Tabletop Review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords: Spires of Xin-Shalast Adventure Deck

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords: Spires of Xin-Shalast Adventure Deck
Publisher: Paizo
Cost: $19.99 ($17.50 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 01/15/2014
Get it Here: Amazon.com

Well here we are with the sixth and final deck for the first Pathfinder Adventure Card GameRise of the Runelords. Sure the game’s rules have been a bit spotty and the quality of the decks have greatly varied from release to release, but the game has been fun overall and with each passing deck you can almost feel the quality control getting tighter. So even as we bid farewell to Rise of the Runelords, I have to admit I’m looking forward to Skull and Shackles, the next Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. We’ll be looking at that game soon enough, but for now, it’s time to delve into the final Rise of the Runelords deck.

Spires of Xin-Shalast comes with five scenarios. Only two of the five give your character a feat gain for completing. The other three give you items or loot. The final scenario, “Into the Eye” gives you three magic items at the end, which is a bit odd as they are powerful, but you’ll never get to use them because hey, it’s the end of the game and there’s no way to create your own adventures for this thing. Completing all five scenarios earns you a card feat, which is odd for the same reason. Speaking of the scenarios, each one is pretty unique compared to what has come before. “Cabin in the Snow” adds the sub-objective of banishing haunts. Doing so can also decrease the DC of the boss in this scenario. “The Road Through Xin-Shalast” has a continuously active boss through the entire scenario. “Scaling Mhar Massif” involves duplicates of a single location and with each one you close, the others become all the harder. “Assault on the Pinnacle” gets you a boon for each bane you defeat placed under the scenario card. When you complete the Scenario you get all those treasures so expect a huge windfall for this penultimate piece! Finally you have “Into the Eye.” Here there is only one location, which has no monsters or barriers save the boss and henchmen. The only way to close the location is to get rid of every card. With only one location and very few creatures, the deck would seem pretty easy…at least until you see the encounters. Ouch.

There are four new locations in this deck. The Death Zone is pretty unforgiving. The deck is pretty much just monsters and barriers and to close it you need a Wisdom or Survival 10 check. The Heptaric Locus is a nice mix but it also increases the difficulty of defeating any banes encountered by 5. There are three monsters in the deck sans Henchmen so be ready for them. The Leng Device is not just all monsters but it slowly counts down until a Lovecraftian terror is summoned. You…do not want to fight that. Runewell is pretty nice. It’s all weapons, spells, armor, items and blessing and you can close it at any time. The catch is that at the start of your turn, if you are at this location, you have to bury a card of your choice. Risk and reward people!

Now let’s take a look at those villains. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but let’s just say the LOWEST DC to defeat a villain in this deck is 29 and the highest is 40. Every defeat check is a COMBAT one too and many of these guys have spell resistance. Have fun! The Wendigo is immune to cold but weak to fire and it can run away after each encounter until defeated. Ghlorofax is active in his entire scenario and will be whittling away your deck with electrical damage. The Thing From Beyond Timeis just nasty, doing damage AND destroying the Blessings deck. It’s also got immunities. Most High Ceoptra requires two combat checks to defeat and caused cards to be buried instead of discarded. You also can’t reduce damage done by her. Karzoug the Claimer…is just nasty. He does damage before and after you roll can prevent you from using attack magic, and you’re going to want a high Constitution or Fortitude or you will be whittled down by fire and/or poison damage. He’s Geese Howard level cruel.

