In the third part of my Thunderstone Strategy Analysis, we’re going to look at the village cards for Towers of Ruin and some applicable combos for them.
Bandia’s Wisdom is an odd little spell with a fairly narrow focus. It costs 3 gold and has the ability Dungeon: Give each hero +1 Strength. Gain 3 XP. Discard 2 XP at the end of the turn. Not really too hot. The Strength buff more often than not will have zero bearing on the game. The XP gain is the real treat here, but is it really worth it? As you lose 2 of the 3 at the end of the turn, you only net 1 XP. This isn’t terrible, but this is kinda like a Thunderstone Shard that doesn’t require you to win to get the XP. Not awful, but far from great. This hardly warrants the time it takes to buy it and the space it takes up in your deck. So what to do? Make sure that you have ways to spend the XP before the end of the turn. The Whetmage hero set is likely the best way to do this, as 3 is the magic number to take a hero from level 2 to level 3. If the Whetmage and Bandia’s Wisdom show up in the same hand, activate it to gain the XP and spend it immediately on leveling someone up. This action may help you to win a fight, and will always score you a better hero (even if you are only leveling the Whetmage). It will cost you the XP you earned in that fight, but if you leveled up on a Dungeon turn and scored VP, you’re ahead of the curve. Never ever complain about that. Familiars also have a 3 XP threshold ability. Bandia’s Wisdom ensures you have access to at least 2 of the 3 abilities, and sometimes may give access to the 6XP ability. This all said, I cannot recommend the purchase of this spell in a game without Whetmage, as it doesn’t help you win fights. It only does so indirectly with the Whetmage and that’s its best case scenario.
Mass Teleport is a card that requires a little finesse to play it. It costs 5 Gold and has the ability Dungeon: Draw 3 cards. You cannot use any more Dungeon abilities this turn. You may still equip weapons. OK, so a few things about this card. Obviously, it’s best with a hero heavy deck. Bamfing in a couple Criochan, Thundermage or even Caliginite or Sternnkin can give your hand some serious gas. (Drawing the Caliginite Silencer is still +3 but kind of a bummer to teleport in) That’s not a bad thing. Here are a few things to remember about this card. A) Draw 3 is no joke. That speeds your recycle by half a turn per use. B) You may want to buy into this stack more to get to see them more, but they do not play well together. You can’t activate two in the same turn, and drawing one in a Mass Teleport is pretty annoying. C) its effectiveness seems to degrade over the course of the game when you’ll start teleporting in a bunch of useless Monster cards, but this is three less Monsters gumming up your next hand and 3 cards closer to refreshing your options. Depending on the hero spread, I would maybe buy 2 into this stack, but probably no more.
Royal Summons is the Fireball of the set. Expensive, powerful. Weighing in at a hefty 8 Gold, it’s not easy to buy into early. Dungeon: Add three Regulars to your hand. Spoils: Destroy three Regulars. So many applications for this. With nothing else happening, it gives you 3 Physical Attack. If you’ve got some Longspears laying around, it turns into some extra card draw. Combine with Glamercast for maximum effect. A single Glamercast with Royal Summons is 6 Attack value and 1 Light in 2 cards. A special warning regarding the use of this card. Generally speaking, you don’t go into the Dungeon without knowing how your plan is going to work. Sometimes you gamble with card draw effects to push you over. That’s fine, but do not activate this card unless you are absolutely sure that you’re going to win a battle, which will enable you to activate the Spoils ability. If you don’t win the fight or activate the Spoils, you’ve added 3 Regulars to your deck. Ugh. This should almost never happen, but make sure you steer clear of this. It also bears special mention that you can activate the Spoils ability without activating the Dungeon ability, allowing you to thin out 3 Regulars. Total score.
Summon Storm is the single attack spell in Towers of Ruin, and it’s pretty damn awesome. Dungeon: Magic Attack +2. It also provides 1 Light. For 6 Gold is already pretty solid, but it gets better. Village: Put this card on top of your deck. This is a pretty amazingly handy ability, which is pretty much a Prepare action tied to a single card. Seeing as Prepare is normally a full turn action by itself, this can be a big deal. Solidly good card, though if you buy too heavily into them the Light matters less and higher level heroes will still generate more attack power. Another thing to remember is that while a lot of Attack spells in earlier editions just had their attack value as a trait, this is an activated ability. Most times this won’t matter, but if Summon Storm shows up in a Mass Teleport, you won’t be getting that Magic Attack to help.
