Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords (Base Set)
You are an adventurer. Along with your fellow party members you will travel to locations, find treasures, allies and monsters! Use your abilities and items wisely and coordinate your efforts with your fellow party members to defeat the Villain before time runs out.
Hold it! This sounds like a role-playing game, right? Not quite an RPG, not quite a deck-builder, definitely cooperative (most of the time), the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game allows players to experience an archetypal fantasy adventure in a refreshing new way.
Note: Set up for the game varies depending upon whether you are playing a Scenario, an Adventure or a full Adventure Path. In addition, all of the cards will need to be sorted and placed in their respective compartments in the box. The set up below assumes this is the players’ first time playing. After initial plays, set up will vary based on where the players are in their adventure path.
Who do you think you are?
The first step is to choose the characters you and your fellow adventurers will be playing. Take the Character card and its Token card and place them in front of you. Then take a look at the card types and number that will make up that character’s starting deck. (There are deck suggestions for new players), and build your character’s deck using this list. Shuffle your deck and place it nearby.
What lies ahead?
Choose a Scenario card and place it face up on the table. The Scenario card lists the type and number of locations (based on the number of players) that will make up the adventure. It also gives the players their goal to achieve victory! (Usually by facing a nasty villain!) Take the Locations listed and place them in the middle of the table with some space between.
What lies within?
Location cards list the card types that will make up the cards encountered at that location. Randomly deal the number of cards listed into a face down stack and set it aside for a moment. Check back on the Scenario card and find the Villain and Henchmen listed there, go grab them from the box and deal a number of henchmen equal to the number of locations you have. Place one of each henchman (including the big bad villain) onto each Location deck then shuffle each. You have just created the encounters for each location!
Set the timer!
Randomly deal out 30 cards from the Blessing deck and place them face down. This forms the timing mechanism for the adventure.
Now, each player places their character Token card at any location. More than one character can start at the same location if you wish. Players then check their Character card and draw cards to form their starting hand equal to their hand size. Check that character’s Favored Card Type. If you didn’t get at least one of that type card, re-shuffle and redraw until you do.
Decide who goes first, grab the dice and prepare for adventure!
Each player’s turn consists of five steps that are performed in order. Once completed, play passes to the next character clockwise.
1. Advance the Blessings Deck – Draw the top card from the Blessings Deck and place it face up in a discard pile. If at any time you must flip one of the Blessing cards and you cannot, the game ends and the players have lost the scenario.
2. Give a Card – You may give one card from your hand to another character at your location.
3. Move – You may move your character token from its current location to any other location.
4. Explore – Flip the top card of your current location deck. You are about to have an Encounter! It will either be a “Boon” or a “Bane.”
- A Boon is something cool: a Weapon, Spell, Armor, Ally, Item or a Blessing. When revealed, the character may attempt to acquire it by “attempting a check.” (See below) If unsuccessful, the card will be “Banished” or returned to the game box for the rest of the scenario. If the check is successful, the card is immediately added to the player’s hand of cards.
- A Bane is something not cool: Villains, Henchmen, Monsters and Barriers. These will have to be overcome, and of course in the case of the Villain and his Henchmen, are the main focus for success in the adventure. Defeating a Bane banishes that card. However, failing to defeat a Bane results in dire consequences – usually taking damage. Damage is taken by discarding cards from a player’s hand.
5. Reset your Hand – A player may discard any number of cards, or must discard them if they exceed their character’s hand size. Then the player draws up to their starting hand size.
If at any time a player must draw from their draw deck and are unable to draw up to their hand size, their character has died. That player may no longer play in the scenario.
Attempting a Check
Any time a character encounters a card from a Location deck, they must “Attempt a Check” to defeat the baddies or grab the goodies. This is the foundation of success and failure in advancing through the stages of the adventure. Here is how it works:
- Determine the Difficulty of the check: Look at the skill and number listed in the circle in the upper-right of the card encountered. This is the Difficulty of the check. You will have to roll equal to or higher than this number to be successful.
- Determine which die to use: Attempting a check will usually require you to use a skill. Check your character card and take the die that is associated with that skill. (look closely – you may receive a bonus to that skill!)
- Play cards: All players may have a chance to play no more than one card of any type to affect the roll. This may add another skill die, or add another die of a different type. Take these dice in hand as well.
- Use Powers: Your character may have Powers that can affect a check. Just read what effect the Power has and apply it.
- Roll em! Roll all of the dice you have assembled to make the check. If your roll is equal to or higher than the difficulty, you succeed. If it is lower you fail the check.
