Monday, October 27, 2014

8 reasons I love the Pathfinder Card Game

I'm always thinking about new ways to improve my blog and make it interesting to more people. I'm currently in a phase where I play a lot of Pathfinder, but I also play (or want to play) a number of other games, too. One of those games is the Pathfinder Card Game. I love it, it's excellent, and I'm going to tell you why.

I might occasionally also post some design articles about D&D 5E or Star Wars (Fantasy Flight Games). My main focus is still Pathfinder, though.

In my next update I'll go back to analyzing monster stat blocks!
  1. XP system feels rewarding: Your character usually gets new stuff in each scenario, whether new gear or new feats. Many other cards games "reset" after each game, but this one has continuity, much like RPGs.
  2. Loot system makes loot drops meaningful: In PF RPG, nearly all loot is sold and 90% of the gear the PCs actually use is something they hand-picked from the srd or books. In other words, it doesn't matter what kind of loot you find because most likely it'll be sold. It makes magic items feel less special. In the card game, you have a number of slots for cards you can keep, and you'll have to use what you find, which makes acquiring new cards much more exciting and meaningful.
  3. Easy to learn, but involves surprisingly tough decisions: The learning curve is much smoother than in the RPG. Still, the game has a surprising amount of depth. Each time you choose which cards go into your deck or which feat to take, you need to consider whether it's more important to improve your attacks, your best skills, or pick something that makes up for the lack of some skills in your character (or party). In other words, the game rewards deck building and optimization skills, but isn't inaccessible to newbies.
  4. Quick to play: It only takes 45-90 minutes to play a scenario.
  5. Interesting resource management mechanics: You can "recharge" a lot of cards, which means they go to the bottom of your deck instead of the discard pile. You know the card will be available later. It's a nice compromise between at-will abilities ("display" in PF Card Game) and once-per-session and one-shot abilities ("discard" / "bury" and "banish", respectively). There's also an interesting distinction between "discard" and "bury": you can bring a discarded card back into play with healing magic, but a buried card stays buried until the end of the scenario. Banishing a card represents the most permanent loss of a card: it goes back into the box and the only way to get it back is to find it again. In summary, there's a lot of granularity in how temporarily or permanently you lose a card when you use it. Which makes for interesting decisions both when building your deck and when actually using the cards.
  6. Teamwork and strategy: Unless you're playing solo, some of the tougher scenarios require coordinated efforts to beat. You have to think where you want to fight the villain (some location cards introduce additional complications), so that it's possible to close all the locations. Some locations are easier for some characters to close, but may be difficult or impossible for others.
  7. Each character plays differently: This greatly increases replay value. For example, Harsk the dwarf ranger uses ranged weapons, and has a pretty balanced inventory of blessings, items, allies, and other cards. Ezren the human wizard, on the other hand, has no blessings (an atheist???) and mostly relies on spells to beat challenges. Spells are either discarded or recharged after use, which means each round his hand will look different, while Harsk generally gets to keep the weapons he uses.
  8. Perfect gateway drug: Pretty much everyone who tries it, loves it. If you want to lure a spouse or good friend into playing RPGs, the card game might be the perfect gateway drug. Soon after they start playing, they'll want a character sheet of their own, then a set of dice of their own. Then maybe you can replace the token cards with appropriate miniatures...
While I mostly love everything about the game, I have some criticisms, too.
  • Each adventure is only 5 scenarios long, which isn't much compared to the cost of each adventure. Thankfully, there's a lot of replay value.
  • Each adventure increases the number of cards in your box a lot. It'll become more difficult to find the right henchman or location, and there are actually many cards that are never or rarely used.
  • In summary, I think that with some optimization, it would have been possible to get more out of the cards with less bloat to the deck and price tag.

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