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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Core Set: A Review

Hello again my Paizo friends! Once again we return to your favorite type of news – we got a product review for this edition of the Paizo News Update! Today we’re taking a look at a product that already had a spotlight here on the Update and which some of you may already know: it’s the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Core Set!

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The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Core Set is a box set that includes The Dragon’s Demand adventure path AND an introductory ruleset using the Dragon’s Demand to bring new players into the Adventure Card Game and its rules. My review copy also came bundled with an expansion to allow players to experience the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path.

The initial opening of a game can tell you a lot about the game in question (probably why unboxing videos are apparently popular), and opening the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Core Set is no exception. Like the Starfinder Beginner Box, one of the first things visible is the introductory booklet with big bold writing saying “Open this first!”. A little further down, some cracks in the normal Paizo polish are visible, as the dividers used to separate game components are just blocks of foam in cardboard channels. I don’t play board games as much as other reviewers might, but for some reason I expect more from Paizo than just…bricks of foam? I know there’s something to be said for the cost of custom box dividers and allowing for customizability, but I also know that the board game market now has an expectation of a certain level of quality, and so far this isn’t it.

The introductory pamphlet is incredibly helpful, and in fact necessary. My first instinct when opening a new game is to take all the pieces out and arrange them according to type and color and so on, and if I’d done that with the Adventure Card Game I would have been hopelessly lost. While not impossible to work out (especially with the very handy index and cross-references), the rules of the game are complex enough and there are so many rules on each card that it’s largely impossible to play your first game without the introduction.

Again, I don’t know how much of a leg to stand on I have; I play mostly TTRPGs, and those are DENSE, and the board game scene is apparently filled with interconnected games like this; but even still, I feel like there’s a bit of unnecessary complexity. Certainly in line with Paizo at least.

The actual gameplay is…fine, I guess? It plays like a cross between Time Stories and Five Minute Dungeon, with the on-card complexity of a casual Magic: the Gathering game. It’s clearly intended to be played with more than one player. While it’s certainly possible to play alone, it very quickly feels like a game of solitaire with a silly level of complexity.

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game clearly has a market and a target audience; after all, it’s a sequel, and sequels without an audience don’t get made. I’m not that target audience. Unfortunately, I also have a hard time thinking of who IS the target audience. If that Time Stories-meets-Five Minute Dungeon-meets-M:tG description sounds like you, or you’re a fan of the original, you’re going to have a blast. All I know is, it’s not something I’d recommend to my TTRPG friends, it’s not something I’d recommend to my board game friends, and I would probably rather throw myself off a bridge before trying to explain its rules to a casual gamer like my mother.

This article was contributed by Ben Reece (LongGoneWriter) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
 
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Ben Reece

Comments

Banesfinger

Explorer
Our table-top group felt the same way about the original version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. It felt like someone just took a table-top rpg and converted every character sheet, power, feat, monster, skill check/encounter, etc into a card. The story-telling aspect of a TTRPG was gone (although I'm sure someone creative could piece together a story from all the over-turned encounter cards). So we were left with an overly complex card game with little roleplaying element.
 

Arilyn

Explorer
I absolutely am totally addicted with the PF card games, and I like this one even better. The rough edges have been smoothed over. All the characters look fun and are viable. Poor Sajan in the original Rise of Runelords card set died a lot, whereas Merisiel was way too tough. The characters seem more balanced now. Pazio has taken the best features from their previous sets and put them into this game. There are instructions for creating your own scenarios, which is cool and much needed.

As for complexity, new players might need a little time to get used to things, but that's true of most board games. Taking one scenario at a time, I don't think it's too bad. And it's cooperative, so that helps. The rpg elements aren't very strong, and it's abstract, but, it is a card game. Fantasy Flight's Arkham Living Card game is the only one I can think of that actually feels anywhere near a rpg. Keeping your character and improving him/ her is where the addictive part comes in for me, with PF.

The storage components are cheap, but if it keeps the overall cost down, I'm not going to complain too much. It's an expensive game, especially when you buy expansions, but in this version, you build on the core set, so it's a little less expensive. But not a game you get into if budget is a concern. Some of the character art is ugly, which surprised me.

I am very happy with this game, and am excited about having a new addition. Gotta go. Hakon is in the middle of The Crimson Throne expansion.
 

Jacob Lewis

Explorer
I find this review (?) useless and unhelpful to anyone. The author admits he has no concept of what the game is about, how its played, and can't even cite differences between the previous edition. So why bother writing a review at all? One would think that if its going to be featured as a "front page story", one would look a little more closely at the product in question and come up with stronger statements than "I don't know" and "I guess". Do better!
 

