Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Thronestorm

Game: Thronestorm

Publisher: Original Content London

Designer: Sam Ballard, James Knight, Ed Saperia

Year: 2018



Original Content London are a company we came across at the UK Games Expo 2018. They brought two games - Band Manager - a game where the board is t-shirt! And Thronestorm - an intense, 10-15 minute 2-player strategy game. Of these two very different games, Thronestorm appealed to our niche in two-player games, so here's a closer look.




Gameplay

In Thronestorm there are 4 suits and each suit is modeled after a slot on an adventurers gear. The suits are swords, shields, helms and accessories, though the art on the cards themselves is a little bit nebulous to fit into this categorization. Your goal is to collect a full set of relics in one colour. This will be done by taking cards from the decks and by manipulating the central puzzle.

At the start of the game 4 accessories will be added to the board in a diamond (1:2:1) pattern. The cards will be separated by suit and placed to the side in 4 separate decks, with the top card turned face up. On your turn you have 2 choices; you can take a card from the top of one of the decks, either adding it to your private collection or to the puzzle. You can only carry one of each suit, so if you take a second sword you must either add it to the puzzle or swap it for your current one and add your old one to the puzzle. If you don't want to take a card then you can manipulate the puzzle, to do so you choose a card on your side of the puzzle, it must be the same colour as one of the relics you own. You then draw a line of 3 from that card to your opponent's side and pick those cards up. You can then swap the order of any of these cards with cards you own before adding 3 of your cards back to the puzzle in any order.


The core of the gameplay relies on manipulating the puzzle, trying to ensure that you have colours on your side of the puzzle that you can interact with while limiting your opponents choice. Aiming to get 3 of the same colour does mean that you are very close to winning, but also drastically limits your ability to manipulate the puzzle, getting that last piece won't be easy. As soon as a player has a sword, shield, accessory and helm of the same colour they win the game.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

I really love the theme of Thronestorm, each colour represents a different classic adventurer, with sets of pirate's gear, cleric's relics and necromancer's garbs. From mages pointy hats and scrolls to the classic sword and board fighter, the art is all iconic of the classes represented. However this is also an issue as this is the only way to tell what item is which suit. How is someone meant to know that a pair of pistols or a scroll counts as a shield? There is no symbology on the front of cards to identify them as such so you'll find yourself flipping some of the more obscure cards over to work out what it is.

The puzzle aspect of Thronestorm can be very intense, it is very much a game of making 1 mistake and losing the game. You have to be willing to change your planned colour at a moment's notice as soon as an opportunity presents itself. We found often someone made the winning move  turn before they actually won, leaving their opponent powerless to stop them. One of the bigger issues in the game is when your side of the board, whether through luck or manipulation, entirely fails to match with any of the colours you have available. At this point all you can do is cycle through cards from the decks and hope your situation changes.

At it's best Thronestorm is very clever competitive puzzle where players will seek to manipulate the board to limit their opponents choice while setting themselves up for success. When Thronestorm achieves this, it becomes nail-biting and stressful, but in a wonderful way. More often through we found one player was actually mostly helpless and the game could end up pretty one sided. I don't think this is helped by the fact that the game often ended far before all the cards had appeared, one of us usually won pretty quickly once the first set of 1 colour was all available.

Thronestorm was certainly a game which grew on me, the first game I felt it was far too random, but as I played more games (and we got to play plenty as it's only 10-15 minutes a game) the strategies began to emerge. There is still more luck than I would like in this kind of game, but if you are clever then you can manipulate nearly every play in the game. I do believe that there is a very high level of play possible with Thronestorm, but unfortunately for me it wasn't quite worth the time and energy to go into.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

The ratio of rules simplicity to brain-burning puzzle complexity in Thronestorm is possibly one of the highest I've ever experienced. it wasn't until we'd played 5 or 6 games that I even felt I understood how to make a good move and win the game. I still don't have a strategy pinned down, which keeps the game interesting - I wonder if I will stop wanting to play the game once I understand the recipe to success.

Now that I understand the game a little more, I can really appreciate the intricacy of the puzzle as you manipulate the central tableau to suit you, but not you opponent. It's a tricky puzzle that definitely rewards skill. On the other hand, the luck in the game can really destroy this. If the last card you need is at the bottom of one of the decks it's very unlikely you'll win. Of course, you can try to plan for this, holding out for two or even three colours for as long as possible, but there will come a moment where you need to take a leap of faith towards one colour and that could cause you to lose through  no real fault of your own. This is definitely my least favourite aspect of the Thronestorm, because it feels out of place in a very strategic game.

Thronestorm kind of reminds me of a competitive version of the The Ravens of Thri Sahashri. Thronestorm has the less complex set of rules for sure, but the card placement puzzle is similar and I really like both games as two-player only experiences. However, given how frustrating I found our first couple of games, I'm not sure I would say that Thronestorm is an accessible game.


You Might Like...
  • Thronestorm is a great puzzle for exercising your mind.
  • The theme may be interesting to friends who are RPG players or video gamers.
  • This small game definitely rewards multiple plays.
You Might Not Like...
  • The card art can be very confusing - a book is shield, two guns are a shield...they would've benefited from a discreet symbol on the front of the card.
  • The element of bad luck if the cards you want are at the bottom of the deck.

The Verdict

6.5/10 Thronestorm is a very simple concept that creates a very intense two-player puzzle. It's a little difficult to master, and although we've had some great games, the sway of luck slightly holds the game back for us.

Thronestorm was a review copy kindly provided to us by Original Content London.

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