Each Scenario has a specific goal that players are trying to achieve. Usually this involves confronting a major Villain and his henchmen and defeating them. During gameplay, Locations can be “closed” so that the Villain has nowhere to run. All players will win the game if they fulfill the goal of the scenario or adventure within the allotted time. That is, before the Blessing deck runs out. If not, the game results in a loss for everyone. But that’s not all…
Your Characters go on and on…
After a scenario, if completed successfully, the group will earn the reward listed on the scenario card. This could be a Loot card, or additional Feats. In between games, any cards that a player acquired can be added to their deck. However, that character cannot have more cards of a certain type than are listed on their character card. In this way, cards can be traded with other players, so that their characters can use them if they need them. (Say for example Valeros found a Spell. Useless? Ah, but not to your best friend Seoni!) Characters’ decks are then rebuilt and the next stage of the adventure can begin. Just like any great RPG, characters can eventually receive upgrades to their skills, acquire new bonuses, even achieve new classes that expand their level and powers! Thus, the adventure will go on and on…
The primary component of the game is of course cards. Compared to many other card games out there the card template is not striking and the artwork is very familiar to those who play Pathfinder RPG. All that said, the cards are extremely functional in providing a catalyst to amazing story telling. The art is very good, the flavor text is excellent and the card stock is resilient. The HUGE box (see below) is huge for a reason. Besides storing the 18 different card types there is space to store players’ Character decks between adventures and special slots for upcoming Adventure decks.
Moderate. If you are a gamer that has never played an RPG, skill checks and the idea of an adventure campaign setting may not come easy. Especially when manipulating the cards during gameplay (See Final Thoughts). For those who have played RPGs, the mechanics will be second nature. However, the adventures will still prove to be a difficult test of cooperation and hand management.
Who would enjoy this game?
Every now and then a game comes along that makes you slap your head and wish you had thought of it. What Mike Selinker has done seems so very obvious: take a role-playing game and distill it down into a card game. Use the foundational mechanics of those RPGs (such as making skill checks), fill a tabletop with locations and set the players loose. Aha! But what about character skill advancement, weapon proficiency, unique class traits and powers, enemies, treasures, traps, and most importantly the carrying over of your character from one quest to the next – gaining levels and advancing in power over a long period of time? This seems like a task impossible to orchestrate with decks of cards. Like a master composer, Selinker has succeeded. Here are some standout features:
Everything is on the cards. The two-sided Character cards list all the dice types needed for the skill checks, all character class restrictions (your character’s deck list), powers and so forth. The items, weapons and armor provide various levels of effectiveness based on how you use them. (see below) The Scenario cards list the locations, Villains and henchmen and rewards for success. The Monsters list special abilities and effects and of course the difficulty in defeating them. So after set up, the game matrix kicks in and allows reasonably free movement and options to explore the landscape of the adventure.
It’s an epic adventure with a plot. There are very few plot or scenario based card games out there. The recent popular trend in “story telling” games either is minimalistic like Once Upon a Time or may require many more components and features such as the excellent game Mice and Mystics. Here you have a non-deck building, non-collectible, non… board game… card game experience that weaves a very specific tale: recreating the Rise of the Runelords story line from the Pathfinder RPG series. The game challenges you to be a part of the tale and create your own chapters and experiences within it.
The card play is groundbreaking. Some of the best game designs include multi-use cards. Here, that mechanic is taken to a new height and is the most innovative aspect of the game. Each player’s deck is their health. This is not new by any means, however the starting deck size for all the basic characters is 15. This minimal amount of cards is ingeniously balanced with the multiple uses for those cards. They are: Reveal, Display, Discard, Recharge, Bury and Banish. “Revealing” a card simply means show it, use its effect and it goes back in your hand. Recharging a card allows you to use its effect and place it on the bottom of your draw pile. (adding to your Health.) In these two instances the card may be used again. For a greater card effect you can Display, Discard, Bury or Banish a card. You lose it (and it counts against your health) but the gameplay effect is much more devastating. With these different forms of card activations come the kinds of tough gameplay choices that make the game a challenge.
This is a game that typifies our hobby. It is the very best of what a game can offer: a solid fantasy theme experience, with excellent strategic options, great replay value (even with the base set alone), easy to learn mechanics with diverse gameplay effects, cooperative decision making, some fun dice rolling, rewards and leveling, treasures, monsters, combat and exploration. Whew! Most of all, you have an amazing immersive experience. The game is especially immersive because you carry the game with you between sessions. By saving your character deck, you prepare for the next stage or game experience, ramping up the anticipation for the next game! If you are like most hobby gamers, this means that you’ll think and talk about the game even when you are not playing. That’s the mark of an excellent game. Just take a look at the last page of the rules and see the extraordinary number of people that had their hands in the creation of the game. Clearly this is a game that has had many talented people’s hopes and passions infused into it.
Most of all, you never feel like you are playing a set of mechanics. The game is triumphantly elegant. There is a treasure trove of replay value in this box. Yes, it will require and investment if you chose to dive in head first: new Adventure decks will be released every month. But that’s what this hobby is about… right? Our advice, drop most of those other silly deck builders and begin a card game journey that will leave you recounting tales of your adventures for years to come. What more can any gamer ask?
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