Koloth

Villager
I find this review helpful if you are the type of person who, like me, didn't know there was an Adventure Card Game. A lot of us see stuff on the shelf of a FLGS or a listing on a website and wonder if it would be worth picking up. With a MSRP of about $60, nice to have some idea what one is getting into if you decide to plunk down your cash written by someone that had a similar knowledge level that you have.
 

Ramaster

Villager
I find this review (?) useless and unhelpful to anyone. The author admits he has no concept of what the game is about, how its played, and can't even cite differences between the previous edition. So why bother writing a review at all? One would think that if its going to be featured as a "front page story", one would look a little more closely at the product in question and come up with stronger statements than "I don't know" and "I guess". Do better!
I disagree. IMO this is clearly a negative review.

Two highlights:

"I’m not that target audience. Unfortunately, I also have a hard time thinking of who IS the target audience."

"All I know is, it’s not something I’d recommend to my TTRPG friends, it’s not something I’d recommend to my board game friends, and I would probably rather throw myself off a bridge before trying to explain its rules to a casual gamer like my mother."

I play PF every week and follow the game (and PF2) closely. I've only ever had contact with the Card game through the mobile game and I thought it was fine
, not problematically complex (although I’m also a long time MTG player).
 

wakedown

Villager
In terms of cost, a lot of the ACG games are available for pretty good deals these days... 50% off being the average if you poke around (aka $9 for a $19 pack).

My FLGS put almost all Paizo products on clearance at 50-75% off. Online you can use eBay and usually find complete sets for ~$50 without sales tax (aka all of Runelords + 6 chapter packs) vs the $50 +$20 per pack cost to get the full path ($170 total pre-tax!). I know I've picked up a couple missing packs for as low as $4 (no tax, free shipping) - often times a game store may be listing them and you can add on multiple packs at the discount rate.

I've played through Runelords and part of Mummy's Mask and Wrath of the Righteous. I'm not sure how emphatically I'd recommend it - definitely not at full price, but at a discounted price to get a full AP for $50-60 maybe. I'm not even sure what I'd look for in the updated Dragon's Demand set or Crimson Throne set. Certainly better interaction between the players. Often it seems like two players are playing separately at locations and outside of tossing a blessing for extra dice at one another, or firing off a ranged attack, there's often not a lot of teamwork involved. It almost plays better as a solo game for you to control a couple PCs and play through it, but there's a lot of cards out which makes it a bit logistically unwieldy.
 

Rhianni32

Explorer
I find this review (?) useless and unhelpful to anyone. The author admits he has no concept of what the game is about, how its played, and can't even cite differences between the previous edition. So why bother writing a review at all? One would think that if its going to be featured as a "front page story", one would look a little more closely at the product in question and come up with stronger statements than "I don't know" and "I guess". Do better!
Agreed. It seems like the reviewer is spending more time giving caveats as to why they are not giving a proper reviewer then in actually talking about the game in the first place.


"The actual gameplay is…fine, I guess?"
They talked more about the packaging than the actual game itself.
 
Maybe a breakdown of at least some of the rules? Maybe some pictures of the components with captions explaining what part they play in the game? Maybe some comparisons to how a Pathfinder RPG session plays ... perhaps even a session of this same adventure? Maybe some anecdotes about what happened in the game you played to try it out?

I mean ... I am not a fan of the game but this is a poor review regardless. It feels like someone got a review copy of the thing and felt obligated to do a review but was not terribly interested in doing so.
 

MockingBird

Explorer
I've been seeing the box sets of the 1st game. So what it is exactly? RPG system with cards? A game like MtG? Do you roll characters?
 

Arilyn

Explorer
I've been seeing the box sets of the 1st game. So what it is exactly? RPG system with cards? A game like MtG? Do you roll characters?
It's not a rpg. It's a cooperative deck building game. You choose a character, who will have differing abilities and can gain more as they " level" up. There are different scenarios, which will have different win conditions, usually involving trapping and defeating the villain. Your deck improves as you play and the challenges get tougher as well. There's a background story, but the actual play is fairly abstract. The fun is gaining abilities and better cards. Despite the abstraction, the characters feel like PF characters, and they have cool abilities.

I love the game because you keep your character over a whole campaign. It's an easy to play cooperative game, not overly challenging, although it might seem hard at first. It doesn't take long to become adept.
 

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