A Sneak Peek at ‘Pathfinder Adventures’

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PathfinderAdventures

Last week I jumped the gun a little in my excitement to tell you about Pathfinder Adventures, the app version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Well, here’s that sneak peek I promised you! The app is planned for a March 29 release on iOS and Android; these screenshots are based on a development build that is close to final.

Pathfinder Adventures
The gallery lets you peruse scenarios, all of the various card types, and the location decks.

There’s a gallery section that just lets you browse through all of the content for the game, divided into the various Adventure Decks, sorted by card type (monsters, spells, items, etc.). You can take a closer look at the rules and card numbers for each location, and get information about every scenario in the game. (The development build I had didn’t have all the cards yet for some of the later Adventure Decks, but most of it’s already there.) The one thing I didn’t see was the flavor text on the scenarios and location decks. For the scenarios, it’s been replaced by some dialogue screens (seen below) but the locations no longer get little descriptive text.

For players who are used to the card game, there’s some new iconography, like icons for all the card types, and some for the various character powers. Much of it will look very familiar, though.

You can have multiple parties playing on the same device, with separate saved games for each, and you can even overlap characters among these parties. That’s a nice touch, and definitely easier to do on an app than in the real game, where I’d have to record each character’s cards, shuffle them all back into the corresponding decks, and then rebuild the new party.

PathfinderAdventures
Dialogue scenes in Pathfinder Adventures.

Instead of a paragaph describing the scenario, there’s a little preview showing the various locations, villains, and henchmen, and any special rules for the scenario. Then, once you’ve picked your characters for the scenario, you get a little dialogue scene that introduces the plot. The characters aren’t animated or anything–it’s just text and no voices–but it’s a fun way to get a little background information. When you come across the villain, you’ll also get another little scene, and if you defeat the villain there’s a conclusion that plays out, too. What’s particularly fun is that these scenes can shift slightly based on what characters you have in your party–the developers have said that they’ll also react to things like whose turn it is, what cards you have in your hand, and so on, customizing the story to your experience.

The tutorial scenario has Ilsoari Gandethus sending you after the Sandpoint Demon, and then you find out a little more about why the Ilsoari Ally card works the way it does.

PathfinderAdventures
Beating a scenario unlocks harder difficulty levels.

A couple things in the app that aren’t in the card game: difficulty levels! After you win a scenario, you can play again at Heroic level, and then Legendary level. At Heroic, the difficulty is increased, and there is 1 wildcard power that gets thrown in. At Legendary, there are 2 wildcard powers, and you can only move to adjacent locations, making things even more challenging. (As with the card game, however, you can’t earn the scenario rewards more than once.)

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The locations are placed on a map.

The other fun thing about the app version is that the locations, rather than being decks of cards placed in a circle on the table, are actually located on the map. So when you’re in the town of Sandpoint, you get a close-up map of Sandpoint with various points to visit. The Lost Coast (seen above) shows a wide view of the area.

PathfinderAdventures background

The player screen has a lot of information on it, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Here’s a sample screen. The top left has your current location: the number in the circle is the number of cards left in the deck (that’s the card you see there), as well as the number of each card type that’s left in the deck. It’s really handy having that number updated automatically, because when we play the tabletop game, we just have to remember whether we’ve encountered all the monsters or barriers in a deck. There are location rules, and at the bottom is the scenario-specific rules, which will be shown if you tap the button.

At the top right is a section that tracks various things, starting with the blessings deck (the number of cards left, plus an icon representing the current top card of the discard pile–tap to get details). There’s a row of icons to remind you of your turn order: give a card to somebody at your location, move to another location, encounter, end of turn actions, and discard down to hand size. Finally, there are icons for all of the characters in your party, allowing you to switch to another character if you want more details about them like what’s in their hand currently.

At the bottom left is your discard pile (tap to see what’s in it) with the number of cards. The gears are for the settings, and I’m not actually sure what the little treasure chest is–right now it doesn’t do anything. Across the bottom of the screen are the cards in your hand–cards that you can currently play are highlighted. Then it shows you your hand size, and icons for any powers that you might be able to use. For instance, in the image of Kyra above, it shows her Heal power–she can use a Divine card to heal instead of her first exploration on a turn. If the ability can be used, it is highlighted.

At the bottom right is your deck and the number of cards in it. You can tap the deck to see what cards are in it, without knowing the order. Also, as you get close to 0 cards, the number will turn red and start pulsing, reminding you that you should be careful. You can also tap your character portrait in this corner to access your skills, powers, and so on.

The background shows a large image corresponding to the location. These will look familiar, but there is some added animation, usually pretty subtle.

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Encountering a Soldier Ally.

