Choose your characters, build your decks, and set forth on a great adventure
Android & iOS
# of Players
1 - 4
Pathfinder Adventures is the digital card-based role-playing game from Obsidian Entertainment, which it is currently released under Asmodee Digital’s name. A player forms a party, builds their decks and sets off on an adventure that plays out over a few scenarios, with villians to track down, pitfalls to escape, treasures to be found, and all of the other familiar role-playing tropes. Players win a scenario when they complete its objectives, which usually requires tracking down a primary villain, or lose when they have no characters left carry on or their time runs out. A scenario typically takes about thirty minutes to play.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game took the Pathfinder role-playing game and turned it into a card game which removed the need for a dungeon master, restricted the available actions, and generally streamlined the whole system into something that bared much more resemblance to a modern board game than a traditional role-playing game. Pathfinder Adventures takes the card game a step further by moving it all into the digital world. The game is a freemium model game, it gives players a limited amount of content as a free game download,with a bulk of additional characters and adventures available as in-app purchases. We won’t discuss specifics of characters or adventures much, but assume we are discussing the free, base game unless specifically noted.
When an adventure begins, the player forms their party from the available characters. For each of those characters, you construct a deck out of the available card pool. From there, you start the first scenario by meeting the villain and henchmen you will be up against. They are spread out randomly over a few locations and it is the job of your party to track them down. After sending your party members to various locations, the game truly begins. A turn starts by exploring a location, this occurs by revealing the top card of the location deck. Cards can be categorized as either banes or boons. Banes are cards which are trying to stand in your way one way or another while boons help you. Regardless of the type, most cards will require a “check” which occurs as a dice roll to see if you can defeat the bane or acquire the boon, the type and amount of dice used depend on what character skill you are rolling, with familiar categories like strength, dexterity, wisdom, etc... After the encounter is resolved, one way or another, players draw cards to fill their hand up to five cards. Then, the next character in the party takes their turn at their location. Once the henchman or villain are discovered and defeated at a particular location, that location can be closed by passing another check. A closed location in unavailable for a villain to flee to after being defeated. Once a villain is defeated with no locations to flee to, you have won the scenario. You can lose by either having all of your characters be defeated or by exhausting the turn-counter.
There are a lot of details being glossed over here, but hopefully that is a decent description of the basic game. The strategy is in the cards. At every turn you have the chance to play cards to help your character, frequently by adding die to a check roll, or reducing damage, or allowing for extra exploration, among many other options. The crux of the game is being able to win encounters by giving yourself enough dice plus modifiers to defeat the current card you are facing. There are ways to avoid encounters you can’t win, which play a big role in the game as well. If you win an encounter, new boon cards get added to your deck. This is vital because each character’s deck acts as their life points. When you can’t draw back up to five cards, that character it out of the game. There are also very crucial cards which can allow you to resurrect cards from your discard pile to add to your deck and extend your life.
The game is a race, given enough time and unlimited cards, you could find a way to beat anything you encounter. However, once you lose an encounter to an enemy, you must take damage equal to the amount you lost by, which can be significant if you have a truly awful roll. Taking damage means discarding from your hand, although there are some cards which you can discard to absorb multiple damage points. Take too much damage and your decks will run low quickly and you will lose. If you have the ability to evade an encounter, you can shuffle the current encounter card back into the location deck, but do this too many times to a villain or henchman and you will exhaust the games timer system. This is a set number of turns you get, it is a total among all characters. This number ticks down at the start of a turn for any character. There are quite a few cards in the game which allow you to explore your location again in the same turn, these are vital in avoiding a loss by timeout.
There is a whole other part of this game in the deck construction, party building, card earning portion. If you defeat a check for a boon in a game, you get that card immediately and it is added to your deck pool afterwards. This pool is limited to the cards you have in play and ten extras, so you will have to make difficult cuts. This is how you customize your decks to your hero’s abilities, which is in the form of varying strengths and weaknesses in their abilities. With in-app purchases you can have enough different characters to let yourself run through the same scenarios multiple times with different character sets, each of which having their own strengths and weaknesses.
Pathfinder is a game where you really need to dive in full force to get the most out of it. There is nothing casual about it, you need to fully understand the characters you have in your party and how to customize their decks to really start to appreciate some strategic elements of the game. This isn’t one you will want to drop in on occasionally for a few minutes of fun. You will either get full immersed in the world and stories created by the adventures here, or you will be turned off and have a short stay in the world of Pathfinder.