Dancing Sword is top of the list, and in my estimation, one of the better weapons in the entire game. It’s a bit on the expensive side at 8 Gold, but worth every penny. It generates 2 Gold in the Village, has a reasonable weight of 5 and generates Physical Attack +2, Magic Attack +2 and 1 Light. Pretty badass right? It gets better still. Even while it’s not equipped, it still provides its Magic Attack and Light, making it almost never a useless card. It’s also a Magic Weapon for the Spellsword hero set. I’ve had games where Dancing Sword and Summon Storm went in to the Dungeon together on a murderous rampage with nary a hero to be seen. Outstanding weapon if you have someone strong enough to carry it, a Summon Storm that produces gold if you don’t. Never a bad card.
Dwarven Bear Hammer is cheap at 4 Gold and produces 2 Gold. It produces a respectable Physical Attack +3. Sound investment! Oh, wait. How heavy is it? SIX. SIX. To be fair, Dwarf Heroes can equip Dwarven Bear Hammer (or as they call it, “Bear Hammer”) regardless of Strength. This means that 3 of Heroes in Towers of Ruin can equip it at level 1, and two of those, only by virtue of being a Dwarf. It’s important to remember this when purchasing. This won’t fight on its own like Dancing Sword and I’ve been in many a game where people see +3 Attack for 4 Gold and hurry to buy it only to gnash their teeth, tear at their breast and wail in despair when they can’t use it later. A Thunderstone Shard will make it so more can equip it, but not all. If you’re drafting Dwarf Heroes or Criochan it’s not a terrible call, but otherwise, it’s best to stay away from this stack.
Falcon Arbalest is the first Bow in Thunderstone Advance. It’s a bit expensive at 7 Gold, but provided what else you are drafting, it’s a solid investment. It produces 2 Gold for future Village turns and has a super accessible weight of 3. When equipped, it reduces the Hero’s Attack to 0, but it adds Physical Attack +5 when attacking Rank 2 or deeper. Bows in Thunderstone have historically referenced Rank in one way or another to simulate ranged combat, and this one is no exception. Between the low weight and the notion that you won’t lose much in the exchange, Falcon Arbalest is the weapon of choice for Aird and Regular. There was a game where I invested heavily in Royal Summons and Falcon Arbalest to have a just add water firing squad. Good times. Interestingly, with the reduction in Attack (it is a crossbow after all) this is the first bow in Thunderstone that does not imply that you take the bow and smash someone over the head with it. Not great for more capable (read: higher level) Fighters, and still too heavy for some of the Wizards, it’s not an auto-buy, but in the right spread, this is a solid card…though I suppose that can be said about any card.
Longsword is the gold standard for Fighter-y Weapons in Towers of Ruin. A reasonable cost of 5, a totally manageable Weight of 5, making it friendly to all Fighters and Rangers, and within Thunderstone Shard range of most of the other Heroes. A stellar 3 Gold production, which helps in the purchase of costly heroes to wield them and a solid Physical Attack +3. Very little not to love here.
Pike is another solid and thematic weapon. Costs 4 Gold, produces 2 and only weighs 3, which is nice as it’s a Polearm for Regular’s card draw ability. Physical Attack +2 is nothing to sneeze at, and further, the equipped Hero is not affected by Battle effects. This can protect key Heroes from nasty effects like “Destroy (insert condition here)” That’s the power of reach weapons, kids!
Snakehead Flail rounds out the weapons in Towers of Ruin. For a long time I hated Snakehead Flail with an irrational passion usually reserved for Sternnkin. The more I play though, the more I appreciate it for the not really terrible weapon it is. It’s only 3 Gold, and produces 1 Gold. It weighs 3, which makes it equippable by almost all of the Heroes, and the ones who can’t equip it generally have better things to do. It has the Magic Weapon trait for the Spellsword set. It always generates Magic Attack +1, and generates an additional Magic Attack for each level of the equipped hero, which means it will range between +2-+4. Magic Attack also comes at a slightly higher premium than Physical Attack, and not many weapons in the Thunderstone Advance era grant Magic Attack. I think I hated this because it’s equippable by a Regular, who will be your most commonly seen hero in the early game, and being Level 0, it’s weakest in his hands. That does hurt this item’s effectiveness a little, but it’s a good solid buy in terms of its availability for use, cost and growth potential.
