that if you have not played Thunderstone at all, and you have been thinking about it, this is the version that you should pick up. Thunderstone is an enjoyable deck building game with a fantasy setting. There are heroes and monsters and a quest to get the THUNDERSTONE!

You can read our review of Classic Thunderstone on the website, but this review is intended to let everyone know the differences between the original game and Thunderstone Advance, so that you can make your own decision on whether or not to pick up the new game.

Firstly, most of the mechanics have not changed. The arrival of Thunderstone Advance does not make your original Thunderstone and all of the expansions you’ve bought obsolete. The new cards are fully compatible with the old ones. TA does have all new cards, with the exception of the torch. For the other basic cards The Militia has been replaced with Regulars, The Dagger has become the Longspear, and Iron Rations are now Thunderstone Shards.

TA includes the larger divider cards that original Thunderstone did not have. They also included Basic Deck dividers, and the box is configured per lessons learned form Nightfall and the later Thunderstone expansions. Lots of space with the foam block inserts for organizing and storing all the cards with room to add expansions.

The cards themselves have been reorganized and redesigned. Icons are larger and logically laid out. They have color coded the card types. Heroes have a blue border, Village cards have a green border and monsters have a red border. The artwork is larger, as is the text box. This leads me to my next observation. These cards are probably the highest quality cards I’ve seen in the Thunderstone line. I don’t mean thickness or texture, I’m talking about pop and zing. When I compare the original cards with advance cards, the originals seem almost washed out. The new cards have the same quality as the cards in Lord of the Rings: The Card Game from FFG. I am not sure what AEG has done, but there is a big difference.

One more note on the cards. The randomizers are now clearly labeled as such on each side to make them distinctive from the other cards. No more worries about accidentally mixing them up in your regular cards.

The experience point cards have finally been replaced by plastic experience point tokens shaped like Thunderstones. The word ATTACK is now Physical Attack, and Light Penalty is now Darkness, but these are small technical changes. Let’s move on the really interesting stuff.

There is now a full sized board to hold both the Dungeon Hall and the Village Cards. The randomization process has been improved by the addition of the board. During the selection of the random village cards, once you fill up all the spots on the board of a certain type, you can’t add any more and have to pick a new random card. For example: if you pull out three weapons, and then select another one, the fourth one gets ignored and another randomizer card is drawn because all of the weapon slots on the board are filled up. This makes it less likely that you will randomize yourself into an impossible to win setup.

The board is also double sided. On the reverse is the “Wilderness Board”. This side actually has four spaces for dungeon cards rather than the typical three. The benefit here is that the darkness penalty matches the dungeon level, so it is less confusing for new players. IE: Level 3 in the dungeon results in a -3 darkness penalty.

Gone are the Thunderstones. That plot was resolved in the last expansion remember? Now you have Thunderstone Bearers, which are the Boss monsters that you will face and need to defeat to end the game. This feeds into one of my favorite aspects of Thunderstone Advance, the addition of more story and theme. Sure, the original game has some loose theme built in, but the new version comes with three actual scenarios, flavor text, and there is more of a story feel to the game. It may not seem like much, but I can feel it in every game, especially the scenarios. I actually wish they had included a couple more boss monsters with a few more scenarios, as I really like the direction this is going in.

A new Prepare action has been added. Nothing you can do on your turn? Stack as many cards in your hand on top of your deck and discard the rest. You lose a turn, but you will end up with a much better turn next time.

There are now Familiar cards. There are companions that each placer can choose once per game. Each familiar provides a different type of bonus to the player by using experience tokens. I was actually able to win a game because one of these abilities allowed me to swap monster positions in the dungeon, allowing me to have just enough to defeat the boss and end the game.

Finally, the disease cards have been replaced by curse cards. There are several different curses and they are all bad. They operate the same as diseases, so your old cleric cards will still apply to curses.

Before I forget, the solo rules are a lot of fun. I can’t remember if any of the expansions has solo rules, but I was able to combine the scenarios with the solo rules and it was a lot of fun and taught me all of the new rules so that I could teach others with ease.

The new Thunderstone Advance is a step up in every way. If you like Thunderstone, you’ll love TA, and if you’ve never tried it then this it the time to give it a shot. AEG has taken a pretty good game and made it great.