Invaders Must Die – Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege review

Steve, the Little Metal Dog Show resident Thunderstone specialist, has seemingly been hibernating. After blearily clearing the gunk from his eyes with a damp tissue, I reminded him that there was a copy of Thornwood Siege that needed to be played…

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There has been another expansion for Thunderstone released since Thornwood Siege, and in all honesty I know nothing about it. The problem is I’m suffering from Thunderstone Fatigue. It’s a recognised medical condition, usually falling under the more encompassing latin term ‘Expansionae Exhaustia’, or to suffer from ‘Expansion Pack Exhaustion’. I’m also suffering from slackarse syndrome, as I’ve just realised this game came out in February.

The two conditions are inextricably linked, as you’ve probably realised *cough*.

There’s the trend in this wonderful hobby of ours for companies to pump out expansions every three or four months. To be fair, I know exactly why they do it, because these people need to put food on the table and it’s never a bad thing to have more of a very good game. It seems churlish to berate companies for putting out quality products but by the same token the gaming magpie in me absolutely has to own all new product released for a game I enjoy and love. The problem is symbiotic.

These seem *really* mean. Is that just me?

I’m just going to get to the nub of the issue with this. The thing with Thornwood Siege is that it’s not a bad expansion in the sense of anything being broken or in that having more cards is anything other than a good thing. I just can’t help but feel when playing it that all the stuff added to it was from the Spinal Tap school of thought, and they just turned everything up to 11. But in some ways it wasn’t turned up enough. I’ll explain.

Firstly there are 2 new keywords; Stalk and Raid. The ‘Stalk’ keyword is triggered when a monster with said keyword enters the dungeon hall. These range from making the active player discard cards, to reducing their gold when they next visit the village to gaining diseases, or a combination of those. The ‘Raid’ keyword is more insidious, because instead of loading you up with deck fattening, attack reducing diseases it instead goes straight for the village and starts destroying cards. Evil, evil bastards.

Murder! Terror! Pain! Rage! There's all this and more in Thornwood Siege!

Then of course, you have the Global effect introduced way back in Wrath of the Elements, which adds an effect to the game as long as that card is in play. This was pretty bad before, doling out diseases and what have you but in keeping with the siege theme the Global effects on the Siege cards have repercussions on the village, like the Stalk keyword.

This is something that should be mentioned about Thornwood Siege; it’s the first Thunderstone expansion that’s felt cohesively themed with Raider enemies effectively ‘raiding’ the village, the Siege engines destroying the village and so on and so forth. It does add to the flavour of the game, although it’s highly possible people will miss it entirely as the game doesn’t have an RP element to it.

The village cards added by this set are pretty much of the “more but bigger” variety with a couple of hilarious cards thrown in for good measure (like the Scroll of Chaos and Stalking Spell), and a couple of the the higher level Hero cards have effects that use other players items and cards but it feels like something of a slightly missed opportunity. The game needs more player interaction, which it’s been adding with a couple of cards in each set, but for the main it can feel like a very solitary experience, even when playing with three or four players. I think the game is begging for a full on, co-op, shaft your friends set of cards just to see how many relationships can be broken. Anyway, I digress.

Oh, the laughs you shall have!

Writing this review has actually been very difficult, as Thornwood Siege has been pretty much universally accepted as one of the best expansions for the game so far, but I can’t help but feel had it come a few expansions earlier I’d have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more. The other problem I find with it is that because it follows the standard AEG expansion pack formula you get approximately the same number of cards in the box as with the previous expansion sets (Dragonspire excluded as it’s a standalone), which – while hovering around the 300 cards per set mark- seems a bit stingy as you know for a fact had they doubled up on the cards and really gone to town with the keywords it would have been a storming set. It just seems like a missed opportunity.

At this point in time, nearly a year after release, this review is a little superfluous to requirements; the people that wanted it have gone out and bought it because it’s yet another great expansion to a great deck building game, and yes, it seems churlish to feel let down by another quality product for a quality game but, as with most things I feel let down with, it’s not what is in the game that disappoints, but the potential that’s been missed.

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Do you agree? Or do you reckon that AEG did indeed miss out? Give us a shout in the comments and let us know! Thanks to Steve for the piece and AEG for letting us have a copy. 

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