Barrier to Entry
Pathfinder has a five part tutorial and a text glossary. The glossary covers the basic gameplay elements in some depth and then has an actual glossary for the game terms. The tutorial here is broken into five chapters and is pretty good. It begins with the very basics and holds your hand throughout the first chapter. From there they add in more layers of the gameplay and let you do some of the work on your own. They build up through the chapters to cover all of the gameplay aspects. It does a good job of conveying the rules of playing the game. There might be some minutiae that slips through the cracks, but in general the tutorial does a fine job.
The real depth and learning curve in the game come with building parties and decks. It will take new players a little while to really start understanding the best ways to leverage your characters’ abilities and pair that with a well constructed deck. The tutorials touch on these aspects, but only repeated plays will allow this part of the game ot truly sink in. In short, expect to pick up the gameplay mechanics fairly quickly through the quality tutorial offered by Pathfinder, but also be prepared for a larger learning curve in strategy. Once this aspect starts to sink in, the game really begins to click.
Great looking cut scenes.
The first villain.
Look and Feel
The app looks and controls very well. The game does a great job with the graphics, going beyond simply copying the cards from the base game. The scenarios have nice looking cut scenes with character dialog to setup the story, the map with the locations look great, the animations for gameplay aren’t extensive, but they add a nice touch. As for the controls, everything works how you would want them to. You can click on a card to select an action or simply drag and drop once you get a hang of the game. All and all, there isn’t much to discuss here, the game looks and controls great.
Pathfinder Adventures does not contain an online multiplayer mode. This makes sense with the required coordination between players being so high, it would be a logistical nightmare to pull off. Not impossible, as we’ve seen the co-op card game online game pulled off before, but Pathfinder keeping the same parties over the course of multiple scenarios makes an online multiplayer quite unpractical.
Being a co-op, the game lends itself well to a pass-and-play mode where everybody takes over a character or two. There is not a separate mode for this, but passing a device between friends works fine.
The whole game we've described is what the single player mode consists of, leaving us with not much to discuss in this section. Being a co-op, you are "playing the deck" so varying AI difficulties are not necessary. If you purchase expansions you can gain a ton of replayability by mixing and matching characters to run through the various adventures you will also be purchasing.
There are weekly and daily challenges which usually require you to perform a certain action a set amount of times in order to unlock a coin reward.
Encountering a boon
Jubrayl has been defeated!
Pathfinder Adventures is a freemium model game. The free game comes with two characters and one adventure containing three scenarios. This is enough to get you into the game to see if it is something you would enjoy, or not. I feel it lands on the upper end of freemium games in terms of actual free content provided, the two characters are limiting but defeating the three scenarios will likely keep new players busy for a little while. If you want to continue questing beyond the free content, you are directed to the in-app purchase store. A quick rundown, there are six adventures, 22 characters, one dice bundle, and three bundles/specials available for purchase. You can also purchase coins or treasure chests. Coins can be gained by playing the game and are used to purchase enhancements such as cards, ruins, or charms. One of the bundles packages the six adventures and 11 of the characters together at a discount. The other two bundles have similar content, but are smaller in scope, essentially containing only one adventure each. Note that those six adventures can be purchased at any time, but you must complete the prerequisite adventures before you can actually play the next adventure, so don’t buy them out of order.
All of this is to say that if you like Pathfinder, there is enough content to keep you questing for a long, long time. Like you would hope out of a freemium game, Pathfinder provides enough to let you decide if you will like it enough to dive into the extra content. The downside to this model is usually the price investment, but Pathfinder has reasonably priced content if you get the bundles. The first bundle, which includes a ton of stuff, can be had for $14.99 at the time of this writing. Given the $0.00 price of the base game, $15 for that much content isn’t out of line with what other games offer and the variety and volume of content is high.
The Wrap Up
Pathfinder Adventures is a very well made app of a game which is a very well made distillation of a classic role playing game into a card game. There really isn’t much to pick apart in the app, it is a great looking, polished product. The freemium model might turn some people off, but the pricing here really gives you a lot for your money if you choose to dive into the paid content. The game offers an incredible amount of content if you choose to purchase it, the adventures will keep you busy for months, if not longer. Add in the ability to use different character combinations and the replay value here is nearly endless if you truly love the game. As a port of the game, the app gets the highest marks.
Personally, Pathfinder Adventures missed the mark a bit for me. I’m not a big role-playing fan and I was hoping that a streamlining of the genre would appeal to me. In the end, I found myself enjoying the gameplay but finding the deck construction, party building aspects of the game less enjoyable. I prefer my digital board games to be played in isolation, with a fresh start each time I fire one up. However, it’s easy to see the appeal in Pathfinder. Anybody out there wanting to take on a series of great adventures will certainly find a lot to love in Pathfinder.