Designed by James Knight, Ed Saperia and Sam Ballard, and published by Original Content London, Thronestorm was one of the games being demonstrated at this year's UK Games Expo.
It's a short 10-minute two-person filler game played with a set of 40 colourful cards divided into what are in effect 10 suits of 4 cards. Each of the 10 suits is distinguished by its background colour. Each represents one of the kingdom's 10 noble houses. Within each suit/house, the four cards are made up of a weapon, shield, helm and chalice; at least, those are the 'relic' symbols on the reverse of the card.
Four chalice cards are laid out face up in the centre of the table in a diamond shape. These form the 'realm'. The other cards are sorted by relic type and the four relic decks are each shuffled and placed face down, the top card of each deck is revealed. On a player's turn they can either take a relic card (any of the face up cards on top of the draw decks) and place it in their inventory (lay it out face up in front of them) or they can 'hatch a plot', which means taking a diagonal line of three cards from the 'realm' and replacing it with three cards from those drawn and those in your inventory.
The two players in Thronestorm are each are trying to be the first to complete in their inventory a set of four cards from the same suit/house (ie: four cards of the same colour). The only rule is that you can never have in your inventory two cards representing the same type of relic; so you can only ever have one weapon, shield, helm and chalice. When you take a card representing a relic type which you already have, you have to place one of them into the realm. It is only as cards are played to the realm in this way alongside the original four cards that the opportunity develops to 'hatch a plot' by taking a diagonal line of cards.
You can see from this that your first few turns will always be to collect relics for your inventory. After that, you will be focused on avoiding your opponent collecting a set while working to complete a set for yourself.
You'll probably find you will easily collect two of a house's relics but you'll only get to collect the third through a fortuitous draw or if your opponent is inattentive. It's not unusual in play for a player to seem to be collecting one colour only to abandon it in favour of another.
If, by accident or design, your opponent manages to get three matching colour relics into their inventory, the game can simply become a lottery over which player turns over the fourth card of that colour. If it's your opponent, he wins. If it's you, taking that card to stop your opponent getting it, then you'll need to hold it all through the rest of the game until you can put yourself in a similar position with three matching cards. You can, in this way, end up with a stalemate: each player holding three of the four cards they need, with each also holding their opponent's 'missing' card. This would be frustrating in a longer game but it isn't too much of an issue in a game as quickly played and otherwise completed as Thronestorm.
There's perhaps more of a need for a warning over the cards themselves. Attractive and impressive as the artwork is, it isn't always wholly obvious from the illustration which relic type is being represented. It would perhaps have been helpful to have added to the corner of the card the relic icon shown on the reverse. Obviously, you'll struggle with Thronestorm if you are colour blind, but even those with no colour vision deficiency may have difficulty distinguishing, for example, the two quite subtly different shades of green, the blue and the purple, or the red and ruddy brown houses, especially when playing in dim light. Again, it would be helpful if each house also had a crest or sigil that could be added to the face of each card so that players didn't have to rely solely on distinguishing between different shades of colour. Perhaps this is something that the publishers might consider on any reprint.