Review – Avatars (Thunderstone Advance)

 Avatars is a mini-expansion for Thunderstone Advance. It was available for free to those who purchased Towers of Ruin from their FLGS during that expansion’s release weekend event. It is also available for $10 from the AEG online store.

Avatars is very small expansion cardwise, with only five copies of each of the five different avatars, but adds an entirely new mechanic to the game. Each avatar – Fighter, Thief, Cleric, Wizard, Ranger (the Thunderstone Advance version of what used to be Archers in vanilla Thunderstone) – represents “you,” whoever it is that’s assembling these other adventurers and equipment to send out there. Each avatar has a trait or ability and for 4-5 xp you can level it up to gain a Dungeon or Spoils ability that lets you discard excess xp for some effect. I don’t think you’ll go for the flip all that often, but it can be activated any time you want, so if you’re sitting on a big stack right near the end you can go into the Dungeon, flip it over, and then grab the extra bonus.

But the main thing you’ll be looking for in the avatar is the base trait ability. They’re all in flavor with the class – the Fighter makes Weapons lighter, the Thief makes Items/Weapons cheaper, the Wizard draws an extra card after buying a Spell, the Cleric mitigates Curses when you go to the Village, and the Ranger lets you swap the spots of two monsters in the Dungeon. You get to pick whichever avatar you want to use each game.

Some of the avatars are highly dependant on the setup of Village/Hero/Monster cards for their utility. If there aren’t Curses getting handed out, then the Cleric  doesn’t do anything. (and if there’s a good Cleric Hero, it’s value is reduced even then). The Fighter may not do anything if there aren’t any Heroes who need that one more point to be able to carry a good Weapon. There needs to be a Spell you want to buy many copies of for the Wizard to work out well. And, although it has a lot of raw power, even the Thief has variable power depending on how expensive the good Items/Weapons are. Only the Ranger doesn’t have a straightforward correlation between its utility and the spread on the table.

With that said, the Thief seems to us much more broadly powerful than the rest – although the Wizard is quite strong if a good spell is out. It seems like an unusual layout where you’d actually go for the avatar with the most even power level (the Ranger). The Fighter and Cleric are only going to get picked in limited situations.

We liked the concept of the avatars – basically Thunderstone’s version of having a faction. But it’s reasonably likely that in any given game, most everyone is going to grab the same avatar (usually the Thief). Which loses part of the point (IMHO) of factions – that everyone has something a little different for their strategy. But it’s not like you can just do them at random, either, or else someone will likely have a big advantage. For us, they just didn’t add enough to be worth it, although maybe they could be played as “Enchant Worlds” for more variety (e.g., the Fighter weight reduction trait is just in effect for the game, potentially tweaking the card values).

So, ultimately, although we certainly look forward to many mores games of Thunderstone, we don’t plan on using the avatars much.

Promotional consideration was sort-of provided by the publisher in the form of a review copy (does it count as promotional consideration if you had already played a non-review copy the expansion and talked about it on your podcast?)

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