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Tabletop Review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous Box Set

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous Box Set
Publisher: Paizo
Cost: $59.99 ($47.48 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 05/27/2015
Get it Here: Amazon.com

I was kind of surprised when Amazon asked me to review the third incarnation of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game a month ago. After all, it came out in late May and it arrived in late July. However, they (and Paizo apparently) really wanted me to cover the game for them in the same manner that I covered the original Rise of the Runelords and its expansions. I’ll admit that even though I own all of Rise of the Runelords, I didn’t think the game was good enough to get a second set (Skulls & Shackles, much less a third. It was a fun but heavily flawed game with a really poorly written instruction manual and cards that often time just seemed thrown together to make a set without any flow or cohesion. Worst of all, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game was like many Paizo releases – very overpriced for what you get coupled with a constant nickel and diming of their fan base.

To complete an Adventure Card Game Set you’ll need the box set and the next five deck releases. That’s $120 just to complete the storyline. If you want the extra characters AND the ability to have more than four players take part, that’s an extra $20. Add in the MSRP $60 price tag for the base set and that means to finish any Pathfinder Adventure Card Game set, you are shilling out $200. That’s insane, especially for a card game. Even games with extremely detailed miniatures and large boards don’t cost that much. In truth, Paizo should be including the “Character Add-On Pack” with the core game and the price of the card decks should be $10-15. The MSRP on these are insane and unfortunately, much like the actual tabletop products Paizo releases, this is par for the course. You can generally get better written, better made and cheaper in cost releases from contemporaries. However, Paizo is one of the big two in the tabletop industry and so they can get away with this. It’s disheartening, but at least this games sell poorly enough that you can wait a year and get the base set for $20. That’s what I did with Skull and Shackles. I hate being this negative at the start of a review but for people who are brand new to Pathfinder (or Paizo’s business practices), you should be aware that the price tag attached to the base set is only a fraction of what you’ll actually pay.

Now that this is out of the way, we can spend the rest of the review being positive. Compared to Rise of the Runelords, Wrath of the Righteous is proof that you can learn from your (many) mistakes. Not only is the base set’s rulebook cleaned up and easier for newcomers to follow, but mechanics and card verbiage are tightened up as well. There is also a new mechanic called Redemption where you can removed the Corrupted trait from a card for the rest of, not just the current Scenario you are in, but for the full Adventure Path. That’s really neat and gives you more of a continuity than just your character card getting checked off as you complete Scenarios/Adventures.

Other examples of new options in Wrath of the Righteous include Cohorts which gives some characters an extra card in their starting hand. This is no small bonus as cards are your Hit Points in this game as well as your actions, so anything that gives you an extra one to your deck or hand is nothing to take lightly. Of course the drawback is that if you ever banish your Cohort, it is gone FOREVER. You have to go through the Adventure Path without it. So try not to lose it. The other new concept introduced with Wrath of the Righteous is the Mythic Path. In Rise of the Runelords, as you advanced through the game, you could earn one of two Prestige Classes which would give new powers and bonuses to your character. With Wrath of the Righteous you still have this , but you will also gain access to one of six Mythic Paths. Each of these paths enables you to store up Mythic Charges and expend them in special ways. You get to choose which of the paths you want, so it doesn’t HAVE to match up exactly with your character’s stats, but synergy, min/max’ing is a staple of any version of Pathfinder, so you’ll find it a lot easier to get through the game if you give your Dwarven Ranger say, Mythic Guardian instead of Mythic Archmage.

Other than some new rules and cleaned up mechanics, Wrath of the Righteous plays exactly like Rise of the Runelords. You complete Adventures, which are broken down into scenarios. Each Add-On Pack (including the one in the Base Set) contains one full adventure, which is made of up six scenarios. A scenario will be a play session that last you between fifteen minutes and one hour, depending on the number of players and how much you discuss your actions as a team. The more players you have, the more you have to explore so sometimes less players makes for an easier time and vice versa. It just depends on the characters you pick and the current scenario you are in.

You have seven character options in Wrath of the Righteous and another four in the Add-On Pack. If you have the previous releases you CAN use the characters from those games, but they might not work as well simply because the game is geared for the characters in this set. Still the flexibility is nice. I personally usually go for Harsk the Dwarven Ranger as he is the most balanced in the game, but for Wrath of the Righteous my character was Seelah the Paladin. I figured since Wrath of the Righteous was demon-oriented, a holy warrior who could heal and kick butt was a good option. My wife, who has never played any version of Pathfinder before chose Enora, the Halfing (She kept calling her character a Kender though, being a 1e Dragonlance lady) Arcanist. This was my first time playing a Pathfinder Adventure Card Game with only two players (I have done more and solo play), but I found the game to work really well with just two PCs. Perhaps it is the refined rules or maybe it was the character tandem we chose, but I found Wrath of the Righteous to be a much easier experience in terms of vetting the rules and also going through the game. My wife said she found the game to be “complicated but fun” and something she wouldn’t mind trying again, but she does prefer other card games like Batman Fuxx or the DC Super Heroes Deck Building Games. In terms of RPG style board games she did prefer ones like The Legend of Drizzt and Conquest of Nerath. I should point out both of those games are cheaper than Wrath of the Righteous and offer far more replay value too. That makes me (her?) sound like a D&D shill but those are the RPG style boardgames she prefers.

