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One of Raine's biggest hobbies has always been gaming. It all started with an Atari and spread out to Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic: the Gathering, and Dungeons & Dragons. As an artist, Raine takes pride in painting models for games as well as making his own terrain. He's also been a writer for many years, working both in the journalism industry and writing pieces of fiction. He decided to create Initiative : Tabletop as a platform to talk about all things gaming that he simply thought were cool, and reviewing games became a part of it!

Written Review – Thunderstone Advance: Numenera

Thunderstone Numenera Box

Doom has returned to the world. An ancient evil once thought locked away, Doom has begun to change. In the world of Numenera, Doom has taken the form of an intelligent virus that controls its hosts. All of the infected become known as the “Doomladen” and can sense each other’s presence no matter where they are on the planet. These Doomladen are led by powerful creatures harnessing the power of ancient relics – the Thunderstones – and it’s up to you to unite heroes and defeat these monstrosities to save the world.

# Players:


Play Time:

60 Min



Box Contents

  • 13 New Heroes
  • 10 New Monster Groups
  • 21 New Village Cards
  • 5 New Treasure Cards
  • 2 Sets of Ranger “Mark” Tokens
  • XP Tokens
  • XP Bag
  • d20
  • Dividers
  • Rulebook
  • Double-sided Game Board
Thunderstone Numenera Components

Sweet, sweet components.

How to Play

In Thunderstone Advance: Numenera 1-5 players use strategies to construct parties of heroes to defeat the Thunderstone Bearers and save the world. Players will be building decks by purchasing and leveling up heroes, weapons, and more. You’ll face off against an A.I. deck that will flip cards over into the “Dungeon” that your heroes will have to fend off in order to dive towards the Thunderstone Bearer. Once the Thunderstone Bearer (who is quite beasty) is defeated, the players total up their XP and the player with the most is the winner.

The dungeon board. It's quite large and made of thick material.

The dungeon board. It’s quite large and made of thick material.

Setup starts with placing the dungeon board in the center of the table and then proceeding with the selection of foes and resources available to defeat them through randomization. Players will create a setup using the randomizer cards included with each set of cards in the box. The cards in Thunderstone Advance: Numenera are broken up into three groups: village cards, hero cards, and monster cards. The randomizer cards help ensure that each play through is different and that the game doesn’t get boring the more you play it.

Here are the starting cards each player will use. The Regular provides strength to fight monsters, the Longspear can be equipped to add more strength, and the Torch provides light for the dungeon. Each card also has an amount of gold it offers, printed on its left side, for making purchases in the village.

Here are the starting cards each player will use. The Regular provides strength to fight monsters, the Longspear can be equipped to add more strength, and the Torch provides light for the dungeon. Each card also has an amount of gold it offers, printed on its left side, for making purchases in the village.

Each player will put some cards together to create their starter deck. This deck will consist of 6 Regulars, 2 Longspears, 2 Torches, and 2 Thunderstone Shards. The players will shuffle these starting decks and place them face down in front of him or her. Once that’s complete it’s time to select your opposition. Going back to the randomizer cards, shuffle them and reveal them until you find one monster group each of level 1, level 2, and level 3. Locate the monster card sets that match the randomizers drawn and place them near the dungeon board. Next, draw a random card from the Thunderstone Bearer cards to be the big boss you’ll need to defeat to finish the game.

Monster randomizers. These guys are wicked!

Monster randomizers. These guys are wicked!

Now that the enemies have been chosen, it’s time to build the dungeon deck. To do this you’ll shuffle all of the monster cards together and pull out 10 cards. Then shuffle the Thunderstone Bearer into these 10 cards and place them face down on the dungeon deck space of the dungeon board. Shuffle the remaining monsters and set them face down on top of the stack you just placed. Finally, draw cards from the top of the dungeon deck, filling all empty ranks on the dungeon board face up – this will be called the dungeon hall and it will be where your heroes have encounters.

Village randomizers. You never know what's going to be available to buy!

Village randomizers. You never know what’s going to be available to buy!

The next thing to do is populate the village. The village is where you’ll be able to purchase weapons, heroes, and more on your quest to defeat the Doomladen and the Thunderstone Bearer. To populate the village you put out 3 copies of each basic card (Regular, Longspear, and Torch) per player in their respective places on the dungeon board.

A few of the hero randomizers.

A few of the hero randomizers.

Then shuffle the hero randomizers and reveal the top four cards. Find the stacks of cards that match these randomizers and place them in the village. Each hero stack needs to be arranged so that the level 1 heroes are on top, level 2 is next, and so on, placing the highest level heroes on the bottom. Finally, shuffle the village randomizer cards and reveal a card one at a time, find the matching stack of village cards, and place them on the board in one of the open slots indicated. Keep doing this until you have a total of 8 stacks of cards in the village. Yes, the village board will not be full and this is okay.

Here's the initial board setup, sans the curse deck.

