On the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Going to be a little bit negative today, but that's been a little bit of a theme in my life lately. I'm sure you can handle the salt. 

Let's talk about the Pathfinder Adventure Card game for a moment.

Do you like the card game war? You know, you and a friend each take half a deck of cards because you are out of whisky and flip them over until someone gets a high number?

What if you could skin the card game war with a pseudo-renaissance fantasy skin, and have one side use dice to get a higher number than the card side? What then? Wait.

Hold everything.

I've got it.

You tell game stores that they can't hold organized play events unless they also devote a night to playing your adventure card game!


Some people are into long linear sequences of combat with the game master as ad hoc computron resolution system. But what if, you know, you could remove the game master?

Well with the Pathfinder adventure card game you can!*
*Sort of!

Technically anyway. You don't need anyone to run the game. You do need someone to stand their and watch the players and write down what they do. Or at least, that was the expectation at Gencon.

Why am I talking about this? A digital version came out, and it's of a place near to my hard cold heart. So I gave it a download.

I'm not really going to give myself any accolades. I did well in school, did exceptionally well on standardized tests. I'm a published writer. I've done computer programming, I can play guitar, I graduated college with a bachelor of Arts in Art. I'm a smart enough man to pay attention to smarter people and see what they are doing. I've been playing games for too many decades.

I spent over an hour playing the tutorial on how to play this game and couldn't figure it out. Then I googled for answers and couldn't figure it out. Finally, after watching a 90 minute introductory video, I understood the basic mechanics enough to play.

Keep in mind, the basic mechanics are the card game war.

I'm sure people who don't like me (of whom their are more than a few) are out their snickering. For them, this is my favorite example of someone providing a helpful tutorial about the game.

Yep. Super basic.

The faq has over 100 questions and and is 18,000 words in length.


I went through all that, played the rise of the runelords basic adventure, and around 40 hours of quest play in the digital game. I'm currently getting level 1 cards, and in another 20-30 hours I can finally reach the level 2 cards in the quest mode. There are 6 levels of cards.

You have an idea, now. Let's talk about specifics.

There is a 30 card deck used as a timer. Each time a character takes a turn, one of these cards is discarded.

There are two 10 card stacks +1 per character. If you run one character you have three sites made of 10 card stacks to explore. Thirty cards. If you have 4 characters, you have six 10 card stacks to explore. Sixty cards. If you have 6 characters, you have eight 10 card stacks to explore. Eighty cards.

You have the same 30 card timer. With six players, after everyone takes one turn, you'll only have 24 cards left on the timer.

Yes, the game varies wildly in difficulty with the number of players. It also matters what class they are, because the optional classes are of course more powerful than the base classes. The sorcerer is clearly superior to the wizard in play.

When you flip a card, there's a difficulty number on it. You roll dice depending on the base stats of your character and what cards you want to spend from hand to "beat" it.

A dagger has a difficulty of 4, and you roll your strength or melee. 1d4 for the wizard, 1d10+2 for the fighter. A bunyip has a difficulty of 9 combat. Roll your combat dice + your weapon or spell to beat the bunyip! Your reward? Your turn is over. If you lose, you have to discard. Once all your cards are gone, you are dead.

War. With dice.

Sites are closed when you beat the mini-boss and then succeed at a roll. If you find the main boss, they will run away if their are any open stacks and they lose. They also reduce your turn count by the remaining number of open stacks.

The game is highly, highly, luck dependent. One could say very random.


See the lines of composition?
The strong curves that lead you back into the art?
Perhaps you're a fan of Wayne Reynolds. Or maybe you really, really, like buckles and pouches. There isn't anything wrong with either of those things. And perhaps it works well for the tabletop version of the card game.

But one thing about the work of Wayne Reynolds is that he's very focused on composition. Each of his artworks have strong lines of motion that move throughout the picture.

Now what happens with a compositionally busy piece of art that is covered with no less than six overlays, with art either by Wayne Reynolds or inspired by his style?

Your game looks like a hot mess is what.


The game just isn't very good. It's not bad. It's a lot like solitaire.

Can you play solitaire with 4 other people? Welllll, yes? You can?

Have you ever played solitaire? Are you counting down the minutes until you can again?

Wait, what if it cost 60$ for just the base solitaire box! And what if you could only really play that game of solitaire six times before needing to buy a new deck for 60$?

It has the same problems as all cooperative games. If the game lacks a random factor, then no one is really taking their own turn. You all work together to find the best move. If the game has a random factor, then success or failure is heavily dependent on luck. You can't win every game of solitaire.

So why did I play so many hours? Well, it's effectively the card game war with a pseudo-renaissance fantasy skin, which, as we already know, is near and dear to my hard, cold, heart. And the digital version only costs 24$, as opposed to the 60$ the boxed set will run you. And it has quest mode, which randomly generates adventures from the available cards.  So if you often find yourself with a lot of time to kill, it is an enjoyable albeit pricey game of solitaire. It tracks your progress, gives you nice shiny things when you win, and you could grind out the in game purchases for free. Also, it automatically takes care of the management of thousands of cards for you, without having to try to fit it all in a box.

My characters are all around level 15 in quest mode. It should only take me another 20 or so hours to get them all up to level 20, at which point I can access the level 2 cards!

I wouldn't hold my breath on that happening anytime in the near future.

Postscript: Xaos, a reader wrote in and asked if I'm ok. Yes. I'm doing fine. Things were and are in fact up, and they did affect my productivity. So did finishing Perdition. I didn't go anywhere. You'll see more of me in the future. I'm lucky to have the readers I do. (Points blatantly at flashing Patreon link). Also: if you're reading this in a feed, the site has been redesigned for the current decade.

Hack & Slash 


  1. I play the tabletop version, and I think you have massively misunderstood it. I'll see if i can't elaborate once I'm in front of a computer.

    1. I understand it well enough, I've played it for around 60 hours. How many hours do you have to play a game before you understand it?

  2. A 90 minute introductory video? A FAQ with 18,000 words? 60 Hours of play with no end in sight or even progress? A person who can't elaborate the game without a computer?

    This just sounds like a terrible game. Thanks for the warning.

    You definitely have far more patience than I do.

  3. If I can't understand a game in 60 hours, I'd submit that it is not a game. At that point it's homework or something.

  4. Hmmm. I played the tabletop version with my gaming group on nights when players dropped out at the last minute and we had lots of fun.

    There might be some disconnected somewhere (or not?). We read the small rules booklet, played for a couple of hours, and leveled up. We did this about 5 times over two months and everybody thought it was good.

    Not saying your wrong, I just don't recognize the experience you had. Would have thought it was a totally different game if it wasn't for the name and picture.

  5. I played the tabletop version. Fantastically complicated, unrewarding and frustrating. I read talk about how story emerges from the way the cards can move around. Bullshit. Understanding the rules was like home work, not fun or clever.

  6. Glad to hear from you again! And I like the site redesign, though strongly miss the sidebars for going through posts by month and year, as well as your feed on other blogs as they update. Will those be coming back?

    1. Not on the main page, but perhaps I'll make room for them on a tab.

  7. Glad to hear from you.

    But....I hope this isn't the final format of your new website design. I kind of used that by-date archive....

  8. Coming to this a little late, but you may want to check out the Lord of the Rings LCG if you're looking for a solo experience. It's less combat-centric (there are almost always alternative ways of dealing with enemies) and the base is $40 rather than $60. The quality of the expansions as a whole is really inconsistent but has gotten consistently better over the life of the game. The Saga expansions are especially well designed.


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