Impressions: The Pathfinder Card Game

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The Game:

The Pathfinder Card game, Rise of the Runelords. It wasn’t my own game, but rather one belonging to a local gaming group, so it had several expansions in it as far as I am aware. We played for approximately 45 minutes, finishing quickly due to a couple of very lucky draws and getting the henchmen within the first 3 cards in 4 or 5 of the 8 locations.

I played as the female human sorceress, ending up with an odd affinity for Blessings as I managed to draw all of mine and burn through nearly an entire location deck in a single turn (And still not hitting the henchman).

First Thoughts:

In a nutshell, the game runs incredibly quickly and tightly. I would describe it as the lovechild of Pathfinder and Munchkin, and for me personally it was more fun than either standalone game. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a fan of Pathfinder, for a variety of reasons but most of them stemming down to it being based on D&D 3.5, a system I have long since lost my rose-colored glasses for in favor of D&D 4e.

However, this was a fun, quick game that managed to incorporate cards into an RPG format, and while it still felt like more of a game than an RPG, I think this plays to it’s strengths, since I could easily see this being something you and your buddies pick up before a full RPG session, or as a more serious game between rounds of Carcassonne or Settlers of Catan. It has a surprising amount of depth, but doesn’t drown you in it either.

Mechanics Analysis:

I have to say I really, really like the system it has for acquiring cards and defeating monsters. Condensing the myriad of skill checks and such to the basic 6 stats and a small handful of skills was really nice, as it helped condense the entire character sheet to something that can fit on a single card (Although Paizo’s full-page sheet that lets you track what’s in your entire deck is incredibly helpful, especially if your group and their decks varies from game to game).

While the “Flip a card and resolve the encounter” bit wasn’t too novel (Not a bad thing though. See: Munchkin), I really liked the touch of trying to corner the villain. If you uncover the villain before you “close” the other locations, the villain will escape to an unclosed location, even if you successfully beat him. This also increases the number of encounters in all of the unclosed locations, which feels fairly cinematic as well (The villain goes about stirring up more trouble).

The RPG element with advancements and such was nice, even if there were still some (imo) “trap” choices. Some options, like increasing your hand size or enabling you to automatically “recharge” cards (When a card is used, it’s normally discarded. Bad news, since your deck is essentially your hitpoints. Recharging means instead of discarding the card, place it on the bottom of your deck) are no-brainer choices, while others like getting a +1 bonus to an Attribute your character has only a d4 in is fairly useless. Most skill checks hover in the neighborhood of 6-8 from what I saw, so even a +1 would mean that d4 would likely still be unable to hit the target. Still, the optimal choices are very apparent, nowhere near the Ivory Tower nonsense you find with feat and class choices in 3.5, and to a lesser extent in Pathfinder.

Final Verdict:

I would highly recommend this game, particularly if your group likes D&D-style games, persistent characters, and RPGs. I’m planning on putting this on my long wishlist of games to get, and look forward to seeing what other expansions get released as well.

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