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Monday, September 9, 2013

Review and AAR: Pathfinder Adventure Cardgame - Rise of the Runelords

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game was one of the biggest sellouts and hyped games at GenCon, and sadly, I was not able to score a copy there. However, our LGS did get a few copies, of which I picked mine up on release day.

Pathfinder ACG is a card-game based version of Paizo's Pathfinder RPG. The game captures a lot of the same mechanics from the RPG - characters level up, find new equipment, and learn new spells. However, this game is packaged in a card/board game format, with a hint of deckbuilding added in.

The game comes with a sweet box insert, sadly, it doesn't fit sleeves.
The game comes with a standard full color rulebook. Nothing too out of the ordinary. The book contains rules, and adds a few strategy tips. It also contains sample starting decks for each character class, although you can customize your starting deck, too.

The game is played in scenarios. Multiple scenarios make up an Adventure. Multiple Adventures make up an Adventure Path. If you just want a quick sit-down-and-play experience, you can just load up the suggested starting decks and play a Scenario or two. If you want more of an epic roleplaying experience, you can keep track of your character's stats and cards from game to game and try to make it to the end of an Adventure Path.

Sample play area
The base set consists of an easy, three scenario Adventure, and it includes the first of six expansion packs in the box as well, which brings another (more difficult) six scenarios. So right out of the box, we have nine scenarios, and Paizo intends to release an expansion pack consisting of 6+ more scenarios (and all the monsters, items, spells, etc) every other month.
Suggested starting decks
I compulsively sleeve everything, so I ripped out the insert included and replaced it with card boxes. Lots of empty space now, but should fill up once more expansions come out.

 The game can be played with 1-4 players right out of the box, and players #5 and 6 can be added with the purchase of a Character Expansion. This expansion just adds enough of the base cards to be able to construct six decks at once, and includes four more character classes as well.

I figured the best way to show off the game would be with a brief AAR. I'll take you step by step with a very brief intro scenario using Sajan, a Monk.

On top is Sajan's Avatar card. This could be replaced by a mini if you wish. It's just to mark where the character is. Below is his stat card, telling you what kind of dice to roll for what, plus some special powers.

Further in the campaign, each character can specialize into a more-specific class, adding more powers and such. Sajan can turn into a Ranged Zen Warrior or a Drunken Master. For the purposes of this game, we'll be starting out with him in his basic, plain Monk form.

We're going to play the Perils of the Lost Cost Adventure.

The first scenario in this Adventure is BRIGANDOOM!

The BRIGANDOOM! card tells use to use these three locations for a 1 player game - the Woods, the Farmhouse, and the Waterfront.
 I build up the decks for each location as described on their cards, and build the suggested starting deck for Sajan. Each location has a mix of monsters, items, weapons, allies, and such. One location has the Villian, of which killing is our goal.
To start off, Sajan's going to the Farmhouse

There's a deck of blessings, which functionally serves as the game clock. Regardless of the number of players, it always has 30 blessings, and one is flipped each turn.  For the most part, they serve no other purpose, although some cards interest with the Blessings deck.

The first card I explore is an ally, the Guard. It requires a roll of a 4+ on D6 Constitution roll to acquire...

Which I succeed!

The Guard goes to my hand

I use another ally in my hand, the Troubadour, to explore again this turn (as to not flip another "clock" blessing from the Blessings deck)

And we find a Bandit Henchman! This is pretty fortuitous to discover this early on.

The Bandit requires a combat check of an 8+ to beat. The Monk can fight on his Dexterity (D10). The Amulet of Mighty Fists allows him to add an additional D4. Any character can discard a blessing to add another base die (in this case a D10), although the monk can use as many blessing per roll as he wants, and recharges them instead of discarding them. Recharged cards go on the bottom of my deck instead of the discard pile.

The Bandit is defeated.

Because we've defeated a Henchman, we can attempt to immediately close the location. To close the Farmhouse, we must summon and defeat a random monster. A Yeth Hound appears!

The Yeth Hound's card says I must pass a Wisdom check before combat, and if I fail, he becomes harder to defeat. I fail rolling a 1.

I now need a 10+ to defeat it. Rolling similar dice to earlier, I defeat it! (I only one one D10, so even though most of my combat checks will roll 2D10, you only get to see one)

Closing the location is key to winning the game, but closing locations early does mean we lose a lot of potential loot.

