Board Gaming, Strategeries

Thunderstone Focus: Aeon

I love the art in this set.
I love the art in this set.

A few years ago, the Design Team for Thunderstone Advance was given a neat opportunity, to design a set for Thunderstone Advance in Monte Cook’s Numenera RPG setting. Numenera would serve as a another stage where Doom would try to establish roots; another place for fans of the game to go and confront the ne’er-do-wells that acquired Thunderstones and defeat them and free The Ninth World from Doom’s corrosive influence.

We wanted to do something a bit different with this one, we wanted to really flesh out what defined the basic Thunderstone Advance hero classes; Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, Thief, and Ranger. Not all Fighters are Conan and not all Wizards are Gandalf.

This was a new playground for us to design for, and this is one of the sets I am most proud of as a member of this design team. Artistically speaking and thematically speaking, it was a bit of departure from what we’d been doing, and it’s a little jarring when mixing this with other sets, even though mechanically speaking, they work together beautifully. If you can get over that odd mixture, give Numenera a shot with the other sets, but if you can’t, I understand. I can’t mix old cards and new because of templating and OHMYGODALLTHECARDSHAVETOLOOKTHESAME. Numenera plays pretty awesomely by itself, and plays pretty awesomely with its more traditional Fantasy setting friends.

In the past, I’ve done these as gigantic posts where I discussed all of one card type. While these were informative and popular, they are exhausting to write, and by the time I finished it, I didn’t want to look at Thunderstone again for months. This time around I’ll be doing it in bite-size pieces, good for your attention span, good for my sanity.

We’re going to start with the heroes and their completely impersonal names.

The Aeon set is a Cleric/Thief, who embraces the Cleric through purification and the Thief through Gold Production and enhanced buying power that feels a bit like swindling. I liken it to something like Father Chains from The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

Lesser Aeon Priest is very similar to a Regular when it comes to fighting. 3 Strength, Physical Attack +1. No training with polearms for bonus draws, but you’re buying in to this stack for the ability. Village: Destroy a card. As this is happening from the safety of the Village, Lesser Aeon Priest is like an agoraphobic Drua Sacrist. This gets rid of undesirables and allows you to still add good cards for a reasonable cost of 6.

Making the assumption that you’ve either read some of my other Thunderstone stuff or are at all versed in Deckbuilding games, you know that the ability to choose and destroy cards is the most powerful ability in the genre, because it gives your future draws more consistency. No crap means no whiffing on the draw swing. Buying into this stack will allow you to quickly start thinning out your Regulars, maximizing your gold draw potential in the early game, allowing you to more frequently buy better heroes and more expensive village cards. You can also thin out your Torches and Longspears with Lesser Aeon Priest, but you might want to stall on those because of their usefulness in the Dungeon, which can net you a few XPs, which you can turn into…

"This...appears to be some sort of...marital aid? I'm sure you'll figure out a use for it. Godspeed!"
“This…appears to be some sort of…marital aid? I’m sure you’ll figure out a use for it. Godspeed!”

Aeon Priest, who now adds 1 Gold production (as befitting the Thief class) and a rather useful 4 Strength. Physical Attack is now +2, which is fairly standard for the classes involved. No longer afraid to get a little dirty, Aeon Priest’s card destroying ability can now be performed in both the Village and the Dungeon, and adds a new twist to it. Village/Dungeon: Destroy a card. You may place 1 card of up to 2 higher cost from the Village into your Discard Pile. This ability is similar to Trader, but unlike Trader, this one can fight. Your Torches and Longspears can now become things that cost 5. While hero choices are a bit limited in that, there are SO MANY CARDS that fit this. Flaming Sword. Moonstone. Time Bend. Feast. Longsword. And this is keeping strictly to destroying your base cards. If you’re willing to trade better cards, you can go higher still. You have a Criochan Sergeant, but you were late to the leveling party, and Sergeant is all he will ever be. Or you can turn him into a Fireball. For that matter, should there be any exposed higher level Heroes, you can turn a Fireball into one of them! I would primarily stick to getting rid of basics with this, but the flexibility is very nice. A reminder, a card without a cost is not the same as a card with 0 cost, so you can’t turn Diseases into cheap cards (although you can still destroy Diseases)

This ability shines for a few reasons. People are always wanting the best of both worlds, to go fight Monsters and buy better cards for their deck. While you’re not strictly “buying” things (which does admittedly limit your acquisition options) this does allow you to blur those lines, which is awesome. Furthermore, you can double-dip here. Equip a Longspear to a Regular, draw a card. As you used the ability, you can’t destroy a Regular, but the Longspear is still fair game. If your setup has access to a Village XP generator, get in quick. Between that and this, you can thin out the crap and move to Beat City in record time.

Greater Aeon Priest rounds out the tribe. He’s still only kicking out 1 Gold, his Strength is still a useful but unimpressive 4. He’s still more of a lover than a fighter with a Physical Attack +3. He did pick up 2 VP though, and his ability got an upgrade as well. Dungeon: Destroy a card. You may place 1 card of up to 2 higher cost from the village into your hand. Direct from village to hand in the middle of a fight is a big deal. Converting a Longspear into a Flaming Sword that can be equipped immediately is pretty hoss. That’s the good news. The bad news is that generally speaking, at that point in the game, how much stuff do you have in your deck that you’re willing to blow up? You are unlikely to still have basic cards, and you’re probably full of Monsters or Things What Beat Monsters. This is not to say that the ability is useless, far from it, actually. Greater Aeon Priest offers supreme flexibility. Flaming Sword is incredible…and just this side of pointless when you’re facing Noxious Slag. Even though Flaming Sword is awesome, it may not be the perfect thing for right here, right now. Greater Aeon Priest can assess the situation and figure out what will give you the edge on that particular turn. In the late game, your deck is recycling less frequently anyway, which lessens the impact of your sacrifice. That said, there will be times when this proves useful and saves the day, but I think the majority of the time, by this point, you should be mostly done with thinning non-Diseases. It’s restricted to the Dungeon, but by this point in the game, the only time you’re not going there is to level up guys. In clutch situations, it will be solid gold, but in my opinion, this group peaks effectiveness at Level 2. Greater Aeon Priest is awesome, and get it if you have the option, but if you do not, don’t be too worried about it.

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