Here’s the initial board setup, sans the curse deck.

For the final touches of setup (I know it seems like a lot, but it really isn’t that difficult), shuffle the curse deck and place it on its indicated spot on the board. Place XP tokens into the bag and keep them near the board, in reach of all player. Draw 6 cards from your basic deck to create your starting hand and you’re ready to start playing!

During a player’s turn they may take one of the following actions:

  • Visit the village – purchase heroes/gear
  • Enter the dungeon – fight a monster in the dungeon hall
  • Prepare – manage your hand for the next turn
  • Rest – discard a card in your hand to get rid of it completely

Since this is a deck building game you’ll find some mechanics that are similar to other games in the genre. Some cards provide you with gold that you can use to spend in the village, while others supply you with strength to defeat monsters. When you purchase a card it goes straight to your discard pile for later use, and you may only buy 1 card per buy action you have, which is pretty much the norm in this genre. Let’s take a look at each action, though, just to provide more detail.

Visit the Village

When you visit the village you can obtain some gear or a hero to help you in your quest. When doing so you’ll reveal your hand and use the cards that provide you with gold to make a purchase. Some cards have a Village ability on them, and this is where they shine. Once you’ve revealed your hand you can use any Village abilities from cards as you wish. These abilities can be anything from giving you another buy action to letting you pick up a card for free. Afterwards you can use the gold value of your cards to purchase 1 hero or village card (all of the gold from your hand gets added into a total that you buy with). Finally you can spend XP that you’ve accumulated from defeating monsters to level up a hero from your hand. When you do this you place the hero in its respective pile and pick up the next level hero. You can level as many heroes as you have XP for, but each hero can only be leveled up once per turn.

With this hand I'd most likely enter the dungeon, but I could go to the village. If I went to the village I'd have a total of 6 gold to spend. If I went to the dungeon I'd have a Physical Attack strength of 4. Also, the Regular's Dungeon ability would trigger, allowing me to draw more cards.

With this hand I’d most likely enter the dungeon, but I could go to the village. If I went to the village I’d have a total of 6 gold to spend. If I went to the dungeon I’d have a Physical Attack strength of 4. Also, the Regular’s Dungeon ability would trigger, allowing me to draw more cards.

Enter the Dungeon

Entering the dungeon pits your heroes against mighty monsters in search for XP. Much the same as with visiting the village, when you enter the dungeon you reveal your hand. Also like the village, some cards have dungeon abilities that can be used here. You also now equip any weapons you wish to heroes, one weapon per hero (unless a card says otherwise). Heroes become much stronger and more able-bodied to fight. Next you must choose a monster to fight. The rank on the monster’s space indicates the amount of darkness it brings to the battle, with each rank equaling 2 darkness. What this means is that if the monster is at a rank 1, that means that your total strength when facing it is reduced by 2. The way to counter this is to bring a light source with you, whether it be a Torch or some village item that emanates light (it will show on the card). After choosing a monster you’ll resolve any Battle effects or Aftermath effects that trigger. Battle effects activate as the monster is chosen to fight, and Aftermath effects happen once the battle is over, regardless of who wins. Total your strength against the monster and if yours is higher you defeat the monster. (Also, it’s important to note that there are two different types of strength in this game: Physical Attack and Magical Attack. Some monsters are immune to one or even both, so you have to choose wisely when you head into the dungeon.) It’s pretty cut-and-dry. Once you defeat a monster you get an amount of XP listed on its card (you draw that many XP tokens from the black bag). You also can use any Spoils abilities you have, which trigger once a monster is defeated. If you don’t defeat the monster it will retreat back into the dungeon. Place it on the bottom of the dungeon deck. Finally, slide all of the monsters down and fill in the empty rank with another card from the dungeon deck.


There will be times where you will get a hand of cards that simply don’t work together. If this happens you can prepare your hand for the next turn. To do this, place as many cards from your hand as you wish on the top of your deck in any order, so that you’ll draw them next. Then discard the rest of the cards in your hand. That’s all you can do, but you’ve set yourself up for a smashing turn next time around.


Resting allows you to essentially trash a card from your hand to thin your deck out. You’ll want to use this action if your hand is full of low-level cards that you don’t find useful. When you trash a card this way you place it back in the box, never to be seen again. That’s all you can do.

At the end of your turn, if the Thunderstone Bearer remains undefeated, discard your hand and draw a new one of six cards. Play then passes to the next player in clockwise order and gameplay continues until the Thunderstone Bearer is found and defeated. Once that happens, players total the number of victory points they’ve accumulated on the cards in their deck and the player with the most is the winner.

Now there are a bit more rules to follow, such as Trophies, Doomladen, and other effects to cover, but those are a bit more situational than the basic overview of the game. Essentially some monsters will reward you with Trophies. When this happens the monster is added to your discard pile and each time the card comes up its Trophy effect must be used, no matter if you’re in the dungeon or village. The Doomladen monsters also go into your discard pile when defeated, and each time they come up in your hand they power up the other monsters in the dungeon. This can mean bad news if you poorly prepare.

