I’ve eyeballed the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game for awhile.
I never bought it, and I’ll honestly say I’m happy waited.
It’s not that the game sucks. Far from it. It’s fun. There’s strategy and resource management, and there’s a good amount of adventure. I’m simply happy I first played Pathfinder Adventures – the digital version released last week by Obsidian Entertainment.
Here’s the skinny: Introduced several years ago, the physical game is a card-based version of the Pathfinder pen-and-paper RPG. It’s a co-op game where characters explore various locales and try to track down villains and defeat them using specialized decks of character cards. As you play, your character picks up new cards to use in his or her deck, a sort of card-game version of RPG XP points.
Pathfinder Adventures, which is available for iPad and Android tablets, is exactly the same. It’s also free to play.
The basic mechanic revolves around cards. The cards in your character’s deck represent that character’s health, but they’re also items, weapons and allies your character uses to explore locales and fight enemies. So when you actually use a card, it (usually) gets discarded and you are down one card. Lose too many and your deck is depleted, your character is dead.
Here’s where it gets tricky: There are so many cards.
Playing this on a table would be incredibly difficult to pull off. You have multiple locations, and they each have a deck. Then you have multiple characters, each of whom has a deck, discard pile, recharge pile, buried pile and banished pile. There’s also the blessings deck, which represents how many turns you have to complete a scenario.
There are so many decks, piles, locations and cards that it’s hard to keep track of. You should see the very extensive playmat.
But on my iPad, it’s simple. A lot of the decks aren’t even seen on screen. They’re represented by counters (in the case of the blessings deck) or simple icons (a mound of earth for the buried pile).
There’s no setup other than to choose a mission. It dictates the scenario, often with cool text-based cut-scene setups, and then arranges the cards and locations. All you have to do is choose your characters and play.
There are so many rules in Pathfinder Adventures that it took me until the tutorial scenario was finished to figure out exactly how it worked. But conveniently, the rules are built into the digital game. You physically can’t mess up reading the rules, which you’d be consulting constantly in the physical version.
And it’s free, which is really nice. The tutorial and the first few missions are totally free, and you get started with decks for Merisiel and Kyra, a pair of iconic Pathfinder characters.
As you play, your characters also earn new cards, and you can customize their character decks with weapons, spells, allies, potions and the like.
The catch is that further adventures and new characters are available by in-game gold or by paying real money. The Rise of the Runelords set is available for $24.99, quite a bit cheaper than the physical game’s $59.99 MSRP.
Characters are also for sale using in-game gold, but they’re priced so high that it will be difficult to acquire new characters without exchanging some real dollars for that precious gold.
But also in the free section of the app: A quest system that will produce a theoretically infinite number of basic scenarios. If you only want to play a session every now and then, you won’t have to spend anything if you don’t want.
And here’s the great thing: After spending a good amount of time playing the game, earning gold and beating bad guys, now I’m really interested in the physical card game.
I have the rules worked out, and now I’m interested in diving into these adventures. It’s especially appealing to someone like me who wants to play Pathfinder RPG adventure paths such as Skull & Shackles but hasn’t had the opportunity to sit down and slog through it.
With the board game (or the digital version), I can solo play through the thing and have a blast doing it.
Have you played either versions of the game? Let us know what you think in the comments!