Ring Side Report- Board Game Review of Thunderstone Advanced: Numenera

Game-Thunderstone Advanced: Numenera

Producer– AEG

Cost– $60

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 1 1/2 hours

TL;DR– Great merger of two great things 92.5%

 

Basics– Are you ready for the 9th world?  Thunderstone is a deck building game.  All players start with a deck that contains some regulars (basic fighters), some weapons, some lights, and two thunderstone shards.  What makes this game more involved then Dominion is the options presented to you on your turn.  On a players turn they draw six cards then decide to go to the village (buys cards/level up), dungeon (fight monsters for points/exp to level), rest (destroy cards from you deck), or prepare (discard some cards then draw to six).  When you shop, you reveal cards with a gold value then purchase a card from the village.  The village cards range from more heroes with special powers, items, weapons, villagers, or spells.  You can also level up heroes.  If you have enough experience point chips (cyphers) you can spend them to level up a hero to his/her next rank, destroying his/her card and gaining the better version of him/her.  The dungeon is also an important addition to this deck building game.  Monsters have hit points and other powers as well as a rank.  Rank is determined by how closer to the dungeon draw deck they are.  The higher the rank, the more light you need to fight the monster and not take a penalty to attacking the creature.  When you do attack, you need heroes to attack as well as weapons for them to equip and spells or items for more light or damage.  When you defeat a monster, it goes into your discard pile and it give you points at the end of the game as well as cyphers.  The game continues until the Thunderstone bearer is reveled.  When the monster is defeated of reach rank one, the game is over.  Players count points in their deck, and the player with the most wins.

 

Mechanics: This is a good addition to the Thunderstone family.  Thunderstone and Thunderstone Advanced seem pretty similar.  Not to generalize to much, but if you have played one deck builder, then you have played them all in that managing what goes into your deck is the most important thing.  However, I really love this game more the other games like Dominon as the dungeon adds a whole new level of play.  The dungeon really ties the whole RPG/fantasy part of the game together making theme and mechanics go well together right from the start.  This game adds a few new twists: cyphers, a location, and treasures.  Cyphers are experience points, but you can spend one per turn for an additional effect.  The cyphers come in a little bag and are multicolored.  The multiple colors represent different one time effects.  This is a great addition.  The location is a card that dictates a bit of random effects from the environment.  The location activates when players begin to spend cyphers. Again this is another fun, Numenera addition to the game.  The final addition is the treasures.  These are cards that are mixed in with the monsters.  When you draw one, you draw other monsters, and that monster then uses that item.  When you defeat the monster, you get the card and use its beneficial effects.  Again, it’s another cool addition to the game.  All and all this game is great fun if you love deck builders. 4.5/5

 

Theme:  I am mixed here.  The game comes with some awesome Numenera additions that really made me happy.  I did feel like I was in a small village building up a group of people to battle the unknown.  I loved that.  I loved the little bag with the cyphers.  I love the cyphers!  I love the locations!  But, what I missed was a bit of flavor.  I liked the monsters, but I don’t know who they are.  I would have loved a little flavor text to build the Numenera world a little.  The same goes for the items, locations, heroes.  All great, all flavorful, but I wanted just a little bit more.  The locations are cool, but what is going on here?  Give me a half paragraph describing the place.  Also, I love the heroes, but I hate the final level of them.  The Numenera structure is adjective noun who verbs for character creation.  So why are the heroes Enhanced adjective nouns?  I know size/typeset, but I’ll take smaller typeface for the real deal.  Same goes for money.  I know Thunderstone has a set card face, but why not make the gold shins?  I just had a bunch of little things that got under my skin here. 4/5

 

Rules: The rule book is think and intimidating, however it’s well written.  I like what I saw.  Cards with difficult explanations get a full write up in the book.  Lots of examples are provided, so you learn how to play a deck builder.  While it’s a tome, it’s a well built tome.  5/5

 

Execution/Art:  AEG is learned a lot from the first Thunderstone and Dominion.  The box is great and has those awesome foam inserts so more cards will fit (AKA I will buy more and put them in this game).  The separator cards are giant, so I can sort them quick.  I love the new board design, so I have a nice place to put all my stuff that looks great and not messy.  I am ecstatic with the little Thunderstone cypher bag and the little chits. You get great Numenera flavor throughout the whole game.  This is a quality game. 5/5

 

Summary:  Thunderstone is my deck builder.  I loved the base game and spent way too much on Facebook buying cards I own in real life to pay online.  I love Numenera.  These two coming together is like peanut butter and jelly and less like sushi and chocolate.  It could have gone horrible, but it’s come out amazing!  If you want a great intro product to Thunderstone, then this is a great grab.  If you want to try deck builders and are a RPG gamer, then this is a good grab.  I’m just happy I was able to get one. 92.5%

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1-17-14 Protecting adjective in Numenera

Ok, one more idea for Numenera, the protecting adjective-

Protecting

You’re a guardian.  You protect others.  If for gold or duty, you protect others as if your life depended on it. You will keep your charge alive at all costs.

