Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Character Add-On Deck
Publisher: Paizo Publishing
Cost: $19.99 (currently $17.99 on Amazon)
Release Date: 09/06/2013
Get it Here: Amazon.com
A few days ago I reviewed the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Base Set and basically I found the game to be a lot of fun but overpriced and with little replay value. You can essentially sum up my review of the Character Add-On Deck the same way. Sure it gives you four new playable characters and increases the max player count from four to six, but what’s here just doesn’t justify the twenty dollar price tag. I picked it up on Amazon for $15, and that’s the most I’d recommend getting this add-on pack for. Anything else is just too much for what you get in this set.
Much of the Character Add-On Deck comes down to repeat cards you an already get in the Base Set. A lot of the same monsters, henchmen, barriers, spells, and more. This is mainly because the goal is to bump up the game to a six player experience, but honestly, all of this should have been in the Base Set to begin with. I think Paizo just got greedy and that’s why they separated this content pack out from the Base Set. How else can you explain having the tabletop equivalent of Day One DLC. Ick.
That’s not to say that the set doesn’t sport a few new cards. Most of the new stuff comes in the forms of loot like three magical weapons, some magic armour and a single magic shield, and a few new magic items. The big increase are the animal familiars like the dog, snake, and saber toothed tiger. Of course the latter should have been in the Base Set to begin with because it has the Ranger and they have animal familiars too. Overall, there isn’t a lot in the way of new cards and it’s odd that the new ones are the most powerful magic items in the game so far, but again, this is mainly to act as a quick cash grab and to entice Pathfinder fans to pick up a twenty dollar ad-on pack that should have been in the Base Set to begin with.
What is completely new are the four add-on classes for you to play on. You are getting a Paladin, a Monk, a Druid and a Barbarian. I’m kind of surprised the Paladin was in the add-on pack and not the Bard, but hey. Each of these characters has their own unique stat blocks and playing as one of these really does feel different than the classes you get in the Base Set, but the more time I spend with these add-ons, the more I feel they are weaker than the ones you get in the Base Set, especially when you look at the Prestige Classes. Let’s look at each of the four characters now.
/>First up is Seelah the human female Paladin. Her character deck is quite odd as you’ll notice she has no Items and never can. This is a very strange choice as a) items are the most common thing in the game b) the most common reward for adventure completing and c) pretty damn important for getting through the game. Instead her build is three weapons, one spell, three armor, two ally and six blessings. This is fine, but the lack of items is a huge handicap. At least she can hand them over to other players. Seelah’s stat block is good with a d8 for STR , CON and WIS. Conversely she has a d4 for DEX and not surprisingly because of her class, a big d10 for CHA. Unfortunately, you don’t really use CHA in the card game, so this is a bit of a waste. Maybe down the line? Seelah’s hand size is small, only four and it can only increase to five. I like this as it keeps her alive longer actually. She can use any armor or weapon, which is nice, but the big draw is her powers. Seelah can check the top card of a location deck like the Ranger but she can do it at the start, or if upgraded, at the end of her turn. I really like her other power where she can discard the top card of her deck to give her an addition 1d6 to a check. If it’s a Blessing though, the card gets recycled instead of discarded, keeping her health high. With over a third of Seelah’s deck being Blessings, this can go a long way. As you upgrade Seelah you can let Spells be recycled too, and I heartily endorse this as the way to go. Make that her first power feat and give her more spells and blessings as her card feats.
Seelah’s two options for her prestige class are Crusader and Hospitaler. They’re pretty similar. Hospitaler can have a larger max hand size, but with how Seelah plays, the smaller the hand, the better. Both get the same enhancements to the exchanging the top card of her deck for an extra die and enhanced examination powers. Both also get to recharge or shuffling a specific Blessing instead of recycling it. The core difference is that a Crusader reduces any damage taken by an ally in the same location by 1, where the Hospitaler can discard a divine card to shuffle 1d4+1 cards from a chosen player’s discard pile into their deck. My feeling is Crusader is the better choice as the Hospitaler can’t use her special ability on herself and it means you slowly kill yourself to keep others alive. Plus the Crusader’s ability always works while the Hospitaler needs a Divine card to make hers work. Go Crusader all the way.
Next up is Sajan the Monk. This is another interesting build. Sajan’s deck starts off with no weapons, armor or spells. It’s four items, three allies and EIGHT blessings – the most of any character in the latter. It seems a bit excessive until you realize the Monk can use as many blessings on his combat check as he wants and they get recycled instead of discarded. This not only means the Monk is potentially the best at combat in the game, but the fact over half of his deck gets recycled means he probably with survive the longest. It’s worth noting he can eventually upgrade to having a single spell in his character deck, but Sajan never learns the Arcane or Divine trait, which means he can never actually USE a spell. Bad design there.
Sajan’s stats are decent, but not great. He has a d6 in STR, CON, INT and CHA, a d10 in DEX and a d8 in WIS. This means, he’s really going to constantly need those blessings to be effective in combat. The good news is that Sajan uses his DEX for combat as long as he is weaponless and you can upgrade him to having Magic and/or Fire damage from his attacks. Crazy! My choice for upgrades is to add the magic damage as soon as you can for the power feat and add blessings and items for the card feats.
