Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review (Games) - Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

How do you like your goblins, minced or roasted?
Name: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game - Rise of the Runelords
Publisher: Paizo Publishing LLC.
Publishing Year: 2014
Designer: Mike Selinker, Lone Shark Games
Play Time: 90 minutes (+10 minutes per player)
Recommended Age: 13+
Cost: $59.99 ($19.99 per expansion pack)

Summary
Pros
  • Captures the feel of progression that you would get in RPGs extremely well.
  • For veteran RPG players, great to get a bit of that RPG fix in an hour rather than a few hours.
  • For non-RPG players, it can give you a small hint at what an RPG is like.
  • Strong setting.
Cons
  • You're going to need some imagination. There are some portions that are very thematic (monk's ability to flurry), but the exploration needs a touch of imagination to lighten it up a bit.
  • You will not get the most out of the game unless you play multiple sessions. Progressions and upgrading your character deck is a big part of the game.
  • There are many, MANY erratas and FAQs. If you want to go deep, make sure you go onto Paizo's website and read through them.
  • Decently rules heavy. While it's not as bad as heavy Eurogames, it's definitely not Ticket to Ride or Catan easy. Doesn't help there are a staggering amount of card variety, increasing the different ways a card might interact.
  • Costs might be a little high for what you get...
Recommendation (Not For Everyone): This game is a great co-op, but if you do not commit to it long term for the character progression, you're better off finding another co-op game that has a lower entry barrier. The character progression is the essence of this game. However, of all the games I've played, this has come the closest to a full blown RPG.

Overview
Just a few of the 500+ cards you'll be dealing with. 
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is a co-operative game system loosely based off the Pathfinder RPG setting. Players co-operate to complete a scenario objective, usually by exploration locations. During these explorations, they will encounter boons (positive cards such as a piece of armor or a helpful ally) or banes (negative cards such as traps or monsters), where they will try to acquire or defeat. Your allies will be able to assist you, depending on their location and character class. Most of the time, you'll be trying to root out the boss of whatever is causing the disturbance in the scenario by running through the location decks via exploration. By doing so, you'll most likely find one of the boss's henchmen, where you will defeat and shut down the location to prevent the boss from escaping to it. Game ends in your victory when you defeat the boss and he has no where else to flee, or it can end in defeat if everyone dies or you run out of time (about 30 turns).

Components
Here's the innards. Keep in mind I already have the 6 Adventure Path add-ons and the character deck, so the 7 boxes in the upper left do not come with the base game. 
The Components in the base game is just a few dice and a lot of cards. The box is really sturdy and there's a lot of room in the box to hold all of the expansions. I especially like the way they organized the box into sections for the different cards, making it extremely easy to just grab the deck that you need on the fly, which happens more often than you'd think.

The dice and cards are pretty standard. The cards are not poker card quality, but it's decent. It's still pretty thin for my tastes, though, and with the amount of shuffling and card handling, if you're like me, get some sleeves for them. Also, if you are squeamish about writing on your cards like I am, I suggest you grab like 10 or so clear sleeves of the thicker variety. You can use those to sleeve the character cards and use dry erase markers to record your progression.

I'm not sure the base game, or even the total cost of the game, justifies it's cost. The base game is $60 MSRP and you can usually get it for $40 online. You only get about ~500 cards for that price. To put it into perspective, Dominion has 500 cards and it costs about $27. The card thickness is about the same, but there's a lot more unique pieces of art in Pathfinder and they are standard size rather than Euro sized. And then each expansion costs an MSRP of $20, each one giving you about 100 more cards. That makes it even more difficult to swallow because without expansions, the game gets boring really fast. You can only do so much with 3 scenarios.

Conclusion
This game is definitely not for everyone for a lot of reasons, especially not for your casual board gamer. This is a game you want to go in deep and commit fully. The base game only provides you with 3 scenarios, extremely easy to knock out in 3 hours or less. The base cards are also pretty similar to each other. It's only when you start getting the expansions they start to add really interesting and great cards in there. But then that would mean to get the full experience, you're looking at nearly $200 MSRP. Let's not forget all the extra character expansion packs, which expands your options from the base classes. There's a lot of buy ins, and on the financial side, it's definitely not worth it for the causal dip.

Then there's the problem of rules. The rules are not too hard, but the sheer amount of interactions between the cards makes it a headache for casual gamers. Even the developers are having a hard time; check their FAQ section, it's enormous!

Time commitment is also a factor. When I first played a game, I was very "meh" about it. It took me a few games to start to see that the game wasn't so bad, as I was able to add more cards into my deck and replace basic cards with elite versions of themselves. That's when I really started to lay down the hurt.

Given all these problems, I still recommend this game, but only if you're an RPG player or if you're looking to commit long term to just 1 co-op game. RPG players will get a similar feel of progression, but at a much lighter and faster pace (compared to a RPG campaign). It gets you a bit of that fix when you're out of a GM or don't have as much time to commit. Also, this is the game to go for if you're looking for the co-op that ends all other co-ops. There are so many options and with all the expansions, you're going to have a tough time finishing them, especially if you die along the way. It's costly, but it has much more replayability than other co-ops. The more you invest in this game, the more it gives back.


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