Filigree Amulet. The star that burns twice as bright burns half as long. For 2 gold, you get an additional purchase the turn you buy it, and next time it shows up, provided you do not Rest or Prepare, you get 3 Gold and 2 Light. At the end of that turn, it destroys itself. Sure, it’d be nice if it stuck around, but for 2G, getting to buy it and something else you want, one turn of great production of one type or another (and occasionally both) and then thins itself from the deck makes this card a winner all around. If you have 2 Gold more than you need for what you want to buy in the early game, always pick this up. It’s also a great double pick for a 4 Gold hand where there are powerful expensive cards like Dancing Sword available.
King Caelan’s Writ is an interesting card. It costs 5 gold and has the ability Village: Destroy this card to place the top card of any Hero stack on top of your deck. End your turn. So, first the bad. It ends your turn. This means that you won’t be making a purchase or leveling up guys. That’s not a huge deal as you’re getting a Hero, the card type you’re most likely to buy, and you’re seeing him next turn guaranteed. I’ve seen a lot of people use this simply to get a discount on an expensive hero, which is a perfectly legitimate use of it. The danger of this card is twofold. First, that cycling of a hero is a big deal. Combine this with the Village action on Summon Storm and you’re proactively building a Dungeon cleaning task force largely immune to the whims of fate. Secondly, it’s never a good idea to buy the last of a non Level 3 in a hero stack because it allows access to better heroes to every player before it gets back to you. Some people don’t care and buy that level 1 hero anyway, and then don’t see the connection between that decision and them losing to an opponent who had access to better cards with less work. King Caelan’s Writ makes this gamble worse in that the saving grace of taking the risk that no one will be able to afford the more expensive Heroes by outright giving it to them for 5 Gold. And letting them use it the very next turn. It’s never a good idea to expose a higher level stack, and especially bad to do it when the Writ is in the mix. The balance comes in that as it’s a Village action, it tends to only be good in the early to midgame. Sometimes one will sneak its way into late game though, and if you can bag a Level 3 with it, it’s probably worth a skipped Dungeon turn.
Moonstone is the founding member of the “I Hate Lantern” Club, and is a pretty solid and popular card. 5 Gold, 2 Gold production and Dungeon: Draw a card. All around solid card. The only time I wouldn’t consider this is if I’ve already got a lot of glowing Heroes like Thundermage and Glamercast or if my ideal strategy involves there being darkness like Caliginite.
Ranger’s Wilderness Map is what I call a finesse card, meaning that the depths of its usefulness are not immediately apparent and it will generally work better for someone more savvy with the game. It costs 6 Gold and produces 3, which makes it appealing for anyone. It also has the ability: Dungeon: Reveal the bottom card of the Dungeon deck. If it’s a non-Guardian monster, you may switch it with the Monster in Rank 3 or deeper. Draw a card. So, what this does. It replaces itself. That’s a big deal. Dungeon draw comes at a generally higher premium than Village draw. It potentially gives you 4 choices instead of the 3 that you regularly get. Something often overlooked in the value of this card is that it makes the practice of intentionally losing against a high VP Monster you can’t beat so that other people don’t get the chance is negated. They send it to the bottom, you bring it right back to Rank 3. Given, it was probably a difficult Monster and you’re putting it in the hardest place to fight, but what are you doing in the Dungeon if you didn’t come to break faces? You might be burying a tough Monster so you can get it later.
Battle Scarred Soldier is the first up, and he’s a favorite of many. He’s only 3 Gold and he’s pretty useful everywhere. He has two abilities, Village: Draw a card. and Dungeon: Draw a card, if it is a Hero, give that Hero +2 Physical Attack. He cantrips in both the Village and Dungeon, which is pretty sweet, as he almost never costs you space in your hand. If you’re a little lucky in the Dungeon, this can equate to more beats. In a recent game, my opponent went into the Dungeon with zero Heroes, some Battle Scarred Veterans and a Mass Teleport. He came out with 22 Attack power, 4 Light and the corpse of the nastiest beast in the hall.
Bounty Hunter is a card I go back and forth on. When I look at it, it doesn’t look terrible. It’s only 4 Gold, it produces 2 Gold. It provides Physical Attack +1 in the Dungeon and has the ability Spoils: Buy a Village card. So, it’s cheap, has a somewhat useful ability that allowing you to buy things on trips to the Dungeon and even helps you to activate the spoils. And yet not once since playtest have I ever drafted this card. Why? Well, it’s not enough. My Heroes can carry Weapons and can level up, which this cannot. The best time to buy Village cards is in the early game, which is also the most difficult time to make Dungeon runs. I don’t think that the conditional Village buy warrants buying this card, and by the time I’m regularly triggering Spoils abilities, the last thing I want to do is add Village cards to my deck. Looks okay on paper, decidedly less effective in practice.