The XP tokens are awesome, and they come with this sweet bag.

The XP tokens are awesome, and they come with this sweet bag.

Also, the XP tokens can be spent to level heroes, but they each have special effects that they can be cashed in for at any time during your turn. To use the XP tokens you simply discard them for their effect. Here’s a small breakdown:

  • Red – +1 physical attack
  • Yellow – +1 to light
  • Blue – draw one card
  • Green – +1 magic attack
  • Gray – destroy 1 card
  • Orange – +2 gold

There are scenario cards included with the game that provide a bit of story and theme to the game. These settings offer types of effects that will change the game depending on which scenario you choose. Some can help the players, while others are bit less than helpful.

One of the Thunderstone Bearers, such a beast!

One of the Thunderstone Bearers, such a beast!

Bearing the Thunderstone – Is It Worth A Trip to the Dungeon Hall?

Thunderstone Advance: Numenera is an amazingly beautiful game that has reignited my flame for deck building games. The genre has become somewhat stale for me and despite my initial skepticism the game really impressed me. I like the idea of a cooperative deck builder, and while some would argue that the fact that there’s a winner in the end makes it not so cooperative, it doesn’t take away from the fun one bit.

The first thing I noticed about the game was its art style. Some of the cards have been reused through older versions of Thunderstone, but many of them were specifically skinned for Numenera. For those who don’t know much about Numenera, it’s a fantastic RPG from Monte Cook. It deals with sci-fi in a way like nothing before it, combining fantasy and science in a world that’s believable yet fantastic. The cards in the game are bright and colorful, even when it comes to the monsters. What’s even better is that they aren’t flimsy and thin. The cards are sturdy and of really nice quality. That’s good when you have a ton of them in the game because sleeving them, while a preference of mine, wouldn’t be an easy task.

Thunderstone Advance: Numenera is a great deck builder that brings you the feel of a dungeon crawl. I really enjoy the mechanics of being able to build a party and take it headfirst into a deep, dark dungeon in search of glory. The added Iron Wind cards to replace the normal curse deck from the original Thunderstone Advance, and it, too, follows suit to theme the game for Numenera. What I like is that all of it just makes sense and tries its hardest to keep you in the world of Numenera as much as possible without actually being the RPG it’s modeled after.

The ability to spend XP tokens to gain different abilities is brilliant. Too many times have I ran into the dungeon with no light source only to remember I have plenty of XP to spend. Drawing cards, adding to your strength, and creating some light will go a long way to help push you to victory. Seriously, those Thunderstone Bearers are no joke. They take a lot of strength to defeat and have abilities that can just wreck your run into their lair.

An example of a Scenario card.

An example of a Scenario card.

While the game is listed at 1-5 players, I think three is the real sweet spot on this one. Not that it’s not fun with the full amount of players – because it is – but the game is manageable, fun, and quick with three people on the board. Plus, with three people playing you’ve got to get your strategy down solid because there are only so many cards in the village that can help you. Once all of the high-level heroes are gone you won’t have a chance to get another one. It becomes a strategic race that’s fast-paced and full of action.

Thundersone Advance: Numenera isn’t without its faults, though. The randomizers are a great way to setup the game for replayability, but sometimes you can get stomped by what it tosses out for you. Also, if you’re not a fan of Numenera there’s a chance you might not like this game. Sure, it’s still Thunderstone Advance, so if you’re a diehard fan you may not care too much, but AEG put a lot of work in making this a very different game thematically. Also, unlike in some other deck builders, there’s no real spite play involved here. You won’t be foiling other player’s plans too much unless you happen to take the last high-level hero in a stack before they can nab it. That’s the play of a cooperative deck builder, though, and it works plenty for me.

Overall I’d say Thunderstone Advance: Numenera is my new favorite deck building game. Its replayability keeps me coming back time after time to face new dangers in the dungeon and building new parties to do so. The theme works, the gameplay is fun and interactive, and you won’t end the game feeling like you got hosed or did nothing. If you need something to spice up your thoughts on deck builders, definitely give this a try.



Buy This Game IT Button

Thanks to AEG for providing a review copy of Thunderstone Advance: Numenera for review!


  • amazing artwork
  • great replayability with randomizers
  • fast-paced, even with more playersD10 Rating 8
  • plenty of new cards to separate it from previous versions
  • ability for full customization of your games to make it easier for new players to learn
    and veterans to get a challenge


  • randomizers could stack the odds against you
  • thick theme could turn players away
  • lots of setup initially, could be a bit much

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  1. Today in Board Games Issue #155 - Mice & Dice - Today in Board Games - April 4, 2014

    […] Thunderstone Advance: Numenera – Initiative: Tabletop […]

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