Return to Pathfinder Adventure Card Game — The Campaign

Pathfinder Adventure Card GameI’ve enjoyed watching the deckbuilding genre emerge over the last several years. However, only a few of the deckbuilders have caught my attention enough to become regular members of my gaming catalog. Dominion (2008) and Ascension (2010) were both early members of that club, racking up 100 and 21 plays to date respectively. However more recently another one has really caught my eye: the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (2013). Though I’ve only been playing it since last April, I’ve already recorded 23 plays of the game, which has put my group almost halfway through the Rise of the Runelords campaign.

When I first played Pathfinder ACG, I wrote extensively about its interesting elements. With many more plays under my belt, I’ve decided to return to the topic — to talk about what else makes the game fascinating (and very replayable).

A Revised Opinion

The Cards Quickly Become Manageable. When I wrote my original article, I said that you could easily get lost in your hand. Because the cards are all quite unique, it’s hard for a first-time player to track everything that they can do. However, I found that this problem resolved itself within several plays. Now I can sit down with my familiar deck of cards and instantly know what everything does. Continue reading

Designers & Dragons

Designers & Dragons: The '70sSadly, I missed publishing a new Mechanics & Meeples article again this last Monday, but there’s been a good reason for it. I’ve got a live Kickstarter going for Designers & Dragons, my 4-book history of the roleplaying industry, and it’s been eating up my free time like you’d expect a hungry dragon to do.

If you enjoyed the short historical tidbits I’ve written on the board game industry, I encourage you to take a look, as Designers & Dragons was a model for those articles. More generally, if you’re curious why small hobby companies rise and fall, and how roleplaying publication intertwinces with wargame publication, eurogame publication, and miniatures gaming, Designers & Dragons is a rich source.

The first book, Designers & Dragons: The ’70s is particularly good in this area. It talks about the rise of fantasy and science-fiction board games and of the minigames (with a focus on Metagaming Concepts), and it also talks about how miniatures led to roleplaying games (in the TSR article). Continue reading

A Deckbuilding Look at Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

In the last year I’ve been impressed both by the number of deckbuilder games that have made it to market and by how many different niches they fill — from pure deckbuilding to an increasing number of games with hybridized deckbuilder mechanics. Mike Selinker’s Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is one of the most interesting because it takes deckbuilding in some extremely innovative directions.

The Game

Pathfinder Adventure Card GamePathfinder Adventure Card Game (2013), by Mike Selinker, is a card-based cooperative campaign game. Players each get decks that represent both the abilities and equipment of their character and their character’s life points — so unlike most deckbuilders players have to be careful about their card plays, lest their character die!

The actual gameplay of Pathfinder centers on players exploring locations, which are also represented by deck of cards. When they encounter cards they’ll usually have to engage in a skill challenge by rolling dice — with card play by any of the players potentially improving the odds. The ultimate object is to close down enough locations that it’s possible to kill a scenario’s villain without him escaping. These are all pretty standard elements for cooperative play, but not something seen in many prior deckbuilding games.

Continue reading

Shannon’s Christmas ’13 Gift-Giving Guide

Last year, I published my first gaming gift guide. It was a look at new-ish board and card games that might make nice gifts for a variety of gamers. Last year’s listing may be a year old, but it’s still very relevant, and I still recommend the games on it. However, if you’re looking for things that are even newer, here are my top suggestions of games from the last year or two.

For the Family Gamer

These games might work well for the casual family that occasionally enjoys a game. I thought this category was particularly strong this year, with all the games in it being quick, light, original, and fun.

AugustusAugustus (Hurican, 2013, $40)
Super Short Play (< 30 minutes)
Designed by Paolo Mori

When I first saw this game, I was told that it was “eurogame Bingo”. That disconcerted me because it sounded really simplistic. However, it turns out to be a great description of the game and it’s a lot of fun.

In this game, a player gets a few different “BINGO” cards, each of which requires several icons to finish. Icon chits are then pulled from the bag one at a time. The game gains depth from the fact that: (1) you have to decide which card to place each icon on; (2) cards have special powers when completed that you can use to help yourself in the future; and (3) you’re also competing for achieving certain goals first. You add all thistogether and you have a colorful and evocative game.

Continue reading

RIP, Gary Gygax

On Tuesday, March 4, 2008 Ernest Gary Gygax passed away. He was the designer of Dungeons & Dragons as well as several older miniature games and several newer RPGs. After some problems in the 1980s when he was forced out of TSR — the company he created — Gary Gygax was able to rediscover his place in the roleplaying world. In the last twenty years of his life he was widely recognized and lauded as the old gentleman of gaming. In the last decade he participated on the Internet in many forums and well knew how much he was loved and appreciated by his fans. That’s more than most of us can ask for in life.

Today I mourn Gary Gygax, because he’s quite simply, the reason I game.

Continue reading

Role-Playing Games: A Primer

Not for KnucklebonesI was very pleased in late 2007 when Knucklebones magazine commissioned me to write not one but two articles for their May 2008 issue. I was less pleased several months later when it became clear the Knucklebones had ceased publication … and positively bitter  a bit later when I started to hear rumors that these articles had been commissioned to aid in the sale of the magazine — though my editor said that wasn’t actually the case when I queried her.

One of the worst things that can happen to an author is to have a finished work sitting around, unpublished. Sure, I love to get paid for my writing, but I love even more to have my writing read by others. Unfortunately, My May 2008 Knucklebones articles sat around for a long, long time. My editor at Knucklebones convinced me to leave the articles with her for a whole year and a half, saying that the magazine was going to be relaunched and/or sold, and so the articles would eventually be published.

They never were.

Seven years after I wrote those unpublished articles, I’m collecting all the boardgame writing that I own into a single web site, and so you can now to read my primer on roleplaying for board game readers for the first time. There’s one other unpublished article, on Atlas Games, which will appear in the January 2008 archives. —SA, 1/12/15

Role-Playing Games: A Primer

In early 1974, Tactical Studies Rules — who would later become known as TSR Hobbies — published an innovative new game named Dungeons & Dragons. Authored by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, it was the earliest public release of an entirely new type of entertainment, the role-playing game (or RPG). Continue reading

A Roleplaying Interlude

AD&D Dungeon Masters GuideAs I’ve written before in this column, my first love was always roleplaying games. Though I’m sure I played games like Stratego and Twixt before I ever touched an RPG, it’s the roleplaying games that I really remember playing throughout my youth.

Dungeons & Dragons was the first, but there are many games beyond that, and even before I moved to Berkeley for college I played a decent share of them including the science-fiction game TravellerStormbringerand Hawkmoon, both based on the works of Michael Moorcock; and RuneQuest, a fantasy game that I found odd at the time, and that I’ve grown much more enamored of since.

In the last couple of years I’ve grown closer to roleplaying games again. My best friend and long-time gamemaster left the country, and so I stepped up to run a regular game, something I hadn’t done in several years, and that rekindled an interest in me. Board and card games are still my largest recreation today, but RPGs are there every week, and they get an increasing amount of my enthusiasm.

So, with all those things said, I’m going to take a bit of time today and talk about RPGs — from the perspective of board gaming.

Continue reading