Game Buzz – Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords

I’m not a role player.  I’m in the middle of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign (though it’s been stagnant for a few months), and played a couple of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire sessions, but that’s about it for my experience.  I’ve heard about Pathfinder, but don’t know much about it.  So, when this game became a hit at GenCon, I thought I’d take a look at

image by BGG user D6Frog
image by BGG user D6Frog

Rise of the Runelords is the first Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.  It was designed by Mike Selinker, and published by Paizo Publishing (who published Pathfinder).  This game is for 1-4 players and takes an hour and a half to play.  Rise of the Runelords is a cooperative card game set in the Pathfinder universe.  The idea is that you’re working together to defeat a villain, and there are a number of included scenarios.  Early buzz seems pretty good, so I’m taking a look at it.

The game comes with around 500 cards, as well as 5 dice (one d4, one d6, one d8, one d10, and one d12).  This includes the characters, scenarios, all the stuff.  The idea of the game is that there are going to be bimonthly Adventure packs to buy, all of which continue the adventure – the first one is included.  The insert is designed to hold all of your cards in specific places, which is nice – there’s even a map of the tray in the rules so you know where everything is.

At the start of the game, you’ll choose a character (there are seven), and build their deck accordingly.  The character card tells you how many of which card you need in your starting deck, and you can choose your own stuff.  There are also suggested sets for your first game.  You’ll then decide if you’re going to play a single scenario, an entire adventure (a series of linked scenarios), or a whole adventure path (a series of linked adventures).  Whichever way you choose, you’ll be laying out some cards that give you set up instructions.  The scenario card will identify a number of locations to lay out, and you’ll be building location decks based on those.  The scenario card will also identify villains and henchmen.  These will be shuffled together, and one will be shuffled into each location deck.  A blessings deck will be created from 30 random cards.  Everyone will choose a starting location, and draw up to your hand size from your deck (indicated on your character card).

On a turn, you follow several steps in the following order (not all are mandatory):

  • Advance the Blessings deck (mandatory): Flip the top card of the Blessings deck and follow the instructions.  If there are no more Blessings, the party loses.
  • Give a card (optional): If another player is in your location, you can give them a card.
  • Move (optional): You move to another location, triggering any effects that result from leaving or entering.
  • Explore (optional): Flip over the top card of your current location deck.  If it’s a boon, you may attempt to acquire it by performing checks (roll dice, play cards).  If it’s a bane, you must try to defeat it (checks again).  Failed attempts on boons means they’re out (banished); failed attempts on banes means they get shuffled back into the location deck.
  • Close a Location (optional): If you’re in a location that has no more cards, you may attempt to close it.  Locations often have a closing requirement that you must fulfill.  Closed locations can still be moved to and explored by characters, but the villain can’t go there.
  • Reset your hand (mandatory): Discard any number of cards, then draw back up to your hand size.  If you have too many cards, you’ll have to discard down.
  • End (mandatory): Play passes to the left.

As the game progresses, your character will develop and you may gain certain feats.  These will be marked on your character card, and you’ll be able to use them in future scenarios/adventures.  Your character can also die if you ever need to draw cards and cannot.  If all characters die, you lose.

As the game progresses, you will encounter Henchmen and the Villain.  When the Henchman or Villain for the location deck is defeated, you immediately close the location.  If you defeat the Villain, he’ll escape if there are any open locations left (you need to corner him).  You’ll then shuffle the Villain and a number of random blessings equal to the number of open locations minus one, and shuffle one into each of the open locations.  If the Villain can’t escape, you win.

This isn’t the first time a popular roleplaying franchise has made a foray into another form of tabletop gaming – D&D has done several successful board games, including Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizzt, and Lords of Waterdeep.  However, I’m impressed that Paizo has gone in a different direction by building what looks like more of a roleplaying experience in a card game.  There’s character creation with some deck building aspects, the ability to level up and permanently change your character, and different scenarios to keep things different.  It seems very detailed, and it looks like they’re putting a lot of effort into what is essentially a living card game – I can see people getting sucked into this model to keep up with the adventures.

This looks like quite the sandbox to play around in, and I think it looks like it will be a lot of fun.  It looks like a lot of detail and care went into it, and I think Paizo is going to have a really good crossover hit with the game.  I’m hoping to play it sometime – should be good.  Thanks for reading!

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