Tabletop Review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords: The Hook Mountain Massacre Adventure Deck

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords: The Hook Mountain Massacre Adventure Deck
Publisher: Paizo
Cost: $19.99 ($17.41 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 12/20/2013
Get it Here: Amazon.com

Since the release of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game just four months ago, we’ve seen the base set and now three expansions released. The first expansion, which added four more playable characters to the game was interesting, but very overpriced for something that should have been in the base set to begin with. The second add-on was the first new set of adventures, and I really enjoyed the new content even if like most Paizo products, it was way overpriced for what you got. This new set, The Hook Mountain Massacre deck is pretty much the same thing. You get a bunch of new cards, but you have to have played the previous two sets of adventures for your characters to be strong enough to play these and once you’ve played them, there is no real replay value, meaning this is an expensive one shot that won’t be replayed unless you start the game over from the beginning. Obviously this means you don’t want to get this until you’ve played through the core box set and The Skinsaw Murders. In fact, you can’t, so if you don’t have BOTH of those in your collection already, you should hold off on buying this until you do – otherwise you’ve just wasted money on a bunch of cards you can’t use. For those that do have characters who have been sitting idle for a few weeks after the conclusion of The Skinsaw Murders, here’s your chance for either some more character advancement or a grisly death at the hand of necromantic ogres. Fun! Let’s take a look at what awaits you in this deck.

Like all the adventure decks, The Hook Mountain Massacre gives you five new adventures to play. They’re meant to be played in order, and only by characters that have progressed this far so again, bringing a new character to these adventures probably spells a quick death. There are only four new locations in this deck, all of which are pretty light on monsters. This deck seems pretty Ally heavy and you’ll notice that in the new locations. Four new locations does seem pretty light though. Of course with new adventures comes new Villain (boss) cards. These are all noticeably more powerful than bosses in previous sets, with Black Maggia and Barl Breakbones being insanely powerful. I’m a little scared to see the win requirements for the bosses in the next two sets. Again, make sure you have a well experienced character with a lot of new abilities and magic items if you want to beat these guys. You’ll see a lot of Villains, Giants and Ogres in the boss cards so perhaps knowing this in advance will help you tailor your character to what is coming. I generally play the Dwarf Ranger so I was surprisingly ahead of the game for these adventures.

There are eight new Monsters cards and six new Monster types. Only the Ogrekin and Ogre have a double here. The Ogrekin is especially nasty. The other new monsters include a Skull Ripper (Giant Scorpion), Myriana (Ghost Nymph), Muck Graul (Plant Muck?), A Hag, a Grazuul (Aquatic Troll) and Donkey Rats. These new monsters are all pretty powerful and will need a check of 14-16 to beat them (except the rats), which is fairly tough to do depending on the character and requirement. Besides the monsters there are thirty-one new Henchmen, making this, as usual, the largest part of a new deck. Considering Henchmen are only used in a single specific quest, this does seem a tad excessive, especially when you realize there are eleven different types spread out across five adventures. As usual, this is an area where the game probably could have used a single Henchmen type per adventure, giving up room for more monsters and items. The Henchmen aren’t very tough compared to the new Monsters and Villains in this deck, but watch out for the Lamia Lucrecia (My Reflection?) as she’s going to be a handful with her auto-damage ability coupled with any damage she does causes random cards from your discard pile to be buried. Lamatar Bayden is also a toughie. The other Henchmen in this deck should be steamrolled over by an advanced party. The last bit of the antagonist side of this deck are the Barrier cards. We have six cards with four new types. The Hand Chopper and Door Spikes are the cards that get doubled up. Door Spikes are Nasty while Hand Chopper also has some nice reward potential if you can get past it. Ranger Stash and Cryptic Message are the other new Barriers and they also have some nice rewards if you pass them. For once, barriers may be more help than hindrance, which is a surprising turn.

Now for the positive cards. Let’s start with the Blessings. There are five new Blessings, each of which are the Blessing of Norgorber. A terrible name to be sure, but the card offers some nice benefits in regards to rolling checks, especially acquiring boons. We also have eight new spells cards – two each for four spells. Swipe helps lower a combat check requirements, Scrying gives you minor control over the order cards come up in a chosen location deck. Major Cure brings another much needed healing spell to the deck, although it’s far less powerful than the name implies. It’s roughly the same as the potion of healing from the core deck. Meh. Finally we have Incendiary Cloud, which gives the class an extra 2d4 in Fire to a Combat Check. NICE.

We have ten new Ally cards and seven different types. Druids get a boost with three new animal Allies: a Giant Badger, a Monkey and two copies of the Cat card. Giant Badger gives you a free move, Monkey gives you an automatic succeed with a weapon or item check and cat adds 2 to your attempts at any magic recharge check. Not bad. The other four new allies are Yap the Pixie, Vale Termos, Jakardros Sovark and three copies of the Black Arrow Ranger. The Black Arrow Ranger is pretty nice as it is versatile with check bonuses, Vale and Sovark are the same card text wise except Vale helps you in your checks and Sovark helps with another player’s check (Meaning Sovark is worthless is a single player format). Vale is great when used against Giants BTW. Yap the Pixie is kind of crap as it just helps you avoid a combat situation. There are plenty of cards that already let you do that.

img002Now for all the items! We have three pieces of Loot. The Headband of Vast Intelligence gives you +1 to Int checks (ho hum), The Shedron Medallion lets you discard it to prevent up to four damage, which is okay, but not great. The Wand of Enervation lowers a combat check by either 2d4 or 1d4+4 if you have the Arcane skill. That’s pretty handy. We also have four new Weapons (2 of each card). The Frost Longbow+1 is pretty impressive letting you stack up to three rolls together for a check. Rangers will love this. Longsword +2 has a similar effect but with old the Cold attribute. Viscous Trident is also similar except the die rolls are bigger and you have to take one point of force damage (that cannot be reduced in anyway) each time you use it. Ouch. Finally, the Venomous Dagger doesn’t do a lot of damage on its own, but if you recharge it, you can add 1d12 with the poison trait to your combat check. This is pretty awesome, especially for characters with a low attack die like the Druid. We only have five new Armor cards with two each towards Magic Full Plate and Magic Studded Leather, and a single card entitled Spiny Shield. The armours are the usual “rechange to prevent damage” stuff we see all the time but the Spiny Shield is something new. You can use it to prevent damage or you can discard it to add 1d4 AND both the ranged and magic traits to a combat check. Nice. Finally we have the new magic Items. There are four of them, each of which has two cards. The Headband of Alluring Charisma just adds 1 to your Charisma checks, which is weak. The Belt of Incredible Dexterity is the same but well…for Dex checks. The Belt of Giant Strength gives you that measly +1 to STR checks. It seems like really weak Items all around this deck but then there is the Wand of Scorching Ray. Discard it to roll 4dd and add both the fire and ranged traits to a combat check. Holy crap, that’s awesome and a pretty good boss killer.

All in all, the Hook Mountain Massacre deck looks pretty good and should give you and your friends another half dozen hours with the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Of course, with a price tag of twenty bucks, it’s too expensive for what you get here. Wait until you see it for ten-fifteen dollars. That’s a more appropriate cost, especially when you can’t play this until you’ve already experienced the previous ten adventures. If you have everything for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game already and you’re a bit antsy to continue playing, you’re probably going to be willing to pay the inflated price Paizo asks, simply out of love for the game. Just remember this experience is giant and ogre heavy. Plan accordingly and your characters should make it on to the next set of adventures!

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