Like with any deck, the Henchmen make up the bulk of the cards and Spires of Xin-Shalast is no exception. There are eight different kinds, with five of them being unique. You get Cannibal Haunts…which gives no way for you to defeat them. From reading the card it appears they just stick around until the scenario ends. However on the scenario card that uses them, it talks about the reward you get for banishing haunts. Par for the course with this game and mechanics/rules really. There are eight Wardens of Runes which are immune to electricity and cold, while also doing damage to all characters at its location. Leng Spiders requires two checks to defeat, one combat and one Charisma/Diplomacy, which was unexpected. These are perhaps my favorite henchmen in the entire game for how unusual their mechanics are. The first unique henchman is Silas Vekker, who is actually pretty easy as long as you are good as Wisdom checks. He sure likes poison damage though. Khalib is a human transmuter who will do force and fire damage before your attempt to defeat him. Thankfully he’s only got a 20 DC. Karivek Vekker offers two different DCs, one Combat and one Divine, both requiring a 21 or higher. He is immune to cold, mental and poison traits and must be defeated by a Magic based attack. Have fun with him in the solo games! Viorian Dekanti is just a generic henchperson. She’s straightforward as all get out. Finally we the Enslaved Blue Dragon which you will encounter a lot in the last scenario. It does regular electric damage, so hopefully you have protection.

New monsters might be the highlight of this deck. There are eleven new kinds and sixteen total cards. Let’s run through them alphabetically. You have two Abominable Snowman. I love the art. Obviously, don’t use cold attacks, use fire here. You get a Frost Worm who is a harder version of the Snowman and does cold damage when defeated. The Gamigin looks a lot like a Thri-Kreen. It’s immune to fire, cold and poison and it’s hard to use attack magic on it. Hidden Beast reminds me of a shoggoth. High Wisdom and/or Perception makes this thing much easier to defeat. Magic is not advised and it is immune to cold and poison. It also has a nasty ability before combat where you have to save or bury 1d4 cards from your discard pile. Horror Tree looks like a Dark Young to me art-wise and it’s an undead treant. Fire is your friend here. The Hungerer is pretty creepy art wise, but is a pretty generic monster save for acid and poison immunities. You have two Scarlet Walkers which are susceptible to electricity. It’s immune to acid, cold and poison and has some magic resistance. Easy to defeat with pure combat checks though. The Shemhazian Demon is a straightforward creature and continues the theme of resistances to magic and the electricity and poison immunities. If you haven’t figured it out by yet, FIRE is really good in this deck. Our final three monsters have two cards each. Skulking Vampire requires both a good combat check and a character with high Wisdom and/or Perception. Otherwise that DC is going to go up…The Warden of Thunder is an electric based warrior who does regular electric damage to all characters at the location. The Warden of Wind is a weaker version without any immunities or consistent damage dealing. it does however, do damage to everyone in its location.

We have five new barriers in this deck. The two uniques are Stampeding Aurochs and Corroded Lock. The Aurochs deal combat damage if the check is failed. Corroded Lock offers two different DCs. A low one for Dexterity or Disable and a high one for combat. Occluding Field is a CON/FOR based DC and it can be evaded automatically by anyone with an item bearing the Sihedron trait. Icy Ledge offers four ways to perform a DC check, all with relatively low scores for this deck. Avalanche is pretty much the same thing except it does cold damage to all characters in the location when defeated. If undefeated, characters can’t move away. Neat!

We have five new spells (Two of each) in this deck. Two are mind control based in Bewilder and Dominate. Bewilder lets you evade a monster and immediate explore again. Dominate is similar but instead of exploring, you search the location deck for a boon and add it to your hand. Both can be quite useful in the latter stages of this game! Invoke lets you bury it to add 1d6 discarded blessings cards back into the blessing deck. Corrosive Storm is the first of two attack spells in the deck. It adds 2d6 damage in acid to a combat check but all characters take 1 point of acid damage once it is done. This might have been better a few decks ago when trolls were plentiful. Sign of Wrath is pretty awesome though. 3d8 Force damage added to your arcane or divine check! Of course, each PC in your location taking 1 force damage is not so great. I was really hoping for much better spells in this deck, but it is what it is.

There are five new allies and eight cards total. Three of these are the Mountaineer. It can add 2d8 to a Survival check or reduce damage by 3. Ayruzi is an angel and it can add a single die to a check, let you explore your location, add two dice to a divine check or reduce damage by 4. We found Ayruzi plus Sign of Wrath to be a good combo for beating a lot of bosses in this deck. Just a head’s up. Gyulal is a giant oni ally. It is not only helpful for defeating banes and exploring, but once used it goes back into a random location deck so you can find it again and again. Morgiv gives you bottom deck control and Svevenka can be banished to either add some of your discard pile back into your deck or let you explore your location AND adds 2 to combat checks.

