Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: By Mike Selinker

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords (the base set) is a game for 1-4 players, expandable to 6 with a character add on pack

Paizo Publishing is a company that many may know for their excellent Dungeons and Dragons alternative, Pathfinder.

So when they announced a card game, my initial reaction was skepticism. But upon opening up the game and getting a few play throughs in I quickly become a huge fan. This game attempts to recreate some of the core concepts of a pen and paper RPG. Perfect for new players or people who find themselves playing alone. 



About the gameplay:

Gameplay revolves around an interesting twist on a deck building game. Players are given a limit of card types they can use to build their deck (or just use the starter decks listed in the instructions). These decks are your life, your abilities, and your gear all rolled into one. 

Each Adventure Path (One so far) is made up of 6 adventure packs, and each of these are comprised of five scenarios. the first Adventure Pack comes in the base set box, Along with a short three-scenario adventure. The scenarios will give you the setting of the mission, including the villain and henchman, and a number of locations depending on the number of players. These locations then tell you a list of what type of cards to include in your location decks.

The Villain and Henchmen are distributed to each location, and then the decks are shuffled. The goal of the game is to find and defeat the villain, closing off locations to not allow his escape. The heroes have 30 turns, marked by a deck filled with blessings that can have some impact on the game as you play. 

The game is played by passing a series of checks. These checks can be a simple combat check to defeat a monster, or a wisdom check to impress a potential ally. Every hero has a skill set that shows their base dice they can roll along with bonuses, and these checks can be additionally modified by playing of cards. Then you roll the dice, and either defeat the "Bane" or acquire a "boon"

There is also a variety of ways that cards can be Played which brings some variety into the game. You have to manage your hand and deck carefully to avoid being killed, which involves your deck being empty when you are required to draw. 



When the villain has been defeated and has nowhere to hide, you win the scenario. At this point there is usually a reward associated, either a card or a level up to your character, and then you rebuild your deck. 


Positives:

The scenarios are really well written, and the game leaves a lot of opportunity especially if you wish to include roleplaying elements. A good group can find a really fun story developing just simply playing out the actions in the cards. 

The deck building mechanic also comes into play as you win cards both for defeating the scenario and as you explore locations. So at the end of each scenario you get to sort your deck out and determine which of the cards you want to keep in order to get back down to your card limits.

With 10 different types of cards, you might think this game is an organizational nightmare, but the box comes with one of the best inserts i've used. It has space for all the different card types, as well as space for character decks and the adventure pack boxes to be stored in. I did not sleeve my cards so I can't say for certain how well they fit, but unsleeved there is plenty of breathing room so I am sure that is no concern. I have not tried to travel with it, which can often be an issue for this type of insert, so we'll have to see how that works out. 



The game does a good job of recreating mechanics from the Pathfinder RPG, which really help fill that RPG void when i'm up at night watching the newborn. There is also a lot of room to modify the game with house rules and custom characters and scenarios. The designer is also very active on both boardgamegeek.com and paizo.com forums, and has taken to heart some of the concerns and suggestions of players, especially where people might find wording confusing for future modules that may be in the works. 

Mike even created an on the fly custom scenario for solo players who do not get to see all the locations over on Board Game Geek Forums

Negatives: 

There are a few flaws, but they are mostly minor. Some may dislike the chapter pack model, basically there are 5 packs to buy to "complete" the game, much like a Video Game with it's DLC. 

There are also some typos, however none of them are really major except for one card, Detect Magic. The recharge check is supposed to be 4, a fairly simple check, but is printed with 14. Not a big deal if you know the correct number but I initially skipped the card based on that misprint.



The only thing I find to be a major flaw is the "Leveling" system. The hero cards have a series of check boxes that you are supposed to write in to indicate that you have added that power or skill. However as an experienced card game player I know that's the last thing people want to do is to write on their cards. Thankfully, Paizo has created excellent character sheets you can download and print to combat this issue, and many other options can be found on Board Game Geek. 

Final Thoughts:

If you are an RPG gamer, but don't really have a group to play with anymore, this might be a great pickup for you. 

Or if you just enjoy a fun family co-op game with some different styles of gameplay and a fun fantasy theme. 

The versatility of this game, supporting from 1-6 players makes it an easy buy since it can fill a lot of holes in your board gaming size. Granted the 5-6 players is a separate add-on, but with so many games hovering around 4 players this game will help get those slightly larger groups to be able to play together. 

If you are ready to defend the town of Sandpoint, then you need to get over to your Friendly Local Game Store and pick this up!

My personal rating (out of 5) is 4 out of 5. With the right group of people or an imaginative solo player this could be a 5, but for some they may just not "get" the thematic style and find it to be a boring card game. 

About me:

I have been playing board games for about 5 years, but have long been an avid video game player. I work in the IT industry and have a lovely wife and newborn child who are my regular gaming group, but my extended family (father, sister) and some of their friends are also common members of the group. 

To find out more about the games I play check out my BoardGame Geek profile or on Twitter @taloncarde