After flipping another card in the blessings deck, Sajan moves over to the woods.

And discovers a Potion of Healing. I'd really like this, but I need a 5+ on a D6 Intelligence check to acquire.

Goodbye Potion of Healing.

And now we discover a magical wand, which requires a 7+ on my D6 intel check. I guess that wasn't meant to be...

And then a Mystic Inscription....requiring a 10+ on my D6 intel. Where are all my wizard friends when you need them!

Now we find a Mercenary, who requires a 10+ in combat to defeat.

Using our trusty Amulet of Might Fists and pitching a blessing...

We get an 11 and vanquish the Mercenary.

Then comes a Siren.

We toss some Caltrops at the Siren. It automatically defeats a monster of power 9 of less, but consumes the Caltrops in the process.

Oof...a might 15 power Hill Giant!

We're going to make use of Sajans special power allowing him to use multiple blessings per combat, and pitch two blessings. This gives me 3D10+D4.

Well, when you get perfect rolls like that...

We find a Throwing Axe, which we pick up. The monk isn't too sure what to make of this so-called weapon...

We find a guide, who refuses to join our party.

And then we find Jubrayl Vhiskl, the Villian we must defeat to win the scenario!

Vhiskl's card says we must recharge two cards before combat, but because BRIGADOOM! is the intro scenario (and thus, easy), we get to draw two cards to replace them.

We pitch two blessings for the combat

And make quick work of Vhiskl!
 Now, just because we've defeated the Villain, we haven't won yet. There's still two open locations, and the Villain escapes. We take a random blessing card from the box, shuffle it with Vhiskl, and randomly distribute them into the open locations. This lets the Villain escape, and we don't know for sure where he went to. We'll have to close more locations and corner him down.
Continuing to explore in the Woods, we find a Secret Stash, but it collapses before we can retrieve anything from it.

An advanced blessing! We'd sure love this...

But fail the check to acquire it.

A Goblin dog meets a gruesome end.

Now that the woods are empty, we can attempt to close them down.

Needing a 5+ on a D8, we succeed. (Editor's note: I cheated. That's a D10)

Well, the only place left is the Waterfront. Off we go.

Discover a dog, who doesn't want to follow us.

A Skeleton Horde causes an Ancient Skeleton to appear.

Which we vanquish with Holy Water.

Zombie meets an premature death.

We fight a Bandit, but even only needing an 8+ on 2D10 and a D4, we lose by two.

Forcing us to discard two more cards.
 Your deck is your life...your Hit Points if you will. You want to go through cards in your deck to get the good stuff, but if you run out of cards, you die. So it's a delicate balance to strike. As you take damage, you discard cards, forcing you to draw more, and come that much closer to running out.
We find an enchanter, who pings us for one card before combat...

...she dies....and pings us for another.

We're too weak to pick up a hammer apparently.

At this point, we're down to four cards left in our deck...four more wounds and we die.

We find the Bandit again, eager to seek revenge.

Using two blessings for insurance...

We defeat the Bandit, and attempt to close the Waterfront. In order to close the Waterfront, we need to defeat....another Bandit!

No problem!

Closing down the Waterfront, we look through the deck, removing everything from the game except the Villain. He's now cornered and ready to fight, with no chance of escape.

Recharging two cards, but drawing another two. He'd be a lot harder without that draw-back handicap of the intro scenario.

Just to ensure we kill him, we'll pitch three blessings, for 4D10+D4. Needless to say, he dies, and victory is ours.

As a reward for winning the scenario, we get a random item.

Well, this wand is pretty nice. It's one use for me, but a wizard could probably get multiple uses out of it.

After the game, we examine the cards left in our deck...

...and compare it to what we're allowed to have.

We can't have any weapons, and only three allies, so two cards get sent back to the box

And we're one item short, so we can select a basic starting item card to fill the gap. Let's get those Caltrops back!

And now we have a slightly advanced version of Sajan for the next battle!
Conclusion:  I absolutely love this game. I totally give it an 11/10. While it CAN be played solo, it definitely wants to be played with a group. Social interaction is half the fun! Is it for you?
  • If you like RPGs, you'll like this game.
  • If you like the Pathfinder universe, you'll love this game.
  • If you like dungeon crawler board games such as Descent or Super Dungeon Explore, and desire something a bit "more", you'll love this game.
  • If you hate any of the above, the game may not be for you.

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