Innkeeper is unquestionably the best Villager in Towers of Ruin. Let’s check him out. He costs 3 Gold, and produces 2, which is solid, but it’s his ability that makes him rock the party. Village: Destroy a Hero or Villager. You may buy an additional card this turn. Being able to split your gold on purchases is nice, and on occasion, very nice, but the real gem is the price you pay to earn that extra buy. You buy early, and start cannibalizing Regulars like it’s going out of style. Your general gold production will skyrocket as you weed those freeloading jerks quickly out of your deck. Better still, when you’ve served the last bowl of this very special soup du jour, (which tastes pretty regular, wouldn’t you say?) the Innkeeper has the good grace to off himself as he is a Villager. He’s not an an auto-buy, but he’s pretty damn close.
Smuggler is…an oddity. If I am perfectly honest, this is a card that I have never drafted in a non-playtest game. It doesn’t look so bad on paper, but has been a source of mild controversy between fellow DT member and probably-better-at-this-game-than-me Curt and I. (Consider this a GenCon Deathmatch challenge, Crane.) It costs 5 gold, and produces 1, and it has two abilities. React: Destroy after a player loses a combat. Buy a card. Village: Destroy a card with a Gold value of 1 or greater to produce 4 Gold. The React is strange. I suppose the working idea is that if someone else sinks a Monster, then you can buy a card off turn to off-set the loss of chance to kill said Monster. This sounds like a tempo increase, but it’s not seeing as you took time to buy the card. The only time I can ever see actually using the React is if you are intentionally losing to a Monster on a turn you really wanted to buy something, or if somebody else sinks a Monster and you want to buy a high level hero on top of a stack. Both are pretty rare scenarios; the first is very specific, and the second shouldn’t really happen much because savvy players aren’t interested in giving easy access to better heroes to the other players. The Village ability wants to be good, it tries so hard. It’s kinda like Pawnbroker, right? EVERYONE loves Pawnbroker! Except Pawnbroker didn’t hesitate to get involved in human trafficking, and the Smuggler does. He’ll sell your Longspears at a tidy profit; he’ll sucker some schmuck into paying as much for your Torch as you will need for a Moonstone (with his help, of course); he’ll even find buyers for your pieces of incredibly powerful and evil artifacts. But he won’t get rid of Regulars. That may well be the difference between utter garbage and an auto-buy. I don’t think it’s garbage, but Curt insists that it is. Your mileage may vary. If Innkeeper is around, don’t buy this guy. If he’s not, *maybe* buy this guy (5 Gold is pretty expensive for something that it not actively beating in faces) to clean your deck of other crappy starting cards and accelerate into Dancing Swords or other expensive and powerful cards.
Veteran Trainer is the last of the Village cards in Towers of Ruin. This is another one that I typically avoid buying. He costs 5 Gold, again, a steep cost for something that isn’t helping to win fights. It produces a respectable 2 Gold. It has two very strange abilities. Village: Gain XP equal to the number of Monsters revealed. OK, so XP is good, getting it while you’re in the Village is good because that’s when you level heroes. Except this is terrible, and here’s why. It is at least a 3-4 card combo to go off properly. You need it, 2 Monsters to gain XP from and a hero to level all to happen in the same turn. Anything less and you’re taking multiple Village trips, and by the time you’re consistently drawing Monsters enough to make this worthwhile, you should want nothing to do with the Village but to occasionally level up a guy, and even then, you shouldn’t really be hurting too badly for XP at that point. His second ability is Spoils: Destroy this card to level up a hero without spending XP. Ugh. This one is kinda better, but not exponentially so. OK, so, it’s a Spoils ability that you took time to add to your deck that doesn’t help you win a fight. Even Thunderstone Shard does a better job. When it does trigger, it gives you some free XP. if you time it right, it will give you effectively 3 XP. However, if you bought this card, you are actively moving away from the circumstances which would allow this to happen, which is to say playing as though you have interest in winning the game. He is not as good as other cards in helping you buy better things, and he is not helpful in the Dungeon. In order for something to be playable past those two humps, their abilities have to be dynamite, and his are not even sparklers.
This concludes the card analysis for Towers of Ruin. Special thanks to fellow DT and awesome guys what are awesome Curt and Will for making sure I didn’t say anything stupid. Next up, a card by card look at Caverns of Bane, and how these cards play together.