Thunder and Lightning is a unique card game that combines hand management and elements from the classic game Stratego in interesting ways. The latter part particularly intrigued me.
Cards are played face down on opposing sides in (up to) 3 by 4 grids. Your first row can challenge your opponents first row Stratego style, with the higher value winning and staying on the board while the lower is discarded. There are a lot of little details that add up to surprising depth, such as the number of actions a player gets depending on how many columns they have in play, specific card actions and abilities, and the ability to decided which cards are kept in hand versus on the table.
All of it put together means the game has a rather steep learning curve with regards to strategy. The mechanics are easy to grasp, but I fumbled around during first game in terms of trying to win, only starting to get feel for how I should be playing towards the end. As such while I think I really like it, it will take more plays for a final verdict.
It’s nice that there are a few ways to play/win (such one player not being able to use all their actions on a turn), although finding the opposing ring/crown does seem like it’d be the game ender 90% of the time. I think the alternate conditions are there to prevent certain stalemates, which is good foresight.
The art is beautiful, and the components of good quality. The player markers are nice but completely unnecessary, feeling tacked on to justify the asking price. I have mixed feelings on the oversized cards. It makes reading the text easier and emphasizes the aforementioned excellent artwork, but it’s really awkward for the (up to) 8 row setup and the powers are worded such that it’s often necessary to reference the rulebook anyway (which lessens the ease of reading advantage). I kind of wish the cards had been designed/printed horizontally instead of vertically, although that would have admittedly made the hand management aspect more difficult.
Overall I enjoyed my first play of Thunder and Lightning and am looking forward to the opportunity to try it again and see if I have a better feel for strategy and how everything is supposed to work together.