So Sajan is the best of the new characters base class wise, but his prestige classes leave something to be desired. Neither Zen Archer or Drunken monk give you much in the way of making your character better. Both increase your hand size and let you be proficient with weapons, but neither really helps the Monk. Both can reduce combat damage, with the Drunken Master doing slightly more than the Zen Archer. Both also have some useless or painful powers. The Zen Archer lets you draw a card on turns where you start without any cards in your hand – something that is almost guaranteed to never happen. The Drunken Master has a “you must draw a card at the start of your turn” option but why would you take that as forced drawing hurts you and at the end of the game can easily kill you. Bad bad choices. The Zen Archer also offers an easier chance to get ranged weapons…which isn’t that good as the Monk does better without weapons and you can eventually recharge ranged weapons instead of discarding them but again…you’re better off weaponless. The Drunken Master is by far the better choice as you gain a massive bonus to acquiring liquid items (say potions) and you get a chance at recharging potions instead of discarding them, which is not too bad. Again, neither of the prestige classes for the Monk are all that great, but Drunken Master is the better choice.
Our third character is Amiri the Barbarian. Amiri’s starting deck consists of five weapons, two armor, two items, two allies and four blessings. It’s a good mix but she can never learns spells. Her stats are nice if you are combat oriented. A D12 for STR with a +2 Melee bonus means Amiri is crazy good at killing. She also has a d8 for CON, a D6 for DEX, WIS and CHA and a d4 for INT. This means Amiri is really only good at killing, but then only monsters that don’t require magic to perma-kill them and she’s horrible with barriers. Her powers are okay. She can bury a card from her hand to give her an extra 1d10 on any STR, Melee or CON check…but with a D12 for STR and a big melee bonus already, it’s rare she will need to use this ability outside of CON checks. She can also move at the end of her turn which gives her decent placement, but really, Amiri is a one trick pony and lacks the versatility of the other classes.
Amiri’s prestige classes are Berseker and Juggernaut. Both increase hand size and can let you eventually use heavy armor. Both also let a particular blessing give Amiri a d12 to roll instead of her normal die, but as she’ll mainly be rolling combat…she already HAS a d12 for that, making this ability less useful than you might suppose. The only real extra is the Berserker gains a bonus to acquiring weapons and the Juggernaut gets one to armor. The Juggernaut can slightly reduce damage which is nice and really the only highlight of that class. Basically Amiri doesn’t get anything good from her prestige classes. She is pure combat so the Berserker option is slightly better, although if you flub your rolls a lot that reduced damage from the Juggernaut class may be more appealing. The end result with Amiri is that that d12 for combat looks awesome at first glance, but as the game goes on you’ll discover she is quickly surpassed by other classes and brings little to the table.
Finally we have Lini the Druid who was the character I was most interested in seeing out of this set. Her starting deck is an odd one. Lini has no weapons or armor, but she gets six spells, two items, three allies and four blessings. As a Druid has lots of animal friends I thought the ally count would be higher, but the build works as is. This starting deck does mean Lini is best in a supporting role, healing or buffing allies. Going into combat is going to get her killed. At least she can eventually get a single weapon and/or armor in her deck, but I’d definitely focus on building her up defensively first and foremost.
Stat-wise, Lini still seems to be quite handicapped. She has a d10 in WIS, which is good for her spells and a d8 for CHA and CON, but these won’t come into play for her that often. Lini has a d6 for INT and Dex and a horrible d4 for STR. Again, Lini is NOT combat oriented. It’s a good thing her hand is set at five and can’t be increased as this helps keep her alive. Her powers aren’t that great either. She can recharge instead of discard animal allies, but there are so few in the game, even with the add-on deck, that this won’t be very helpful. She can reveal an animal ally to gain 1d4 to any check, which is nice though. Finally, Lini can discard from her hand to roll a 1d10 for a STR or DEX check. Nice, but it means she gives up health to have a better chance at a check. It’s a hard trade off to justify, especially in the latter stages of the game. Basically Lini kind of sucks.
If you can keep Lini alive long enough to get to the prestige classes though, the character changes noticeably. You have a choice between Shapeshifter and Wild Warden. Both increase Lini’s hand size and can let her use light armor or weapons, but those are minor. The Shapeshifter adds the fire trait to the whole “discard a card to roll 1d10” option Lini already had, which is interesting but also minor. The Shapeshifter also increasing your chance to acquire an animal ally and lets you have a d12 when you play a blessing for a wisdom check. Interesting but again minor options. The Wild Warden is where it’s at. Here you can increase Lini’s divine spell bonus to a whopping +4, and add an extra 1d8+magic trait to any animal enemy. These are more useful than the Shapeshifter options, but both do increase Lini’s worth. Unfortunately, they don’t increase her enough to make her a truly strong option out of all the other playable classes.
So basically the Character Add-On Deck gives you one really great character in the Monk, a decent Paladin, a sub-par one trick pony in the Barbarian and a lackluster Druid. So you’re paying twenty bucks for classes you probably wouldn’t have used in the first place and some extra cards, many of which are just duplicates of what you already have. That’s…disappointing to say the least, especially with the inflated price tag attached to this set. It’s nice that the pack increases the max player count to six, but as the Base Set is designed for up to six players and is just missing the extra cards needed to make this happen, it’s pretty transparent that Paizo just got greedy and wanted to separate Pathfinder fans from an extra twenty bucks. Everything in this Character Add-On Deck really should have been in the Base Set, especially for the cost you have to pay for that thing. Instead you’re paying for an underwhelming, overpriced “add-on” pack that has no business being an add-on pack. This is a pretty sleazy move by Paizo and really I can’t recommend picking this up unless you find it for fifteen dollars or less. Ten dollars is really what you SHOULD pay for this at max, but the price will never get that low until the game has run its course and you find it on Ebay a year or two down the road. Honestly, you shouldn’t pay ANYTHING for this pack, but Paizo wants to nickel and dime its fans and more importantly, it knows it can get away with it. More’s the pity.