Let’s take a closer look at what a session of the game looks like. Players choose a character, and create their deck (if they haven’t already done so before). Each scenario consists of a set of locations, a group of monsters, and a villain or some other such final goal. Location decks are composed of boons and banes. Boons are weapons and other gear that help you, while banes are either monsters, traps, or other challenges to overcome. A timer deck is set up, forcing players to move quickly. Players choose a starting location, then the game begins.
On your turn, you can explore a location by drawing a card from the appropriate deck. Boons and banes are obtained or defeated by a skill check target system. Each character has a set of attributes, each tied to a particular type of die. A strong character might roll a d12 for that skill, while a weaker one might be stuck with a d4. By playing cards, you can effect the total roll by adding a set number to the roll, adding another die, etc. You might come upon a goblin, which requires a combat score of 8. A character might be able to roll a d6 for combat, add an offensive spell for an extra d10, use a henchmen to add 3 to the total, or all of the above. If the total is above 8, the goblin is defeated. Fallen foes go back in the box, while boons, if earned by a successful skill check, do into the player’s discard pile, typically to be used in the next session.
As is typical for the fantasy genre, cooperation and teamwork elements are very strong in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Meeting the different challenges is a very complex puzzle. Working together to figure out the best locations for each character to explore, whether or not to work in individual locations or to pair up, and many other decisions all require planning. Players can play blessings upon each other to assist in meeting skill checks. Perhaps the greatest cooperative aspect comes after the scenario is completed. Players can trade cards with one another and add these new cards to their decks. So if the sorceress finds a magical axe, she can trade it to the fighter for that nifty spell he can’t really use. Sharing resources like this is one of the hallmarks of co-op.
The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is a very impressive package. The genius of a slow-growing deckbuilder, and the appeal of the heavily thematic fantasy setting, make a compelling experience. More adventure paths will be released regularly, keeping the action fresh and adding more nifty cards for players to go questing for. If you enjoy deckbuilding games, or are a fan of Paizo’s flagship RPG, give Pathfinder a serious look.