Review: Paizo – Pathfinder Adventure Card Game 2nd Edition & Curse of the Crimson Throne

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game & Curse of the Crimson Throne
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and the Curse of the Crimson Throne expansion are an epic fantasy card game set on Golarion, designed by Mike Selinker and published by Paizo.
By Dave Pierson

Learn more about Pathfinder Adventure Card Game here
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The Homebrew DM’s Perception

In this installment we are taking a little side quest from our friends at Wizards of the Coast to take a look at the updated 2019 Pathfinder Adventure Card Game from our friends at Paizo.

When the original core set was announced and became available in 2013, I was pretty excited for the potential of gathering around the table with the guys and exploring a new method of storytelling through the use of deck building. If you are not familiar with the game, this is a cooperative strategy card game that pits up to 4 heroes against various traps, monsters, and villains as you play through adventure scenarios. Have more than 4 players, not a worry – there is a Character Add-On Deck that expanded the possible number of players up to 6 – which was important for my group, since that is typically the number of players we have. Each player is able to select a character such as the rogue or wizard, each with their own unique skills and proficiencies represented by differing types of dice on their respective character card. The goal was to find and defeat the scenario villain by visiting varying locale decks before running out of turns, represented by flipping over cards from the blessing deck. With each victory came loot varying between items and character boons, which in turn created a more powerful character. Each core set (approximately 500 cards) was followed by a series of 6 expansions that continued the story/adventure on a bi-monthly basis. The key item to keep in mind was the complete game and adventure path was represented in card form, including the adventures and scenarios themselves.

When the first set Rise of the Runelords became available, I quickly plopped down $80* to gobble up the base set ($60*) and the Character Add-On Deck ($20*) so my whole group could begin play and over the next year continued the investment to gather the complete adventure (5 more adventure decks at $16* apiece). I was in for $160. Overall the game play was intriguing. I was able to download version of the character sheets from Paizo’s community site so we wouldn’t mark up the cards with our selections as we adventured. The box itself was nice as there was a spot for each card type and the adventure decks to help stay organized. We certainly didn’t just blow by each scenario, in fact there were a couple that bested us and we had to restart them and apply a different strategy. However, for some of the members of our group, the game just didn’t have the feel they were looking for. It was hard to connect with the characters as they weren’t our own, and it felt like there wasn’t enough options for character development as a few played. Slowly overtime we slowed our play, typically only revisiting about twice a year.

Fast forward and in May of this year, Paizo launched the newly re-designed Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. They have completely redesigned the cards to be more visually appealing and to be more modular based. The new core set ($60*) kicks off a new adventure path as well as a modular core for infinite scenarios that allows you to control the difficulty and speed of play. It also includes 12 cardboard character pawns (instead of cards); dice; cardboard tokens to track objectives and statuses; quick start guide; rulebook; and the adventure path storybook. But watch out, the core set only supports 1-4 players. If you want to expand you playability, then you’ll need to also pick up the first expansion: Curse of the Crimson Throne ($50*). This will provide the additional cards and tokens you need to support up to 6 players, while also providing a new adventure to play through.

With the newly launched redesign it was once again time to set off looking for adventure in the world of Golarion. Once again, character sheets are available on the Paizo community website, a plus for those of us who don’t like to markup cards. We found the overall gameplay itself to be the same – find and defeat the scenario villain by visiting the varying locale decks before running out of turns. However, there were several differences in presentation that made it a little more enjoyable. By moving the play through scenarios away from being cards and placing them in a booklet, it was easier to manage where we were at in gameplay and easier to move on to the next story without complete resetting. Also, replacing the character portrait cards with cardboard tokens made it easier to move PCs around the locations without stacking on top of each other. Essentially shrinking the play field, which was definitely a plus. Finally, the updated core rule book provides clearer directions on gameplay, making it easier to comprehend. We use to spend a lot of time looking up rules and play scenarios to figure out how an interaction would work, only to be left more confused. There still isn’t the variability to fully customize your character, however if that’s what you crave, then I would suggest trying out the many varying TTRPGs that are out there to scratch that itch.

The one change I didn’t care for was that there was no plastic insert to manage the cards, including slots for current characters and their decks that were in use. The 2013 version had slots for the different card types, making it easier to sort and play. I never picked up the other 3 previous adventure sets, so I don’t know if they included the insert as well, however, the 2019 redesign just has 2 cardboard inserts with some foam blocks. Not exactly ideal for keeping your cards straight between sessions. There does appear to be plenty of room to include the expansions, so you only need to carry around one box. However, I’ll more than likely consider making my own balsam word insert for sorting cards.

Overall, I still enjoy playing the game. It’s a good mental break from our ongoing campaigns, but still engage in strategy play. Already looking forward to the next play through!

*The prices indicated throughout are the suggest MSRP at time of purchase

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