Board Gaming, Strategeries

Thunderstone Focus: Clever

The working idea behind Clever was that we wanted to have something like the Druid with shapechanging abilities. We kinda did this with the Skinshifter from Caverns of Bane. Ultimately we decided the ability was more in line with Wizards of Thunderstone than Clerics. The comparisons between Clever and Dark are mostly unavoidable, but I’m not here to discuss who is better, this is Clever’s time to shine.

Clever level 1 starts with a Strength of 3 and  Magic Attack +2 for 6 gold. Not the most impressive statline on a Wizard, and no ability, nor Light, but she can equip a Longspear, and she does have 2 Attack.

Clever Nano is where the design starts coming through. Strength is still 3, her cost is now 9. Now included is the text “This hero can only use 1 ability. Dungeon: Magic Attack +3 Dungeon: Physical Attack equal to the VP of 1 Monster present. This card becomes unequipped and cannot equip weapons.” At this point, you probably have a couple of 3-4 VP corpses laying about. +4 from a level 2 hero is nothing to sneeze at, but the real payoff here is in the flexibility. She’s Magic Attack if you need her to be, and provided that you have a Monster in hand, she can be Physical Attack instead. Use of this ability precludes her ability to use weapons, but honestly, her low Strength score was pretty much already doing this. This kind of makes her similar to the Mystic, but her numbers fluctuate and she’s not as inclined to pick up a Weapon. If you don’t draw any Monsters to pair with her, Magic Attack +3 is still decent, it’s a Frost Bolt. The longer the level 2 sticks around, the more potential value she gains. It’s not unheard of for you to get a +6 to +8 Attack out of her, and that’s just one copy. Like the Gohlen, as long as there is one Monster present, any number of Clever can benefit from it.

Enhanced Clever Nano lives up to her title. Her Strength that you never use rises to 4, and her cost that you never pay with money rises to 12. Like the Level 2 version, you have a choice of abilities that you can only pick one of, either Dungeon: Magic Attack +5 (pretty standard for level 3 Wizards) or Dungeon: Physical Attack equal to the Health of 1 Monster present. This card becomes unequipped and cannot equip weapons. Health is the main metric that determines how difficult a Monster is to fight, and typically, you have several armed heroes tag-teaming just one of these nasties. You’ll be using this number to determine how deadly you are this time around. At this point, while she can’t equip Weapons, she is on par with (or better than) many fighters of the same level. Pending what Monsters you’re facing, maybe better. If you slagged a Guardian or one of the Giants from the Starter Set, you’re looking to lay out some serious hurt. Enhanced Clever Nano is one of those rare Heroes belonging to the “Can Probably Solo a Bad Guy” club.

A few other cool things you can do with Clever:

Equip a Maul to her. Activate its ability to gain an Attack bonus, then activate her Monster pump ability, forcing her to discard the Maul. Maul’s -2 Attack penalty trait will vanish because it’s not equipped, but the Attack bonus you got is just a free floating cloud of violence waiting for you to point it at a Monster. That might not make sense, and it probably even feels a bit like cheating. That’s MAGIC!

Debased Wizard can let you activate an ability twice, at the cost of gaining a Curse/Disease. Considering that the penalizing card does not go immediately into your hand, and that Clever can gain some huge power from this, this is one of the better ones. Even Void Apocalypse and Heart of Doom have trouble keeping up when a single unequipped Hero is putting up 24 Physical Attack. This is more a commercial for the awesome power of Debased Wizard (which could honestly earn a spot in every post that mentions combos) than for Clever, but Clever does have one of the more potentially devastating uses for it.

If you’re playing with the Numenera set, you’ve probably run afoul of some of the most difficult and annoying Monsters ever, the Ultraterrestrials, who are extremely selective about how they are defeated. With Clever, you have the choice of 3 possible Attack values; her Magic Attack ability, her Monster-fueled Physical Attack ability…or neither. Whichever you need to hit that elusive sweet spot. Clever is the only hero in Thunderstone history where it is entirely up to you whether she contributes to your total Attack value.

In conclusion, the thing that makes Clever such a strong hero set is that she breaks one of the balancing mechanics of the game. The better your deck gets at fighting Monsters, the more your deck gets clogged with Monsters that you’ve slain, making it more difficult to slay future Monsters without making sure you are consistently powering up your deck to mitigate that.With Clever, the more Monsters you defeat, the more she improves, which can reduce the need to take a turn in the Village.  She is both versatile and powerful, a lovely combination of qualities. A hero that takes things that are supposed to get in your way and put them to use beating more Monsters? Clever girl.

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. Continue reading