Setting up the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game takes a long time, regardless of set. You have to sort out all of the cards into types, then get out your scenario card. After that you did through the locations to set up the right spots needed for this scenario. Then you create a deck for each location based on their cards lists. You shuffle each deck of each type, create a location deck and then shuffle that. Then you add in the Big Bad and its henchmen and shuffle once more. Depending on your rolls, setup can take longer than the actual scenario itself. Considering there are only six scenarios to a pack, this means you have a game that takes up a lot of room but doesn’t take long to play. Even worse, because each scenario is meant to be played in a specific order and cannot be replayed when finished (no grinding here!), the replay value on any PACG set is abysmally low. Unless of course you want to count starting the game over from scratch, which is certainly doable, but that’s like replaying a tabletop adventure and that never works out well when you have the exact same people involved. So if a lack of replay and high cost sound like pretty good deterrents to picking up Wrath of the Righteous, you probably shouldn’t.

What is nice though is that unlike previous box sets, you get a full adventure in addition to the first adventure pack in Wrath of the Righteous. That’s another five adventures not connected to the core storyline where you can learn the basics of the game, grind up a bit before moving on to the actual Adventure Path and hopefully improve your deck/stats. Wrath of the Reighteous had this, but you only had two or three extra scenarios while Wrath of the Righteous gives you that full set. That’s a nice bonus and shows Paizo has learned to give customers a little more for their money.

After everything is finally set up, you’re final able to start playing. You and your allied will go through each location deck, with the goal being to “close” out the location. You do that by going through all the cards in the deck or by finding/defeating the Henchmen in the deck. Once you are down to a single location, that means there is only the Boss left. Now you can encounter the boss prior to this, but if you beat them, they run away again and again until there is only the one location deck left, meaning they are at their final stand. As you go through each deck you’ll turn over cards. Some will be cards you can acquire and add to your own collection, like spells, armor, weapons and items. Others will be cards you have to defeat/disable, like traps and monsters. To acquire or fight, there will be a target number on the card. You must achieve this number or higher by rolling a die and adding in any bonuses you get to said roll. The type of die you roll is based on the check you must make and your character. For example, in my games with my wife, my Paladin had a d10 to her Charisma, meaning she was very good at getting Ally cards. My wife’s character could only roll a d8 in Charisma checks. This meant I had a higher rate of success with Charisma based rolls. Meanwhile her character had a d12 Intelligence while mine only had a d4 so obviously we know who is going to be better there… A good way to ensure you will succeed is that your characters complement each other. If all you have are a thief and a fighter, you’ll be good at battles and traps, but if an Arcane check comes up, you’re pretty much dead. The same is true if you take say, a Sorcerer and a Wizard. Strength checks will not be your friend.

As you take damage, you will lose cards from your deck. Once your deck is gone, you are dead. So it’s a matter of keeping your deck replenished while also battling the clock to ensure you find and defeat the boss before the Blessings Deck runs out. The Blessings deck is essentially a timer. If you beat the Scenario, you can see what kind of bonus you get for winning. It might be a permanent power-up to your character or an item. Then you can remake your deck and play another Scenario or call it quits for the day and go through the long clean-up process. Again, there is a VERY good chance that you’ll spend more time setting things up and tearing them down than you actually do playing the game, but at least the game is a lot of fun while you’re in the scenario.

So checks and balances with Wrath of the Righteous. It’s definitely overpriced compared to other options out there, especially when you factor in having to buy a lot of extras to make the game complete. There isn’t a lot of replay value and setting up/tearing down takes a lot of time. At the same time, the game is a lot of fun and the randomness means even if you do start over and replay some scenarios, it will be different each time. The rules are the best they have ever been and it’s a fine alternative to traditional roleplaying games. The same Adventure Path in tabletop form costs a lot more than the card game version and you do need four to six people to play every step of the way with that or your characters will die horribly. The card game version of Wrath of the Righteous is very well balanced (perhaps too easy compared to the first two games) and solo play means you can have fun even if no one else is around. At the end of the day you have to decide if you want to invest the full $200 or not into this game. There are a lot of better options for the price point. Comparing just the base sets, I’d go with the upcoming Warhammer Quest card game from Fantasy Flight over this. As well if you look at the full cost of playing this game from beginning to end, I’d rather go with Cthulhu Wars by Petersen Games which offers far more replayability and some fantastic miniatures for use with the game. If you’re a big Pathfinder fan though, the card game version is far more flexible than the traditional RPG version, costs a lot less and offers the aforementioned solo play. So there are a lot of positives, but also a lot of negatives when you look at Wrath of the Righteous critically. You just have to decide which side outweighs the other when it comes to your specific tastes and needs.

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