Root of Corruption is the second Thunderstone Advance expansion. Thunderstone Advance remains, as always, a deck-building game of fantasy adventure, wherein the players must assembly a deck of heroes, weapons, and such, then sally forth into the dungeon/wilderness to kill monsters and take their Victory Points. Root of Corruption also introduces Siege mode, a fully co-op variant where the monsters come to you. The story of Root of Corruption showcases the creeping blight of Doom in the capital, and the heroes must face new Thunderstone Bearer King Caelan. Root of Corruption retails for about $35.
Note: Since Root of Corruption is an expansion, this review will presume that the reader is familiar with Thunderstone Advance. If you aren’t, feel free to catch up by checking out the Strange Assembly review of the Thunderstone Advance base game.
Quick Take: Root of Corruption introduces a cooperative mode that’s similar to the solo mode referenced in the base game, with monsters steadily swarming out of the dungeon deck and the players trying to kill them off before too many get to assault and weaken the walls. The most common mechanical shtick for the cards is interaction with having curses in your deck, including inflicting them on yourself for benefits. It’s a good addition to the line – if you like Thunderstone, I don’t know why you wouldn’t like Root of Corruption.
What’s In The Box
Root of Corruption adds seven new heroes, six new monster stacks (plus a guardian and a thunderstone bearer), one new treasure type, fifteen new village cards, four new curses, and randomizers and dividers for all of the new stacks. The expansion also includes reprints of all of the Ambusher cards from the prior Thunderstone Advance sets. The original cards had “ambusher” in the type line (along with the monster stack and the level), which made for some really tiny type. The reprints created a new Ambusher icon (big enough to also include the word “ambusher” on it) so it’s easier to spot whether there’s an Ambusher in the hall when a Raid and/or Battle effect looks for one.
There’s also a new playmat to be used with Siege mode (the mat is not a real board like the one in base Thunderstone Advance, but is sturdy full-color paper). It lays on top of the Dungeon Hall portion of the normal board, replacing and extending the monster-bearing portion of the game to accommodate the new gameplay variant.
Siege mode pits the players against a swarm of monsters in a fully cooperative mode. There are three ranks of monsters like normal but for Siege mode each rank can hold 4-5 files of monsters (4 files for three players, 5 files for 4-5 players). You start with face-down monsters in rank 3 and at the end of each player’s turn one is turned face up. If all of the monsters are face-up at the start of your turn, then at the end of your turn you bring a new set of face-down monsters into Rank 3, which pushes any remaining monsters into the next rank. At the end of each file is a stack of wall tokens (you use the XP tokens for this), which get removed as monsters make it into the town. Lose enough wall tokens and you lose the game. Hold off the assault and you can achieve a partial or complete victory, depending on how many monsters got through, how many you defeated, and how much of the wall is left.
The Siege mode works well, and you can vary the difficulty greatly depending on how strong the village array is (although you won’t get to go into the village nearly as much you’re used to – a complete wipe of the invaders would require only one visit to the village every 5-6 turns). It tends to produce some nice dramatic tension, and you’re simply unable to defeat the very first waves of monsters as you build your decks, start mowing them down as you move into the mid-game, and then start running into trouble again near the end when the nastiest baddies show up. Be prepared to feel Doomed before you pull out a close victory.
Root of Corruption also includes a few new curses (Curse of Compromise) that, fitting with the theme of the set, give you benefits but also add more curses to your deck. The expansion also includes more treasures, which were reintroduced in Caverns of Bane (the treasure rules are fully reprinted here).
Yup, it’s back. Although I have to admit that the card (Elven Waybread) is ambiguously worded so I’m not sure what it actually does (it lets you “place 1 hero on top of your deck,” but does the hero come from my hand, my discard pile, the hero stacks in the village?).
The primary feature of Roots of Corruption (like most deckbuilding game expansions) is more cards, with some new mechanical focus.
Monsters feature more Trophy effects than usual, including one stack (the Djinnbound) that have strong positive ones and another (the Abyssal Incarnates) who have nasty negative ones. The Earth Elemental have Breach effects that trash cards from the village, and then return the elemental to Rank 3/4 to try and move up to do it again (probably not a coincidence that the Siege mode expansion features a monster that reminds me of my favorite standard Thunderstone expansion, Thornwood Siege). But the most distinctive group is the Summoners, which is a stack of identical wizards who summon a random monster from a separate stack to do battle when you choose to face the Summoner – and all of the summoned monsters are classics from original Thunderstone. Adds some tactical twists, because you have to do all your Dungeon abilities before you know exactly what you’ll be facing.
The Heroes include a couple of new races, including a Corvaxis Hero (the Moonclaw) and a Treefolk Hero (the Woodguard). Some of the more interesting abilities include the Profaned, who gives you curses and low levels and then can destroy them for benefits at high levels, and the aforementioned Woodguard, who can gain more attack as a Dungeon ability, but then let all the other players draw cards (making them a great way to “cheat” Siege mode, if that’s your thing).
Village highlights include:
– Several village cards give you curses for beneficial effect (Debased Wizard, Cursed Dagger);
– Stablehand is sort of a new Innkeeper, with a Village/Dungeon ability that destroys any card you want out of your discard pile;
– Blood Debt is a cheap item that’s worth 5 Gold and -3VP. Really strong;
– Circle of Protection, a Spell that you play in front of you that sticks around until you’re going to get hit by a Raid/Breach/Aftermath effect, at which point it’s destroyed to prevent the effect (and in the meantime, it gives you 1 Light);
– A bow that gets worse as you get deeper in the Dungeon;
– A Maul that gives you -2 Physical Attack and then boosts Physical Attack based on Strength.
We really like Thunderstone Advance, and we think Root of Corruption is a strong addition to the game. It had interesting cards and the new Siege mode variant was generally fun and gives a solid cooperative option for those who enjoy that sort of thing. If you like Thunderstone Advance, you’ll like this expansion for it.
Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.