Tabletop Review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords: The Skinsaw Murders Adventure Deck

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords: The Skinsaw Murders Adventure Deck
Publisher: Paizo
Cost: $19.99 ($15.40 at Amazon)
Release Date: 10/30/2013 (10/15/2013 for subscribers)
Get it Here: Amazon.com

The Skinsaw Murders is the second add-on for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and the second release for the Rise of the Runelords adventure path. The first pack can be found within the base set purchase, and like that first set, The Skinsaw Murders is based off an actual tabletop adventure for the pen and paper dice hucking version of Pathfinder. You do need that base set in order to play The Skinsaw Murders, as this package merely lets you play another five adventures. You absolutely SHOULD NOT buy this pack first. Buy or play the base set, and if you like the experience, then pick this up. Otherwise you’ve wasted money on something you can’t actually use.

The first add-on to The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game was actually a set of four very overpriced characters and a few new magic items, in addition to a ton of cards you already had in the base set. Add in that the four new characters were… less than optimal compared to the base characters, and I rightfully tore into that set as a cheap cash grab by Paizo, which admittedly does overprice their releases compared to other gaming publishers. As such, I was a little nervous about The Skinsaw Murders. Would it be another overpriced collection of cards we’d be able to use for only a few hours before having to wait another two months before the game could progress? Would it be worth the wait?

Well, the bad news is that the set is still overpriced, with a MSRP of $19.99, especially since you can only play five adventures. However, you can get the set for as low as fifteen dollars, and that evens the experience out to three dollars per adventure, which isn’t horrible, although Paizo really does need to do something about the game’s replay value. Perhaps some rules or mechanics for created randomized adventures? That would help out the game a lot. The good news is that, unlike the character add-on pack, The Skinsaw Murders is worth picking up, as it gives you new locations, monsters, allies, loot, and adventures to experience. If your characters can make it through this set of scenarios, they’ll have earned a power feat, a random armor, a skill feat, a random spell, four magic items (which sucks if you are doing the six character game) and a card feat. The adventures are pretty neat, and there are some very light spoilers regarding the pen and paper version of The Skinsaw Murders, but not enough to make it unplayable if you go the card game route first.

So what do we get in this set? Well, you have the scenario card and five adventure cards. I was surprised that there were only four new locations in the pack, but locations are so specifically tied to adventure cards (one of the things really preventing replay value in this game) that new ones would take up space from more universally useable cards. Still, it would have been nice, especially since the location cards have the nicest art in the game. You have six villain cards, all of which are kind of neat. Three of them are immune to mental and poison damage. One of them is actually not placed into a deck, and actually makes the third adventure a three stage bossfight. Once against this card brought into a deck, and then a two stage fight with the actual boss. In fact, three of the Villains have to be defeated by two straight checks. These big bads are far tougher than those in the base set, so hopefully your characters have grown enough AND acquired some power items to help you get through things. I should also point out that most of the bosses in the game, especially the Skinsaw Man himself, were not balanced for solo play, and it’s going to be all but impossible to get through some unless you have a character who can burn multiple cards at once. The Monk from the Add-On deck is amazing against some of these bosses for example. I would not, however, try solo play with too many other characters here. Ouch.

The largest portion of cards in this deck are henchmen. Most henchmen, like the Charmed Faceless Stalkers, Zombie Minions, Ghoul Scarecrow and Haunts have six of each card, but there are a few unique Henchmen, like Dr. Haube and the Scarecrow Golem. You need up to six of each Henchmen in most cases, since the game can accommodate up to six players, so it makes complete sense that the bulk of the cards are of this variety. You also get four new monster types, with two of each card except for the Ghoul, who has three. It’s also the only really interesting monster. Also, some balance issues appear with these guys. An 11 is needed to kill a diseased rat? That’s more than the unique Wererat henchmen! Somehow that got through playtesting…

We have four new interesting barriers, ranging from a falling bell to two that summon multiple Zombie Minions upon all the players at either a location or Cthulhu forbid… in the game. Ouch. Unfortunately, the multiple attack barriers automatically go through. You can roll to defeat, like with most barriers. Good luck.

There are five new and uninspired magic items in the game. A Heavy Pick +1, a Light Crossbow +1, a Scythe +1, a Sickle +1 and a War Razor +1. Yawn. Meanwhile the three new armors are pretty fantastic. Arrow Catching Studded Leather? Deathbane Shield? Hide Armor of Flame Resistance? All very nice. We also have three new magic items, with the Chime of Unlocking being the best. I can definitely see players clamoring for this one, as it’s basically a get out of a Lock requirement free card. We have three new allies – two unique and three of the Merchant. Brodert Quint is the only quality one, as he lets you look at the bottom three cards in a location deck and then place them in any order. Nice! We have five cards of a new blessing, designed to help remove barriers. The four loot cards you get for finishing the scenario are very nice indeed, with the Impaler of Thorns being a great addition to any combat roll. All in all, not bad.

Finally we come to the spells. There are five new ones, with two of each card. Only one of the spells is divine, meaning Clerics and the like get boned by this set. The spell they get, Consecration, is pretty nice though, as you give up blessings from your hand and discard pile to add to the blessings deck. Basically, your divine spellcaster gives up life to reset the ever counting down hourglass that is the blessings deck. Great for a multiplayer game, terrible for solo play. The four new arcane spells are Haste, Lightning Bolt, Toxic Cloud and Web. Toxic Cloud is not that useful, considering how many things in this set are immune to poison. Web lets you evade a monster with a difficulty rating of 16 or less. Haste actually doesn’t do anything you can’t normally due movement wise, so it’s rather useless. Lightning Bolt is HOLY CRAP AWESOME, as it adds 3d6 + the Electricity trait to an arcane check. Oh my, I wish there were more than two of these in the deck. It just might be the best offensive magic spell in the game so far.

So that’s The Skinsaw Murders deck. I’m far happier with this than the Character Add-On Deck. All the cards in this set are new and have practical uses. Sure, the bulk of the deck are henchmen cards, but that will be true of any adventure deck, due to the nature of how this game is laid out. Yes, the game still suffers from a dramatic lack of replay value, and as the adventures are quite short, you will have long gaps between playing as you wait for the next pack to be released. Again, Paizo really should release official rules for making randomized adventures or giving the game SOME kind of replay value but then again, if they did that, they couldn’t make you feel forced to buy the next pack now, could they?

If you’ve enjoyed the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game so far, than I can definitely recommend buying this set, as you get new adventures and tougher challenges. Definitely pick this up over the Character Add-On Deck, as the final scenario assumes you only have four players (since there are only four pieces of equipment you win for completing it). In spite of the game’s flaws, The Skinsaw Murders Adventure Deck highlights the best aspects of the game and why it can be a lot of fun. Just be prepared to die horribly if you try these missions with solo play. Your character that is, not you.

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