We have only a single blessing in this deck, but there are five copies, each of five has a very low DC (5 or 8). You can use it for top deck control plus exploration or to add a single die to any check. Not much to talk about here.

Now it’s time for items! We have four new weapons and there two of each card in the deck. The Flaming Icy Axe +1 has a paradoxical name, but it is able to add fire or cold traits to your checks when discarded. The Shock Greatsword+2 gives you STR or Melee + 2d6+2 or, if discarded, you can an additional STR die to the roll which gets the Electricity trait. Not bad. The ranged items aren’t as good as the melee ones though. The Returning Frost Spear +2only gives you 1d8+2 to your DEX or Ranged roll but you can recharge it for an addition 2d6 with cold. No discarding, burying or banishing here! The Force Sling +3gives you an additional 1D6+3 when revealed AND an additional 4d4 with Force when discarded. That seems like a lot, but even if you make perfect rolls, it’s not enough to take down any of the bosses in this deck, so make sure you have a d12 Dex or Ranged to really make this work.

We have four new items, and two cards of each except for the Ring of Energy Resistance, which is unique. This ring reduces Acid, Cold, Electricity and Fire damage by 4 when revealed. Not too shabby. The Shedron Right reduces damage by 2 when revealed and you can play another item. The Belt of Physical Might adds 2 to your STR, DEX or CON check when revealed and you can play another item. This has been a long time coming. Finally, the Boots of Teleportation let you move anywhere at anytime with an automatic success. All you have to do is recharge them. The only stipulation is that you can’t use the card during an encounter.

Out of the four pieces of armor in this deck, two are unique and two come with a duplicate. The first unique is Greater Bolstering Armor. It’s a light armor that reduces damage by 2 when recharged in addition to letting you draw up to three cards. You can also banish the armor to reduce your damage to 0. The Entropy Shield is the other unique piece. Bury the card to defeat any barrier with the Lock trait or reveal it to reduce damage by 2. Pretty handy. The Fortress Shield also lets you reduce damage by 2 when recharged, but you can also reduce it to 0 by burying it if you are not proficient in light armor. If you are, you just discard it. Lastly, we have Adamantine Plate Armor, which is interesting. If you reveal it, damage is reduced by 1. If you recharge it, damage is reduced by 3. If you banish it, damage is reduced to 0. For those characters proficient in heavy armor, you can discard instead of banish.

The last four cards we have to look at are the Loot cards. The only one you’ll actually ever be able to use is the Chellan, Sword of Greed card as you get it in the penultimate adventure. When you reveal it, you get +5 to your STR or Melee check. If you discard it, you get an additional 2d6. That’s not especially powerful. However, you can choose to reveal it to attempt a INT or CHA check with a DC of 10. If you succeed, you get 1d6+1 cards from your discard pile shuffled back into your deck. If you fail the card gets banished. Not bad. The Shedron Tome lets you add random spells from the box into your hand. The Robes of Xin-Shalast gives bonuses to Arcande or Divine checks and aslo lets you shuffle two cards into your deck instead of discarding them for combat damage. You can also use it to discard an item and then search your deck for any item you want. Nice! Too bad you only get it with the final adventure in the game. The last piece of Loot is Karzoug’s Burning Glaive.you get to add 1d10+2 to your combat check with it and an additional 1d6+8 when it is revealed. That’s not bad. Not great, but not bad.

…and that my readers, is the final Rise of the Runelords deck. There’s a nice mix of cards here and the overall deck is better than some previous ones but like most releases for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, it could have used a bit of QA/QC before being released. Still, it’s a good end to the game and if you’ve made it this far, you’ll more than likely be pleased with this final release. If you haven’t picked up Rise of the Runelords, I suggest just waiting for Skulls and Shackles. it looks to be more interesting overall and they should have the kinks out with that version’s mechanics and rules.

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