When you encounter a card, the card will appear at the top right, and you’ll automatically be given the best current die for the job, though you can pull down the skills drop-down menu and select something else if you like. The app shows you the dice you’ll get to roll plus any bonuses that apply. Also: if another character has cards that they can play during your turn, their character icon will be highlighted with an exclamation point–you can see above that Ameiko can help, probably with a blessing. Simply tap the character to access their hand, and then play cards or use their abilities as needed.

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Boom! It’s a villain!

When you encounter a villain, you’ll know–the screen goes dark and there’s a burst of flames. Gather up all your dice and throw everything you’ve got, because this is it! Well, assuming you’ve managed to close off the other locations so the villain can’t get away…

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After the scenario, you rebuild your deck.

If you win the scenario, you’ll get some rewards–each character will get a card, for instance, or you may get to increase your skills. And then you’ll have to rebuild your decks–when you tap the character portrait at the top, it will give you all of their card types and show how many you have of each, and how many you are allowed to have. Drag extras down into the “Available” section, and you can also use this opportunity to trade cards among your characters. If there aren’t enough cards (say some items got banished, for instance), then you’ll get a chance to pull some from the deck afterward.

The test build I got just has the tutorial scenario and the “B” basic adventure path (with 3 scenarios) included. This is what you’ll be able to download for free when the app is released, with additional Adventure Decks and the Character Add-On deck available as in-app purchases. From what I’ve read, you’ll also be able to earn things through play–I did notice that every time I killed a monster, I got 12 GP, something that’s not present in the tabletop version. You will also be able to buy a discounted season pass for the entire Rise of the Runelords set, and supposedly there will be promo cards for pre-orders and bundles, as there are with the physical game.

I only had access to two of the characters for the B path, Merisiel and Kyra, so I can only play 2-player sessions. In the full game, though, your party size can go from 1 to 6 characters. You can set it up to use pass-and-play, or turn it off if you’re just playing solo and controlling all the characters yourself. Personally, I think it’ll be fun to set this up on my Apple TV and play Pathfinder Adventures on a big screen.

Currently it doesn’t look like there’s online multiplayer, which I imagine would be tricky given the way other players can play cards during your turn. That’s too bad, though, because I do think it would be really fun to play Pathfinder Adventures with friends who aren’t local. The developers have mentioned that they have a team working on multiplayer, though, so that’s something to look forward to.

The other option you’re allowed to toggle is “Permadeath.” If a character dies, you could have it really die, and become unavailable. I did not check Permadeath. Nope.

One thing I wasn’t really able to judge as well is the tutorial. I thought it did a pretty good job of walking me through the game and explaining certain things as they came up during play. However, I’m already familiar with the card game, so for me it was more about learning the interface and not really about learning the game. Our managing editor, Z., got a chance to try out the app as well, so he has shared his new-to-Pathfinder experience below.

Overall, my impression of Pathfinder Adventures is good. There were still a few bugs here and there in this development build, but I was able to play through the whole adventure path, plus I tried a couple of the scenarios at the harder difficulty levels. I’m really impressed with how everything turned out, and I’m excited for everyone else to get their hands on it at the end of March!


Pathfinder Adventures Tutorial
The tutorial walks you through the basic mechanics.

Z’s Addendum

I’ve actually been interested in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game ever since Jonathan first started writing about it. The thing is, not only am I woefully unfamiliar with the Pathfinder universe (I’m more of a D&D guy, with occasional sojourns into Shadowrun and the Palladium properties), my card gaming of late has been mostly limited to playing Pokémon and Card Wars with my kids.

The Pathfinder Adventures app seemed like a good way for me to test out the system without having to invest heavily in the real-world product, and Mr. Liu, fine fellow that he is, was more than willing to give me the hookup.

The initial tutorial did a lot to help me familiarize myself with the basics, specifically the core Boon/Bane mechanic and the simple but specific touch commands that govern in-app play. Some things, like skill tests and special character powers, were standard gaming fare. Others, like individual location decks and “closing” locations to trap the Big Bad, were a little more difficult for me to wrap my head around.

Still, the game’s intuitive interface and pleasing visuals managed to keep me engaged as I got my bearings, and I’m almost to a point where I’m actually thinking my moves through and not just tapping a “Reveal,” “Discard,” “Bury,” or “Recharge” command and hoping for the best. Almost.

Things really started to click when I unlocked Kyra the Cleric. Her Heal ability allows her to recover cards from the Discard pile, which definitely helps out with deck management. My big takeaway is that, in Pathfinder Adventures, the deck’s the thing, and the sooner you exhaust it the sooner you run out of options.

While I am admittedly not yet a competent enough player to suggest busting out the deck-builder on my next game night, I do feel like Pathfinder Adventures does a fine job of distilling the basics of play into a more than competent mobile gaming analog. Moreover, the app really stands on its own–rolling dice and drawing cards and fighting your way through challenging fantasy adventures using nothing more than your mobiles device is, above all else, an awful lot of fun.

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