My 2013 Board Game of the Year: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Tabletop Games


Disclaimer: These are my opinions—I don’t speak for all of GeekDad, so this is my personal Game of the Year. The other writers may have other picks. We’ll also have a “Best of 2013” list coming … at some point.

Okay, I’m just going to go ahead and call it: my Game of the Year for 2013 is the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Even though I didn’t start playing until September, I’ve played it many more times than anything else in my collection this year, and I won’t be overly surprised if it’s the only game I manage to keep on my 10×10 in 2014 list.

It’s the first time a game has inspired me to schedule a regular gaming session with a consistent group of gamers. And when I finish a game of Pathfinder ACG, mostly what I want to do is … play it again. So far my group has played through the first two adventure decks, and I spent some of my Christmas gift cards on The Hook Mountain Massacre deck so we can dive right back in this year. So far our adventuring pace has matched the release dates pretty well so we haven’t had to spend too much time waiting for the next set.

Mike Selinker Pathfinder ACG
Mike Selinker demos a game of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game at Gen Con. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Sure, the game isn’t perfect. There are a lot of mistakes on the cards, some of the card backs aren’t color-matched, and at times the final boss fight can be anti-climactic if you can throw so many bonuses at it that you don’t even have to roll the dice to win. But for me, the sheer fun factor trumps all that.

And, oh, the stories! Every game has the potential to create stories, of course, but now I’ve gotten a tiny taste of what people love about RPGs: a game that you play over a series of sessions doesn’t just give you moments, but instead leads to longer stories. In our adventure, we discovered Seoni’s uncanny ability to root out the villains. We marveled at Lem, who despite being a halfling bard managed to slay more monsters and acquire more loot than both the ranger and the fighter in one memorable scenario.

Pathfinder ACG in play
A four-player game in progress.

And who could forget Valeros, emotionally scarred after falling into three pit traps? He tried everything—wearing Elven boots, carrying a Potion of Ghostly Form like a talisman, wearing three suits of armor—but he was still terrified that someday he’d fall and hit his noggin again. Fortunately he finally avoided a pit trap in the last scenario and overcame his fear, but mostly because now he’s wearing his shiny new Snakeskin Tunic.

So: thanks to Paizo Publishing, Mike Selinker and the rest of the game designers, and my gaming group (Wink, Cathe, DeeAnn, Curtis, and David) for a fantastic gaming experience.

How about you? What’s your 2013 Game of the Year?

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5 thoughts on “My 2013 Board Game of the Year: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

  1. As this is a dad/parents focused forum, can you speak to how much kids enjoy Pathfinder? There are plenty of other sites I turn to for gadgets and games for myself, but I turn to GeekDad for things I can do with my kids.

    It seems since the move from wired that Geekdad features a preponderance of products that really have nothing to do with parenting or even kids for that matter. I understand the need to pay the bills but all of these product “reviews” are IMHO really degrading the quality and relevance of Geekdad as a whole.

    1. Hi, Joe, thanks for your comment. Right now my kids (7 and 10) are just getting into deck-building games so Pathfinder is a bit complex for them, but I know kids who are familiar with RPGs have picked it up more easily—they’re used to figuring out how many dice to roll at what times, and so forth. And since it’s cooperative, it doesn’t hurt to play everything open-handed, though you can run into an alpha-player problem sometimes. Thematically, there are some PG or PG-13 elements: aside from monsters and your typical barely-clothed women that appear in the illustrations, there are a few things like the sexy “Shopkeeper’s Daughter” which is a barrier card—if you don’t score high enough on your Wisdom check, your turn ends, with the implication that you fell for her wiles. I’d say the innuendo is less here than in the Pathfinder RPG, but I haven’t finished all of the adventures yet and don’t know if there will be more.

      I’m sorry you’re finding the product reviews less relevant to you; there’s a whole host of things going on behind the scenes that I’m afraid we can’t really discuss yet, but the truth is that it’s not about “paying the bills” because for the most part the move from Wired meant we’re generally doing this for free. I’ve always written about board games, both those that are primarily targeted at adults and those that are for kids. But I know on the whole we’ve all had less time to write this year, and product reviews tend to be the easiest to get done quickly. I know this year I’m excited to introduce more games to my kids, though, so you’ll start seeing a bit more of that perspective. I’ve also been working on getting my 10-year-old to help me select middle-grade books, but so far that hasn’t panned out yet. We’ll see!

      1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply Jonathan, makes perfect sense. Of course I enjoy learning about new games through your reviews, but I do miss the kid focus that seems to have drifted a bit lately. I look forward to seeing how the site blossoms.

  2. Jonathan,

    The info you included in your reply regarding the PG/PG-13 issues is immensely helpful. The fact that you spelled it out in detail (noting that the illustrations of scantily-clad women might be a possible concern, and more importantly, the scenario with the shopkeepers daughter) is key to helping consumers like myself make a decision on whether or not they feel the game will be appropriate. I cannot stress how important this is, and hope that you implement this as a standard part of your future reviews (which, by the way, are already thorough and great). In my case, based on this review, I now know that I can feel comfortable purchasing this game for my nephews. I will likely never get to play or even see the game, as the family is stationed on the other side of the globe on a military base, but at least I know I will potentially only have to take a modicum of heat from my sister with regard to the scantily clad ladies on the game cards.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for the comment and the reminder—I do try to include this sort of thing in reviews when I think of it, although sometimes when a game seems more targeted for adults I forget to mention it.

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