You gain the following benefits:

Agile: +2 to your Speed pool.

Skill: You are trained in perception.

Skill: You are trained in defense rolls to resist physical attacks.

Ability: You gain the following benefit

  • Get Down! (2 Speed points): As a free action off turn, you may shove any creature at immediate distance from you to the ground and take any attack meant for them on yourself.  You must be aware of the attacker.  You may only do this once per turn.  Action.

Additional Equipment: You start the game with armor of your choice.

      Initial Link to the Starting Adventure:  From the following list of options, choose how you become involved in the first adventure.

  1. You are following your former master.
  2. You’ve be hired to guide some settlers to a place
  3. A friend in this location is in trouble.
  4. You feel a pull in your soul to this location.

 

1-16-17 Commanding adjective in Numenera

How about some more ideas for Numenera?  How about the commanding adjective-

 

Commanding

You’ve spent time on the battlefield.  Either as a leader or as a follower, you’ve seen combat.  It was not glorious, it was not beautiful, it was war.  You have left that life of constant struggle for the life of an adventurer.  You carry your wounds inside and out.

You gain the following benefits:

Quick Study: +2 to your intellect pool

Skill: You’ve trained in all physical actions that require exertion that are not stealthy ie running, climbing etc

Skill: You are trained in understanding war tactics

Ability: You gain the following benefit

  • Command (2 intellect points):  You’ve learned to to motivate men, women, and others.  As a free action on your turn, you can command your allies to strike a target.  If they do, reduce the level of the target by one.  Action.

      Inability: You’ve time in the service has strained your social graces.  The difficulty of any task involving charm is increased by one step.

Additional Equipment: You start the game with a set of military regalia including one dress uniform, one basic uniform, and any awards you received.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure:  From the following list of options, choose how you become involved in the first adventure.

  1. You are touring your old battlegrounds to see how life has changed.
  2. You feel you must atone for past acts and are traveling.
  3. You are visiting a former friend from the war.
  4. While you have left the army, you have been given one last command to go to this place.

1-15-14 Animal Rider Feat for DnD Next

How about some love for DnD Next?

 

Animal Rider

You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase you Wisdom by 1 to a maximum of 20 or animal handling becomes a trained skill for you.
  • If an animal you are riding is attacked, you may impose disadvantage to one attack per round to that animal.
  • If an animal you are riding is attacked and hit by a physical attack, you may elect to take half the damage.

Ring Side Report- Shadowrun Double Feature Review- Coyotes PDF and GM Screen

Time for a double feature review for Shadowrun.  Let’s go over two recently released Shadowrun items- 5e GM screen and the latest PDF Coyotes

First the Screen

 

Product– Shadowrun 5e GM Screen

Producer– Catalyst Game Labs

Price-$20

TL;DR-Great product you need for the new edition 95%

Crunch/Mechanics– The tables you need without the page flipping!  I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.  Now I don’t have to scroll across the whole book to find the one table I need to resolve that one test.  The absolute BEST part of these tables is that each one comes with PAGE NUMBERS!  If I don’t remember a small detail, now I know exactly where to go to get it.  On my side of the screen, it’s a fabulous product I’ve needed for a long time. 5/5

Execution– The front of the screen is a scene from an Ork underground rock concert.  Lot’s of metahumanity in one place.  Someone is giving the players a finger.  Looks beautiful.  I want my screen to be lower to I can see the players better and wider so I can fit more behind the screen, but the cardboard is high quality and stands up well with a nice shiny coat for protection.  A great job. 4.5/5

Summary–  I love this product.  It’s well done.  I want something a little different, but they didn’t ask me!  The price is a bit high, but it’s comparable to all the other GM screens out there.  Basically, if you run lots of Shadowrun, you want this product.  I wish this was a PDF so I could use it to help my players without tipping my screen to them. 95%

 

Now, “Coyotes”

 

Product– Coyotes

Producer– Catalyst Game Labs

Price– $8

TL;DR– Good add for GMs looking to add international tension to a game. 90%

Basics-You need a ride?  Coyotes are specialist smugglers who get people across borders.  This supplement covers what to expect when you cross different kinds of borders ranging from the simple guarded gate to countries at war.  The book is mostly told through a web post by a professional Coyote near Seattle.  Near the end of the book, different example Coyotes are presented. The last section of the book is a complete adventure any GM can run where the players are hired Coyotes.

Fluff/Story-  Most of this book is fluff.  The book focus on how different border crossings will occur as well as giving runners hints on how to cross these borders.  The stories are well written and an interesting read.  I enjoyed it. 5/5

Crunch/Mechanics- This is not a numbers book.  Make no mistake, the book does give statistics, but this isn’t a general spat book for everyone.  The book outlines what to expect at different borders and give what defenses the guards will have on hand.  I would have liked a few example drawings as some border crossings are referenced, but never shown.  The inclusion of the adventure really makes this awesome. 4.5/5

Execution- The book is well laid out.  It’s a bit expensive for $8 bucks for 30 pages, but I didn’t hate reading this. 4/5

Art- The art in this book is pretty good.  Some art is recycled from previous stuff which I don’t like but most of the referenced characters get their own picture.  That makes me happy.  I would have liked pictures/maps of a few things, but I do like what I see. 4.5/5

Summary- This is a good book.  It’s not something everyone at the tables needs, but if you want to be a coyote, this is the book for you.  If you are a GM and you want either a quick adventure for the next game, or you want to add tension when most players assume their safe like on a highway between places/adventures, this is an excellent addition to your library. 90%

Daily Punch 1-14-14 Speed Freak Quality in Shadowrun

How about a Shadowrun idea?  Trait for the speedsters out there?

