Friday, October 25, 2013

Does This Path Lead to Fun?

Friends and neighbours -- I'm an old-school computer RPG fan.  Back in the day, I played RPGs that didn't even have graphics -- games like Zork and the original Ultima titles.  Ultimately, however, some of my favourites games were the Might and Magic titles, where you put together a team of adventures and went out to explore the countryside in search of gold and glory.  Over the years, I've looked high and low in an effort to find a board game that could replicate this sense of RPG style experience.  Well, you can imagine my excitement when I heard about the newest release from Paizo Publishing, Pathfinder: The Adventure Card Game.  Now, this is Paizo's first foray in the world of board game publishing -- but they're well known for their the hugely successful producion of the Pathfinder RPG, so there are certainly reasons to hope for good things.

The first thing that you'll notice about PF:TACG is how large the box is and that might seem somewhat surprising given that this is a card game.  The rationale, however, is that the box has been designed to allow you to organize the cards by categores (eg. weapons, armor, monsters etc.) and, there's room for all of the upcoming expansion packs to be included as well.  To that end, there's an excellent box insert and the rules contain a helpful overview of how best to seperate and organize the cards.  It's worth noting at this point that the game represents an unfolding story, one that follows the Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords story arc, as it emerged in the Pathfinder RPG universe.  As such, every few months a new chapter pack will be released which contains quests, monsters and equipment.  You and your friends can play the entire campaign, moving from one adventure scenario to another -- with each scenario taking approximately an hour to complete.  The base game comes with the first chapter pack -- Burnt Offerings -- and so after you've played the first few introductory scenarios you can move right into the main campaign.

As noted above, this is a card game.  Your character will be represented by a unique deck of cards that serves as a reposistory for the items, spells and loot that you'll acquire over the course of your journey.  Each character begins with a unique deck of cards and, in what is perhaps the most impressive feature of the game, as your character develops over time your deck of cards will change accordingly.  Thus, if you're a fighter who acquires a more powerful weapon during one scenario, that sword can remain in your deck for use during the next stage of the campaign.  Further, the locations you visit are also represented by decks of cards.  When in a location you can encounter that location by revealing the top card of the location deck and interacting with that card -- be it a monster or an item that you can acquire.  As you conquer various scenarios in the campaign your characters can also "level-up" so to speak -- and this means that they will be able to shape and alter their character decks to include more numerous and more powerful spells -- not to mention improving their base stats for use during encounters.  These advancements also stay with a character as they progress through the game and are recorded on character cards provided in the base game.

So, does it all work?  Well, I'm pleased to report that the answer to that question is yes.  To be sure there is a bit of learning curve -- as you become aware of how to encounter the different items and creatures you run into along the way -- but overall the game plays very smoothly and intuitively.  Anywone who has any paper & pencil, or computer, RPG experience will have little trouble coming to grips with the system.  Additionally, the game has great components and each scenario plays out quickly.  You will need a group of committed individuals who are prepared to game regularly if you want to play out the entire campaign -- which is probably the best way to play -- but if you've got such a play group this game comes highly recomended!

We've got copies in the store so come on down and check'em out.  And hey, Pathfinder: The Adventure Card Game could be the perfect Christmas gift for the RPGer in your life!

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