Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Game Review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game


Our gaming group doesn’t have much time to run D&D campaigns anymore, so we have looked for alternative gaming experiences to scratch that itch. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game alters the scenario format and character creation/management, allowing scenarios to be played in an hour or so. I have judged it based on my experiences and in light of the things that I enjoy most about roleplaying: the way it showcases the skills of diverse characters and develops camaraderie amongst people in the real world.

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is basically a deck building game which draws mechanics from a variety of sources. The “loot the room” method of exploration is very similar to Munchkin, without all the silliness. Munchkin is a hilarious game that I love playing, but it scratches the same comic itch as Zombies!!! Not D&D. The “your deck is your health” is very Star Wars CCG, you heal by returning discarded cards to your active deck (library for all you MtG fans) and if that deck runs out your character is dead. It throws in some old school probability from any number of standard card games, e.g. “there are four cards left in this pile, what are the chances I will randomly pick up the satyr I can’t possibly hope to beat?”. It has some Warcraft Boardgame dice generation thing going on, e.g. “This skill allows me to roll a d8, this sword gives me a d6 and all 1s I roll are actually 3s.”

Roleplaying-wise, you get to choose a character with a race and class. Each character has special abilities that reflect their specialisation quite well, within the limits of the game mechanics. For example, I had a wizard that could draw a card whenever a spell was cast. That card can be retained if it happens to be another spell, so I never really had a situation where I had nothing useful to cast. He could also easily return spells from the discard pile into the deck. You have some say over what goes into your deck so, again, you can specialise your character to an extent. Each class has proficiencies that guide your choices and limits the number of items you can have from any one category. The wizard only gets one weapon, so the chances of picking it up in your opening hand and rocking it the whole game are reduced. As you progress through the adventure you pick up new equipment, which you have the choice of assimilating into your deck at the end should you wish.

Players take turns exploring locations that are represented by their own card and a deck of encounters/loot/traps that you draw from. Each location can be closed by performing a specific task, which may be easier for some characters than others. The number of enemies at each location is provided, so you have a good idea going in how many monsters you will be up against. What you don’t know is where the main bad guy is. Stumbling on him/her/it early on is a real pain because, even if you win, they just move on to another open location. You need to work together as a team to corner the bastard then get your strong characters in place to put the nail in the coffin. This is where the teamwork kicks in, as you all manoeuvre around the locations, using your character’s skills where they will have the greatest affect, to close locations, locate the enemy and put it to the sword (or lightning bolt…).
The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is perfectly suited for those roleplayers who like to excruciate over the right combination of gear, spells and skills. The teamwork aspect is there as well; you are all working together towards the same goal, unlike Munchkin. It is fun picking up new equipment that you haven’t seen before (it is a bit like getting a cool new card in an MtG booster pack!), and the format of the game is perfect for rolling out expansions. The bad news is that it fails to harness the intimate connection you can develop with your character when you actually engage in roleplaying. As such, it is not a great replacement for proper D&D sessions. As a card game, though, there is plenty of fun to be had. It has that wonderful quality of producing stories that you repeat with your friends for days after the game. A solid 3/5.
See you across the table,