Speed Freak

Cost: 5 karma

You live for speed and  you go faster then anyone.  In your first initiative pass, you may take a minus 15 after taking your first turn.  If you still have a positive initiative score, you may immediately go again with a full turn.  Your score will be reduced by 10 as normal at the end of the pass.

Thoughts?

Blurb From the Booth-What LFR/PFS do wrong vs what Shadowrun/Old School/Numenera/DnD Encounters do right

            All right, let’s gear up for some edition war goodness!  Time to draw some lines in the sand!  And…..I got nothing….  Ok, let’s talk about what I see going right and wrong in the adventures I play.

I love DnD( yes even you 4e, even you), Pathfinder, Shadowrun, DCC, Numenera, and all the others.  Heck, when I see a kickstarter, I have to try NOT to give it money if it’s an RPG.  But, I’m seeing a bit more rail roading lately(maybe I’m paying more attention), especially in living games, and I think that’s a problem.  Not a giant one, but one to keep in mind.

Now, I’ve talked before how I love the living game model.  I do love the community that living games build.  But, lately I’ve seen them being very linier.  That’s not “bad” as the Lord of the Rings is a fantastic story, but completely linier.  But I feel that limiting the choices a player has limits their agency and therefore engagement in a RPG.  The door swings booth ways though.  If you give the players a swimming pool of options, they drown.  And, in a four hour con slot of a game, having the entire world of Pathfinder to play in won’t get much done.

What’s got me thinking is how adventures are laid out and what is put up front for the GM.  I’m bad a preparing for my games, so I end up reading my adventures about an hour before show time.  But, what I’ve seen is mostly a standard layout.

Act 1-intro

Act 2-get to a place (box text)

Act 3-Kill x of y guys

Act 4-Trap/dungeon

Act 5-Kill z of y guys

Act 6-Three minute wrap up of an adventure so you get your certificates and the GM gets a drink before doing it again.

Now the above isn’t bad.  It’s an adventure that with some extra from the GM will be fun.  However, I’m seeing this repeated a lot.  And that’s where it’s not as much fun.  I see LFR and PFS as having been the guiltiest of this.  Then again, these are two of the most prolific groups out there.  And I still love these guys!

What’s been making me more happy lately is Shadowrun, old school gaming, Numenera, and the current season of DnD encounters.  What’s the difference between these? Let me describe their typical adventure setup.

Act 1-introduction

Act 2- location A

Act 3- location B

Act 4- location C

Act 5- location D

Act 6- Summary of events, usually done in five minutes so your GM can get a drink and do this again.

The difference is how the information is presented.  All adventures have box text.  All adventures have monsters.  However, by giving me the information as a location with stuff there, it’s less “we’re all gonna die/have to fight monsters”, and more “here is a world, go play in it”.  As a GM, the emphasis is less on combat as the only way to fix stuff and more on making the PC do their own things.  Combat is always “fun”(relatively speaking), but if I get more freedom/descriptions as a GM to allow the world to “live” I can consciously and subconsciously give that as freedom/choice to my players.

 

Now I know living games have to have a similar structure/adventure across all the games that get played.  Hence, the whole “Living” thing.  But I think trust has to come into the game somewhere (along with some behind the scene rules.)  Shadowrun right now is the front runner for my favorite RPG for its living game.  The game is less rules tied down, and it gives a ton of trust out to its GMs.  However, the system does have its rules.  If you steal a tank, you can’t keep it.  Nor can you really sell it.  That would break the game.  And the game/system basically tells you to tell your PCs that.  While that does break the forth wall a bit, so does the episodic nature of the game.  And that’s ok.  Players want to have fun, see the world for a bit, but really don’t want to say there!  Don’t believe me?  Even the most hard core DnD Player will want a shower after a while and they don’t

 

There is a drawback to location vs encounter description.  Locations with lots of information require preparation.  I as a GM have to read the location, know what in-game mechanics are required, and be able to rattle off my own box text to describe what happens.  I also have to have a better knowledge of the rules then if they are just given to me.  Encounters can be written really easily for beginner GMs as you front load the chapter with rules to make life easier.  That’s again not bad and even great for someone who needs to learn how to GM, but if you older in the tooth like me, then maybe the location with descriptions is a better model.  Also, it will make me prep more ahead of time!

 

Basically, the more “freedom” you give me as a GM the more “real” world will be for the PCs.  Keep that in mind when you play and run your next living games.  Have fun!